13 Best Safeties in the NFL

The list of the best safeties in the NFL is as versatile as the position itself is. Assignments for safeties in the National Football League (NFL) vary widely, and ranking the apex of the craft will determine how good an individual is at it what they were asked to do.

However, often forgotten men of the team, safeties can make a huge difference in the quality of the defense and the secondary in the game.

While some of the positions in the league are extremely thin and highlighted by a few stars but still lacking in real quality beyond that, the safety position seems to be in excellent health.

Best Safeties in the NFL (Source: Touchdown wire USA Times)
Best Safeties in the NFL (Source: Touchdown wire USA Times)

Are you wondering who the best safeties are in the NFL? If your answer is yes, below, we have prepared the list of the 13 best safeties in the NFL.

13 Best Safeties in the NFL

13. Micah Hyde, Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills have an incredibly reliable pair of safeties in the team, and the first one to slay on the list is Micah Hyde.

In addition, he now has four straight seasons with an overall PFF grade of at least 70.0, along with three out of the four are significantly better than 70.0.

Moreover, Hyde is often put in a perfect position by the defensive scheme in Buffalo Bills. But he responds by making the plays that he is allowed to make.

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12. Eddie Jackson, Chicago Bears

Eddie Jackson had one of the best moments we ever saw in the safety position in 2018, with a total PFF score of 93.2 and a combined range of 94.7.

But since Vic Fangio has left the town to coach the Broncos, Jackson’s high-scoring game has evolved and posted seasons of 67.0 and 59.5 according to the PFF standard.

Furthermore, Jackson is only 26 years old with so much talent to regain elite play. But he needs to find a solution this offseason.

11. Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans

Kevin Byard’s play has somehow dropped off after two seasons of the spectacular PFF grades above 85.0.

In addition, this most recent season saw him with post-career-low marks in overall grade (65.8) and coverage grade (61.5).

It, unfortunately, drags him outside of the top 10, such as the strength of competition.

Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans named as one of the best safeties (Source: Tennessee Titans)
Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans, named as one of the best safeties (Source: Tennessee Titans)

However, if Byard can bounce back to his best, he is a top-10 safety in this league.

10. Anthony Harris, Philadelphia Eagles

Anthony Harris is another player coming off a down season was in the first play that we ever have seen from Harris back in the college, which has always been a good thing.

In addition, Harris hit a free agency in the season where he held only 63.6 in the coverage. It also meant he would manage a cheap one-year contract with Philadelphia.

Before that, Harris produced ten selections with the PFF in the entire 90.6 range over the last two seasons combined.

9. Jamal Adams, Seattle Seahawks

Adams is a better player than he was showed up as during the last season in Seattle, albeit likely not only good enough to justify the two first-round picks in the trade that took him there in the play.

However, what was concerning about the last season was how badly he was exposed in coverage within the Seahawks defense.

In addition, Jamal Adams was often deployed in favorable coverage matchups with the Jets, but he was at the receiving end in 2020.

Furthermore, the NFL athlete has finished the year with a total of 34 pressures, 15 more than that of any other safety.

8. Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals

Budda Baker has received an All-Pro nod in 2020 and is an outstanding player in general. Especially in Arizona defense which is not something to write home about.

In addition, he can also play anywhere on the defensive side of the ball. He’s even lit up a skill like a Blitzer.

Although respected, Baker is on that next tier behind the upper-echelon safeties in 2021.

7. Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints

With a premium put on coverage, Williams definitely deserves a place high on the list of the best safeties in the NFL.

He’s the quintessential free safety who possesses an excellent range as well as the propensity to get his hands on passes downfield.

Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints (Source: Canal Street Chronicles)
Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints (Source: Canal Street Chronicles)

Furthermore, the thing that makes him so special is his overall ability. In addition, this young man misses tackles less often than we would flip the calendar during the NFL season.

Therefore it wouldn’t be any surprise to see him grab an All-Pro spot at some point very soon.

6. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers

Since moving to Pittsburgh Steelers and being allowed to play in his natural position, Fitzpatrick has perfectly flourished as one of the best safeties in NFL history.

Of course, some of that play is built off the back of a couple of exceptional games.

But he now has a record of nine picks and 11 pass breakups over the last two seasons of play, including the playoffs.

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5. Marcus Maye, New York Jets

Marcus Maye was the deep-lying free safety in the NFL who has allowed Jamal Adams to be the do-it-all star in the New York Jets secondary.

But when the team had traded Adams to Seattle, Marcus Maye was able to step into the role of safety, and he becomes able to show that he can also do everything well.

As a result, Maye has successfully earned a career-high PFF grade of 82.9 last season. This is notching his career highs in snaps from the slot and box.

4. John Johnson III, Cleveland Browns

John Johnson III was one of the best safeties in season 2020 while defending Brandon Staley. In addition, he played in one of the most talented defensive backfields in the league.

Moreover, Johnson has now earned overall PFF and the coverage grades of at least 80.0 in almost every healthy season that he has played as a part of the NFL.

And now he successfully gets the opportunity to show that he can stay and play at that incredible level with a new team after his offseason move to Cleveland.

3. Jessie Bates, Cincinnati Bengals

Jessie Bates is the best pure free safety in the National Football League that is heading towards 2021.

His success at the highest level is proof of the fact that striving as a run defender out of college is not a death sentence.

But, of course, it helps when you can cover the continent as a single-high safety.

However, he still has trouble getting rid of clutter from time to time, but any free safety affecting a passing game like Bates doesn’t have to be Jamal Adams against the run. He was the first All-Pro of the Bengals since 2015.

2. Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs

Mathieu is one of the most famous names and faces in the NFL. In addition, he is one of the best players in the league.

Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs (Source: Chiefs wire USA Today)
Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs (Source: Chiefs wire USA Today)

Likewise, this is because of his versatility as a defensive back, and it has always been his hit card.

The do-it-all defensive backpack is well-integrated, well-covered, and is a playmaker in the secondary.

1. Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos 

Maintaining the high-level play in the secondary over time is very difficult. But Simmons has had an excellent back-to-back year for the Denver Broncos.

In addition, over the last two seasons, Justin Simmons has the No. 1 overall PFF grade at the position.

Furthermore, he is the only safety who has put up a 90.0-plus grade over that time.

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Summary

We have prepared a list of the 13 best safeties in the NFL as per their popularity rate and contribution to NFL seasons.

However, every team member is popular for their unique characteristics, contribution to the game, and the level of risk factor that every player undertakes.

So, either included in the list or not, every player needs to be respected for their individual role during the game.

  1. Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos 

2. Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs

3. Jessie Bates, Cincinnati Bengals

4. John Johnson III, Cleveland Browns

5. Marcus Maye, New York Jets

6. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers

7. Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints

8. Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals

9. Jamal Adams, Seattle Seahawks

10. Anthony Harris, Philadelphia Eagles

11. Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans

12. Eddie Jackson, Chicago Bears

13. Micah Hyde, Buffalo Bills

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