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

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The Arizona Cardinals have among the best safeties within the NFL in Budda Baker, making a Pro Bowl in 4 of his first five seasons.

ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler surveyed greater than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to stack the highest 10 safeties within 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 fame as a missile from the defensive backfield, able to strike on running backs and receivers with fearless hits. His 98 tackles in 2021 tied for twelfth amongst all defensive backs. But he has evolved into all-around player, holding opposing quarterbacks to a 61.3 passer rating when he’s the closest 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 quite a bit. The knock on him was he was a one-trick pony and more of a hitter, but he’s change into more complete every year.”

Baker is explosive within 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 because the only other NFC West players in the highest 10.

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

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