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AFC East's best: No. 15 Jairus Byrd

By Tim Graham

ByrdMugA countdown of my top 25 AFC East players continues, one weekday at a time ...

The choice

Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd is the AFC East's best all-around safety. He made his initial mark as a ball hawk but has evolved into a fine tackler and run defender, too.

As a rookie in 2009 -- even though he didn't start right away, played hurt and missed the final two games because he opted to have groin surgery -- Byrd made the Pro Bowl and tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions.

Byrd has had only four interceptions since, but his overall play has blossomed. rated Byrd the NFL's third-best safety, whether free or strong, behind Tory Polamalu and Adrian Wilson. PFF's data showed quarterbacks had a 54.9 passer rating when throwing into Byrd's coverage last season and that he allowed only 41 yards after catches.

Byrd ranked third on the Bills with a career-high 98 tackles, according to the coaching staff's game-film review. He recorded a sack, five tackles for losses, three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), eight passes defensed, a team-high three forced fumbles and one recovery.

Fast fact

Byrd was the only Bill to notch at least one sack, interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery last year.

How acquired

Selected in the second round (42nd overall) of the 2009 draft.

Hint about No. 14

He's the player on this list you probably know the least about.

Picks to date

15. Jairus Byrd, Bills safety
16. Brandon Lloyd, Patriots receiver
17. Stevie Johnson, Bills receiver
18. Reggie Bush, Dolphins running back
19. Jerod Mayo, Patriots inside linebacker
20. Randy Starks, Dolphins defensive lineman
21. Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots right tackle
22. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots tight end
23. Marcell Dareus, Bills defensive tackle
24. Antonio Cromartie, Jets cornerback
25. Eric Wood, Bills center

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |