Top 100 NFL Players by Position: Free Safeties

Movie Quote of the Day:

“Maybe we should call ourselves the Febreeze Brothers because things are feeling so fresh right now.”

– Allen Gamble, The Other Guys (2010)

NFL analysts, experts, players, etc. have been releasing their own rankings for the top players in the NFL. The NFL Network just released their Top 100 that is voted on by the players. Also, Mike Miller at Bleacher Report has been coming out with his own rankings of the Top 1,000 players in the NFL.

I decided to create my own version of this, but I’m going to put it together by position (except punters and fullbacks because nobody cares about them) and it’ll only be 100 players. I’m not even sure I can name 1,000 people that I know in the real world let alone the NFL. I’m also going to add honorable mentions and what I like to call the “Rising Star” of each position. Another thing I added when creating these lists is that the players have to currently be on a team. No free agents.

Free safety is the position in today’s post. Like I said in my strong safeties post last week, free safeties differ because they’re usually responsible for playing “center field.” They’re almost always playing deep in the defense and far from the line scrimmage. They cover the entire field from sideline to sideline, hence the term “center field.” It’s also not uncommon to see physical free safeties too. Here’s my list:

Rising Star: Tashaun Gipson, Cleveland Browns

2014 stats: 52 total tackles, six interceptions, eight pass deflections, and one forced fumble

Gipson

Would you guess that since 2012 Gibson is second in the NFL in interceptions only behind Richard Sherman? Well believe it, the former undrafted free agent in 2012 has vastly exceeded expectations. Gibson has led the AFC in interceptions for the last two seasons. He also has 180 total tackles, 20 passes deflections, and 12 interceptions in his three NFL seasons. He made the Pro Bowl last season, and he’s a true ball hawk free safety. He has a bright future in Cleveland.

Honorable Mention: Glover Quin, Detroit Lions

2014 stats: 73 total tackles, 10 pass deflections, and seven interceptions

Quin

Quin has been in the league since 2009, and finally had a breakout season last year. The former cornerback finally earned a spot in the Pro Bowl and Second-team All-Pro honors. He has 444 total tackles, 66 pass deflections, 15 interceptions, and four forced fumbles in his career. He also led the entire NFL in interceptions last season.

Top 5 Free Safeties:

Smith

5. Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings

2014 stats: 92 total tackles, nine pass deflections, five interceptions, three sacks, and one forced fumble

Smith had a great bounce back season after suffering a toe injury in 2013, ending his season early. The former first round pick has had four great years so far in Minnesota. He has 255 total tackles, four sacks, 23 pass deflections, and 10 interceptions in his career. Smith hasn’t received any honors outside of being named First-team All-Pro by Pro Football Focus last year. He’s growing into one of the better coverage safeties in the NFL.

Byrd

4. Jairus Byrd, New Orleans Saints

2014 stats: 22 total tackles, two pass deflections, and one forced fumble

Byrd missed eight games last season after suffering a torn lateral meniscus. This came after signing a 6-year/$56 million contract with the Saints last year during free agency. The former 2009 second round pick has 378 total tackles, three sacks, 22 interceptions, 35 pass deflections, and 12 forced fumbles during his six NFL seasons. He’s a 3x Pro Bowler (2009, 2012, and 2013), 2x Second-team All-Pro (2012 and 2013), and 2x AFC leader in interceptions (2009 and 2012). In his rookie season, he also was the co-leader in interceptions and was named on the NFL All-Rookie Team. When healthy, he’s one of the best free safeties in the league.

McCourty

3. Devin McCourty, New England Patriots

2014 stats: 68 total tackles, six pass deflections, two interceptions, and one forced fumble

McCourty was drafted in the first round of 2010. He has 388 total tackles, one sack, 17 interceptions, 58 pass deflections, and seven forced fumbles. He earned a Pro Bowl (I can’t believe it’s his only Pro Bowl) in his rookie season and is a 2x Second-team All-Pro (2010 and 2013). I’m curious to see how New England uses him in 2015. McCourty used to play cornerback, and New England is desperate for corners at the moment. Plus, New England used a second round pick on a safety. Signs could be pointing to New England trying him out at corner.

Weddle

2. Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers

2014 stats: 114 total tackles, eight pass deflections, two forced fumbles, and one interception

Weddle is the oldest player on this list at 30 years old. The former second round pick is one of the most physical free safeties in the league. He has 772 total tackles, six sacks, 65 pass deflections, 19 interceptions, and five forced fumbles in his career. He’s a 3x Pro Bowler (2011, 2013, and 2014), 2x First-team All-Pro (2011 and 2014), and 3x Second-team All-Pro (2010, 2012, and 2013). He was also the leader in interceptions in 2011. He’s a great player and has a fantastic beard.

Thomas

1. Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks

2014 stats: 97 total tackles, five pass deflections, three forced fumbles, and one interception

This shouldn’t shock anyone. Thomas is the best coverage safety in the NFL. He can play both deep in coverage and man-to-man on the line of scrimmage. He’s also very physical. Personally, I think he’s the real reason why Seattle’s secondary is so fierce (deal with it Richard Sherman). Although, Kam Chancellor is a close second.

The former first round pick is a 4x Pro Bowler (2011-2014), 3x First-team All-Pro (2012-2014), and Second-team All-Pro (2011). Thomas has 442 total tackles, 38 pass deflections, 16 interceptions, and eight forced fumbles in his five NFL seasons. Like I said above, I believe Thomas is the most valuable piece to Seattle’s secondary, and maybe even their defense.

All stats from: http://www.nfl.com/stats/player
Tomorrow: Wide Receivers

Thanks for reading

Shane Price
Follow me on Twitter – @priceisright53

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