Ranking the top safeties in the NFL ahead of the 2022 regular season


Minkah Fitzpatrick
Dec 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) celebrates his interception against the Tennessee Titans with fans in the stands during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s possible that football is entering a golden age when thinking about the best safeties in the NFL in 2022.

Limiting a list of the best safeties in football to a top-10 was harder this season than at any other point in league history. After all, some of the best NFL players this season can be found in the defensive backfield.

Best safeties in NFL 2022

But who are the NFL’s best safeties right now? Admittedly, deciding on the best safeties in the NFL in 2022 wasn’t easy.

Our NFL player rankings required some bold season predictions when it comes to what safeties will have the best season and stand out the most this year. While we expect some folks to disagree, here is our ranking of the top safeties in the NFL in 2022.

10. Jordan Poyer

Jordan Poyer’s teammate Micah Hyde wasn’t far from making our list, as the two make up one of the best safety tandems in the NFL right now. Both Poyer and Hyde have been above-average safeties for a number of years, but now that the Bills are being recognized as one of the top teams in the AFC, Buffalo’s safeties are getting the recognition they deserve.

Poyer, an elite athlete who was also a high school baseball star, has taken things to another level over the last couple of years in Buffalo, earning First-Team All-Pro honors in 2021. With Hyde still alongside him, Poyer is set up to have another outstanding season in 2022.

9. Marcus Williams

We’re going to learn a lot about Marcus Williams this year, as he’s leaving the comfort of New Orleans and joining the Ravens after signing a five-year, $70 million contract.

During the last few years with the Saints, he’s become one of the most steady and reliable safeties in the league. Williams has done a great job of putting his folly during the Minneapolis Miracle as a rookie behind him.

He’s also approaching the age where he should be entering the best seasons of his career, so there should be little doubt that Baltimore made a wise investment in Williams.

8. Quandre Diggs

Getting out of Detroit in 2019 predictably turned into a blessing for Quandre Diggs. In his first two full seasons with the Seahawks, he’s been named to the Pro Bowl, collecting 10 interceptions and 17 defended passes.

Keep in mind that Diggs played cornerback and nickel back early in his career, which has surely helped him. But now that he’s playing safety and gotten settled in with the Seahawks, he’s turned into one of the more underrated defensive backs in the league and a player who could be about to have one of the best seasons of his career in 2022.

7. Jessie Bates

Jessie Bates has become so critical to Cincinnati’s defense that the Bengals used the franchise tag on him to keep him in 2022. Granted, his numbers were a little more impressive in 2020 than in 2021, but he’s still creating quite a resume for himself.

In his first four pro seasons, Bates has accumulated 10 interceptions and 35 defended passes, not including his interception of Matthew Stafford in the Super Bowl. There’s no doubt that he belongs to be included among the best safeties in the league right now.

6. Antoine Winfield Jr.

It’s only taken two seasons for Antoine Winfield to be considered among the best defensive backs in the league, much like his father was many years ago.

The younger Winfield was an immediate starter with the Bucs as a rookie, helping them to win the Super Bowl. He was even better in his second season, earning a Pro Bowl spot as a replacement for Diggs. Given the fact that he’s only 24 and has the lineage of a star player, the best could be yet to come from Winfield.

5. Budda Baker

Compared to the other top safeties in the league, Budda Baker is a little undersized. But that hasn’t stopped him from being one of the NFL’s best at his position.

Baker has been to the Pro Bowl in four of the last five seasons and is coming off one of his best seasons in 2021 with career-highs in interceptions and passes defended. After all, there are reasons why the Cardinals briefly made him the highest-paid safety in league history in 2020.

Despite being a little smaller than the current model for safeties, Baker continues to make plays all over the field and continues to perform at a high level, keeping him among the best in the league year after year.

4. Justin Simmons

Justin Simmons has become so consistently good that he’s almost easy to forget or overlook. Nevertheless, after being a Second-Team All-Pro selection last year, he’s bound to be one of the best safeties in the NFL in 2022 as well.

Simmons is an athletic freak who does things that only a handful of defensive players can do. He’s also grabbed five interceptions in back-to-back seasons and was the backbone of an underrated Denver defense in 2021, setting him up for another impressive campaign in 2022.

3. Minkah Fitzpatrick

Pittsburgh and Minkah Fitzpatrick have turned into the perfect pair, which is why he received a four-year, $73.6 million extension this past offseason. While some of his numbers took a slight dip in 2021 after Fitzpatrick earned First-Team All-Pro honors in 2019 and 2020, he did set a career-high with 124 tackles last year, including 84 solo tackles.

In his three seasons with the Steelers, Fitzpatrick has 13 interceptions and 36 defended passes, which is the kind of production that any team will gladly take from their safety. The best part is that he’s still just 25, so the next few seasons should be Fitzpatrick hitting his prime and being at his best.

2. Kevin Byard

Kevin Byard has been one of the best safeties in the NFL more or less since he entered the league in 2016 and he is now playing some of the best football of his career.

He led the league in interceptions in his second season in the league and has maintained that same level of play. Outside of his rookie season, Byard has started every game of his career while averaging over five interceptions per season over the last five years.

After being overlooked for a few years, Byard finally got back to receiving Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro honors in 2021. But don’t kid yourself, he’s been one of the top safeties in the NFL for the last several years.

1. Derwin James

There were some questions about Derwin James heading into last season because he was limited to five games in 2019 and missed the entire 2020 season due to injury.

But the former Florida State standout proved last season that he’s healthy and one of the NFL’s best safeties right now.

James does it all and makes plays all over the field. He collected 75 solo tackles last year, along with two sacks, three forced fumbles, and five defended passes.

Needless to say, that performance earned him a Pro Bowl selection and a spot on the First-Team All-Pro team, just like he did during his rookie season in 2018 before the injuries. At age 26 and with the ideal height and speed for the position, James is poised to be the best safety in the league this season.





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Dec 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) celebrates his interception against the Tennessee Titans with fans in the stands during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports It’s possible that football is entering a golden age when thinking about the best safeties in the…