As of 2011, this is how BOLTHYPE sees the top 5 safeties in the NFL:
1. Ed Reed
If football truly is intended to be for entertainment purposes then there is no doubt that Reed should rank at the top of this list. With instincts second to none and the ability to play either in the box against the run or over the top in coverage, Reed is always around the football and has a magnetic-like ability to attract the pigskin. Of all defensive stars across the NFL landscape, it’s likely that Reed is the only one capable of scoring touchdowns almost as regularly as a skill position player on offense. Since his collegiate days in Miami, Reed has been a consistent threat to go the distance when he gets the ball in his grasp.
2. Troy Polamalu
To be fair, you can’t go wrong with either one of the guys on the top of this list, but just in personal taste Polamalu is ranked slightly behind Reed. The former USC Trojan is perhaps more notorious for his hair in the mainstream media, but his on-field skills far surpass his follicle superiority. The trait that stands out most for Polamalu is the ability to read and diagnose plays in the heat of the battle and produce highlight worthy results nine times out of ten. He is often seen lurking around the line of scrimmage at the linebacker level with tremendous anticipation skills of the quarterback’s snap count. He has been the main constant for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ shutdown defenses over the last decade and is really the straw that stirs the drink for their starting eleven on that side of the ball.
3. Nick Collins
Collins’ name might not be on the tip of everyone’s tongue when asked about the next best safety in the league behind Reed and Polamalu, but his play does all of the talking that’s necessary. He was a relative unknown as recently as three years ago, but three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances along with a Super Bowl ring this past year have vaulted him into the conversation as one of the league’s elite at his position. Collins scored on an interception return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLV to really get the momentum in favor of his Packers this past February. His production as a starter over the past three seasons ranks among the tops at his position and his ability to sway the tide of a game earns him a spot on this list.
4. Antrel Rolle
Once upon a time Rolle played corner in college and for a handful of seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, but now with the New York Giants he has translated those coverage skills into big dividends at the safety position. Rolle still has the ball skills and quickness of a corner capable of playing in coverage on the outside but instead he is now in the middle of the field as a ball hawking safety. That is a difficult adversary for opposing offenses to gameplan around as Rolle isn’t the dynamic eye-popping player that some are at the safety spot, but he is rarely out of position and almost always in on any tackle in his vicinity.
5. Adrian Wilson
This guy is perhaps losing a step in the last year or so, but Wilson still has the playmaking abilities to change a game on any given snap. Where he really excels on defense is filling the hole against the run as he really is a linebacker/safety at times sliding down into the second level of defense. Even though run stopping is his forte, that doesn’t mean Wilson isn’t capable of dropping into coverage with top notch instincts and great closing speed to deliver solid blows that separate the ball from receivers. If it’s big hits you are looking for from the safety position, Wilson could rank at the top as one of the league’s best at laying the lumber.
The NFL is constantly evolving and the amount of emphasis placed on the safety position is a perfect illustration of just how much the game has changed in recent years. At one time, most safeties were given a specific role as primarily a run stopper or a guy that plays over the top in coverage. Today, if a player isn’t capable of doing both jobs at least adequately, it might be time to look in a different direction.
Agree or disagree with the five safeties listed above? See any glaring omissions or guys ranked way too high? Use the comment section below and give us your top 5!
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