Projecting the Top 10 for the 2020 NFL Season: Strong Safetiesby Sam Schneider August 27, 2020 0 comments
Every year the NFL Network does its top 100 countdown based on the previous season. However, that’s the past, and we want to look forward to the future. Four of our writers have put together a 14 part series, predicting our top 10 at each position. We’ve also included the most under and overrated at each position. Today, we wrap up the series with our top 10 strong safeties.
10) Kenny Vaccaro, Tennessee Titans
Vaccaro caught on with the Titans in the summer of 2018 after moderate success for five years in New Orleans. He signed a one-year deal and played in 13 hard-nosed games that saw him mostly stay in the box as he is particularly strong against the run. The successful season, as well as his leadership, earned him a four-year, $26 million deal. In 2019 he had the second-most tackles of his career with 84 and was a constant headache in the opponent’s backfield.
9) Adrian Amos, Green Bay Packers
The former Chicago Bear star had his best season as a pro in 2019, his first as a Packer, and he is still on an upward trajectory. Amos is solid against the run but can stay with many receivers and is rarely out of the play. He is not a thrilling watch, but he does his job well and stands to take another big step in 2020.
8) Vonn Bell, Cincinnati Bengals
Bell has had some forgettable moments in coverage in the past. However, he should be playing in a better situation this season. He has always had a good eye for play development. He has never had less than 60 tackles in a season, as he is one of the best tackling safeties in the league. Bell has the natural ability to shift from flat foot to a downhill sprint in an instant. He flies to the ball and is adept at ripping it out of the arms of the opponent, while rarely missing tackles.
7) Chuck Clark, Baltimore Ravens
After being a core special team member during his first two years in the league, Clark got a chance to start in week five last year. Almost immediately after, a pass defense which had been giving up chunks of yardage through the air began to jell. The coaches quickly learned that Clark knew every defensive assignment for every position on every play. Clark reads coverage pre-snap with ease and is big enough to slide into a linebacker role at times. Clark was rewarded for his performance with a new three-year deal in the offseason.
6) Jordan Poyer, Buffalo Bills
The Bills have an excellent secondary, and Poyer is a critical part of that. In three years with Buffalo, the tackle machine has racked up 302 total tackles. Last year he set his career-best with 107 while playing 977 total snaps. Poyer can lay a big hit on any back in the league, is always in the right place, and is likely to finally be named to his first Pro Bowl in the next two years.
5) Derwin James Jr, Los Angeles Chargers
James is expected to play more snaps at strong safety this season. The addition of Chris Harris, Jr. on the outside and Desmond King moving to the slot enables James to move closer and pick up the tight end in a division loaded with them. James is also quick to the backfield on blitzes and can improve on the three and a half sacks he had as a rookie All-Pro. He is dinged a bit in the rankings as he is returning from injury, but he should be right back in the top three by season’s end.
4) Landon Collins, Washington Football Team
It is almost like Collins is just taken for granted now, but in 2019 the three-time Pro Bowler and 2016 All-Pro was up to his old tricks. He racked up 117 tackles (nine for a loss), 78 of those solo which is just three shy of his career average. Collins is one of the best in the business at reading the handoff and quick enough to have accumulated 31 tackles for loss in his short career. At just 26 years old, and supported by an ever-growing defensive unit, he stands to make the first of several more Pro Bowl returns this year.
3) Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs
Let me remind everyone that this list is for 2020. I say that because having another season like the one Mathieu had in 2019 would be virtually unheard of. That said, it was that good. Mathieu stuffed the stat sheet in every possible way en route to his second All-Pro season. The conundrum in facing Mathieu is that it is nearly impossible to game plan against him. Wherever the ball ends up, the “Honey Badger” will likely have a hand in finishing the play. If he does somehow manage to match last year’s production this season, it will truly be extraordinary.
2) Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings
For the second year in a row, Smith converted five turnovers (three interceptions and two fumbles) on his way to his fifth straight Pro Bowl nod. Toss in 85 tackles and 11 passes defended, and you can see that “The Heartbreak Kid” was all over the field per usual. Working in tandem with Anthony Harris, Smith gets a lot more chances to man-up with a ball carrier in the open field and takes advantage. A sound tackler with tremendous lower body strength, when Smith hits you, it makes you think twice about going anywhere near him. Unfortunately for the offense, he is more than happy to come to them.
1) Jamal Adams, Seattle Seahawks
Adams has a new home, but he will still be the same dominant player that he was for New York. After three seasons, he has been named to two Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro selection in 2019. Although Adams’ tackles dropped, his ability to explode into the backfield continues to go up, evidenced by 10 tackles for loss, 13 quarterback hits, and 6.5 sacks in 14 games last season. Poised to lead the NFL at the position in 2020, he has barely scratched the surface, and that is a scary thought for opponents in the NFC West.
Most Underrated – Terrell Edmunds, Pittsburgh Steelers
Edmunds finished second on the team in tackles with 105 in 2019 and has cemented himself smack dab in the middle of the defensive backfield. If he can improve his coverage (72 percent completions when targeted), he could make a big leap in 2020.
Most Overrated – Jabrill Peppers, New York Giants
Peppers’ numbers are not bad, but they certainly are not fitting of a first-round pick who came into the league with a lot of hype. Every offseason, there is a narrative that he was ready to take the next step. If he doesn’t this year, he may be looking at his third team in five years come 2021.
Check us out on our socials:
Follow Sam Schneider on Twitter @BuyAndSellYou
Main Image Credit:
Embed from Getty Images