NFL: Top 5 safeties of all-time

Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers

In the NFL, safety is one of the most important and least heralded positions on the football field. The safety's job is to make sure no offensive players break free on the ground for big yardage, make a catch deep, or end up in the endzone.

The safety is the last line of your team's defense, but elite talents are capable of making big plays on pass rush duties, too. The best in the business need to be athletically gifted: fast, strong, able to leap, tackle, force turnovers, pursue, harry, and then some.

Seahawks Jamal Adams is a fine modern example of safety with all the aforementioned traits (check out the video below to get yourself in the mood):


Join us as we take a look at the top five safeties to ever suit up:

Top 5 safeties in NFL history

In descending order:

5. Ken Houston (Houston Oilers and Washington football team)

Ken Houston spent his career with the now-defunct Houston Oilers and the now rebranded Washington football team, where he registered 49 interceptions and scored 12 touchdowns.

The teams he played for may no longer exist by name, but the legacy Houston left behind will ensure his name lives on in the annuals of NFL History forevermore.

A player who really did it all, aside from being an elite ballhawk and a brutal tackler, Houston recovered 21 fumbles and even returned kicks and punts throughout his career. Such was his athletic prowess.

A twelve-time Pro Bowler, Houston was selected to the NFL 100th anniversary team, making it impossible to leave him off the list (even though I never saw him play, and despite my love for both Charles Woodson and Ron Woodson).

4. Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Pittsburgh Steelers v New York Jets
Pittsburgh Steelers v New York Jets

If I could have just written this list based on personal preference, Steelers legend Troy Polamalu would have been at number one. Whilst visiting Hawaii on my honeymoon, I even demanded my wife allow me to visit the Hawaiian football Hall of Fame, just so I could see his exhibit! Surprisingly, we are still married.

Polamalu was a hard-hitting safety who just played the game in an inspirational way. The Hawaiian native was always willing to put his body on the line to make the big plays when the Steelers needed him to; he had an uncanny ability to read the opposition QB, which led to him making 32 career interceptions, and he was selected to play in 8 Pro Bowls.

Polamalu also helped the Steelers to two Super Bowl titles in 2006 and 2009.


There may be other players who boast better stats than Troy Polamalu, but I don't remember them dominating games in the way the Steelers legend did, and that's why he makes the list.

3. Paul Krause (Washington football team and Minnesota Vikings)

With 81 career interceptions, it was impossible to leave Paul Krause off the list.

Krause represented the Washington football team and the Minnesota Vikings during his storied career.

Krause was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998, having been selected to the Pro Bowl eight times during his 16 seasons in the NFL.

The only thing missing from Krause's C.V. is a Super Bowl win. He did appear in the NFL's flagship event on three separate occasions, but his teams came up short each time. Sometimes, there's just no justice in this world.

2. Ed Reed (Baltimore Ravens + short stints with the Houston Texans and New York Jets)

Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl XLVII - Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers

Ed "Beast" Reed may have bounced from the Texans to the Jets during his final year as a player (2014), but in 2015, he returned to his football home of Baltimore, where he is worshiped as football royalty, to retire as a Raven.

Reed finished his career with 56 interceptions, but is more commonly remembered for his unique sensibilities when it came to bringing the pain.' Reed hit hard! You don't get called "The Beast" in the NFL without just cause (check out the video below for evidence).


Along with fellow Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, Reed formed the backbone of the Ravens' feared D that went on to Super Bowl glory in 2012 and will be remembered as one of the most fearsome safeties of all time.

1.Ronnie Lott (San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Raiders, New York Jets, and Kansas City Chiefs)

I was fortunate enough to catch the final few years of Ronnie Lott's career when he played with the Los Angeles Raiders and New York Jets, and, in my opinion, he is still the best safety the NFL has ever seen; arguably the best defensive back, period. And I didn't even get to see much of him in his prime!

Lott had an uncanny ability to read an opposing offense and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to either come up with a big hit, disrupt the pass, or catch a pick. His football brain was (and probably still is) outstanding by all accounts.

With the possible exception of Paul Krause (mentioned at number 3), there has never been a better ballhawk operating in the safety position, but Lott takes the title as being the best in my books by virtue of the fact he was one tough S.O.B to go along with it. Case in point: Lott injured his finger whilst chasing a Cowboys RB during the 1985 season. To avoid missing games whilst he waited for it to heal up from surgery (which it would have), Lott instead chose to have it amputated so he could return to action quicker.


Lott was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000 and will always be remembered as one of the NFL's greatest players, in any position.

What do you think of our picks? Did we miss your favorite NFL safety? Have your say in the comments section below:

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Edited by Shane Henderson
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