John Johnson was a third round pick in 2017 out of Boston College and he made his first starting in Week 5 of that season, facing off against the Seattle Seahawks. Johnson intercepted Russell Wilson in the second quarter, making it a special debut as a first string player. He has remained a starter at safety from that point forward,
Johnson was second on the team with 119 tackles in 2018, recording four interceptions and one forced fumble. He already had two more picks in 2019 when he went on injured reserve only six games into the season. Johnson was on pace for 136 tackles.
He’s been named as one of the key building blocks for the LA Rams and his offseason comments this year have been about being a veteran leader to his young teammates. That would of course include above all else perhaps, Taylor Rapp.
The Rams picked Rapp with the 61st pick in the 2019 draft out of Washington. He entered the season behind Johnson and Eric Weddle, but when Johnson hurt his shoulder the door opened for Rapp to have an impact and to play next to a guy who at least is going to be on the Hall of Fame ballot a lot. (Safeties have a notoriously difficult time getting in.)
Rapp made 100 tackles, not struggling to match that kind of production of Johnson. He was already an active member of the defense but if he had consistently put in 100% of the snaps on defense, Rapp’s stat totals would obviously be a bit higher. He also had two interceptions, each coming against the Arizona Cardinals. There are concerns about his coverage skills but Rapp should have a high ceiling in some regards.
That being said, do either of these guys have the potential to be a top-10 safety in the NFL?
That’s a question I asked when I read the CBS Sports top-10 at the position and realized that it was a really solid list. It turns out that the top-10 safeties, at least, are mostly big names, past, present, or future.
And the replies unsurprisingly were a lot of “Wow, you have THIS guy too low” and that was a comment I saw applied to at least Minkah Fitzpatrick, Jamal Adams, Derwin James, and Kevin Byard.
Earl Thomas, who may have the strongest Hall of Fame argument of any of them and the Baltimore Ravens just fielded an elite defense, was 10th.
Top 10 Safeties in the NFL— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) June 23, 2020
(According to @VoiceOfTheStar)
1. Tyrann Mathieu
2. Minkah Fitzpatrick
3. Jamal Adams
4. Harrison Smith
5. Anthony Harris
6. Justin Simmons
7. Devin McCourty
8. Derwin James
9. Kevin Byard
10. Earl Thomas pic.twitter.com/4CNHhRyPUD
Looking at this list, it’s hard to argue against any of these players as being the type almost any team would like to have in their secondary. The least known may be Anthony Harris and I have thought he had the most impressive 2019 of most any defensive player last season. I’ve written several times about the QBs he picked off as compared to Stephon Gilmore and can’t go through the whole list again but it’s quite the contrast.
(Think “Drew Brees a couple times” vs “Luke Falk” and multiply that)
Knowing it’s that tough of a list, can Johnson or Rapp get into that echelon of safety (and another circumstance here of course is that we aren’t separating this by free or strong, which is a reason why the list is so great) at some point in their careers? If so, who has the better odds? What player on the list do they compare to in that case? Or what combination of players? And can it happen this season?
And does Terrell Burgess or Jordan Fuller warrant consideration eventually?
Which of these Rams is most likely going to be a top-10 NFL safety?
This poll is closed