There may not be a deeper, more talented position group in the NFL than their dedicated pass rushers. What makes that such an insane thought is the physical profile necessary to be elite in attacking the passer. Every player mentioned is among the world’s genetic outliers. The best EDGEs in the NFL are athletic freaks and among the best technicians in the game. But only one can be considered the best.
Who’s the Best EDGE in the NFL?
It’s important to note that the “best” is not necessarily the player with the best statistical output in 2022. Talent, longevity, dependability, and stats are all weighed against one another to create the list. And one player continues to rise above the rest.
Myles Garrett is the best EDGE in the NFL. He’s the entire package. Over the past three seasons, no pass rusher has been more consistent than him. He’s placed inside the top seven in pressures in each of the past three seasons and is tied with T.J. Watt for the most sacks in that time.
When competing against the 1% of the 1%, you have to be able to stand out in some way. Garrett does that with the impressive nature of his pass-rushing productivity and his outrageous athleticism for his size. In no world should 270 pounds move like that.
His technical and athletic excellence sets him apart from the rest, and he’s the only defender on the Browns’ front line that consistently defends the run at a high level. He’s currently tied for third in sacks this season, first in overall win rate, and first in win rate on straight dropbacks.
He’s an alien.
Rest of Top 10 EDGEs Ranked
The next three rushers are a pick-you-poison affair. Garrett does not sit on a tier of his own, either. He shares it with each player in the top four.
2) Cowboys LB Micah Parsons
By looking at individual defensive statistics, it’s puzzling to see that Micah Parsons is such a heavy favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year over Nick Bosa. Bosa has out-produced Parsons as a pass rusher this season. And while Parsons gets points for his outrageous versatility, he’s played over 75% of his snaps on the defensive line.
There is no longer a debate about where to rank Parsons. He’s an EDGE who can play off-ball linebacker.
But Parsons is arguably the most valuable and terrifying defender in the land. Of the top four defenders on this list, Parsons’ on/off splits are the starkest of the group. Teams have a passing EPA of 0.25 with Parsons off the field. When he’s on the field, their -0.18 EPA makes for a -0.43 difference. Watt’s -0.29 difference is the second-largest but is dwarfed by the difference Parsons makes.
There isn’t a more explosive defender in the NFL — the violent quickness he moves with at 245 pounds has never been seen before. While he’s already rounding into a technically-refined rusher, he’s still very much learning the position in his second season after playing linebacker at Penn State for three seasons.
3) Steelers OLB T.J. Watt
Watt was on an absolute tear over the past few seasons rushing the passer. He has a cult-like following among Steelers fans, only topped by Tuanon. Despite being handsomely compensated and well-established, he still plays like he has everything to prove on every snap. And even though Nick Bosa is a more talented pass rusher, has been healthy this season where Watt has not, and could be the DPOY, Watt remains in the top three.
Even when on the field, Watt has not been the same player we’re used to seeing. Pass rushing is a work of art, and Watt is a conceptual artist. His style is not as aesthetically pleasing as the others in the top six, but his production has always stood on its own. But he hasn’t been healthy this season, and while it’s clearly affected his personal impact, the defense is better around him when he’s on the field.
Hopefully, all of the top pass rushers remain healthy in 2023, so we can relitigate this argument with an entirely healthy group.
4) 49ers DE Nick Bosa
If one wants to know how ridiculously stacked this position group is, look no further than Bosa, a pass rusher worthy of winning the DPOY award, ranking fourth. Every single one of these men should rank inside the top 10 of NFL player rankings that don’t weigh positional value. They’re all unbelievable.
Bosa finished the year with the most sacks and pressures in the NFL. The 49ers defensive end had the second-highest pressure rate overall and the fourth-highest in true passing sets. He’s explosive, powerful, and technically sound as a pass rusher and is one of the stronger run defenders at the position as well.
There is an argument for any of the top four rushers on this list to be in any order depending on the personal preferences of whoever is making the list. While Bosa and Parsons both play on tremendous defenses, Bosa’s off-field difference is the least among the top four, meaning his surrounding environment is the best of the bunch.
5) Raiders DE Maxx Crosby
There are few things more terrifying than a third-and-long situation with Maxx Crosby coming off the edge. The Raiders’ defensive end is arguably the most slippery of the top rushers, using outstanding burst and bend in combination with an innate ability to get skinny up the arc.
Crosby is also the only player inside the top 10 drafted outside of the top three rounds, which is a credit to his personal development. Nobody produced more pressures than Crosby did in 2021, and he finished third in 2022 with 81 pressures. His sack numbers have also risen this season, and he’s continuously improved as a run defender throughout his time in Las Vegas.
The only thing keeping him from truly competing for a spot among the elite tier is opportunity. He’s had way more of it in 2022, and while his overall productivity is at the top, his efficiency is not as high because he dwarfs most others in snaps.
6) Chargers DE Joey Bosa
If we based the list purely on talent, it would be hard to keep Joey Bosa out of the top four. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen him get the same opportunities as other rushers, including his brother. The older Bosa has struggled at times with injuries, and up until this season, he hadn’t had consistent help on the defensive side of the ball with him.
And then he got hurt again.
Bosa was a professional pass rusher before he took an NFL snap. He’s a true technician, and he’s an even greater threat as a pure outside rusher than his brother. Unfortunately, the Chargers’ defenses haven’t let him soar in the same way San Francisco has for his brother.
7) Patriots OLB Matt Judon
Matthew Judon has made a huge leap in the rankings this season. The Patriots’ pass rusher came in 15th in the preseason rankings but currently sits tied for first in sacks and is tied for sixth in pressures. He says he’s not even the best pass rusher on his team, but until Josh Uche plays more over time, we won’t know that for sure.
He might be the most interesting name in the top 10. The former Baltimore Raven was a fifth-round pick, having played at Division II Grand Valley State. And since Baltimore moved on, his game has gone to another level since turning 30.
Judon isn’t hard to find. The Patriots EDGE wears bright red long sleeves underneath his uniform, but seeing him doesn’t help pass protectors block him. Judon is compact and strong, bringing violent hands to pass rushing. Paired with outstanding arm length, he dissects blocks at a high rate.
8) Panthers DE Brian Burns
Garrett’s bend at his size is outrageous. Crosby is slippery on the edge, and Parsons is as explosive as any defensive player in the league. But Brian Burns can bend underneath the smallest table in the league, and it makes him a menace to offensive tackles.
Burns is more one-dimensional than anyone else in the top 10, but he’s one-dimensional in the same way Robert Quinn has been throughout his career. That is, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Burns isn’t a great run defender, and there isn’t much of a power element to his game. But he’s made of rubber, and quarterbacks have to fear their blindside every time they drop back because of his ability up the arc.
9) Eagles OLB Haason Reddick
Howie Roseman is the only answer for who should win Executive of the Year for 2022. The roster he’s built through a combination of the draft and free agency is outrageous. And while A.J. Brown was their biggest offseason move, Haason Reddick was their most significant signing.
Reddick began his NFL career as an off-ball linebacker — because Cardinals — but quickly became one of the most feared rushers in the league at the position he played in college. Reddick could be seen as some of the inspiration for Parsons. While Parsons has more violence in his 245-pound frame, they win by utilizing outstanding lateral quickness and explosiveness along with their technical pass-rush prowess.
Reddick produced the second-most sacks in the NFL this season with 16. However, he was one of an astonishing four Eagles defenders to post at least 10 sacks. Fletcher Cox also added seven of his own. Reddick is a great talent surrounded by some of the best talent in the game.
10) Vikings DE Za’Darius Smith
Until the ned of the season, arguably nobody was having the rushing impact that Za’Darius Smith had. He finished fourth in total pressures (78) and win rate. Smith has been an impressive pass rusher for quite some time now, but health has always escaped him.
Smith isn’t the same kind of freak athlete the rushers in Tier 1 are, but that hasn’t kept him from producing when healthy. He’s a technician who threatens blockers in all three ways. His ability to win up the arc comes from his ability to win going through and inside offensive tackles. He’s a technical savant, and paired with his never-ending energy, he continuously makes life hard for opposing QBs.
EDGE Rankings | 11-25
Lists are always a double-edged sword. They let you acknowledge and appreciate the best in the game, but there are always plenty of names left off the list that are outrageous talents in their own right.
11) Von Miller, OLB, Buffalo Bills
12) Rashan Gary, OLB, Green Bay Packers
13) Denico Autry, DE, Tennessee Titans
14) Khalil Mack, DE, Los Angeles Chargers
15) Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings
16) John Franklin-Myers, DE, New York Jets
17) Sam Hubbard, DE, Cincinnati Bengals
18) Shaq Barrett, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
19) Trey Hendrickson, DE, Cincinnati Bengals
20) Jaelan Phillips, OLB, Miami Dolphins
21) Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Dallas Cowboys
22) Montez Sweat, DE, Washington Commanders
23) Josh Allen, OLB, Jacksonville Jaguars
24) Brandon Graham, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
25) Alex Highsmith, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
26) Cameron Jordan, DE, New Orleans Saints
27) Gregory Rousseau, DE, Buffalo Bills
28) Kwity Paye, DE, Indianapolis Colts
29) Josh Sweat, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
30) Bradley Chubb, DE, Miami Dolphins
31) Josh Uche, OLB, New England Patriots
32) Carl Lawson, DE, New York Jets