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Tuesday, May 3, 2011
About the 10 best safeties in the NFL

By Mike Sando

Usually I'm one to dive into the comments sections on blog entries to engage in conversations or at least monitor them.

I recommend you do the same for James Walker's piece ranking the 10 best safeties in the NFL. I've been putting it off to this point because I didn't feel good about the ballot I submitted.

The first few choices were easy. Troy Polamalu was a unanimous pick for the No. 1 spot. Ed Reed was a unanimous choice at No. 2. Most of the other players listed should carry asterisks, disclaimers, qualifiers, etc. Filling out the final five or six spots proved nearly impossible for me. I kept ruling out players for various reasons, only to come back to them when better candidates failed to materialize.

Ranking defensive backs is tricky, anyway. The complex coverages NFL teams use make it tough to know which players were responsible for what. It's one reason I'm careful about blaming cornerbacks for specific lapses without following up.

Brandon Meriweather made the list. He is a two-time Pro Bowl selection, but questions about consistency have lingered for some time. Should he be in the top 10? Is he even the best safety on the New England Patriots?

In the end, the rankings I put together elicited responses such as this one from an Arizona Cardinals fan named Rick:
Mike, I only write to you because you have a history of being fair and using logic and empirical evidence to back up your (usually sound) arguments. So. Um. Antrel Rolle at No. 7 and no mention of Kerry Rhodes? What gives? Ask anyone who follows the Cardinals and they will tell you that the team UPGRADED by letting Rolle go and trading for Rhodes.

My response: "There is no logic to the safety rankings after 4-5 guys. I didn't feel good about any of them."

That is a slight overstatement. Eric Berry and Earl Thomas project as emerging talents with very bright futures. Adrian Wilson belongs on the list if we accept the premise that his 2010 struggles had more to do with an injury that require surgery than his sharp decline. If we include Wilson, do we include one of his teammates from a defense that was very bad in 2010?

This was a tough one. All criticism is welcome and justified. Time to move on. Seeking closure.