NFL training camps are fast approaching, which means it is again time for the league's true insiders to have their say. As part of ESPN's 2023 NFL season preview, we surveyed league executives, coaches, scouts and players to help us rank the top 10 players at 11 different positions, from quarterback to cornerback and all positions in between. This is the fourth edition of these rankings, and as usual, several players have moved up or fallen off last year's lists.
By way of refresher, here's how our process works: Voters give us their best 10 players at a position, then we compile the results and rank candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, along with dozens of interviews, research and film study help from ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen. In total, more than 80 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 those surveyed.
Each section includes quotes and nuggets from the voters on every ranked player -- even the honorable mentions. The objective is to identify the best players right now for 2023. This is not a five-year projection or a career achievement award. Who are the best players today? Check out who makes the list at every position on ESPN+
We will roll out a position per day over 11 days. The schedule: Off-ball linebackers (7/8), defensive tackles (7/9), edge rushers (7/10), cornerbacks (7/11), safeties (7/12), tight ends (7/13), running backs (7/14), offensive tackles (7/15), guards and centers (7/16), quarterbacks (7/17) and wide receivers (7/18).
Safety is always one of the most challenging positions to rank because of its stylistic differences.
The traditional "post" safety can play the deep ball with elite range. But in recent years, strong safeties better suited to play closer to the line of scrimmage popularized the hybrid safety/linebacker position. Jamal Adams, Landon Collins and others embodied this. They can morph into off-ball linebackers or even true edge rushers.
So voters tend to put these players into tiers, resulting in 21 players receiving at least one top-10 vote. And now, the trendy safety is a chess piece: He can do many of these things and even slide into a nickel cornerback role if necessary.
Several young players fit this mold, including a top-five safety out of the AFC East. Let's look at some of the game's top safeties as ranked by execs, coaches and scouts around the NFL.