Monson: 2022 NFL Rankings and Safety Levels | NFL News, Rankings & Stats

Ranking safeties in today’s NFL is becoming increasingly complex due to defensive developments and the various roles the position encompasses. “Safety” in the NFL is, in truth, several different positions with vastly different responsibilities, and comparing them directly is tricky.

This has been true for a long time, but it seems to be getting more and more extreme. Directly comparing a true no-cover safe to a box defender or a tight-fisted fighting weapon on defense is a pretty arbitrary construct, so in this article we’ve broken down the league’s best safeties into their different roles. Some of these players could fit more than one of those buckets, and indeed throughout their careers, but that’s where they currently stand based on the past two seasons.

Security level without coverage:

  1. KEVIN BYARD, TENNESSEE TITANS
  2. ANTOINE WINFIELD JR., BUCANIERS OF TAMPA BAY
  3. MARCUS WILLIAMS, CROWS OF BALTIMORE
  4. JESSIE BATES III, CINCINNATI BENGALS
  5. JUSTIN SIMMONS, DENVER BRONCOS
  6. WHEN DIGGS, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
  7. JEVON HOLLAND, MIAMI DOLPHINS
  8. MINKAH FITZPATRICK, PITTSBURGH STEELERS
  9. MARCUS MAYE, SAINTS OF NEW ORLEANS
  10. DEVIN MCCOURTY, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
  11. JORDAN FULLER, LOS ANGELES RAMS
  12. XAVIER MCKINNEY, NEW YORK GIANTS
  13. TREVON MOEHRIG, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Coverage is king in today’s NFL, and the safe position pivots toward players who excel at depth. A few years ago this meant Earl Thomas type players who occupied the unique high zone in defenses playing almost exclusively Cover 3 or Cover 1. These players still exist, but the hottest defense right now is the Vic Fangio tree of two. -high safety looks, where free safeties occupy either half the court or even just a quarter with various pattern match responsibilities.

Kevin Byard has been a prototypical free safety since he was a draft prospect. He just finished a season with an overall PFF rating of 90.4 and a coverage rating of 90.9. This marked his third career 80.0+ cover rating, and was also the third time he had lined up as a free safety for 600+ snaps in a season.

Antoine Winfield Jr. may only be entering his third year in the league, but he got on a Super Bowl team and then backed it up with an 86.1 PFF rating that ranked second of the league last year. Winfield is an exceptionally good playmaker and cover, where his ability to quickly read the game really comes into its own.

Marcus Williams signed a big free agent contract this offseason and has been incredibly consistent in the NFL at a position where consistently high-end play is hard to come by.

Jessie Bates III is just one year away from a 90.1 PFF rating and a true elite season for the Bengals. This season yielded his career-best PFF rating of more than 10 ranking points, although campaigns on either side may be why the Bengals have seemed reluctant to hand him a monster new contract.

Likewise, Justin Simmons’ PFF rating of 90.7 from 2019 represents his career high of over 10 rating points. Both players showed the edge and elite play, but they weren’t able to hold that high for as long as others.

Box Strong security level:

  1. BUDDA BAKER, ARIZONA CARDINALS
  2. JORDAN WHITEHEAD, NEW YORK JETS
  3. JAMAL ADAMS, SEAHAWKS OF SEATTLE
  4. ADRIAN PHILLIPS, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
  5. VONN BELL, CINCINNATI BENGALS

Hard safety was once a coveted specialty role in the NFL, encompassing those who played more like auxiliary linebackers and patrolled the box, defending the run and covering short areas below. Now these players are linebackers, especially in the underpacks, and the league came to covet other skills for strong safeties. Even the players on this list must have more strings to their bow than just filling the run with heavy formations.

Budda Baker is a homing missile on the Arizona defense, amassing 160 defensive saves in just five seasons of play. He has three PFF run defense ratings of over 80.0 in his first five seasons. , and his versatility allows him to move around in defense, playing a lot as a free safety and in the slot.

Jamal Adams was thought to be that game weapon on defense, a player who could line up anywhere and do his job well, but in Seattle he struggled a lot in any role other than close to the line of scrimmage as more of a classic strong safety. Adams has PFF coverage ratings of 53.1 and 47.4 since joining the Seahawks, but has maintained a solid run defense rating while continuing to shine when rushing the passer. He’s still a talented player, but perhaps his role is more limited than originally thought.

Match Location Level:

  1. DERWIN JAMES, LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
  2. TYRANN MATHIEU, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
  3. JIMMIE WARD, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
  4. JEREMY CHINN, CAROLINA PANTHERS
  5. DARNELL SAVAGE, GREEN BAY PACKERS
  6. KYLE DUGGER, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
  7. JAYRON KEARSE, DALLAS COWBOYS

The solid safeties of yesteryear continue to be replaced by hybrid game defenders, players who can line up in the box but also cover tight ends and ball carriers in single coverage from the slot or in other lineouts as if they were cornerbacks. There is no one better than Derwin James. His in-season tape is clear evidence, but you can also watch the boot camp/training footage that emerges each year of James going one-on-one with Keenan Allen – one of the best runners in game road – and covering it like a blanket. The problem for James has been injuries. In his four-year career, he’s snapped just over 2,000 snaps, essentially half the playing time available. He is one of the elite on the pitch, but he needs to stay healthy.

Tyrann Mathieu is such a match weapon that for several years of his career he was a pure cornerback more than he was a safety. Mathieu hasn’t been at his best for a few years now, but his lineup versatility makes him incredibly valuable to any defense. He’s lined up in the slot on more than 200 snaps in a season over the past seven years and should have a chance to replace Malcolm Jenkins in that game-playing role on the New Orleans defense this year.

Since entering the league, Jeremy Chinn has had perhaps the most unique deployment of all safeties, to the point where he breaks many job designations and truly operates in an individual role. He made a lot of spectacular plays as a rookie, but was also on the wrong side of big offensive wins. He was much more consistent in year two, giving up half as many touchdowns in primary coverage (three to six) as his rookie year, while his coverage rating jumped 10 points.

At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, New England’s Kyle Dugger has the kind of size to match tight ends in the slot, and the Patriots use him a lot in that role. Dugger faced 84 targets in coverage in his first two seasons in the league, allowing 58 catches for 9.3 yards per reception.

Versatile level

  1. ADRIAN AMOS, GREEN BAY PACKERS
  2. HARRISON SMITH, MINNESOTA VIKINGS
  3. MICAH HYDE, BUFFALO BILLS
  4. JORDAN POYER, BUFFALO BILLS
  5. JOHN JOHNSON III, CLEVELAND BROWN
  6. AMANI HOOKER, TENNESSEE TITANS
  7. JUSTIN REID, KANSAS CITY HEADS

Harrison Smith has long been the prototype of this group of securities. Much of that was due to the Vikings’ Mike Zimmer-led defense, but Smith was the player who made all those cover shells work. Its ability to line up in any safe position in any cover shell allowed the rest of the pieces to fall into place around it. Smith may be on the decline from his top flight (his last two seasons have had PFF ratings of 74.3 and 77.9, down from 90.0 and above), but he’s still ranked 12th in the position. in 2021 for a defense that has lost a lot of talent.

Adrian Amos has become one of the most underrated safeties in the league. Although he lacks splatter plays, he is always in the right place at the right time and ranks highly in all facets of the game. Amos has been the league’s top safety for the past two seasons. Last year, his coverage and run defense ratings were 74.0 or better.

Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer each fall into this category for the Buffalo Bills and together form the best safety duo in the league. Each can line up wherever needed within the program and playing alongside each other is clearly a force multiplier for their success. Buffalo runs a program that sets them up for success, but they enjoy it extremely well on their own.

John Johnson III backed up his fine game in Los Angeles with a solid year in Cleveland. His overall PFF rating dropped, but he was still above average in every facet of the game that PFF measures.

Although Justin Reid is coming off a low ranking, we saw earlier in his career what he is capable of in a defense that doesn’t lose all of his talent around him. Now that he has the opportunity to play in better defense again, we should see a rebounding performance in 2022.

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