- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
Narrowing this list to just 10 was a very difficult task. Tyvon Branch is only 26 years old and is playing great football. Mark Barron was a high draft pick just one year ago and certainly showed promise in his rookie season. Matt Elam is a perfect immediate fit on what I expect to be an elite Ravens defense. And TJ Ward, who is just an exceptional player, would have been my 11th-ranked player for this exercise.
Needless to say, there is an extreme wealth right now of promising young safeties in the NFL and that was highlighted to a great degree in this past draft class. The one name that sticks out here, though, among the honorable mentions you'll see below is Eric Weddle, whom I consider the best safety in the league today. I still expect Weddle to be performing at a high level in 2016, but I also believe this bevy of youngsters will have passed him at that point as Weddle's skills begin to decline.
Thomas is an essential member of the league's best secondary and what I expect to be an elite defense overall. He has outstanding range and is best as a center fielder, but he truly excels in all facets of safety play. Thomas will only be 27 years old when the 2016 season begins, which could be the peak of an outstanding career.