Every year since 2020, ESPN has done an NFL-wide survey with anonymous coaches, executives, players, and scouts for their viewpoint on the top-10 players at each offensive and defensive position. For the first time since the survey formed, the Seattle Seahawks were shut out on defense.
The closest the Seahawks defenders came to any top-10 list were Quandre Diggs (honorable mention at safety, more on him later!), Tariq Woolen (honorable mention at cornerback), and Bobby Wagner (honorable mention at off-ball linebacker). Dre’Mont Jones, Uchenna Nwosu, and Jordyn Brooks received votes at their respective positions but I guess not enough to be an honorable mention.
The article series is behind the ESPN+ paywall, but the intro/refresher on the rankings system is not. Here’s a little reminder:
By way of refresher, here’s how our process works: Voters give us their best 10 players at a position, then we compile the results and rank candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, along with dozens of interviews, research and film study help from ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen. In total, more than 80 voters submitted a ballot on at least one position, and in many cases all positions. We had several ties, so we broke them with the help of additional voting and follow-up calls with those surveyed.
Each section includes quotes and nuggets from the voters on every ranked player — even the honorable mentions. The objective is to identify the best players right now for 2023. This is not a five-year projection or a career achievement award.
We’ll set aside Bobby Wagner for a bit because he’s made the top-10 list regularly over the years, and I assume the voters don’t give a damn about a PFF grade.
Quandre Diggs and Tariq Woolen had the strongest cases for top-10 inclusion but were snubbed, and Diggs has somehow never made this list before as anything but an honorable mention. You want something amusing? Read the blurb about Diggs in the honorable mention section.
“Still one of most underrated safeties,” an NFL personnel evaluator said. “Big hitter with discipline and range.” Diggs had 71 tackles, seven passes defended and his four interceptions were second among the Seahawks’ defense. An NFC exec added: “Was coming off that [dislocated ankle] and played his best down the stretch last year. Will hit the ground running this year.”
I know Quandre had some struggles during the season but you can excuse him given he fractured his ankle to end the 2021 season, and he still played at a high-level and essentially saved the Seahawks’ playoff hopes with his clutch interception of Baker Mayfield in the regular season finale against the Los Angeles Rams.
Quandre knows what’s up.
All I will say about the list.— Nino (@qdiggs6) July 12, 2023
What else do I have have to do to prove i’m one of the best in the league?
-Consistency? Did that!
-Top 5 in INT’s since 2017? Did that!
-Pro Bowl? Did that 3 times straight!
-6 Years of 3+ picks? Did that! First since Ed Reed!
-Captain? Did that!— Nino (@qdiggs6) July 12, 2023
-Big Contract? Did that!
-Play at a high level after a severe injury? Did that!
Everybody on that list deserve to be on there and I show love to everybody I’m just speaking my peace! I just want my RESPECT!!
It’s almost like the Seahawks having a collectively bad defense over the past four years has punished the best players individually.
Meanwhile, the Woolen blurb is humorous.
His six interceptions in Year 1 were the most by a Seahawks rookie and marked the first time since 2015 that a rookie led or tied for the league lead. “I had him ranked so high in the draft that when he slipped [to the fifth round] I thought I was wrong,” an AFC scout said. “I love him. He can’t do everything, ceiling not as high as how he played [in 2022], but he’s really the only corner that can run vertically with the Tyreek Hills of the world.”
His ceiling is not as high as how he played? What does that mean? He exceeded his ceiling in Year 1? Seems like his ceiling should actually be higher if he’s already reached lofty heights right out of the gate. At a guess, perhaps that scout believes Woolen’s stats flatter his overall play.
To wrap this up, here are the top-10 corners and safeties. Tell me who you’d remove in order to put Quandre or Riq in their respective lists. Or maybe you actually agree and at least one of them should be held outside the elite tier!
1.) Pat Surtain II, Denver Broncos
2.) Sauce Gardner, New York Jets
3.) Jalen Ramsey, Miami Dolphins
4.) Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers
5.) Darius Slay, Philadelphia Eagles
6.) Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore Ravens
7.) Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints
8.) Trevon Diggs, Dallas Cowboys
9.) Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns
10.) A.J. Terrell, Atlanta Falcons
1.) Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers
2.) Derwin James Jr, Los Angeles Chargers
3.) Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos
4.) Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals
5.) Jevon Holland, Miami Dolphins
6.) Jessie Bates III, Atlanta Falcons
7.) Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans
8.) C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Detroit Lions
9.) Talanoa Hufanga, San Francisco 49ers
10.) Antoine Winfield Jr, Tampa Bay Buccaneers