The term “safety” entails a lot in the NFL. A guy who plays as the defenses backline, a guy who plays in the box and fills in as an extra linebacker at time and a player who makes his money guarding nickel corners can often fill the same role on the roster despite doing vastly different things on the field.
This makes the position the most unique in the NFL, and makes this list the most unique of all the other that have featured here over the past few weeks. All of the players on this list are listed as a “safety” on the depth chart, but they provide different skills to their respective teams.
Today, we rank the top five safeties in the NFC North, and parse out an impressive group.
5. Adrian Amos (Green Bay Packers)
Adrian Amos made a huge move within the division in 2019. After being a part of the stand-out 2018 Chicago Bears defense, he signed with their arch-rival Green Bay Packers in 2019. Is his first game as a Packer he nabbed a game-sealing interception off of Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Amos proceeded to play well the rest of his season in Green Bay, too. He started in all of the teams 16 games, intercepted two passes and set a career high with 84 combined tackles. He, along with Jaire Alexander, carried a Packers secondary that was clearly the weakest link on a talented defense.
Do not be surprised in Amos does well again in 2020. He seems to have truly found a home in Green Bay, looking like he is worth every penny of his four-year, $36 million deal with the team.
4. Duron Harmon (Detroit Lions)
The New England Patriots needed to clear cap this offseason as they head into a rebuild post-Tom Brady. This means some veterans were on the chopping block, including veteran safety Duron Harmon. The Detroit Lions were able to snag Harmon is an incredibly cheap trade—sending over a seventh-round pick and a swap of fifth rounders for the safety—and he may be the best player is their secondary this year.
Harmon is versatile, which seems to be what the Lions like most out of their defenders. He can play in the box, or play as a single high safety. For a team that plays man coverage as much as Detroit, a player of Harmon’s caliber can be huge. He is a great run defender and incredibly rangy as a free safety with great instincts.
The safety snagged 17 interceptions over his seven years in New England. While he may not appear much on the box score, he certainly was among one of the more important players to their impressive defense in 2019. Now, he will be tasked with being a veteran leader of a struggling secondary.
3. Anthony Harris (Minnesota Vikings)
Anthony Harris may be the best player you have never heard of. The safety has largely lived within the shadow of his fellow safety (who is coming later on this list) during his five year NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings. A lack of media attention has not stopped him from becoming a star on his own, though.
Harris led the NFL in interceptions in 2019, snagging six, but he was a great player long before 2019. Harris fully stepped into a starting role in Minneapolis in 2018 and ran away with the job. He notched 46 combined tackles and three interceptions in his first year as a regular starter. The safety doubled his interception total in 2019 while also setting a career high with 60 combined tackles.
Harris is great in coverage, and his presence allows the defense to move around a ton of their other pieces. Minnesota is rebuilding their secondary going forward, and Harris might be the player they want to center the unit around.
2. Eddie Jackson (Chicago Bears)
Eddie Jackson is one of the best playmaking safeties the NFL has ever seen. The safety scored five defensive touchdowns in his first NFL season, an unprecedented feat. Through three seasons, he already has intercepted 10 passes and been credited with 26 passes defended.
While he certainly took a small step back in 2019 after his All-Pro 2018 campaign, he was still among the best safeties in the league. Jackson made a Pro Bowl and was a bright spot on a team that largely regressed.
Expect Jackson to find his way right back onto highlight reels in 2020. While he is not perfect—he sometimes tries too hard for the big play and gets himself in a bit of trouble—he is a man made to play in the spotlight.
1. Harrison Smith (Minnesota Vikings)
The Vikings drafted Harrison Smith 29th overall in the 2012 NFL draft, and it is one the best decisions the team made the entire decade. Smith is a star. He is consistently regarded to be one of the leagues top safeties, and he has become the face of a very talented defense. The veteran earned his fifth-straight Pro Bowl appearance in 2019 and does not look like he will slow down anytime soon.
Smith intercepted three passes and notched 85 tackles in 2019. Similar to Harmon, he is a player that can serve as a deep coverage safety and in the box as a player that comes up field to defend the run. He can play nearly anywhere and serves as a support for almost any player around him.