West safety ranks: NFL's best, and worst

April, 20, 2013
4/20/13
8:00
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Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, Dashon Goldson and Quintin Mikell were starting NFC West safeties last season. They combined to earn more than $15 million for their contributions in 2012.

Wilson, Rhodes and Mikell were released, and Goldson departed in free agency, reportedly without getting an offer from the San Francisco 49ers. Another NFC West safety, Craig Dahl, left the St. Louis Rams for the 49ers.

One thing hasn't changed at the position: Seattle still has the best starters in the division.

Matt Williamson, who scouts the NFL for ESPN.com, had little trouble giving the Seahawks his No. 1 ranking at safety in his continuing look at where NFC West teams stand at each position. We pick up the conversation there.

Williamson: Seattle has the best safeties in the league. St. Louis has the worst. San Francisco's are good. Arizona's are average at best.

Sando: I'm a little surprised you'd give the 49ers high marks at the position after parting with Goldson. Donte Whitner is there and he's good, but what else is there at the position? The Rams didn't seem all that set on keeping Dahl.

Williamson: I think Dahl is serviceable. I guess they are not all that good, but they are better than Arizona at the position right now, and with all those draft picks -- 13 overall and five of the first 93 -- I fully expect them to add John Cyprien, Eric Reid or Matt Elam. The writing is on the wall when you sign Dahl as a placeholder while the rookie comes in and is a lot more talented.

Sando: We could have three NFC West teams targeting starting safeties in the draft.

Williamson: St. Louis might have the worst safeties in the league right now. That is a huge need for the Rams. They probably need to draft two safeties in their top four or five picks and one had better be in the first round. Everyone talks about needing receivers for Sam Bradford. Really, they need a guard and a safety. Then we can talk about that.

Sando: Seattle is really the only team in the division appearing set at safety for now. I could still see the Seahawks drafting one for insurance in case they have a hard time re-signing Kam Chancellor. In the meantime, Earl Thomas might be the best safety in the league. At least I'm assuming you'd agree in saying he's moved past Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed, who were long considered the standards.

Williamson: He has passed those guys for sure. They have very much declined. I would probably say Eric Weddle is the best safety right now. Jairus Byrd is good, too. Thomas is right in the conversation with those guys and he has more ability than either one of them.

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