When George Paton called Justin Simmons earlier this offseason after the two came to an agreement on a new long-term contract, the Broncos' general manager made quite clear what he thought of the 2019 All-Pro and 2020 Pro Bowl safety.
"You're the best safety in the league," Paton told him.
Paton's not the only one in the football world to see it that way, either.
In a ranking of the top 32 safeties ahead of the 2021 season, Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson placed no one above the Broncos' young star.
"Maintaining high-level play in the secondary over time is an extremely difficult task, yet Simmons has had back-to-back excellent years for the Broncos," Monson wrote. "Over the last two seasons, Simmons has the No. 1 overall PFF grade at the position and is the only safety who has put up a 90.0-plus grade over that time."
Doug Farrar, of USA TODAY's Touchdownwire site, also has Simmons atop his ranking of the top safeties.
"He's great at everything from blowing up run fits to bring pressure on the blitz to deep coverage," Farrar wrote, "and though he was prone to the occasional red zone touchdown allowed in 2020, everything else was top-notch."
Simmons isn't the only Bronco to make PFF's top 32. Kareem Jackson, entering his 12th NFL season, came in at No. 17.
"A former cornerback, Jackson has transitioned to safety and enjoyed a second career once he moved past the age of 30," Monson wrote. "Jackson has earned three of the best five overall PFF grades of his career since turning 30 and is coming off back-to-back years with a mark north of 80.0 overall."
With those two in the defensive backfield for the Broncos, a refreshed cornerback corps and a healthy front seven, Denver's defense should be in the conversation as one of the league's best in 2021.
Below the Fold
The Broncos' edge rushers also placed two players in PFF's top-32 ranking at that position. Von Miller, in spite of suffering a season-ending injury in 2020, is Denver's top-ranked player here at No. 11 overall. "Miller's resume speaks for itself," Ben Linsey wrote. "No edge defender graded higher than Miller (94.6) or recorded more pressures than Miller (640) from 2011 through 2019."