In amateur leagues, safety is where the one kid who doesn’t belong in sports gets placed. They’re far away from the line and only exist in case a play gets blown up. As a last resort, they see little action and are not well-regarded. That’s not how it works in Madden NFL 23 or real football, for that matter.
Instead, safeties have the freedom to snag balls that try to go deep. They can cover any opponent they feel is a target in Madden NFL 23. And, with all that running room, they’re also the hardest hitters on the field. For grown-ups, safety isn’t where the least talented players are, it’s where the most talented ones get put.
10 Jordan Poyer – SS – 90 OVR
Safeties need to be able to rack up both sacks and picks. The only player to get five interceptions and three sacks last year was Jordan Poyer. His contributions made it so that the Bills ended as the top defense when the season ended.
This was also his first time getting a first-team All-Pro nod. If he continues his play, Buffalo just needs an extra ounce or two of good luck to win their first championship.
9 Jessie Bates III – FS – 90 OVR
The Bengals made it to the Super Bowl last year despite having a horrendous offensive line. Many appropriately accredited Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon for making plays despite the unit. But, during the playoff run, analysts started looking at the defense and how well Jessie Bates III commanded it.
Even in the Super Bowl itself, Bates picked off Stafford to give his team a chance. 2021 was probably the last year his talent will fly under the mainstream radar.
8 Jamal Adams – SS – 90 OVR
Jamal Adams has been the target of criticism since he was traded to the Seahawks, with many experts feeling that Seattle got ripped off. It’s not fair for a few reasons, the first and most obvious is that he made a third Pro Bowl in his first season there.
Next, they’ve changed the way he gets used. During 2020, that Pro Bowl year, they had him blitz and rush the line to the tune of 9.5 tackles in only 12 games. The next season, they dropped him into coverage and stopped rushing the line with him for zero sacks. If they scheme to use him right, he’ll be back on top in no time.
7 Harrison Smith – SS – 90 OVR
In the last seven seasons, Harrison Smith has made the Pro Bowl six times. If that doesn’t scream dominance, nothing will. Ask the Minnesota faithful, he puts in the work every week and is usually at the center of any explosive plays.
Even after ten years of football, Smith is improving, setting a personal record for tackles in a season just last year. When he’s on the field, the Vikings secretly hope other teams try to throw the deep ball or run a sweep; they’ll be upended by Smith more often than not.
6 Micah Hyde – FS – 91 OVR
When Hyde was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, they weren’t sure what to do with him. In those first four seasons, he was scarcely even considered a starter, rotating with other players. That all changed when the Buffalo Bills picked him up and made him their full-time free safety.
Since then, Hyde has made a Pro Bowl and racked up loads of picks. His output was about the same when he was on the field for the Packers, it’s hard to see why they didn’t invest in him more. Now, he will work in tandem with Poyer, also on this list to bring glory to Buffalo as the only team with two top-ten safeties.
5 Justin Simmons – FS – 91 OVR
Free safeties have room to be as flashy as the game’s cover art. Since they can essentially direct themselves by using their instincts, the best free safeties are in on many plays. During the first few seasons, Justin Simmons needed time to adjust.
Simmons has thankfully shaken off the early rust and is now playing the position as it was meant to be played. In the last three years, Simmons has either been second-team All-Pro or in the Pro Bowl itself. With the Broncos’ offense looking secure, Simmons will get a chance to make a splash on that side of the ball.
4 Kevin Byard – FS – 92 OVR
Many teams know all too well that durability means as much as any talent or skill. They want to look at last year’s game, compare it to this year’s game, and know the player will either play every game or come very close to it.
This is where Kevin Byard shines. He’s played in every game since he was drafted in 2016. And it’s not just that he’s present; Byard has led the NFL in interceptions before and made the Pro Bowl last year. He didn’t become the top-ranked free safety by accident.
3 Budda Baker – SS – 92 OVR
Part of why Arizona has experienced a resurgence has been the play of Budda Baker. The Cardinals keep bringing in veteran talent, but it’s the young and talented Baker that has anchored the team. If needing to see a change in franchise mode, sign him up for long-term dominance.
In five seasons, Baker has been to the Pro Bowl in four of them, including the last three in a row. His last season was his best so far. Divisional opponents hoping that Baker will get weaker have been sorely disappointed.
2 Derwin James Jr. – SS – 93 OVR
In his rookie year, Derwin James Jr. managed to make a Pro Bowl appearance. That 2018 season was incredibly special, but injuries limited him to five games over the next two seasons. When that happens, fans can only guess what the player rating will be and if he’ll still be the same.
Last season, James proved he’s still the same incredible safety that he used to be. He made his second Pro Bowl selection. With more weapons on defense for the Chargers than ever before, Los Angeles could see their “other” team win a title.
1 Tyrann Mathieu – SS – 94 OVR
If any safety would be the next 99 OVR rated player, it would be Tyrann Mathieu, who has done nothing but set the position on fire since he’s been in the league. He’s made the last two Pro Bowls and, the year before that, he won the Super Bowl with the Chiefs.
He now joins a loaded Saints team who must believe they are one strong quarterback away from another Championship. If Mathieu plays like he did last year, New Orleans could see itself representing the NFC in the final game of the season.
Madden NFL 23 releases on August 15th, 2022 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.