Harrison Smith Got Snubbed, Josh Metellus Responds

To my mind, Harrison Smith is a Hall of Fame player. He offers elite versatility as a safety capable of both ball hawking and racking up TFLs, patrolling the skies while also living in the backfield.

At 34, The Hitman is getting closer to the end of his career, but he’s still capable of playing at a high level. As a result, it was somewhat surprising to see Smith completely omitted from Jeremy Folwer’s list of the league’s top 10 safeties. The absence even caught the eye of Josh Metellus, who took to Twitter to express his disagreement with the assessment.

Harrison Smith, Josh Metellus, and The NFL’s Best Safeties

Fowler’s list is far better than most. The reason is due to the way the ESPN writer brings it all together. Rather than relying solely on his own analysis, Fowler “surveyed league executives, coaches, scouts and players to help us rank the top 10 players at 11 different positions, from quarterback to cornerback.”

Fowler goes on: “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.”

NFL: New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) breaks up a pass intended for New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson (17) during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

In the end, Smith was nowhere to be found. The voters preferred the play of Minkah Fitzpatrick (1st), Derwin James (2nd), Justin Simmons (3rd), and seven others over Minnesota’s star safety.

Making matters even more baffling is that Smith doesn’t appear among the honorable mentions. Pushing things back even further doesn’t solve the issue. At the very end, there’s a section called “Also receiving votes.” Smith isn’t there, either. Are there really 20+ safeties who are better than Smith? Vikings fans — a biased crew, to be sure — would disagree, and so too does Metellus.

Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Josh Metellus (44) tackles Las Vegas Raiders running back Austin Walter (32) during a preseason game at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The hard-hitting special teams star let his displeasure be known on Twitter:

Metellus, quite evidently, has some respect for the elder statesman among the defensive backs. A simple look at Smith’s stats certainly do point toward a safety who is worthy of the Hall of Fame, though one wonders if the combination of Minnesota’s lack of team success and Smith’s lack of personal accolades will limit him when he has the chance to be included.

He has been a first-team All Pro once, a second-team All Pro once, and to the Pro Bowl a half dozen times. In 2017, Smith finished 4th in Defensive Player of the Year voting. So, by no means has he had an uneventful career, but a couple more entries on the All Pro team would certainly help.

Working against him is the three-straight seasons of subpar Vikings defense. Would better surrounding talent from 2020-22 have made things look a bit different for the veteran safety?

Jan 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson (7) returns an interception for a 66 yard touchdown as safety Harrison Smith (22) follows off a pass by Chicago Bears quarterback Andy Dalton (not pictured) during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Flores is being tasked with resurrecting Minnesota’s once-proud defense. Simply tasking the players with more aggressive assignments should, at the very least, present a different challenge to opponents. Ideally, we may even see the Vikings get out of the NFL’s basement for points allowed.

Selected 29th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, Harrison Smith has spent his entire career in Minnesota. Currently, he is 5th in team history in interceptions (34), 1st in passes defended (83), 4th in solo tackles (706), 11th in forced fumbles (9), and 1st in defensive touchdowns (4). If he adds another sack to his total (16.5), Smith will tie Anthony Barr for 30th in team history and his 43 TFLs put him in the 11th spot.

The 2023 season begins on September 10th when Tampa travels to Minnesota. From Week 1 onward, Smith will get the chance to prove if he’s still among the league’s top safeties. Buckle up.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.

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