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Top 10 Best Safeties in NFL History

by Riley Baines
Best Safeties Ever - Ronnie Lott, Troy Polamalum, Ed Reed

The best safeties in the NFL have the ability to dominate in both the pass and run game. The best safeties ever do it all the time. They range from some of the hardest hitters ever to menacing ball hawks. This list is based on their impact throughout their entire career considering longevity and stats. These are the top best 10 safeties in NFL history.


Best Safeties Ever - #10 John Lynch

Best Safeties Ever – #10 John Lynch

#10 – John Lynch

In college he was undersized and a backup Quarterback for Stanford under Bill Walsh and his move to Safety proved to be a career changer. Things changed fast. Now the GM for the 49ers, John Lynch made a name for himself as one of the hardest NFL hitters ever.

He was one of those players who put his body on the line every single Sunday and made it known that if you were running down the middle of the field, you were going to get destroyed. Lynch also brought that intimidation inside the box as one of the most reliable tacklers near the line of scrimmage.

He combined forces with the likes of Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp to create one of the best defenses in NFL history in the 2002 Buccaneers. A little overshadowed at times by tremendous talent, Lynch joined the Broncos later in his career and proved that he was much more than just a system player ending his career with 4 straight pro bowl nominations.


Best Safeties Ever - #9 Emlen Tunnell

Top 10 Best Safeties in NFL History – #9 Emlen Tunnell

#9 – Emlen Tunnell

Emlen Tunnell is one of the most slept on players ever. This is a legend that nobody talks about and it’s a damn shame. Let me teach you some history. Emlen Tunnell was the first African-American to ever be nominated into the pro football hall of fame and it could not have been more justified.

He retired with the then record breaking 79 career interceptions and was commonly referred to as “offense on defense” because of his 1,282 interception return yards. There was even a season that he had more return yards than their starting running back had rushing yards. He was truly special.

In addition, what really made him elite was the fact that he was not only a ball hawk, but also one of the hardest hitters in the league. Don’t sleep on Emlen Tunnell.


Best Safeties Ever - #8 Steve Atwater

Best Safeties Ever – #8 Steve Atwater

#8 – Steve Atwater

This was a Linebacker playing Safety. Just ask Christian Okoye about Atwater. Okoye was regarded as the Nigerian Nightmare and one of the hardest hitting running backs in NFL history and with one hit Atwater shattered that reputation taking him head on and sending him backwards.

In Atwater’s rookie year, he made an immediate impact transforming the Broncos from 27th against the rush all the way to 7th. The Broncos loved to play him near the line of scrimmage and with great reason. His hard hitting nature and ability to change the momentum of the game propelled his Broncos to 2 Super Bowl victories.

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