ARIZONA CARDINALS

ESPN poll ranks Cardinals’ Budda Baker No. 5 safety across NFL

Jul 9, 2022, 8:00 PM

AFC safety Tyrann Mathieu (32), of the Kansas City Chiefs, greets NFC strong safety Budda Baker, ri...

AFC safety Tyrann Mathieu (32), of the Kansas City Chiefs, greets NFC strong safety Budda Baker, right, of the Arizona Cardinals, after the Pro Bowl NFL football game, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

(AP Photo/David Becker)

The Arizona Cardinals have one of the best safeties in the NFL in Budda Baker, making a Pro Bowl in four of his first five seasons.

ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler surveyed more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to stack the top 10 safeties in the NFL and Baker was rated No. 5.

Only the Denver Broncos’ Justin Simmons (No. 1), Pittsburgh Steelers’ Minkah Fitzpatrick (No. 2), Tennessee Titans’ Kevin Byard (No. 3) and San Diego Chargers’ Derwin James Jr. (No. 4) were ranked higher than Baker.

Baker earned the reputation as a missile from the defensive backfield, ready to strike on running backs and receivers with fearless hits. His 98 tackles in 2021 tied for 12th among all defensive backs. But he has evolved into a good all-around player, holding opposing quarterbacks to a 61.3 passer rating when he is the nearest defender and allowing 19 of 31 completions for 268 yards and a touchdown. He also snagged three interceptions in 2021.

“I give him credit,” an NFC scout said. “He’s improved a lot. The knock on him was he was a one-trick pony and more of a hitter, but he’s become more complete each year.”

Baker is explosive in the open field following interceptions, too, recording 191 return yards off his five picks since 2020. After zero interceptions through his first three NFL seasons, the floodgates have opened.

Baker finished 2021 with 98 tackles, three interceptions, seven passes defensed and one fumble recovery.

NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks’ Jamaal Adams was ranked No. 10 as the only other NFC West players in the top 10.

Former Cardinal Tyrann Mathieu was named an honorable mention on the list.

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