American football isn't an Olympic sport -- yet. But with the world's best athletes set to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, we thought we'd get in on the fun by holding a medal competition at nine key positions. NFL Media analysts ranked the top three players at each spot, with points assigned accordingly -- three points for each first-place ranking, two for each second-place ranking and one for each third-place ranking. The points were totaled, resulting in final gold-, silver- and bronze-medal finishers. Below, you'll find the results -- and each analyst's individual ballot -- for safety.
The Safety Podium
Smith might have the best range for a guy with his size, as well as outstanding tackling ability. Losing Mathieu to a torn ACL at the end of the 2015 regular season was as devastating to the Cardinals as losing quarterback Carson Palmer was in 2014 -- he's such a ballhawk and makes plays all over the field. Berry, of course, provided top-notch play after beating Hodgkin lymphoma.
Thomas has a nose for the football and is a playmaker on all levels. He's been a huge part of the Seattle defense's success. Mathieu simply does everything -- he provides run support and can blitz and cover. Berry is a field general for the Chiefs.
No position has grown more in importance over the last 20 years than the safety. The three players listed here rank the highest because they can do it all. Thomas' uncanny range, sure tackling and smarts -- and the fact that he has been doing it at such a high level for so long -- give the Seahawks safety a slight edge over Honey Badger.
Berry had an exceptional "comeback" year last year. Truly amazing stuff. The Chiefs safety can cover, as well as play the run. Meanwhile, Mathieu gives you immense flexibility; he can serve as a corner or safety. Thomas consistently has been one of the best deep safeties in the game.
Mathieu is arguably the glue that holds together one of the league's best defenses. Thomas is still the heart of the "Legion of Boom" (assuming Richard Sherman is its mouthpiece), while Smith is an unsung hero in one of the NFL's up-and-coming defenses.
Thomas is the ultimate playmaker, whether it's a hit on a running back or he's baiting a QB to make a poor pass. Mathieu is probably the most complete safety, being great in coverage and the blitz. Chancellor is just so physical and intimidating.
The leader of the "Legion of Boom" is the natural center fielder with outstanding range and ball skills who wears No. 29. Thomas will freelance a bit, but it's hard to knock a guy who routinely comes up with big plays based on his calculated guesses.
Honey Badger's overall versatility makes him the most useful safety in the league. Chancellor is an impact player and a wicked tackler. Jones is a dark horse, as he can tackle, blitz and cover. He has corner-like ability in his coverage skills and has a knack for finding the football.
Move over, "QB League": The NFL is now about hybrid players -- and the Honey Badger is the best of the bunch. As far as that goes, Jenkins deserves a shout-out for his versatility in an Eagles defense ironically undermined by a tepid offense last year.
Mathieu's versatility makes him the best safety in the game, and he's close to cracking the lineup as a corner, as well -- especially since he took more than 60 percent of snaps at slot corner. Berry earned his place in the Pro Bowl and anchored a stout Chiefs defense. Even coming off a down year, Thomas is still one of the most valuable DBs in the league.
Jones is one of the most underrated players in the league at any position. But it's hard to find a safety with better range than Thomas. Smith is the perfect safety for Mike Zimmer, even if that means he doesn't make as many flashy plays.
Mathieu would be my top guy if not for the injury. Relax, Seahawks fans: I gave you Richard Sherman as the top cornerback when a lot of my colleagues didn't. It seems like people are underestimating Sherman a bit this year.