“Renaissance” is the wrong word to describe what’s gone on at safety in recent seasons—the free and strong safety positions always have been vital and consistently feature some of the game’s top athletes. But there has been an influx of special talent in the secondary over the past six drafts or so.
Jairus Byrd, Glover Quin and Patrick Chung arrived in 2009, Eric Berry was a top-five selection in ‘10 and the ball has kept right on rolling. The old guard at safety has stayed the course, as well, helping to add depth to star power. Safety is a premier position, even more so in a modern NFL that forces players there to handle wildly varying chores from down to down. Need deep help? Slot coverage? An extra blitzer? A little run defense? All of those abilities must be on a safety’s resume these days (or there at least must be otherworldly potential in one area). On top of their own duties, safeties have to be cornerbacks and linebackers as well. Which players handle those demands the best? We're breaking down the two safety positions in separate lists. Find our picks for the top strong safeties here and read on for our breakdown of the best free safeties.
Just missed the cut
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Packers: He also could qualify as the “Next Big Thing” at safety, as he enters his third NFL season. Clinton-Dix pairs extremely well with Morgan Burnett, another movable part at safety, and he was far more consistent in 2015 than he was in ‘14.
Next big thing
Adrian Amos, Bears: A steal in Round 5 of the 2015 draft, Amos wound up starting all 16 games for a rapidly improving Chicago defense. He is a three-down defender who should only grow as a coverage weapon.