On Thursday, Pro Football Focus writer Sam Monson published a ranking of NFL safeties for 2022.
In these kinds of lists, tiers is a new buzzword – and Monson used them to separate 32 of the league’s safeties into four different types of players: those who are used in coverage as free safeties, those who are used in the box as strong safeties, those who are used in the “Matchup slot” – and finally, those used in an all-around role.
“Safety” in the NFL is, in truth, several different positions with wildly different responsibilities, and comparing them directly is tricky. This has been true for a long time, but it seems to be getting more extreme.
Directly comparing a true coverage free safety to a box defender or a tight-end matchup weapon on defense is a fairly arbitrary construct, so in this article we have split out the top safeties in the league into their differing roles.
Separating the players in this way is an interesting approach – although to describe it, an English professor might argue that the word group would be more appropriate than the word tier.
In any case, Monson places new Kansas City Chiefs safety Justin Reid – who joined the team during the offseason – at the bottom of his All-Around … uh … Group.
1. ADRIAN AMOS, GREEN BAY PACKERS
2. HARRISON SMITH, MINNESOTA VIKINGS
3. MICAH HYDE, BUFFALO BILLS
4. JORDAN POYER, BUFFALO BILLS
5. JOHN JOHNSON III, CLEVELAND BROWNS
6. AMANI HOOKER, TENNESSEE TITANS
7. JUSTIN REID, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Although Justin Reid is coming off some ugly grading, we saw earlier in his career what he is capable of in a defense that doesn’t shed all of his talent around him. Now that he has an opportunity to play within a better defense again, we should see a rebound performance in 2022.
For reference, Monson placed former Kansas City safety Tyrann Mathieu (now with the New Orleans Saints) second in his “Matchup Slot Tier.” It’s also important to note that Monson is only ranking half of the league’s starting safeties – so presumably, there are other “all-around” safeties who would be ranked underneath Reid.
Monson speaks the truth when he says that Reid’s recent PFF grades haven’t been good. In 2021, his overall grade was just 50.8. But as he notes, they were much better earlier in his career. Reid received a PFF grade of 75.2 during his 2018 rookie season (when he was playing alongside Mathieu with the Houston Texans) and 76.7 the following year, after Mathieu had moved on to the Chiefs.
But I have to note that I think this is the first time I can recall a PFF writer mentioning that a player’s grade might have something to do with those playing around him.
Still, Monson believes that Reid could be in for a rebound with the Chiefs in 2021.