With more Top 10 lists coming out, Rone again suggested I weigh in on the EDGE defender pool of players. So here is my list:
My Top 10 EDGE Defenders in the NFL for 2020
1) Khalil Mack – He had a bit of a down year in 2019 as far as numbers, but he's still worth every bit of the investment made in him via draft capital and salary. He’s a game changer that can rush with both speed and power and commands attention wherever he’s lined up. I have full confidence he’ll continue to wreak havoc in 2020.
2) Chandler Jones – After being shipped off from the Pats, he’s gotten lost in the desert, but he’s averaging 15.0 sacks per year since he suited up with the Cardinals. He’s also played all 64 games in his four years in Arizona and coming off a career year with 19.0 sacks which was best for second in the league and tied for the league lead with 8.0 forced fumbles. He's a crafty and very powerful guy with a full arsenal of moves, but this may be my favorite:
3) Joey Bosa – Not an elite level athlete, but is a top level technician with a ton of pass rush moves and counters. Can win with both speed and power and changes the game. Joey gets the slight nod over Nick just from having more production as both continue to ascend. And people forget, if it wasn't for Joey Bosa, maybe Nathan Peterman isn't a walking punchline:
4) Nick Bosa – Joey and Nick are so similar, but Nick is about 15 lbs. lighter. Both have had some injury issues in the past, but both also burst onto the scene as rookies and cause a ton of disruption. There was a point where Nick was arguably the favorite for Defensive Player of the Year last year. Slowed down in the second half of the year with only 2.0 sacks in the final nine games, but turned it on when the lights got the brightest with 4.0 sacks in the playoffs.
5) T.J. Watt – This guy is all gas no brakes (shoutout Barstool Chicago). While he’s only 252 lbs. he’s got a great arm length and hand size to be able to get into Offensive Tackles chest. He’s doesn’t just rush the passer either as he is a good run defender and had an insane 8 pass breakups in coverage last season!
6) Cam Jordan – this guys doesn’t get enough respect. He’s a big 6’4” 287 lbs. traditional 4-3 DE and does everything so well. He’s coming off a career year with 15.5 sacks and had 15+ TFLs in each of the last five seasons. This could realistically be too low for him. He can win with power or get the edge with speed. And if he gets in the backfield, I would not want to be the one responsible for chipping him:
7) Myles Garrett – he only played 10 games last year after that assault on Mason Rudolph, but he put up 10.0 sacks in those games. He’s a monster at 6’4” 272 lbs. and you forget he’s only been in the league three seasons.
8) Von Miller – He’s been in the league nine years and been to the Pro Bowl eight times. The only time he didn’t make it was the year he tore his ACL. He’s 31 and just saw his numbers drop a bit, but he’s still a force on the outside and boasts arguably the best get-off in the league. After a slow start to 2019, he finished with 5.5 sacks over the final eight games.
9) Shaq Barrett – the reigning league leader in sacks with 19.5 has signed his franchise tender. He only has one real year of major production, but you can’t deny he knocked it out of the park. In addition to the sacks, he had 19 TFLs (only one behind Aaron Donald for the league lead) and did lead the league in QB hits with 37. He’s not a big guy at 6’2” 250 lbs. but does a nice job creating natural leverage and using his signature dip & rip move to get to the Quarterback. When he gets there he makes plays too as evidenced by his 6 forced fumbles.
10) Danielle Hunter – hard to deny a guy who put up back-to-back 14.5 sack seasons. He also finished strong with 8.5 sacks in his final six full games he played (including playoffs). He’s a tall gangly rusher with 34 ¼” arms that he can use to control Offensive Tackles from afar.
Outside Looking In:
Za’Darius Smith – he’s probably the biggest snub from the list after posting 15.5 sacks in his first year in Green Bay (including playoffs). He's not only a threat to capture the QB, but he was a solid anchor in the run game as well. And he lines up everywhere! Check out his numbers and tape from across the line:
Frank Clark – Wanted to be paid like a top rusher and took a little while to acclimate to Kansas City after being dealt from Seattle, but came on strong to finish the year and had an additional 5.0 sacks in the post-season en route to a Championship.
DeMarcus Lawrence – hard to let a guy in the top 10 that had 5.0 sacks the year before. He got paid last year with a 5-year $105M deal, but Jerry Jones & co. certainly were hoping for more last season. He plays with speed and power. Check out him completely truck this Offensive Tackle:
Matt Judon – wouldn’t be surprised if he was on this list next season. He just keeps getting better and he’s in a contract year again after being franchised.
Yannick Ngakoue - he's a little more specialized. Mainly a pass rusher, not as effective against the run. But will typically line up in a wide 9 stance giving him more room to operate and he really takes advantage of Offensive Tackles in space:
Jadeveon Clowney – same rule for Lawrence, but he only had 3.0 sacks. He’s never had double digits sacks in his career and while I get sacks aren’t everything, but 3.0 last year?! Yes, he missed a three games, and is top 20 in QB hurries, but that doesn’t mean he’s a top 10 edge rusher.