NFL News & Analysis

Ranking the NFL's 10 most valuable safeties of the 2023 season

2T6Y2Y5 Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton (14) celebrates his touchdown with linebacker Roquan Smith during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

Kyle Hamilton is the most valuable safety in the NFL: The Ravens' second-year defensive back has lined up all across the defense but excels close to the line of scrimmage.

Jessie Bates III is starting strong in his new home: The Falcons safety is the third-highest-graded safety in the NFL in his first season in Atlanta.

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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Safety is a position that captures a group of players with a range of playing styles. Included in this group are players who excel deep downfield in coverage but also those who are elite when it comes to playing downhill and attacking opposing offenses.

Here are the most valuable players at the position through 14 weeks, according to PFF WAR.

1. Kyle Hamilton, Baltimore Ravens

Wins above replacement: 0.48

Hamilton is a do-it-all safety who has lined up all over the field for the Ravens this season. He’s at his best close to the line of scrimmage, where he can cover the slot and also be used to attack screens and rush the passer. His 28 defensive stops rank fifth among safeties, while his 14 pressures are third.

2. Antoine Winfield Jr., Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Wins above replacement: 0.34

Winfield's 93.4 pass-rush grade leads players at his position through Week 14, as he has tacked up 15 total pressures from 38 pass-rushing snaps. He’s also been a standout in coverage, with his seven pass breakups tied for the most at the position.

3. Jabrill Peppers, New England Patriots

Wins above replacement: 0.26

Peppers has earned a 77.4 PFF coverage grade, 12th among safeties. He’s been one of the best run-stoppers in the league, though, with his 91.8 run-defense grade trailing only Winfield.

4. Jalen Thompson, Arizona Cardinals

Wins above replacement: 0.23

An undrafted free agent back in 2019, Thompson is on pace to earn a career-high PFF grade. He moves around the defensive backfield for the Cardinals but has lined up in the box or the slot on 543 of his 711 defensive snaps this season.

5. Jessie Bates III, Atlanta Falcons

Wins above replacement: 0.22

Bates is also on track for a career-high PFF grade in his first year with the Atlanta Falcons. He ranks top-three at his position in both run-defense and coverage grade and is second at the position with five interceptions.

6. Camryn Bynum, Minnesota Vikings

Wins above replacement: 0.22

The fifth-highest-graded safety in the NFL through 14 weeks (85.7), Bynum is thriving in his second year as a starter. He has already set a career-high in defensive stops (20), while his 80.3 run-defense grade and 84.9 coverage grade would also be career-highs.

7. Xavier McKinney, New York Giants

Wins above replacement: 0.20

In his fourth year out of Alabama and heading for free agency, McKinney is having the best season of his career. He has yet to allow a touchdown on throws into his primary coverage and has missed just 7.3% of his tackle attempts.

8. Jevon Holland, Miami Dolphins

Wins above replacement: 0.20

Holland has put up a 90.7 coverage grade this season, the highest mark in the league at the position, and he has allowed just 19 receptions on throws into his primary coverage. He’s also been solid against the run, with his 83.2 run-defense grade good for ninth among his peers.

9. Tashaun Gipson Sr., San Francisco 49ers

Wins above replacement: 0.19

Still going strong in his 12th season in the league, Gipson is the 17th-highest-graded safety in football this season (74.7). He’s been solid across the board, earning 70.0-plus grades in both coverage and as a run defender.

10. Tyrann Mathieu, New Orleans Saints

Wins above replacement: 0.17

Mathieu has allowed just 16 receptions on throws into his primary coverage this season while coming away with three interceptions and a pair of pass breakups. His 75.0 PFF grade ranks 16th among safeties, while his 79.3 PFF coverage grade ranks 11th.


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