We’ve worked our way finally to the back of the secondary, the last line of defense; the safeties. The guys that when they make a mistake, it’s usually a big one. But when they make the right read, it can completely turn the game around. In the AFC West, they have the best in the business.
1. Chiefs — Eric Berry, Ron Parker
Eric Berry is not just the best safety in the division, he’s probably the best in the NFL. Even without his incredible recovery from cancer to return to All Pro. The former 5th overall pick is already on a Hall of Fame trajectory, having been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his five full NFL seasons and All Pro in the past three. He landed at 13 in the NFL Top 100, collecting 4 interception, 9 passes defended and 77 tackles last season. He added two defensive touchdowns. He is truly a rare defensive back talent.
Parker has become quite a good looking safety in his own right. He’s come a long way from his days getting signed and released over and over again. He once wore a Raiders uniform, spending three games with the Raiders. He also appeared with the Seahawks and the Panthers in a handful of games in 2011 and 2012 before finally finding a home in Kansas City. The past four seasons he has been a mainstay with the Chiefs playing every defensive back position, collecting 7 interceptions and 39 passes defended.
2. Broncos — Darian Stewart, TJ Ward
Ward had made three straight Pro Bowls prior to last season in Cleveland and Denver. The De La Salle and Oregon product has been a full time starting strong safety his entire 7-year NFL career.
Stewart made his first Pro Bowl last season. He spent the first five years of his career with the Rams and Ravens before joining the Broncos in 2015 and had put up 16 passes defended over the past two seasons as a full time starter at free safety. Last season he had a career high 3 interceptions.
3. Raiders — Reggie Nelson, Karl Joseph
Nelson is entering what could be his final NFL season at the age of 34. Then again if he makes the Pro Bowl for a third straight season, why stop now? The former 21st overall pick out of Florida spent the first nine years of his career with the Jaguars and Bengals before signing with the Raiders as a free agent in 2016. He was coming off a career year, leading the league with 8 interceptions and then picked off 5 passes last season too along with 12 passes defended. There were lapses in coverage for the Raiders last year which are being attributed to coaching. If that’s true, Nelson should be where he’s supposed to be more often this season.
Joseph was the Raiders pick at 14 overall in last year’s draft. He missed the entire offseason recovering from a torn ACL and still managed to be named to the All Rookie team. I expect he will take a step forward and play as he had when he was considered the best safety in the country prior to his injury.
4. Chargers — Dwight Lowery, Jahleel Addae
The Chargers were without All Pro safety Eric Weddle for the first time in nine years last season. Journeyman safety Dwight Lowery was the man added to replace him. It made the fourth team in as many seasons for Lowery and the fifth of his nine-year career.
Addae was re-signed this offseason and will return to the Chargers on a four-year, $22 million deal. In four seasons, Addae hasn’t played all 16 games since his rookie year when he started just two games. Last year he broke his collarbone, and would appear in just 8 games with one interception, 4 passes defended and 48 tackles.
Also see AFC West ranking for: Quarterbacks, Running backs, Wide receivers, Tight ends, Offensive tackles, Guards, Centers, Nose tackles, Defensive interior, Edge rushers, Inside linebackers, cornerbacks