The position of free safety is one of great responsibility, despite the lack of attention it garners. These players can often be the last lines of defense, making tackles in the open field that can prevent Touchdowns.
There isn’t a huge amount of depth in FS in Madden. There’s two superstars, a lot of good players and then a lot of fillers. It’s not necessarily a position to break the bank for, but a superstar like Earl Thomas can contradict the above and make game changing plays.
Look out for some familiar names, amongst some up and coming hungry players.
Earl Thomas III, Baltimore Ravens (95 OVR)
Best Stats: Zone Cover (98), Awareness (95), Agility (93), Play Recognition (92), Jump (92), Acceleration (91), Speed (89), Hit Power (87), Man Cover (82), Press (80), Catching (80), Tackle (79)
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A founding member of the ‘Legion of Boom’, Earl Thomas III has been the undisputed superstar of the position since being the 14th overall pick in 2014. In his 9 seasons with the Seahawks, Thomas clocked up 67 pass deflections, 28 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.
Despite most teams trying to avoid him completely, he has been to 6x Pro Bowls and won Super Bowl XLVIII. After an acrimonious split with the Seahawks, he finds himself in pastures new this season.
Thomas has one of the best zone cover (98) ratings in the league. As you would expect from a superstar older player, his awareness (95) and play recognition (92) is elite. For the position, hit power (87) will force fumbles in the open field and jump (92) is important for a 5’10” player.
With speed (89), acceleration (91) and man cover (82) he doesn’t struggle to adjust to man defense either.
The only thing working against Thomas is his age. The speed and acceleration will quickly drop, but the best thing about a zone based FS – you can live without it. Many franchise players move over their ageing CB’s to this position as their speed drops off.
Eddie Jackson, Chicago Bears (91 OVR)
Best Stats: Zone Cover (96), Awareness (93), Play Recognition (91), Acceleration (90), Speed (88), Agility (86), Jump (84), Man Cover (83), Hit Power (82), Press (78), Catching (78)
Eddie Jackson exploded onto the FS scene last year, with a Pro Bowl selection from 15 pass deflections and 6 interceptions. In only 2 seasons in the NFL since being taken in the 4th round of the NFL Draft, Jackson has been voted the #30 best player in the NFL by his peers and scored a monster 5 defensive TDs.
He has an elite zone cover (96) rating and boasts top level awareness (93) and play recognition (91). As expected, Jackson has the physical states of acceleration (90) and speed (88) required to keep up with most receivers on the deep ball. His man cover (83) is actually better than Earl Thomas’, which makes him versatile too.
Despite the fact he has very good hit power (82), there is the room to criticize Jackson’s tackling (71). That said, his catching (78) would stand out as good for the average WR, so he’s definitely more focused on coverage than tackling runners.
Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans (89 OVR)
Best Stats: Zone Cover (93), Acceleration (89), Speed (89), Agility (89), Pursuit (88), Jump (88), Awareness (88), Play Recognition (85), Hit Power (79), Catching (79), Man Cover (78), Tackle (75)
Kevin Byard is officially the highest-paid safety in the league. The five-year deal will pay Byard $70.5 million, with $31 million in guarantees. The former 3rd round pick, led the league in interceptions in 2017 with 8 and is fast getting the reputation as a ball hawk.
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Impressive zone cover (93) is complimented by consistently good scoring on most other key stats. Physical stats like acceleration (89), speed (89) and agility (89) are all present and correct. Byard’s hit power (79) and tackle (75) isn’t league leading but healthy for a top player. Likewise, man cover (78) and catching (79) means he will rack up the interceptions in franchise.
Could be a hidden gem if the current owner doesn’t appreciate his value.
Devin McCourty, New England Patriots (89 OVR)
Best Stats: Zone Cover (92), Jump (92), Acceleration (90), Speed (90), Agility (90), Play Recognition (90), Awareness (88), Pursuit (86), Man Cover (85), Press (85), Catching (81), Tackle (74)
A Patriots ‘lifer’, Devin McCourty was drafted in the 1st round of 2010. And in his 9 seasons he’s won the Super Bowl and unbelievable 3 times. With only 21 interceptions over the years, McCourty has never set the highlight film on fire, but he is a talented tackler and consistent performer.
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Like most of the list, he leads with zone cover (92), but also has a very good man cover (85). With press (85) and jump (92), McCourty will break up offensive plays and consistently shutting down large areas of the field. Don’t expect forced fumbles with hit power (67), but he will get plenty of pass deflections.
Micah Hyde, Buffalo Bills (86 OVR)
Best Stats: Awareness (90), Agility (90), Speed (89), Acceleration (88), Zone Cover (89), Play Recognition (87), Press (83), Jump (83), Man Cover (81), Pursuit (81)
Micah Hyde has accumulated 15 interceptions in his 6 seasons since being drafted in the 5th round. But don’t let this fool you. Hyde quietly goes about making impressive performance after impressive performance, but without making headlines.
Pro Football Focus rated him as the best FS in 2017, and his work to regularly break up passes, means that it’s what doesn’t go down as a stat that’s most impressive.
As you would imagine, Hyde’s stats are focused on the technical elements. Zone cover (89) is lower than rivals but still good, man cover (81) is very complimentary. Hyde’s press (83), jump (83) and pursuit (81) means he is all over the field and can be physical with receivers on plays.
Hydes weakness is all around his tackling (71) and hit power (45). As a FS, you need the player to be confident when last line of defense and there’s only so many times you would want to see Hyde run over by a big back.
Damarious Randall, Cleveland Browns (86 OVR)
Best Stats: Speed (91), Agility (91), Acceleration (90), Jump (88), Zone Cover (87), Pursuit (87), Awareness (85), Play Recognition (82), Press (80), Man Cover (79),
Damarious Randall has been consistently good since being drafted late in the 1st round of 2015 by Green Bay. Each year he has snagged 3 or 4 interceptions without fail. He now finds himself in Cleveland on the crest of something exciting, and with the chance to cement his position as one of the future elites at the position.
Randall has great positional speed (91) and acceleration (90) meaning he can keep up with just about anyone. His zone cover (87) is a drop off from elite, but with pursuit (87) and agility (91) he can get around the field to make up for it. Press (80) and man cover (79) are not bad for a FS and with plenty of years left to invest in XP, it’s easy to see him doing well in franchise mode.
Like Hyde before him, Randall struggles with tackle (70) and hit power (64). Don’t expect any forced fumbles.
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Lamarcus Joyner, Oakland Raiders (85 OVR)
Best Stats: Speed (92), Acceleration (88), Zone Cover (89), Jump (89), Play Recognition (88), Agility (86), Awareness (84), Press (83), Pursuit (83), Hit Power (82), Man Cover (81), Tackle (74)
Recently signed to a four-year, $42 million contract with the Oakland Raiders, Lamarcus Joyner has had an inconsistent career to date. Drafted early in the 2nd round of 2014, Joyner has had a difficult time with injuries and is yet to play a full season. This stop/start experience has not helped, but he has still showed impressive flashes of talent.
Another player with very good, but unspectacular stats, it is clear to see the drop off from the likes of Earl Thomas. Speed (92) is elite, but zone cover (89), agility (86) and man cover (81) is just above average.
Hit power (82) will lead to turnovers and there are many worse players at the position. It would tempt me to shop Joyner in a franchise league and see if you can get some value back.
|Earl Thomas III||BAL||95||30||89||93||79||87||82||98|
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