Top 5 NFL safeties I’ve ever seen

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October 2, 2018 by adamburt13

Written by Adam Burt

The other day I was asked a question that really made me dive deep into the football vault that most likely consumes 3/4 of my brains capacity. “Who are the top 5 NFL safeties you have ever actually seen play.” Rather than keep this list to myself and a select few individuals I figured I would turn it into a blog and see what other people think.

Make sure to also take into consideration if you’re actually reading this that I was born in 96′ and really started watching football religiously as an elementary aged kid in the early 2000’s. So yes some of the greats may be left off of my list, and yes i’m absolutely going to play favorites so leave the stats and achievements aside before critiquing.

  1. Troy Polamalu 

Polamalu was a badass Samoan out of USC who would just absolutely lay the wood on opponents. On top of his hitting and tackling abilities he would also really impress you with incredible instincts on the field regardless of being on defense or playing special teams. Polamalu always found himself in the middle of big plays. He really just had a nose for the football at all times on the field. The 8 time pro-bowler and 2 time super bowl champion Polamalu spent his entire 11 year career anchoring what was always viewed as a very aggressive and hard hitting Pittsburgh Steelers secondary.

I can honestly say Polamalu is one of the main reasons why to this day I’m a huge defense guy. I still admire and prefer watching a good defense at work even during a time where the league makes it very hard for defenders to do their job like the Polamalu’s of the world used to. So when I reflect back on memories and some of the greats I loved to watch weekly, Polamalu will always be in that conversation with some of the best.

  1. Rodney Harrison

Where do I even begin to start with Rodney. He was really a guy who could do it all. Rodney Harrison played 14 NFL seasons, 8 with the San Diego Chargers and 6 with the New England Patriots to end his career. He was a 2 time pro-bowler and a 2 time super bowl champion. Having spent from 2003 to 2008 in New England and winning 2 Super Bowls during his tenure as a Patriot you can probably imagine why he landed number 4 on my list. 

Growing up Rodney was always that hard hitting rock in the back of a stacked Patriots defense throughout many winning seasons. A guy who played with his heart on his sleeve and really made some big time plays throughout his career. Every time I hear his name I think of what is easily the most memorable moment of Rodney’s career. 

(We don’t talk about the Tyree catch)

The Patriots were up 24-21 in Super Bowl 39 and Harrison picked off a tipped Donovan McNabb pass with 9 seconds left to secure the victory for New England which really is what went on to solidify the Patriots as an NFL Dynasty. It was really my first ever Super Bowl where I actually felt emotion and was aware of how serious it was. Seeing Rodney ice the game by flapping his arms like an eagle was easily one of my favorite moments in Patriots history. So for that alone he will forever be remembered as one of the Patriot greats, and in my opinion a top 5 safety I’ve ever watched play football. (Video Below)



  1. Sean Taylor

Sean Taylor in my opinion would have easily been one of the greatest safeties to ever play the game if his life wasn’t taken from him at such a young age. Taylor was a top 5 draft pick in the 2004 NFL draft out of the University of Miami. He really was known as a player who could legit do anything you wanted. Lay that big hit, make the big interception and bring it back, recover that fumble you name it he did it all. And not only was Taylor freakishly athletic and quick but Taylor was also one of the strongest and most feared safeties during his time and players are on the record saying that if Sean Taylor hits you, it could be a month down the line and you would still wake up in the morning feeling the aftermath from it.

In just 3 years in the NFL Sean Taylor was a 2 time pro bowler, a first team all-pro, and had 299 tackles. Add on 11 interceptions and 8 forced fumbles in just a 3 year span and those are pretty impressive numbers. Yes I know I said I didn’t want to talk stats on this blog but those numbers in just 3 seasons of play are remarkable and they speak to the kind of player that Taylor was destined to become.

Then came the devastating day of November 17th 2007 when tragedy struck and burglars ransacked Taylor’s home. The burglars shot through a desk and safe in Taylor’s home and ended up shooting Taylor in the leg. His girlfriend and daughter survived the shooting but Taylor later passed away after severe blood loss due to a severed artery in his leg on November 27th, Taylor was only 24 years old.

Absolutely tragic, I remember hearing the news and being heartbroken. Taylor’s future was going to be a bright one and watching him play while I still could was always an awesome experience. So RIP to the legend who will forever be remembered as an animal on the field, a one of a kind game-changer and in my opinion one of the greatest safeties of all time.

  1. Ed Reed

Ed Reed might be the number one guy on most people’s list, and I honestly would never argue it. Reed had a reputation for being one of the best ball hawks the league has ever seen. The longtime Baltimore Raven finished his career spending a short period of time with the Jets and Texans in 2013 but will always be remembered as one of the greatest Ravens the franchise has ever seen so let’s just forget 2013 happened.

Ed Reed during his 11 years in the league was a 9 time pro-bowler and managed to win a super bowl with the Ravens in 2013 during his last season. That same year legendary linebacker Ray Lewis left the Ravens and retired as well. Both Reed and Lewis’ tenure with the Ravens ended at the highest point you could wish to reach and they more than deserved it.

In all seriousness though I really do need to go to the stat machine again here. When I say Ed Reed was known for being arguably the best ball hawk of all-time I wasn’t exaggerating. Reed had 64 interceptions throughout his career, and also racked up 1,590 total interception return yards. 

One highlight which is my personal favorite of Reeds was an incredible 107 yard interception return for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles which was really just a clip that sums up the type of player Reed was throughout his career. He would just fly in out of nowhere to intercept passes, but on his returns he could also juke guys out of their shoes and make people miss tackles like nobody else could. So Reed without a doubt is a legend of the game and one of the most electrifying players I’ve ever witnessed play.

  1. Brian Dawkins

If I had to describe Brian Dawkins to anyone only using three words, I would say he was passionate, motivating, and feared above everything. Brian Dawkins was easily my favorite safety of all time to watch growing up. He played the game with more passion and emotion than I’ve ever seen someone play with before. From his bone chilling pre-game speeches, to the pre-game rituals that made him almost seem like a man possessed. And also just the way Dawkins would carry himself and that sometimes meant as his alter ego the wolverine.

During his 11 year career Dawkins spent 1996-2008 with the Philadelphia Eagles which will be forever what he’s remembered as before he went on to spend his last 3 seasons as a member of the Denver Broncos. To this day I still believe besides Randy Moss that Dawkins is the greatest football player to never win a super bowl. Dawkins was a 9 time pro-bowler along with racking up many other personal achievements along with having his number 20 retired by the Philadelphia Eagles.

To this day I still YouTube highlights and speeches of Dawkins and am just blown away by some of the stuff he did and the type of person that he was. I’m convinced he would be able to hype me up to do legit anything if he tried to. He was truly a special player and boy did he love to hit people, there’s no chance he would be allowed to play in today’s NFL. But the hard hitting Brian Dawkins had a career that was beyond impressive and he just recently capped it off by earning his spot as a member of the 2018 NFL hall of fame class.



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