With how high-powered offenses are in today’s NFL it is a must to have Safeties that are just as good at defending the run as they are at dropping back into coverage as a last line of defense against the pass. Let’s take a look at the top five Safeties the Dallas Cowboys will play in 2021.
No. 5 – Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers – Week 2 @LA
Derwin James would be much higher on this list if we knew he was going to be the same guy we saw as a rookie in 2018, but he’s missed the majority of the past two seasons and could need some time to get back up to speed. In his All-Pro rookie season James racked up 105 tackles, 13 passes defended, 3.5 sacks, and three interceptions. He was also outstanding in coverage, allowing only 49 catches on 73 passes thrown in his direction. He is only 25 years old, so even if he takes a few games to get his feet back under him he should rebound to close to 100% of his pre-injury form.
No. 4 – Antoine Winfield Jr., Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Week 1 @Tampa Bay
Antione Winfield Jr. put together a solid rookie campaign that saw him get better as the season went on. He was all over the field during the Bucs’ run in the playoffs, racking up 18 tackles (15 solos), two tackles for loss, two passes defended, and one forced fumble. Winfield showed that even as a rookie he wasn’t scared of the bright lights, putting on some of his biggest performances in clutch moments. On the season he racked up 94 tackles, six passes defended, three sacks, and an interception. This should serve as his floor moving forward in what projects to be a dominant Buccaneers defense.
No. 3 – Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos – Week 9 @Dallas
Justin Simmons earned his first Pro Bowl selection in 2020, as he was a bright spot in a Denver Broncos defense that struggled as a whole after losing Von Miller to a season-ending injury in the preseason. Simmons racked up his third straight 90-tackle season, finishing with 96 tackles, nine passes defended, and five interceptions. If there is one area Justin Simmons could improve in it is as a situational pass rusher, as he has zero sacks over the past three seasons.
No. 2 – Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings – Week 8 @Minnesota
Despite missing out on his first Pro-Bowl selection since 2014, Harrison Smith was still producing at a high level in his age-31 season in 2020. He filled up the stat-sheet constantly, totaling 89 tackles, 10 passes defended, and five interceptions. Harrison Smith is one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the league and is top tier when it comes to run support. Smith is as consistent as they come, as he’s racked up at least 84 tackles and three interceptions in each of the past three seasons.
No. 1 – Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs – Weel 11 @Kansas City
Tyrann Mathieu was a 1st-Team All-Pro for the second season in a row as he anchored a Kansas City Chiefs defense that came up just short of their second consecutive Super Bowl. While his tackle numbers were down slightly to just 62 last season, Mathieu’s impact on the game was much deeper as he was used all over the field in different coverage roles that lead to the Cheifs finishing tied for the fourth-most interceptions in the league. On top of his 62 tackles, Tyrann Mathieu had nine passes defended, three tackles for loss, and six interceptions in 2020, as he continues to show he is one of the most dynamic ball hawks in the NFL.