Running safety in American football is one of the most gruesome positions to play for and can be pretty rewarding. And before the NFL, those stars make their name in college around the country.
So today, we will be listing down the best PFF’s top 10 returning safeties. The list is based on various factors, including PFF grade and other available stats. So, sit back and indulge yourself in this list of best safeties.
I hope you enjoy reading the rest of the article while also gathering some valuable information.
1. Tykee Smith
A spear in West Virginia’s defence, the three-star recruit Smith, has the third-best slot coverage grade over his other seasons.
Smith’s had a total blast in the 2020 campaign. Targeted 38 times in coverage in 10 games, he only allowed 110 yards for the season. At 5’10, 198 pounds, Smith is a strong player who blocks and blows up screens like clockwork. He’s had great vision in coverage and is never caught off guard. Smith is the real deal.
2. Kyle Hamilton
A 6’4, 221-pound big man, Hamilton is one of the most brutal safeties in the game. He has an impressive 42-inch vertical that he pairs up with his physical skill set, making him a certified playmaker.
Hamilton has had 16 combined pass breakups and interceptions and 15 passing stops in both of his previous seasons. He was also known for being the only player to land three explosive pass plays of 15-plus yards over that span. Hamilton has also generated the third-most WAA amongst players over the last two years.
3. Brandon Joseph
Having only played 13 games in his first season, Joseph eventually exploded and became one of the game’s top cover safeties. He has intercepted six passes while managing only one explosive pass play of 15-plus yards.
Joseph’s coverage ability is evident, regardless of his safety playing style, which landed him in the top-three among FBS safeties. Expect a lot of interceptions and intense regression from Joseph shortly.
4. Malachi Moore
Moore has had the starting role since his freshman year, which is difficult enough for a rookie, but Moore stood his ground. Moore did face some early hiccups but eventually turned the corner and performed at an exceptional level for a first-year player.
Moore had the highest slot coverage grade in the FBS. He was the safety that made the most plays on the ball than any other safety. Moore is as tough as they come.
Moore played the SEC championship against Florida with an injury and allowed five catches for 123 yards and a score. Apart from Tykee Smith, there’s no better covering safety in college football than Marachi Moore.
5. Jaquan Brisker
Brisker had two stellar years at Lackawanna Community College before choosing Alabama over Penn State in 2019. He is one of those players that comes once in a generation.
Jaquan is listed at 6’1, weighing 203 pounds of pure muscle. At his two years as a Nittany Lion, Jaquan formed one of the five best two-year marks in the FBS. Brisker has also averaged 85.0-plus grades in the run and coverage, a feat no other Power Five safety has managed.
He is explosive and has certified himself as one of the best tacklers at the position, missing out on just one tackle on 60 total attempts. That is a 1.7% missed tackle rate, which Jaquan led all FBS safeties on the year and was the second-lowest rate ever in the PFF College era.
6. Tre Sterling
Sterling, much like Moore, was handed the starting position as a freshman in 2019 and made quite a name for himself as one of the top cover safeties in the country.
Since then, he ranks in the top 5 among all FBS safeties in coverage grade. Sterling has a combined 14 pass breakups and interceptions over that span, 7th in the FBS.
An instinctual player who emphasizes tape study into action, Sterling looks for weakness in his opponent’s game. Sterling reportedly picked up that the Raiders ran their smash concept a few times, so he stepped underneath and ran it for a touchdown.
7. Jordan Battle
As the name suggests, Battle is always ready to throw it down, and Battle with his opponents, the game in and game out.
Battle displayed tremendous growth in his sophomore campaign that many were hoping to see. He posted a 66.8 PFF grade as a key reserve in Year 1 and bolstered that mark to 80.9 in Year 2, ranking sixth among all Power Five safeties. The profound versatility that Battle displays are uncanny, as he is the only Power Five safety with 150 snaps and a grade of 75.0 in both the slot and at free safety.
8. Braden Trahan
One of the rising defensive minds in college football, Braden Trahan, led Louisiana to one of the best records in 2020. He had an 89.4 coverage grade which was the second-best in FBS safeties.
Trahan is a true playmaker and trusts his gut with what play he should run with. He has a combined 11 pass breakups and interceptions, leading in FBS safeties.
9. Jalen Catalon
With a 79.0 run-defence grade and 80.7 coverage grade in Year 1, Jalen Catalon paved the way to the top-10 PFF grade among all safeties.
Catalon has an excellent vision for the game and knows how to predict the other team’s play and play style. Along with that, Jalen is always seemingly around the ball, with a combined eight pass breakups and interceptions in his college career.
10. Keith Gallmon
Ending his sophomore campaign with a grade of76.8 PPF, he then took his play to new heights in 2020 by raising the bar and his grade over ten grading points to 86.9.
And it has always been Gallmon exceptional performance as a safety that arose his grade point. Gallmon also posted the highest PFF grade in the FBS by over five grading points this last season.
Gallmon has paired his 88.4 run-defence grade with an 84.7 coverage grade and has missed out on only seven of his 92 tackle attempts in 2020, which is quite impressive.