We all love best-of lists, but what if people around the NFL created their own? To preview the 2022 NFL season, we surveyed more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to help us stack the top 10 players at 11 different positions, from edge rusher to interior offensive lineman. This is the third edition of these rankings, and there are several players who moved up or dropped from last year's lists. Today, we focus on the safeties.
Here's how our process worked: Voters gave us their best 10 players at a position, then we compiled the results and ranked candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, hundreds of interviews, research and film-study help from ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen. In total, more than 50 voters submitted a ballot on at least one position, and in many cases all positions. We had several ties, so we broke them with the help of additional voting and follow-up calls with our rankers. Each section is packed with quotes and nuggets from the voters on every guy -- even the honorable mentions.
The objective is to identify the best players right now for 2022. This is not a five-year projection or an achievement award. Who are the best players today? Pretty simple.
We rolled out a position per day over 11 days. Here's the schedule: edge rushers (July 5), defensive tackles (July 6), off-ball linebackers (July 7), cornerbacks (July 8), safeties (July 9), interior offensive linemen (July 10), quarterbacks (July 11), running backs (July 12), wide receivers (July 13), tight ends (July 14) and offensive tackles (July 15).
The safety position is looking up. Players are getting paid more, with the market rising from $15.25 million to $18.4 million per year over the calendar year, thanks to Minkah Fitzpatrick's four-year, $73.6 million deal with the Steelers.
That's because the job description is evolving. Safeties are asked to play the deep ball, play the run, cover running backs and tight ends, get the secondary organized, command a leadership role, manipulate the quarterback pre-snap, create the illusion of pressure at the line of scrimmage and get interceptions whenever possible.
These 10 players are the best at all of that, and the competition was steep -- 23 players earned votes, an abnormally high total for our top-10 process. Some are true ball-hawk center fielders, while others are more like linebackers in the way they work the line of scrimmage. And too many good players just missed the cut. Let's look at some of the game's top safeties as ranked by execs, coaches, scouts and players around the NFL.