Nothing shocking here, except for Ed Reed ranking 1st. I woulda figured it was Sean
In this week's installment of overrated and underrated players, I will be taking a look at the safety position. When I grade safeties, it is primarily based on their coverage skills, not their run-support skills, although I do take the run-support skills into account.
I also break down safeties into two positional categories: run safety and coverage safety. I use those terms instead of the strong and free safety terms because I think they better identify what each safety is responsible for.
The safety position also has a unique coverage metric that I call the deep-assist coverage metric. This metric is used to distinguish when a safety is helping another player cover a receiver over the top. In addition to that metric, I also use the direct coverage metric when the safety is directly responsible for covering a receiver one on one.
The deep assist metric is the most important coverage metric for a coverage safety because that is the primary responsibility of that position. The direct coverage metric comes up more often with run safeties because they spend more of their time near the line of scrimmage at the snap, but they also have their share of deep assist plays. I also will combine these metrics together to measure a player's overall coverage skills as well.
As usual, the overrated and underrated rankings are based on the 2006 metrics when compared to the player's perceived performance level.
Reed's metrics were terrible last year. His 14.9 combined YPA was the fifth-worst in the league among coverage safeties. He gave up the third-highest number of total yards. He had the fourth-most bomb passes thrown his way and the third-worst YPA at that depth level.
I know there are those who will say that the game broadcast tapes don't show everything that Reed does and that these numbers are anomalies, but let me throw this out in my defense. Carson Palmer said that Reed often doesn't play his coverage and thinks he knows what's coming. Palmer also commented that Reed can get frustrated when the offense is getting some things going and will try to come up and make a play and lose his responsibilities because of it. Palmer was able to exploit Reed's impatience in Week 13, when he connected on a flea-flicker pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a 40-yard touchdown.
The metrics show that Palmer isn't the only quarterback who knows Reed's coverage weaknesses. That is why I believe Reed is the most overrated safety in the league.
Taylor made the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement, but the metrics make it clear he didn't earn the spot. He ranked 20th in both deep assist YPA and deep assist success percentage. He did even worse when in direct coverage, as his 10.7 YPA in those situations was the seventh worst in the NFL last year. He also gave up the second-most total yards of any coverage safety. Taylor did do a lot more to support the run last year than he did in years past, but even taking that into account, he really wasn't a Pro Bowl-level coverage safety last year.
Dwight Smith: Smith gets a lot of credit for making big plays, but his 12.3 overall YPA was 30th-worst in the league.
Erik Coleman: Coleman tends to be mentioned in the same breath as Kerry Rhodes because he plays in the same secondary, but his 44.7 percent success percentage was the fifth worst among coverage safeties last year.
Ken Hamlin: Is being touted as something of a savior for Dallas, but his 10.4 deep assist YPA ranked only 19th among coverage safeties last year.
Russell had the second-best overall YPA of any coverage safety last year. He also placed in the top eight in YPA in both the direct coverage and deep assist coverage metrics. Add those to his No. 14 ranking in overall success percentage and it shows that the Seahawks might have found a gem in Russell.
Kaesviharn mostly played run safety with Cincinnati in 2006, but he likely will play coverage safety in New Orleans. The metrics say his transition to that position should be very smooth. Kaesviharn's 5.8 overall YPA was the sixth-best among run safeties. He also posted a 6.3 YPA on deep assist plays, a total that was the 10th best in that category. If these metrics are any indication, Kaesviharn might give Josh Bullocks a run for his money for the starting coverage safety spot.
Mike Minter: Minter's 5.1 overall YPA ranked third among coverage safeties last year. He is being moved to run safety and his metrics say he should be a good fit there from a coverage standpoint.
Jarrad Page: Injuries forced Page into the lineup as a rookie last year, but he was able to hold his own. Page faced only 19 passes, but allowed a meager 5.4 YPA on them.
Nick Ferguson: Ferguson played in only 10 games last year due to injuries, but he posted tremendous metrics during that time. His 4.2 YPA was third best among run safeties and his 76.5 percent success percentage was second best.