Ranking Each NFC North Team’s Top Safety
By Matt Urben
The safety position is one that is evolving in today’s pass-happy NFL. Some teams elect to play linebacker-safety hybrids in order to help improve pass-coverage and some teams prefer guys that would typically play corner in the old NFL to move to safety, including Detroit’s Glover Quin. There are some talented safeties in the NFC North. Here is my ranking of each team in the division’s best safety.
1. Glover Quin
Lions 2015 Stats:
67-Total Tackles 4-INT 5-Deflections
Glover Quin has flourished since signing with Detroit before the 2013 season. His 14 interceptions in three years put him into an elite group. Last year, while he wasn’t as effective without a good strong safety to play with, he still led the Lions with 4 picks. Quin is best when he is in a defined free-safety role where he is free to roam in coverage. The Lions drafted Miles Killebrew in the fourth-round of the draft, so he may finally get his perfect match if Killebrew can quickly adjust to the NFL game. Quin’s past two seasons have been as good as any free safety in the league.
2. Harrison Smith
Vikings 2015 Stats:
66-Total Tackles 2-INT 3-Deflections
Harrison Smith has developed into one of the best all-around safeties in football. He’s more of a physical tackler than Quin, but is slightly behind him in terms of his coverage skills. He also had a sack and a half last season, showing his versatility. I consider him a very close number two in this division, with a likelihood of surpassing the rest in the coming years. The Vikings’ defense has really turned around and become a truly elite group over the past few seasons and Smith’s play in the back end has played no small role in that.
3. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Packers 2015 Stats:
100-Total Tackles 2-INT 3-Deflections
Clinton-Dix has blossomed for the Packers in his second season out of Alabama. He’s not great in coverage but he’s vastly improved and may be the most physical safety in the whole division. He finished with 3 sacks last season. A true strong safety, he is helping the Packers rebuild a defense that has fallen off a bit since their 2010 Super Bowl run. I expect him to continue to improve with another year in a system that seems to be tailored to his skillset as a safety. Dix, like Smith, could make a push for the top spot if he continues to progress as he did from years one-to-two.
4. Adrian Amos
Bears 2015 Stats:
67-Total Tackles 0-INT 2-Deflections
Graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 22nd-ranked safety as a rookie 5th-round pick. The Bears may have found a gem that can help with their long-term rebuild of the defense under Head Coach John Fox. He will have to improve in coverage, but definitely showed flashes of greatness as a rookie. Amos seems to have the free safety position solidified as Chicago tries to find a long-term answer to play next to him in the back end. Chicago made several moves in both the draft and free agency that should give Amos the help he needs on defense to thrive next season.
Check out my other NFC North rankings including Quarterback, Receiver and Running back.