We have officially made it! For the last month, the numbers have given us an idea of who the top players are at every position, and today, we’ll finish up the series by looking at the top safeties in the NFL. Since we’re combining rangy free safeties with versatile chess-pieces, there are a lot of different styles of players on this list, which is what makes it so interesting. Believe or not, but per Pro Football Focus’ Wins Above Replacement metric, safeties are the most valuable defensive players, outside of cornerbacks, and there are a lot of players on this list that can really move the needle for the defense. Heck, three of the top five players on this list may be on different teams at this time next year; there are so many levels of intrigue with this list.
Before we start, let’s go over the metrics that were used in this study:
- Pro Football Focus’ Coverage Grade is the final output after a significant group of well-qualified analysts grade defensive backs from a -2 to 2 scale for each of their coverage plays.
- Pro Football Focus’ Run-Defense Grade accomplishes the same feat, but for rushing plays.
- Pro Football Focus’ Tackling Grade also accomplishes the same feat, but for tackling.
Each of the qualifying safeties were then given a percentile rank in these six statistics based on their production over the past two seasons, and with a slight rank towards their 2019 numbers. Meanwhile, rookies and certain second-year players were ranked based on their projection to the NFL level. Then, the following formula was used to calculate each player’s overall grade:
Without further adieu, it’s time to see who the numbers believe are the top 116 safeties in the NFL!
#1: Jamal Adams, New York Jets (Overall Grade: 98)
Right now, Jamal Adams and the Jets have reached an impasse in talks for a contract extension, so his future with the team is in question. However, unless they get an offer they can’t refuse, it would be ridiculous for New York to even thin about cutting ties with him. Over the past two seasons, the 24-year-old has been a dominant versatile weapon, grading as an elite player in pass coverage and as a pass rusher, while he also provides a lot of support versus the run. He can play in the box, at free safety, at linebacker, or as a straight-up edge rusher, and honestly, he may be the best defensive player in the NFL.
#2: Anthony Harris, Minnesota Vikings (Overall Grade: 96)
Anthony Harris also may be on a different team next season, as the Vikings franchise tagged him, and there hasn’t been any reported progress on a new contract. Once again, though, it would be very beneficial for Minnesota to find a way to keep him long-term. The 28-year-old was a role player for the first three seasons of his career, but over the past two years, has been the best cover safety in the NFL, and is a perfect fit with the Vikings’ split-safety look- he’s the ideal rangy free safety.
#3: Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers (Overall Grade: 95)
Whereas Harris is strictly a deep safety, Derwin James is much more similar to Jamal Adams as a playmaker who can play any role for a defense. Like Adams, he has been elite in coverage and as a pass rusher, while he also contributes admirably against the run. He missed most of last season due to injury, but is still clearly a force to be reckoned with.
#4: Micah Hyde, Buffalo Bills (Overall Grade: 91.25)
When the Bills gave Micah Hyde a five-year, $30 million contract following the 2016 season, it seemed like way too much for an average slot corner/safety hybrid. Naturally, the 29-year-old has grown into a dynamic player for Buffalo, who have played him more as a pure safety. He has earned a coverage grade of 80.9 or higher in his three seasons with the Bills, who have the luxury of having him on a very cheap contract for the next two seasons.
#5: Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints (Overall Grade: 90.5)
Due to the unfortunate timings of his rare miscues, Marcus Williams isn’t seen as a premier safety. In reality, though, he may be the most underrated player in the NFL. In two of the first three seasons of his career, he has had a coverage grade over 89, and for all the complaints about his run defense and tackling, he has also been above-average in those areas. Still only 23-years-old, the Saints should be doing whatever it takes to keep him in New Orleans long-term, but it’s more likely that a lucky team signs him at an affordable price in free agency.
#6: Kareem Jackson, Denver Broncos (Overall Grade: 90.3)
Although he can play both cornerback and safety, it appears that the latter position is where Kareem Jackson best fits. Regardless, though, the 32-year-old has been a very productive player in coverage, as well as a dominant player versus the run, and his versatility is really useful for head coach Vic Fangio in Denver. As is the case with most safety contracts, the $11 million he is making per year is a very reasonable amount.
#7: Adrian Amos, Green Bay Packers (Overall Grade: 90.25)
Speaking of safeties who recently signed affordable contracts, the four-year, $36 million deal the Packers gave Adrian Amos last offseason always looked like exceptional value, and that remains the case after his first season with the team. The 27-year-old isn’t a major playmaker, but he emphasizes the “safe” is safety with his ability to limit big plays, and he’s a very well-rounded player.
#8: Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings (Overall Grade: 89.75)
At the moment, the Vikings appear to clearly have the top safety duo in the NFL. Obviously, Anthony Harris is the headliner, but Harrison Smith has been the leader of this defense for a long time. In fact, the 31-year-old has had a coverage grade of 91.4 or higher in two of the past two seasons, and also has previously been elite versus the run. Add in his ability to play in the box or as a deep safety, and it’s clear he’s such an important part of Mike Zimmer’s defense.
#9: Devin McCourty, New England Patriots (Overall Grade: 87.5)
The Patriots drafted Devin McCourty as a cornerback, yet it’s been as a safety where he has thrived. Outside of one poor season in 2017, the 32-year-old has consistently been a fantastic player since he became a safety, and his coverage ability certainly isn’t showing any signs of getting worse with age.
#10: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers (Overall Grade: 86.05)
After being drafted with the 11th overall pick as a versatile cornerback/safety hybrid, Minkah Fitzpatrick got off to a slow start as the Dolphins struggled to use him. However, Miami traded him to the Steelers after the first two weeks in the season, and that certainly looks like a first-round pick that was well spent. Not only is he 23-years-old and under team control at a super affordable rate (the Dolphins have already paid his signing bonus), but he was an excellent ballhawk at the back-end of their defense; for a team that has struggled to develop safeties, landing him was huge for their future.
#11: Keanu Neal, Atlanta Falcons (Overall Grade: 86)
Keanu Neal has played a total of 203 snaps over the two past seasons, which is an absolute shame. He was a rising star for the Falcons after two terrific seasons; despite being considered a “box safety”, his production in coverage had been excellent. For the sake of Atlanta’s defense, he needs to stay healthy.
#12: Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs (Overall Grade: 85.25)
Based on talent alone, Tyrann Mathieu never had any business falling to the third round of the 2013 draft, and he proved that his three very productive seasons to start his career. For some reason, though, the Cardinals cut bait with him after the 2017 season, and after a one-season stint with the Texans, the 28-year-old found his place with the Chiefs. Although he struggled early for them, his production skyrocketed as he played a much larger role in the slot, which is where he’ll likely line up for the defending champs in 2020.
#13: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Dallas Cowboys (Overall Grade: 85)
It’s sometimes difficult to understand why certain players tend to fall under the radar, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a prime example. Sure, he started his career out slow, but over the past two seasons, he has ranked in the 85th percentile in coverage grade and run defense grade. Yet, he has had to sign marginal one-year contracts in back-to-back seasons; the Cowboys have the playmaking safety they have been looking for, and got him for just $4 million.
#14: Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans (Overall Grade: 84.75)
Entering the 2019 season, I thought Kevin Byard had a case as the best safety in the NFL, and the Titans currently thought so- they gave him a five-year, $70.5 million extension. After all, he was coming off of multiple borderline elite seasons in coverage, and has continued to thrive versus the run. Unfortunately, his production in pass defense declined last season, despite the fact that he continues to force turnovers at a high rate.
#15: Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos (Overall Grade: 84.55)
Defensive players too often can be very inconsistent, as their production can be dependent on a lot of external factors. Justin Simmons showed a lot of promise in 2017, but he then was a liability in 2018, and wasn’t seen as a capable option as the Broncos’ starting free safety entering the 2019 season. However, in head coach Vic Fangio’s defensive scheme, everything changed, as he was the most valuable safety in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus’ Wins Above Replacement metric; add in his abilities in run support, and he appears to be a player on the rise. If he backs up his 2019 production playing on the franchise tag, then he should be in line to reset the safety market next offseason.
#16: Justin Reid, Houston Texans (Overall Grade: 80)
I still have no idea how Justin Reid fell to the 3rd round of the 2017 draft, and he’s making teams regret passing on him. He ranks in the 85th percentile in coverage grade for the first two seasons of his career, and honestly is the only defensive back that the Texans can depend upon.
#17: Eddie Jackson, Chicago Bears (Overall Grade: 79.75)
After earning a 94.7 coverage grade and intercepting six passes, the future appeared bright for Eddie Jackson heading into his third season. Unfortunately, the 25-year-old’s coverage grade regressed to 66.1, and he continues to struggle to tackle. However, there is reason to believe the 25-year-old will bounce back. Playing with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, he played much more in the box, which doesn’t work with his strengths. If he plays a larger role as a deep safety, which could happen now that Clinton-Dix is in Dallas, then he should be able to justify the $58.4 million extension the Bears just gave him.
#18: Earl Thomas III, Baltimore Ravens (Overall Grade: 79.25)
Similarly to Eddie Jackson, Earl Thomas III went from being a traditional deep safety to playing more in the box, and his overall production declined. However, unlike Jackson, Thomas III’s role almost certainly won’t change in his second season with the Ravens, so this is about where he should be ranked. Although his coverage only slightly regressed, his run defense clearly was affected by playing a role that demanded more physicality, and he’s now also 31-years-old.
#19: Tre Boston, Carolina Panthers (Overall Grade: 78)
Since it is a position that is hard to evaluate, teams tend to let high-quality safeties fall through the cracks. Tre Boston, for instance, signed a one-year deal with a different team in THREE straight offseason, and even in his new multi-year contract with the Panthers, will only make $6 million per season. Sure, the 27-year-old was atrocious as a run defender, but thanks to his coverage ability (90.6), he was Pro Football Focus’ 5th-most valuable safety. It’s also not like this past season was a fluke, as he has consistently been productive.
#20: Marcus Maye, New York Jets (Overall Grade: 78)
The Jets double-dipped at the safety position in 2017 by also drafting Marcus Maye to pair with Jamal Adams, and it’s now time for them to sign both to contract extensions. As more of a traditional deep safety, Maye complements Adams really well, and is coming off of a very productive season in which he earned a 77.4 coverage grade and played over 1000 snaps.
#21: Xavier Woods, Dallas Cowboys (Overall Grade: 76.75)
Yet another player on this list who is entering a contract season, Xavier Woods has been as productive as the Cowboys could’ve hoped for when they drafted him in the sixth round; he has come in and become the starting free safety, is in the 85th percentile in coverage. Sure, the 24-year-old isn’t a ballhawk, but he certainly doesn’t allow many big plays.
#22: Quandre Diggs, Seattle Seahawks (Overall Grade: 76.5)
When the Seahawks acquired Quandre Diggs for a late-round pick swap, it looked like a move to just add some depth- Diggs had been a solid player, but certainly not spectacular. However, in five starts with Seattle, the 27-year-old earned an elite 89.9 coverage grade, and there seems to be a clear reason for the improvement. After playing much more in the box with Detroit, he was used as a deep safety with the Seahawks, which is where he clearly best fits. It’s too small of a sample to get overly ambitious about, yet he is a player worth keeping a very close eye on.
#23: Tony Jefferson, Free Agent (Overall Grade: 76.5)
The Ravens cut Tony Jefferson following this past season, in which he tore his ACL in Week 5, and I’m guessing the injury is why he remains a free agent. Nevertheless, the 28-year-old had previously been a solid box safety for the Ravens, and there are plenty of cover-three/cover-one types that could use him as a strong safety.
#24: John Johnson III, Los Angeles Rams (Overall Grade: 76.25)
Sticking with the theme of players who missed time due to injury last season, John Johnson III’s season was cut short to just six games due to a shoulder injury. Although the 25-year-old was in the midst of a poor season (probably since he playing through the injury), he started his career with back-to-back seasons with a coverage grade of 84.9 or higher, and the Rams will benefit greatly from having him back in the lineup in 2020.
#25: Tracy Walker, Detroit Lions (Overall Grade: 74.25)
After earning an elite 89.8 overall grade in 268 snaps last season, many were excited to see what Tracy Walker could do as a full-time starting safety. Obviously, his efficiency went down slightly, but he was still a reliable player for the Lions. He plays evenly as a deep safety, slot corner, and in the box, so he plays the Devin McCourty role for Matt Patricia’s defense.
#26: Jarrod Wilson, Jacksonville Jaguars (Overall Grade: 73.75)
After playing a very minimal role for the Jaguars over the first three seasons of his career, Jarrod Wilson was signed to a three-year, $7.25 million extension, and immediately became their starting safety. One year later, and that appears to be one of the best-value contracts out there, especially among safeties. Similarly to Walker, Wilson is able to play in the box, as a deep safety, or in the slot, and ranked in the 85th percentile in coverage grade. Still just 26-years-old, he may be a part of the Jaguars’ next contending team.
#27: Malcolm Jenkins, New Orleans Saints (Overall Grade: 73.5)
Despite being drafted with the 14th overall pick by the Saints in 2009, Malcolm Jenkins wasn’t a very productive player for the first five years of his career, and it wasn’t until he signed with the Eagles that he became the player he was supposed to be. Now, he is back with New Orleans, and his second stint should go much better. He’s probably better in the box than as a deep safety at this point of his career, but at the very least, he is a massive upgrade over what the Saints had last year in Vonn Bell.
#28: Malik Hooker, Indianapolis Colts (Overall Grade: 72.25)
Since he recently had his fifth-year option declined, Malik Hooker’s future with the Colts is severely in question. Whether declining the option was the right move for Indianapolis can be debated, but with a 81.3 coverage grade in 2018, the 24-year-old clearly is capable of high-end production as a deep, ballhawking safety. His talent is certainly worthy of a higher ranking than this, but he needs to get back to his 2018 production next season; if he does, he could earn a large contract in free agency.
#29: Tavon Wilson, Free Agent (Overall Grade: 72)
Paired with Tracy Walker last season, Tavon Wilson once again was a productive player for the Lions. Yet, the team let him go this offseason, and no one has signed him yet in free agency. In my eyes, that makes zero sense whatsoever; he is capable of playing free safety, and thrives in the box. For any team running the Belichick-style multiple scheme, particularly the Dolphins, he could be an impact player for them.
#30: Juan Thornhill, Kansas City Chiefs (Overall Grade: 70.25)
Seen as more of a nickel player entering the NFL, Juan Thornhill’s abilities in the slot weren’t needed in Kansas City due to the presence of Tyrann Mathieu, so he was the team’s deep safety. He wasn’t able to be a part of the team’s Super Bowl run, as he tore his ACL in Week 17, but the 24-year-old was a key part of their defensive turnaround. He isn’t a very physical player is run support, yet he’s the ideal modern-day free safety, and is someone the Chiefs can build around defensively.
#31: Andrew Sendejo, Cleveland Browns (Overall Grade: 70)
The Browns have had an excellent offseason, and among their great decisions was how they patched up their defensive backfield. He may not be a flashy player, but Andrew Sendejo has earned a coverage grade of 70 or higher in the time he has played over the past three seasons, and when asked to start for the Vikings in 2017, actually had his best season. He provides much-needed stability for the Browns at the back-end of their defense.
#32: Reshad Jones, Free Agent (Overall Grade: 69.25)
The Dolphins have cut ties with a lot of veteran players as they completely overhaul their roster, yet given their need for a talented safety, finding a way to keep Reshad Jones around would have been beneficial. The 34-year-old has graded out as an elite player multiple times, and for the most part, has been a balanced player in coverage and against the run. He is a reliable veteran capable of playing free safety or in the box, and hopefully is signed soon by a contending team.
#33: Jimmie Ward, San Francisco 49ers (Overall Grade: 68.75)
Last season, Jimmie Ward was easily a top-ten safety in the NFL based on his elite player versus the run and in coverage. However, if we’ve learned anything about defensive players, especially defensive back, it’s that we should be careful buying into small sample sizes- their production is often subject to extreme volatility. Sure, moving to safety full-time likely helped him, but he’s also a player that has struggled to stay healthy, and had been a below-average player when asked to play safety. If he repeats his 2019 production, he’ll arguably be deserving of a spot in the top tier of this list. Yet, we must proceed with caution.
#34: Grant Delpit, Cleveland Browns (Overall Grade: 68.5)
The Browns signed Sendejo, yet he’ll be able to be a depth player for them- they drafted Grant Delpit in the second round to be their deep safety. Coming out of LSU, Delpit’s tackle issues dropped him to the second round of the draft. However, he also has enormous potential in coverage, so I expect him to come in right away and be an impactful player for them.
#35: Xavier McKinney, New York Giants (Overall Grade: 68.4)
With more physicality and slightly better coverage instincts, Xavier McKinney may very well be a more polished player than Delpit right now, and was drafted ahead of him in this past draft. What the Alabama product doesn’t have, however, is ideal athletic traits, and it’ll be interesting if the Giants use his versatility properly.
#36: Antoine Winfield Jr., Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Overall Grade: 68.3)
If you’re looking for a playmaker at the back-end of your defense, then Antoine Winfield Jr. is your guy. He projects really well as a ball hawk with his instincts and athleticism, and theoretically should be an immediate contributor for the Bucs. He did miss some time with injuries in college, yet that doesn’t seem to have hurt his development whatsoever.
#37: Jabrill Peppers, New York Giants (Overall Grade: 68.25)
Although McKinney is a versatile player, some of what he brings to the table may be redundant with Jabrill Peppers also a fixture on the Giants defense. Acquired from the Browns in the previous offseason, the 24-year-old Peppers mostly played in the box for New York, where he made a great impact versus the pass- he was effective in coverage and as a pass rusher. He’s a perfect fit in new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s scheme as a safety/linebacker do-it-all player, similarly to Patrick Chung with the Patriots.
#38: Sean Davis, Washington Redskins (Overall Grade: 68.25)
For the first two seasons of his career, Sean Davis was among the worst players in the NFL, and it was shocking that the Steelers stuck with him. Pittsburgh transitioned him into more of a deep safety role, and the 26-year-old rewarded them by turning into an all-around contributor for him. Unfortunately, he missed practically all of 2019 due to a shoulder injury, but should be able to boost his stock in Washington after signing a one-year deal with them.
#39: Chuck Clark, Baltimore Ravens (Overall Grade: 67.75)
Does it ever feel like the Ravens are just ahead of the game compared to every other team? Their ability to replaced injured players with late-round picks is unbelievable, and Chuck Clark is their latest success story. Drafted in the sixth round in 2017, the Virginia Tech product played a minimal role for Baltimore over the first two seasons of his career, but filled in admirably for Tony Jefferson in 2019 with a 81.9 coverage grade. The Ravens rewarded him with a reasonable $16 million extension, and they’ll be looking for him to prove that last season was no fluke. Knowing Baltimore’s past track record, though, it probably isn’t.
#40: Kyle Dugger, New England Patriots (Overall Grade: 67.3)
Raised your hand if you have every heard of Lenoir-Rhyne University. Now, put your hand down; you’re probably lying. Therefore, what Kyle Dugger did in college can’t really be quantified, so whoever drafted him was going to do so based on what he did in the Senior Bowl and his athletic profile. Well, luckily for him, he went to the perfect landing spot- the Patriots. Listed at 6’1″ and 220 pounds, Dugger ran a 4.49 40-yard-dash and is super explosive, and Bill Belichick should be able to develop him into Patrick Chung’s eventual replacement as a strong safety/”money-backer” hybrid.
#41: Damarious Randall, Las Vegas Raiders (Overall Grade: 67.25)
After three unproductive seasons with the Packers, Damarious Randall was traded to the Browns for Deshone Kizer, of all players, and that turned out to be excellent for the versatile defensive back. Cleveland immediately moved him to a full-time role as a safety, and from there, he earned a 69.9 coverage grade or better in his two seasons with them. Since Lamarcus Joyner won’t be moving back to free safety for the Raiders, which definitely isn’t the right decision, Randall’s presence at the back-end of their defense will be very key for them.
#42: Chandon Sullivan, Green Bay Packers (Overall Grade: 67)
The Packers use a lot of “big nickel” sets, so Chandon Sullivan acts as a third safety/slot corner for them. The 23-year-old fared very well in coverage last season, and will likely takeover for Tramon William as the team’s slot defender.
#43: Duron Harmon, New England Patriots (Overall Grade: 66.5)
Since the Patriots run a lot of three-safety looks, Duron Harmon was essentially a starter for them, and was consistently productive. Over the past five seasons, he hasn’t had a season with a coverage grade below 68.4, and has had multiple 80+-grade seasons as well. He’ll immediately replace Tavon Wilson in the same exact style of defense in Detroit.
#44; Jordan Poyer, Buffalo Bills (Overall Grade: 66.25)
The Bills not only stole Micah Hyde on the open market in 2017, but also signed Jordan Poyer for under $3 million per season. Yes, that’s right; Buffalo secured their safety duo for under $10 million per season. Now, Poyer will be making more than both he and Hyde have made combined on his next contract extension, though it’s worth it for a player with three-straight productive seasons in coverage.
#45: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, New Orleans Saints (Overall Grade: 65.5)
Heading into the 2019 draft, some had a first-round grade on Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, yet the Florida product fell to the fourth round of the draft, where the Saints happily took him. Now, the 22-year-old appears to be a building block for that defense, as he was excellent as a nickel defender, and should assume that role in the 2020 season.
#46: Ashtyn Davis, New York Jets (Overall Grade: 65.4)
A foot injury and some physicality questions dropped him to the third round of the draft, but Ashtyn Davis definitely had a case to be drafted far earlier. As a former track star, he has all the range and instincts you want from a playmaking deep safety, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he is the eventual replacement in New York for Marcus Maye.
#47: Terrell Burgess, Los Angeles Rams (Overall Grade: 65.2)
Teams missed out on the opportunity to draft Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in 2019, yet they had the chance to redeem their previous mistake by drafting his clone in Terrell Burgess. Still, the Utah product somehow fell to the end of the third round, and the Rams will benefit greatly from his versatility. He can play in the slot, as a deep safety, and in the box at a high level, and will likely start for them immediately as a slot corner.
#48: Erik Harris, Las Vegas Raiders (Overall Grade: 65)
#49: Steven Parker, Miami Dolphins (Overall Grade: 62.75)
#50: Rodney McLeod, Philadelphia Eagles (Overall Grade: 61.75)
McLeod was brought back on a two-year, $12 million deal, and the Eagles will be hoping for him to continue to be an impactful player in coverage (75th percentile), which drives his value even though he provides little in run support.
#51: Darnell Savage, Green Bay Packers (Overall Grade: 61.25)
Few players benefited from the pre-draft process more than Darnell Savage, who vaulted his way into the first round. As an aggressive deep safety, the 22-year-old naturally had some issues with run defense and tackling in his rookie season, but he showcased the coverage ability that made him a high pick, and he is definitely a player on the rise; I love the pairing of him and the more conservative Adrian Amos.
#52: Geno Stone, Baltimore Ravens (Overall Grade: 61)
Iowa defensive backs generally come into the league and produce well as zone defenders, and despite being a seventh-round pick, Geno Stone will be that for the Ravens. His instincts are off the charts, and honestly, I’d be surprised if he isn’t the successor to Earl Thomas III.
#53: Bradley McDougald, Seattle Seahawks (Overall Grade: 60)
#54: Karl Joseph, Cleveland Browns (Overall Grade: 59.25)
Sure, Karl Joseph hasn’t lived up to his draft status as a first-round pick by the Raiders in 2016. However, he also has earned an above-average Pro Football Focus grade in each of the past four seasons, and he’ll be an effective strong safety in the Browns’ new cover-three scheme.
#55: Marquise Blair, Seattle Seahawks (Overall Grade: 73.25*)
The University of Utah has had a lot of success producing free safeties in recent years, with Marcus Williams leading the charge. With more playing time this season, though, Marquise Blair, a player with a similar play style, could also be among that group. He’s an aggressive player who is consistently making plays, and he performed very well in the limited time he did play in his rookie season.
#56: Antoine Bethea, Free Agent (Overall Grade: 58.75)
#57: Jessie Bates III, Cincinatti Bengals (Overall Grade: 57)
After earning an 80.9 coverage grade in his rookie season, Jessie Bates III appeared to be on his way to being considered an elite safety. Then, all hell broke loose in 2019, as his production regressed dramatically in every category. On the bright side, though, he improved a lot in the second half of the season, which could have been the result of him adjusting to a new defensive system.
#58: Khari Willis, Indianapolis Colts (Overall Grade: 56.25)
What the Colts decide to do with Malik Hooker remains to be seen, but they appear to have solidified the strong safety position with Khari Willis. Despite being a fourth-round pick, the Michigan State product was a solid player in coverage and against the run, and should theoretically get better in his second season.
#59: Damontae Kazee, Atlanta Falcons (Overall Grade: 55.75)
With both of the Falcons’ starting safeties going down with season-ending injuries in 2018, Damontae Kazee was able to shine, earning an 82.7 coverage grade and grabbing seven interceptions. Unfortunately, his production definitely declined in 2019, especially when he was asked to defend the slot, so Atlanta should just have him be their third safety.
#60: Nasir Adderley, Los Angeles Chargers (Overall Grade: 55)
A hamstring injury kept Nasir Adderley out for the entirety of his rookie season, so it’s impossible to know what to expect from him in 2020. However, he was Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked safety for a reason; he has all the skills you look for in a prototypical deep safety.
#61: Jalen Thompson, Arizona Cardinals (Overall Grade: 54.75)
There hasn’t been a great track record of supplemental draft picks making an impact recently, though Jalen Thompson appears to be an exception. Designated as a sixth-round pick, the Washington State product was surprisingly productive in coverage, and it appears Arizona is content to stick with him as their starting free safety in 2020.
#62: Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals (Overall Grade: 53.5)
Although he was mostly a slot corner previously, new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph transitioned Budda Baker into more of a traditional safety role, and unfortunately, it didn’t help his coverage ability, which remains below-average. Strangely, though, the undersized safety has actually emerged as an impact run defender.
#63: Adrian Phillips, New England Patriots (Overall Grade: 53)
#64: Ricardo Allen, Atlanta Falcons (Overall Grade: 52.75)
After signing him to a three-year, $19.5 million contract extension, the Falcons hoped to have locked down the services of a productive free safety. Instead, he missed most of the 2018 season due to a shoulder injury, and in 2019, suddenly was unproductive in coverage (57.3 coverage grade). Ironically, both he and Keanu Neal are players that Atlanta couldn’t rely on last season, and need to if their defense isn’t going to be amongst the league’s worst.
#65: Sheldrick Redwine, Cleveland Browns (Overall Grade: 52)
#66: Ronnie Harrison, Jacksonville Jaguars (Overall Grade: 51)
Despite many analysts calling for them to draft a safety, the Jaguars decided to roll with their current duo of Jarrod Wilson and Ronnie Harrison, and I expect that to pay-off for them. Sure, Harrison has been a liability against the run (10th percentile), but he also is still only 23-years-old, and has been an above-average player (60th percentile) in coverage.
#67: Julian Love, New York Giants (Overall Grade: 50.5)
Julian Love was seen as a nickel corner/safety mix in the mold of Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and interestingly, was drafted almost immediately after Gardner-Johnson. The 22-year-old performed fine in mixed time between the slot and as a deep safety, but after the Giants added Xavier McKinney, he’ll likely now start for them as a full-time player as a slot defender/
#68: Landon Collins, Washington Redskins (Overall Grade: 50)
Bruce Allen made so many poor decisions running the Redskins, but one that doesn’t get enough criticism is the contract he gave to Landon Collins. Last offseason, he made the former Giants safety the highest-paid player at his position with a six-year, $84 million deal, which is absurd. Between 2016 and 2017, he had been a very productive all-around player, but he wasn’t very productive in 2018, and plays a more replaceable role as a box safety.
#69: Tashaun Gipson, Chicago Bears (Overall Grade: 49.75)
The Bears opted to not draft a safety in the 2020 draft, nor did they sign any impact players in the first wave of free agency. Therefore, they had to settle for Tashaun Gipson, who is coming off of a poor season and was cut loose by the Texans. I feel as though they could’ve done a better job complementing Eddie Jackson, but to be fair, Chicago’s disastrous offseason was caused by more than just their lack of awareness addressing the safety position.
#70: K’Von Wallace, Philadelphia Eagles (Overall Grade: 49.5)
More of a slot corner than a safety, K’Von Wallace will likely play a versatile role for the Eagles, though with Nickell Robey-Coleman as their slot corner, he may be more of a traditional safety who could very well replace Malcolm Jenkins.
#71: Michael Thomas, Houston Texans (Overall Grade: 49)
#72: Akeem King, Seattle Seahawks (Overall Grade: 47.95)
#73: Jaquiski Tartt, San Francisco 49ers (Overall Grade: 47)
#74: Daniel Sorenson, Kansas City Chiefs (Overall Grade: 46.75)
#75: Rayshawn Jenkins, Los Angeles Chargers (Overall Grade: 46.75)
#76: George Odum, Indianapolis Colts (Overall Grade: 46.25)
#77: Taylor Rapp, Los Angeles Rams (Overall Grade: 45.75)
When the Rams drafted Taylor Rapp in the second round of the 2019 draft, many assumed they’d have him play a limited role behind John Johnson III and Eric Weddle. Instead, he was essentially a full-time starter for them, as they played three-safety sets, and Johnson III got injured. Overall, it was a mixed bag for the Washington product, as he had a great midseason run before really struggling at the end of the season, including a blown coverage that cost them a must-win game against the 49ers. Still, he’ll rightfully be trusted to be a starter for them this season.
#78: Julian Blackmon, Indianapolis Colts (Overall Grade: 45.1)
As I mentioned with Marquise Blair, the track record of Utah safeties has been strong, and Julian Blackmon could be their latest success story. Had it not been for an ACL injury, he could’ve been picked earlier than the third round. After converting from cornerback to safety, his production improved tremendously in college, He’ll likely be Malik Hooker’s future replacement in Indianapolis.
#79: Clayton Geathers, Free Agent (Overall Grade: 45)
#80: Morgan Burnett, Free Agent (Overall Grade: 45)
#81: Amani Hooker, Tennessee Titans (Overall Grade: 44.5)
Another intriguing safety that was drafted in the fourth round of the 2019 draft, Amani Hooker’s versatility allowed him to play a role as the Titans’ third safety, though he wasn’t above-average in any area.
#82: Curtis Riley, Free Agent (Overall Grade: 44.5)
#83: Andrew Adams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Overall Grade: 43.5)
#84: Terrence Brooks, New England Patriots (Overall Grade: 42.75)
#85: Juston Burris, Carolina Panthers (Overall Grade: 42.75)
#86: Kenny Vaccaro, Tennessee Titans (Overall Grade: 42.25)
After this season, I expect Hooker to take over as a starting safety for the Titans, as Kenny Vaccaro will likely be let go at the end of the season. He has constantly been an unproductive player in pass coverage, and although he’s a great pass rusher, he’s a box safety with a skill set that would’ve worked much better 10-15 years ago.
#87: Marqui Christian, Free Agent (Overall Grade: 41)
#88: Patrick Chung, New England Patriots (Overall Grade: 39.75)
For ten of the eleven seasons of his career, Patrick Chung has been a main-stay for the Patriots as their starting strong safety. However, after the team added multiple safeties, and drafted Kyle Dugger, it appears he’ll likely be more of a role player for them moving forward. The 33-year-old is coming off an all-around poor season, which may signal the beginning of the end for him.
#89: Will Parks, Philadelphia Eagles (Overall Grade: 39.5)
Although K’Von Wallace is an intriguing rookie, Will Parks will likely get the first crack to replace Malcolm Jenkins as the Eagles’ strong safety. The 25-year-old was a productive player in 2018 and plays a similar role to Jenkins, but the other three seasons of his career have consistent of poor play, and he really fell out of favor for the Broncos this past season.
#90: Darian Thompson, Dallas Cowboys (Overall Grade: 39)
#91: Jeff Heath, Las Vegas Raiders (Overall Grade: 38.75)
#92: Vonn Bell, Cincinnati Bengals (Overall Grade: 38.5)
Despite being the top-graded run defending safety in the NFL last season, Vonn Bell only was the 41st most valuable, which shows how much important coverage ability is at the safety position. On the bright side, though, he played out of position too often as a deep safety with the Saints, and the Bengals used their strong safeties much more in the box last season; Bell’s coverage production should be better next season.
#93: Johnathan Abram, Las Vegas Raiders (Overall Grade: 38)
Even though he missed all but one game of his rookie season due to injury, Johnathan Abram’s draft status as a 2019 first-round pick should signal he’s primed to be a valuable player, right? Well, not exactly. The Mississippi State product was only Pro Football Focus’ 11th-ranked safety, as he’s limited to being just a pure box safety with a similar skill set to Bell.
#94: Terrell Edmunds, Pittsburgh Steelers (Overall Grade: 37.5)
Speaking of box safeties who shouldn’t have been first-round picks, that best describes Terrell Edmunds, who was seen as a day-three prospect by some in the 2018 draft, and those draft analysts appear to have been correct. The 23-year-old ranks in the 30th percentile in coverage, and is the one weak-link on a loaded defense in Pittsburgh.
#95: Jeremy Chinn, Carolina Panthers (Overall Grade: 37.45)
If all goes well for Jeremy Chinn, he can be a poor man’s version of Derwin James or Jamal Adams as a very versatile playmaker. However, if he couldn’t dominate at Southern Illinois, what makes us think he’ll do so in the NFL? The ceiling is enormous, though.
#96: Tanner Muse, Las Vegas Raiders (Overall Grade: 37.45)
The classic example of a “Gruden Grinder”, Tanner Muse ran well at the combine, yet is probably to stiff to be anything more than a sub-linebacker/box safety. There isn’t much potential pay-off with him as a third-round pick, though he should at least have some sort of role in the NFL for the Raiders.
#97: Jahleel Addae, Free Agent (Overall Grade: 37.25)
#98: Tarvarius Moore, San Francisco 49ers (Overall Grade: 37)
#99: Mike Edwards, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Overall Grade: 33)
#100: Shawn Williams, Cincinnati Bengals (Overall Grade: 32)
#101: DJ Swearninger, New Orleans Saints (Overall Grade: 31.5)
#102: Bobby McCain, Miami Dolphins (Overall Grade: 31)
After being an average nickel defender for the first four seasons, Bobby McCain has moved to a prototypical safety role with a change in defensive scheme. Although he was fine in coverage, he clearly is a replacement-level starter at best.
#103: Will Redmond, Green Bay Packers (Overall Grade: 31)
#104: Delano Hill, Seattle Seahawks (Overall Grade: 26.5)
#105: Jaylen Watkins, Houston Texans (Overall Grade: 23.5)
#106: Marcell Harris, San Francisco 49ers (Overall Grade: 23.5)
#107: Will Harris, Detroit Lions (Overall Grade: 22.5)
#108: Kemal Ishmael, Atlanta Falcons (Overall Grade: 21.75)
#109: Adrian Colbert, Miami Dolphins (Overall Grade: 21.5)
#110: Tedric Thompson, Free Agent (Overall Grade: 21)
#111: Deionte Thompson, Arizona Cardinals (Overall Grade: 20.5)
#112: Eric Reid, Free Agent (Overall Grade: 20)
The Panthers picked up Eric Reid at the start of the 2018 season, and after he performed well for them, they rewarded him with a new three-year, $22 million deal. So, naturally, the 28-year-old had about as poor of a season as you could imagine, receiving a 36.1 coverage grade and 46.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus. As a box safety with some noticeable limitations, it isn’t surprising that he hasn’t been signed yet.
#113: Roderic Teamer, Los Angeles Chargers (Overall Grade: 18.5)
#114: Montae Nicholson, Washington Redskins (Overall Grade: 18.5)
#115: Jordan Whitehead, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Overall Grade: 18)
#116: Jermaine Whitehead, Cleveland Browns (Overall Grade: 17.5)