The top 25 safeties in the NFL

Pro Football Network's Senior NFL Analyst Matt Williamson ranks the top 25 safeties in the NFL heading into the 2020 season.

The top 10 safeties in the NFL

10. Eddie Jackson, Chicago Bears

We begin the top 10 safeties in the NFL with Eddie Jackson of the Chicago Bears. Jackson’s 2019 season wasn’t quite as glorious as the amazing campaign he put together the year before, but Jackson is still one of the top safeties in this league and is a real playmaker on the back end of Chicago’s defense. Jackson also adds to his resume as an accomplished blitzer. With such an influx of great young safeties in the league right now, it is rather amazing that Jackson could barely crack the Top 10.

9. Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints

Williams is vastly underrated and is simply one of the NFL’s top free safeties right now. He attacks the ball in the air exceptionally well with great range and angles. As free safeties go, Williams is a physical player who is very helpful in defending the run.

8. Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos

Simmons was nearly unbeatable last year, and the Broncos slapped the franchise tag on him to ensure that he didn’t leave town. He is a very good and underrated run defender, but Simmons’ value comes more downfield in coverage. He looks only to be getting better.

7. Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings

Smith is now widely regarded as one of the absolute top safeties of this generation. Widely renowned for his abilities near the line of scrimmage, by no means is Smith a liability far away from the ball. In fact, Smith’s coverage abilities haven’t dipped one bit. But…it is now challenging to decipher which of the Vikings safeties is currently the superior player.

6. Anthony Harris, Minnesota Vikings

Harris works extremely well with Harrison Smith but also is a superb player in his own right. Harris is more of a free safety and covers a lot of ground in the deep patrol. Minnesota franchised Harris after his seven interceptions during the 2019 season. Harris can come up and be disruptive near the line of scrimmage, but his great range in the deep patrol is Harris’ best trait. He is one of the most underrated players in all of football.

The top 5 safeties in the NFL

5. Jamal Adams, Seattle Seahawks

We begin the list of top five safeties in the NFL with Jamal Adams. The Seahawks just gave up a king’s ransom to bring Adams to town from New York. Adams dominates the middle of the field and brings a toughness and leadership that Pete Carroll will love. Not just a great blitzer, Adams is a great pure pass-rusher, as evidenced by his seven sacks…and there is a difference.

Adams doesn’t take the ball away as much as you would like, however, and isn’t as strong of a man coverage defender as several of these top safeties on the list. But he absolutely will make Seattle’s defense better.

4. Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans

This is a great football player that opposing quarterbacks must fear. Byard does his best work in the deep patrol and already has 18 career interceptions. Obviously, Byard has great ball skills and has rightfully made a name for himself with his deep patrol, but he also happens to be one of the best run defenders on this list. Byard logged more snaps than any other safety in the league last year.

3. Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City’s amazing offense gets the bulk of the attention, but the Chiefs defense really improved at the end of last year when it mattered most. Mathieu is a huge reason why. He is an elite slot coverage player but plays the game with the physicality of an old school strong safety. Only Byard played more snaps from the players on this list last year than Mathieu.

2. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers

Coming out of Alabama, Fitzpatrick was considered an extremely versatile defensive chess piece, and that is how Miami used him in the pros as well. After Pittsburgh traded for Fitzpatrick during the season, though, they pretty much put him in the deep middle of the field. And Fitzpatrick dominated. It got to the point late in the year when it was evident that opposing quarterbacks were not going to throw his direction unless absolutely necessary, especially knowing how poor the Steelers offense was at that time.

1. Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers

Because of injury, let’s throw out the 2019 season for James. But that only leaves his rookie season. Well, James showed enough in just that one full year of play to show that he is already the most dominant force in the entire league. His recognition skills will improve, but there is no one like James physically with his blend of size and explosion. He’s a nightmare to play against and that’s just one of the reasons why he is the top safety in the NFL.

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