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Earl Thomas tops list of NFL's best safeties

Every week, Chris Wesseling will roll out the power rankings for one specific NFL position. Last week, we covered running backs. This week, we turn our attention to the league's best safeties.

On to the rankings:

Pete Carroll anointed Thomas the best safety he has ever coached even before a 2013 campaign that should have received stronger support in the Defensive Player of the Year discussion. Thomas' freakish range is the key to the Seahawks' historically great pass defense. ... A prototypical centerfielder in the back end, Byrd combines elite ball skills with sticky coverage. The complementary skills of Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro will allow Rob Ryan to get extra creative with his schemes this year.

The best player on an improved defense, Weddle combines top-notch range with solid run support. He has consistently performed at a Pro Bowl level for a half-decade without missing time due to injuries. ... Berry can be expected to struggle at times in coverage while playing through heel tendinitis. Capable of rushing the passer, stopping the run and shifting to linebacker in dime packages, he's one of the NFL's most athletic and versatile safeties at peak strength.

A team leader in New England, McCourty plays safety like a converted cornerback, excelling in coverage while chipping in six interceptions and four forced fumbles over the past two seasons. He's next on the Patriots' list for a lucrative new contract. ... Chancellor is the tone-setter in Seattle, punishing receivers crossing the middle of the field and dropping into the box as an extra linebacker on run downs. He should have been rewarded with Super Bowl XLVIII MVP honors for his efforts versus the Broncos last February.

Luke Kuechly served notice during his playmaking summer of 2013 that a dominant season was coming. Vaccaro had a similar showing last month, forcing fumbles, intercepting passes, sacking quarterbacks and stopping running backs behind the line of scrimmage. He has All-Pro potential. ... Reid hasn't received as much publicity as Vaccaro, but he's had a similar impact in San Francisco as an athletic ball-hawking safety delivering bone-crushing blows.

The Broncos went out and targeted Ward in free agency after watching box safety Chancellor set a physical tone in the Super Bowl. ... Polamalu bounced back with a strong 2013 season even if he's still exploited in coverage too often. Now 33 years old, this could be the last year as an above-average starter for an eight-time Pro Bowl selection.

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