Why Harrison Smith is the NFL’s best safety

Analyst Josh Liskiewitz breaks down the production of Vikings S Harrison Smith over the past three seasons.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Why Harrison Smith is the NFL’s best safety

On Monday morning, the Vikings announced an extension for safety Harrison Smith worth $15.2 million fully-guaranteed, with an annual average salary of $10.25 million, making him one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL. This news should not come as a major surprise, as Smith received the highest grade at his position this past season, and the second-highest in 2014—and is only 27 years old.

Smith has been an outstanding player in coverage throughout his career, as opposing QBs have had an NFL passer rating of under 68.0 when targeting him in coverage in three of his four pro seasons (43.3 in 2015). For his career, he has yielded just 68 receptions on 120 targets for nine touchdowns, with 12 interceptions and 12 passes defended.

Smith has also graded positively against the run each of the past three seasons, and over the past two years, has combined for 25 total pressures on just 80 pass-rush attempts (best in the NFL in pass-rush productivity at the safety position in 2015, third in 2014).

Harrison Smith Grades

While arguments can be made that Kansas City’s Eric Berry and Seattle’s Earl Thomas are better pure-cover safeties, or that Miami’s Reshad Jones is a better run-defender, Smith is the only safety besides Philadelphia’s Malcolm Jenkins to finish in the top-10 in both run defense and coverage last year. He is also the only safety with positive grades in all three major categories (coverage, run defense, and pass rush) in both 2014 and 2015.

| Analyst

Josh joined PFF as an analyst in 2015. During the season, his primary focus is college football (mainly the Big Ten). He is also heavily involved in PFF's NFL draft coverage. Prior to joining the team, he worked for six years with GM Jr. Scouting, an independent draft scouting service.

  • JAI21

    What if you consider Tyrann Mathieu a safety? He at least joins that conversation, no?

    • Z Jeezuz

      Probably. Keep in mind that he plays most of his snaps at corner.

      • JAI21
        • Z Jeezuz

          That article says he plays 2/3 of his snaps at corner. Learn how to read before trying to correct me.

          • JAI21

            Whoops. Fair enough. I didn’t read past the base package quote

          • richardChen

            Hey, this is the Internet – there’s no place for graciousness. The other guy understands this.

          • http://relevanttech.weebly.com iamsupreme

            Relax. Jeesh. JAI21 didn’t attack you. He misread something. Internet tough guys everywhere I go.

        • Z Jeezuz

          That’s talking about the base defense which they rarely ever use.

  • bubqr

    Let’s see what Earl Thomas has to say about this with a healthy shoulder.

  • ANonnaMoose

    “Nonsense. Our roster has at least three safeties on it that are all better than Harrison Smith.”

    -Green Bay fans

    • SeattleSteve

      tbh, I’d take their 3 guys rather than just having 1 guy.
      Depth is more important in today’s game.

      • Chad Thostenson

        they still have solid depth, they just don’t compare well to the best in the NFL. the packers “depth” is laughable. i still don’t understand how people can say all these players in green bay’s defensive backfield are amazing, yet they were giving up 500 yrd passing games.

        • Kenneth Browning

          A lot of attempts. They had the 18th most attempts, but still only allowed the 8th fewest yards. They were 5th in yards per attempt allowed. They also didn’t allow more than 331 yards last year, far from 500. The Vikings had the fewest attempts against them, allowed the 2nd fewest yards and were 13th in y/a.

          • Chad Thostenson

            A lot of attempts? Did i ask why Aaron Rodgers had more passing yards than Teddy Bridgewater? How did Phillip Rivers have 503 yards against them and them still not allow more than 331 yards last year? anomaly?

      • Tombrat

        U mean (TBS-to be STUPID) don’t u? lol

    • Vikings22

      Thats a lie

      -Vikings Fan

    • Tombrat

      Ur an idiot with no facts to back up ur insane post!

  • Brandon

    Berry was limited coming off of Chemotherapy. He’ll come back in 2016 even stronger and faster. People forget that he had to work his way back up to where he’s at now. Berry is the best safety. He’ll prove it in 2016.

  • Thinkaboutit

    It’s craaaaaazy that this dude doesn’t get more recognition.

    • john preston

      Recognition in NFL is all about Cash!!! Our boy just got Recognized.

      • Evelyn36598

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      • crosseyedlemon

        Your statement is depressingly true. What we really need is a sports league dedicated to killing all the lawyers and accountants.