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Top 10 Strong Safeties in NFL 2023 Rankings

Derwin James is the best Strong Safety in the NFL right now going into the 2023-2024 NFL season. Also where Tyrann Mathieu, Kamren Curl, and more rank

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By admin | June 14, 2023

The evolution of the game of football at the National Football League level continues to transcend from season to season with new approaches and styles of offenses emerging each year.

With this evolution the style of defense that is played around the NFL also continues to evolve as teams look for ways to slow down high-powered offenses while keeping up with the playmakers on that side of the football.

With this evolution the safety position has seen change as both free safeties and strong safeties continue to be tasked with a long role of duties each week. As you start to look at the Top 10 NFL Strong Safeties 2023 Rankings each are versatile playmakers who can line up in coverage, fill in at the linebacker position, and cover slot receivers as well as tight ends.

Headlining the list of the top strong safeties in the NFL is the Los Angeles Chargers strong safety Derwin James Jr. Since being selected during the 2018 NFL Draft, James Jr has ranked among the best strong safeties in the league while taking home both First-Team All-Pro and Second-Team All-Pro honors over the past few seasons.

Joining James Jr. on the list of the best strong safeties in the NFL include Kyle Hamilton of the Baltimore Ravens, Jordan Poyer of the Buffalo Bills, Talanoa Hufanga of the San Francisco 49ers, and the honey badger Tyrann Matheiu of the New Orleans Saints. Here is a look at the Top 10 NFL Strong Safeties 2023 Rankings list.

Honorable Mention

Jaquan Brisker

Team: Chicago Bears

2022 Stats: 73 Solo, 1 FF, 1 INT, 2 PD

Landing just outside of the top NFL safeties list for strong safeties is the second-year standout from the Penn State Nittany Lions Jaquan Brisker. Brisker who along with fellow rookie Kyle Hamilton shined during their NFL rookie seasons.

The former Nittany Lions star finished the season posting 104 total tackles to go along with two passes defended, one interception, four sacks, and one forced fumble across 15 games played. A jack of all trades, Brisker is strong against the pass and against the run.

Rodney McLeod Jr.

Team: Cleveland Browns

2022 Stats: 59 Solo, 0 FF, 2 INT, 8 PD

An aging veteran who continues to use his football IQ and abilities to put together a strong NFL resume. After spending the 2022 NFL season with the Indianapolis Colts, Rodney McLeod Jr will look to help solidify the Cleveland Browns secondary during the 2023 NFL season.

The 12-year NFL veteran is coming off a career high 96 tackles last season while also posting two interceptions, eight passes defended and six stuffs. While not being as quick as he once was, McLeod Jr is still as strong as any safety at the position including when positioned in zone coverage. 

Top 10 NFL Strong Safeties

10. Kamren Curl

Team: Washington Commanders

2022 Stats: 58 Solo, 0 FF, 0 INT, 0 PD

Coming in at number 10 on the Top 10 Safeties in the NFL 2023 Rankings is the Washington Commanders Kamren Curl. Curl, who was a former seventh round draft pick just three NFL seasons ago, has excelled as a sleeper at the strong safety position in each of the three seasons in the NFL.

Curl is coming off his third straight season with at least 83 tackles while also posting a career high 5.5 stuffs last season. His play on the field over the course of the 2022 NFL season earned him the second highest overall grade among all NFL safeties from PFF with an 82.9 grade.

9. Kyle Dugger

Team: New England Patriots

2022 Stats: 50 Solo, 1 FF, 3 INT, 8 PD

Over the years the New England Patriots have been as successful as any team in the league finding players that can do it all. That is the case with the former second round draft pick of the 2022 NFL draft Kyle Duggar who played his football at Lenior-Rhyne college within the NCAA Division II ranks.

Dugger continued to play at a high-level last year posting one sack, forcing one fumble, recording eight passes defended, three stuffs while also adding three interceptions. His play on the defensive side of the football earned him a 76.7 grade in run defense as well as a 78.3 grade in pass coverage.

8. Jamal Adams

Team: Seattle Seahawks

2022 Stats: 3 Solo, 0 FF, 0 INT, 1 PD

One considered a premier NFL safety; Jamal Adams still ranks among the best safeties in the NFL however injuries have slowed his career down despite entering the upcoming NFL season at just 27 years old.

While question marks around his health will be present, if Adams can return as close as 90 to 100 percent in 2023, he will return to elite status among the top strong safeties in the NFL. 

Adams, like many of these other top strong safeties has the ability to play all over the defensive side of the football field while also playing solid within coverage. 

7. Jayron Kearse

Team: Dallas Cowboys

2022 Stats: 55 Solo, 1 FF, 1 INT, 5 PD

The Dallas Cowboys strong safety is an interesting matchup at the position and one that has all the talent to play at a wide range of positions on the defensive side of the football.

Ranking among the most consistent safeties in the NFL both against the pass as well as against the run, Jayron Kearse can stuff the box for the Cowboys while also playing coverage against the slot receivers and in the middle of the field.

Kearse enters the 2023 NFL schedule for the Cowboys looking to build on a season he posted five passes defended, one interception, five stuffs, and one forced fumble. 

6. Harrison Smith

Team: Minnesota Vikings

2022 Stats: 66 Solo, 1 FF, 5 INT, 10 PD

Another aging veteran among the best strong safeties in the NFL is the Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith. Smith, who will enter the 2023 NFL season at the age of 34, continues to play at a high level while showing up all over the football field for the Minnesota Vikings.

The former Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety is a ball hawk within the secondary tying his career high with five interceptions while also ranking among the most among strong safeties.

In addition to the five interceptions, Smith posted one forced fumble, one stuff, 10 passes defended, and 85 total tackles. While Smith has lost a step in his quickness, he makes up for it with his mental toughness and football IQ. 

5. Kyle Hamilton

Team: Baltimore Ravens

2022 Stats: 46 Solo, 1 FF, 0 INT, 5 PD

Rounding out the Top 10 Strong Safeties in the NFL is the Baltimore Ravens second year strong safety Kyle Hamilton. Hamilton, who had an up and down rookie season after being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens with the team’s first round pick during the 2021 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame, put it all together down the stretch while showcasing his potential.

A potential that has him ranked among the best at the strong safety position as the upcoming NFL season approaches. Only thing holding Hamilton back from a higher spot is his lack of ball hawking skills which saw the former Fighting Irish star post zero interceptions despite being all over the field making plays. In his rookie season Hamilton posted five passes defended, 3.5 stuffs, two sacks, a forced fumble, and 62 total tackles.

4. Talanoa Hufanga

Team: San Francisco 49ers

2022 Stats: 66 Solo, 2 FF, 4 INT, 9 PD

One name that often goes unrecognized among the very talented San Francisco 49ers defense is Talanoa Hufanga who is entering his third season in the NFL during the 2023 NFL schedule. 

Hufanga, who was a fifth-round draft pick of the 49ers during the 2021 NFL Draft, took over at the strong safety position last season. Playing an extended role, the numbers showed up as well as his play on the football field.

The 49ers strong safety finished the season with 97 total tackles to go along with four interceptions, two sacks, two forced fumbles, eight stuffs, and nine passes defended.

The former USC Trojans safety ranks high among all NFL safeties after posting a 72.1 grade from PFF last season in what was his first full season as a starter on defense.

3. Tyrann Mathieu

Team: New Orleans Saints

2022 Stats: 64 Solo, 1 FF, 3 INT, 8 PD

The honey badger is a jack of all trades and one special safety who can not only make plays at the line but also ranks among the best coverage strong safeties in the NFL.

Tyrann Mathieu enters the 2023 NFL season coming off posting the best coverage rating of 87.9 from PFF among all NFL safeties both strong as well as free safeties.

In 2022 Mathieu showed up all over the football field while posting a career high 91 total tackles while also adding one sack, a forced fumble, three interceptions, one stuff, and eight passes defended while helping to be a leader on the New Orleans Saints defense.

2. Jordan Poyer

Team: Buffalo Bills

2022 Stats: 44 Solo, 1 FF, 4 INT, 8 PD

One of the veterans among the strong safety positions is the Buffalo Bills strong safety Jordan Poyer. Poyer, who joined the Bills for the 2017 NFL season has been an anchor among the team’s defense while also being a leader both on and off the football field.

While his numbers took a step back last season after missing five NFL games, the Bills safety is healthy and ready to put together another big season in 2023.

In three of the past five seasons Poyer has posted at least 100 tackles while also posting at least four interceptions in four different seasons. Last season Poyer recorded four interceptions to go along with eight passes defended, and one forced fumble. 

1. Derwin James

Team: Los Angeles Chargers

2022 Stats: 64 Solo, 2 FF, 2 INT, 6 PD

In at number as the best strong safety in the NFL is the Los Angeles Chargers Derwin James Jr who ranks among the best in the NFL. James, who was drafted by the Chargers with the team’s first pick during the 2018 NFL draft, has not disappointed since arriving.

Over 14 games played last season James Jr posted 115 total tackles to go along with four sacks, two interceptions, 3.5 stuffs, six passes defended, and two forced fumbles.

James currently ranks second among the NFL safeties with a 77.6 grade from PFF. The former Florida State Seminoles safety is strong against the run as well as against the pass while also being able to get to the quarterback.

How would you rank these strong safeties going into the 2023-2024 NFL season? Rank below to be added in the NFL Power Rankings.

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Players Count 10
  1. Adrian Amos

    Strong Safeties
  2. Harrison Smith

    Strong Safeties
  3. Tyrann Mathieu

    Strong Safeties
  4. Jaylinn Hawkins

    Strong Safeties
  5. Forrest Lamp

    Strong Safeties
  6. Ryan Neal

    Strong Safeties
  7. Taylor Rapp

    Strong Safeties
  8. John Battle

    Strong Safeties
  9. Chuck Clark

    Strong Safeties
  10. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

    Strong Safeties
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