NESN.com is breaking down the NFL’s best positional groupings on both sides of the football, ranking teams in order of worst to first.
Today, we rank the best safety groups in the NFL.
Of note, this is not a ranking of the best individual safeties, as teams were evaluated on the overall position. The top four safeties on each team’s depth chart, courtesy of ESPN, were used.
32. Houston Texans (Jaylen Watkins, Justin Reid, Eric Murray, Jonathan Owens)
Reid, a 2018 third-rounder, started 15 games with five passes defensed in 2019. However, Houston doesn’t have much depth behind him with Watkins (eight career starts) and the veteran Murray (15 career starts).
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (Ronnie Harrison, Jarrod Wilson, Andrew Wingard, Daniel Thomas)
The 2018 third-rounder Harrison broke up nine passes in 2019 (14 starts), while Wilson started all 16 games (four PBUs, two INTs) last year.
30. Carolina Panthers (Juston Burris, Tre Boston, Jeremy Chinn, T.J. Green)
Boston had 11 passes defensed in 16 starts in 2019, while Burris will enter his first year in Carolina after just 11 career starts in three seasons. Chinn was a second-rounder in 2020.
29. Atlanta Falcons (Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, Ricardo Allen, Jaylinn Hawkins)
Neal returns after being limited to just four games in 2018 and 2019 due to injuries. The Falcons hope the 2016 first-rounder will return to health with Allen (16 starts in 2019) and Kazee (14 starts) providing depth.
28. Arizona Cardinals (Jalen Thompson, Budda Baker, Deionte Thompson, Chris Banjo)
Baker, a two-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro, started all 16 games (six PBUs) in 2019, while Jalen Thompson started nine games last year.
27. Miami Dolphins (Eric Rowe, Bobby McCain, Adrian Colbert, Steven Parker)
The ex-Patriot Rowe will move to safety with the Dolphins very deep at cornerback. McCain (eight starts) made the change in 2019 and had some success.
26. Cincinnati Bengals (Vonn Bell, Jessie Bates III, Shawn Williams, Brandon Wilson)
Bell joins Cincinnati after four years (14 PBUs in 45 starts) in New Orleans. He’ll join Bates, who’s started 16 games in each of his two years with the Bengals.
25. Detroit Lions (Duron Harmon, Tracy Walker, Jayron Kearse, Miles Killebrew)
The Lions upgraded the position with a trade for ex-Patriot Harmon (16 games played in each of the last six seasons), who was part of a safety logjam in New England. Walker started 12 games for Detroit in 2019.
24. Dallas Cowboys (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Xavier Woods, Donavan Wilson, Darian Thompson)
The Cowboys improved at the position with the free agent signing of Clinton-Dix, a 2014 first-rounder with 90 career starts, 33 passes defensed and 16 interceptions. The hard-hitting Woods started 15 games for Dallas in 2019.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Antoine Winfield Jr., Jordan Whitehead, Andrew Adams, Justin Evans)
The No. 45 overall pick in 2020, Winfield was among the best safeties in draft, while Whitehead returns for his third season in Tampa after starting 14 games in 2019.
22. Washington Redskins (Landon Collins, Troy Apke, Deshazor Everett, Jeremy Reaves)
Collins was a Pro Bowler in three of the last four seasons, starting all 15 games during his first year in Washington in 2019. The Redskins will have to build some depth behind him, however.
21. Los Angeles Rams (John Johnson III, Taylor Rapp, Jordan Fuller, Terrell Burgess)
Johnson missed a majority of the 2019 season after starting all 16 games during his sophomore campaign (11 PBUs, four INTs). Rapp, a 2019 second-rounder, started 10 games with eight passes defensed.
20. Indianapolis Colts (Khari Willis, Malik Hooker, Rolan Milligan, Julian Blackmon)
The 2017 first-rounder Hooker started all 27 games he played since 2018, with seven passes defensed and four interceptions. Willis (nine starts) could see an increase in snaps along with the 2020 third-rounder Blackmon.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (Jalen Mills, Rodney McLeod, Will Parks, Marcus Epps)
Mills had seven passes defensed in nine starts in 2019, while McLeod returns after starting all 16 games in Philly (six PBUs, two INTs) last season.
18. Cleveland Browns (Karl Joseph, Grant Delpit, J.T. Hassell, Andrew Sendejo)
The former first-rounder Joseph enters his first season with Cleveland after starting 41 of the 49 games he’s played. The Browns spent a second-rounder on Delpit this offseason.
17. Green Bay Packers (Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Raven Greene, Will Redmond)
Amos started all 16 games during his first season in Green Bay, while the 2019 first-rounder Savage compiled five passes defensed and four turnovers in his rookie season (14 starts).
16. Chicago Bears (Tashaun Gipson Sr., Eddie Jackson, Deon Bush, Kentrell Brice)
Jackson, a 2019 Pro Bowler, and Gipson (three INTs, eight PBUs in 14 games with Houston), who enters his first year in Chicago, make for a productive combination.
15. Seattle Seahawks (Bradley McDougald, Quandre Diggs, Lano Hill, Marquise Blair)
McDougald has started 75 of his 98 career games, with five interceptions and 15 passes defensed in the last two seasons combined. Diggs had an incredibly productive five games (three INTs, three PBUs) with the Seahawks in 2019.
14. San Francisco 49ers (Jaquiski Tartt, Jimmie Ward, Marcell Harris, Tarvarius Moore)
Ward, a 2014 first-round pick, stayed healthy for a majority of the 2019 season, which he hadn’t been able to do prior. It helped him compile eight PBUs in 13 starts, while Tartt (12 starts in 2019) enters his sixth season in San Francisco.
13. Buffalo Bills (Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, Dean Marlowe, Jaquan Johnson)
Both Poyer and Hyde return after starting all 16 games together in Buffalo in 2019.
12. Denver Broncos (Kareem Jackson, Justin Simmons, Trey Marshall, Kahani Smith)
Simmons, a Second-Team All-Pro, and Jackson make a good starting combination.
11. Las Vegas Raiders (Jonathan Abram, Damarious Randall, Jeff Heath, Erik Harris)
Abram played only one game before injuries cut the 2019 first-rounder’s season short. Randall, a fellow first-rounder who started 11 games for the Browns in 2019, and Heath, who started 13 games for the Cowboys last season, provide some veteran depth.
10. Tennessee Titans (Kenny Vaccaro, Kevin Byard, Dane Cruikshank, Amani Hooker)
Byard is coming off another strong season (five INTs, nine PBUs in 16 starts), while Vaccaro has started 96 of his 97 games played, including all 16 in 2019.
9. New York Giants (Jabrill Peppers, Xavier McKinney, Rashaan Gaulden, Julian Love)
The Giants certainly have talent at the position with the addition of McKinney, a second-rounder who was regarded as the top safety in the 2020 class. He’ll join 2017 first-rounder Peppers, who had a productive first season (11 starts) in New York.
8. New Orleans Saints (Malcolm Jenkins, Marcus Williams, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Saquon Hampton)
The Saints received a dramatic upgrade with the addition of Jenkins, a Pro Bowler in two of the last three seasons. He should pair well with Williams, while Gardner-Johnson can offer New Orleans a corner-safety hybrid.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (Tyrann Mathieu, Juan Thornhill, L’Jarius Sneed, Daniel Sorensen)
Mathieu was a First-Team All-Pro at defensive back and a Second-Team All-Pro at safety. His arrival in Kansas City has completely transformed the Chiefs’ secondary, including Thornhill (16 starts in his rookie season).
6. New York Jets (Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Ashtyn Davis, Bennett Jackson)
Adams, a 2019 First-Team All-Pro, is arguably the best safety in the NFL. With New York adding depth in the third-rounder Davis, among the top safeties in the 2020 class, this could be the best unit the Jets have.
5. Baltimore Ravens (Earl Thomas III, Chuck Clark, Anthony Levine Sr., DeShon Elliot)
Thomas, a Pro Bowler in 2019 for the seventh time, remains among the top safeties in the league thanks to his ability to play center field. Clark has increased his production in each of his four seasons and could provide a nice complement.
4. Los Angeles Chargers (Derwin James, Nasir Adderley, Roderic Teamer, Rayshawn Jenkins)
James had an injury halt his 2019 season after recording All-Pro honors during his 2018 rookie season. Jenkins enters having started all 16 games last year (four PBUs, three INTs). Corner-safety hybrid Desmond King also could see time at the position.
3. Minnesota Vikings (Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris, Brian Cole II, Josh Metellus)
Minnesota offers arguably the best 1-2 combination of starters in the NFL. Smith was a Pro Bowler in each of the last five seasons, while Harris compiled a league-leading six interceptions in 14 games during the 2019 season.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (Terrell Edmunds, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Jordan Dangerfield, Marcus Allen)
The 2019 First-Team All-Pro Fitzpatrick (five INTs, nine PBUs in 14 starts in Pittsburgh) was a monster addition to the Steelers last season. With a full year under his belt, he could be even more impactful next to fellow 2018 first-rounder Edmunds.
1. New England Patriots (Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger, Terrence Brooks)
The Patriots offer as much depth at safety as they do at cornerback. They added potential chess pieces in Phillips and the second-rounder Dugger, both of whom ultimately could play versatile roles like Chung has in the past. Oh yeah, and McCourty is coming off a career year with five interceptions. Brooks proved a nice depth piece at the position in his first year with New England in 2019.