No non-quarterback position is more talented or valuable than the NFL edge rusher. Random is rabid, and it comes out most when discussing quarterbacks and pass rushers. No position group produces the type of athletic phenoms as the pass-rush group. They come in all shapes and sizes, but each is an exceptional athlete in their own right.
Notably, 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.
Who’s the Best EDGE in the NFL?
Fans of their respective teams will probably tell you there is a wrong answer, or three incorrect answers, to this question. Nick Bosa, Myles Garrett, Micah Parsons, and T.J. Watt could all be considered by someone as the best pass rusher in the NFL, and I wouldn’t bat an eye. Each has their argument, but in the end, it all comes down to preference.
Myles Garrett is the best EDGE in the NFL. Over the past three seasons, no player has accumulated more sacks than Garrett. If we go back four seasons, only the younger Watt has more. And while sacks are undoubtedly influential when discussing the productivity of a pass rusher, it’s only a single variable in the discussion.
At 270 pounds, nobody should move the way that Garrett does. Nobody can hit a ghost move like Von Miller, and nobody has more natural flexibility than Brian Burns. Still, at 270, Garrett looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa bending underneath the outstretched hand of opposing offensive tackles.
Nobody rushes the passer more impressively than Garrett, but he’s not just a flashy pass rusher. Garrett is also an outstanding run defender. His 39 stops ranked sixth in the NFL among EDGEs, an accomplishment on a defense where he was the main subject on the defensive front.
EDGE Rankings 2-11
In any given season, any of the following six pass rushers could be flipped whichever way. There are multiple unique skill sets among them and an abundance of talent and productivity to boot.
2) Micah Parsons, LB, Cowboys
There’s no longer a debate about where to rank Parsons. He’s an EDGE who can play off-ball linebacker.
If there were an award for defensive MVP, Parsons would win. The DPOY is rewarded to the most productive player on that side of the ball, much like OPOY and MVP are often different players. Parsons’ -0.43 EPA difference when on vs. off the field is by far the most significant difference among the top four players on the list.
Garrett, Watt, and Bosa may all be more technically refined pass rushers, but the NFL is a league where explosiveness and speed kill, and nobody is more terrifying in that regard. Despite his compact frame, Parsons maximizes his anatomical length well and plays with outstanding control despite the astounding violence he plays with.
And if Parsons finds himself chasing someone in the open field, it’s over for the opposing player. He doesn’t just delete pursuit angles; he erases them. They never existed. He’s the best defensive player in the NFL, but that title is earned due to his overall versatility and not simply his ability on the edge.
But the scary part of Parson’s game is he didn’t really rush the passer at Penn State, and his repertoire is still growing.
3) T.J. Watt, OLB, Steelers
Watt is the grinder of the group. Not everything he does is as aesthetically pleasing as the other top players, but his production is unquestionable. Watt has quietly crafted his game to be incredibly well-rounded. Early on, he was a flashy but sometimes inconsistent run defender. Now, he’s on of the best run-stoppers in the league on the edge.
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, Watt 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 is the DPOY, Watt remains in the top three.
Watt was not the same pass rusher we’re used to seeing last season. Pass rushing is a work of art, and Watt is a conceptual artist. 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. Only Parsons was more valuable to his defense.
4) Nick Bosa, DE, 49ers
If one wants to know how ridiculously stacked this position group is, look no further than Bosa, a pass rusher who won DPOY, 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 NFL sacks and tied for most pressures. Few draft evaluations were as simple as Bosa. He left Ohio State as nearly the same player his brother was, and Joey had already been a huge NFL success.
MORE: Nick Bosa Named DPOY for the 2022-2023 Season
But Nick was the slightly better athlete, and their individual games have enough differences to make them their own players. Nick is the more powerful player, and that power shows up in spades as a run defender. He uses his length incredibly well while setting the edge, and he’s also a playmaker in the backfield. Bosa’s 39 stops ranked sixth in the NFL, right in line with Garrett.
5) Haason Reddick, OLB, Eagles
In a game where speed and explosiveness reign supreme, Haason Reddick’s skill set is second only to Parsons. The most significant difference between the two is their ability to defend the run. While Reddick is more powerful than he’s often given credit for, that power shines more as a pass rusher than as a run defender.
Reddick’s 16 sacks were tied for second in the NFL, and his 68 pressures were good for ninth best. While we’ve seen outstanding pass-rush productivity from Reddick over the past three seasons, playing on an Eagles defensive front filled with all stars certainly helped keep him free more often than not.
Reddick began his NFL life as an off-ball linebacker because… well… while Maryland does crabcakes and football, the Cardinals play hybrid players out of position. They played him on the edge only after a Chandler Jones injury, and to the surprise of nobody that watched him in college, he was outstanding.
So Arizona shipped him off to Carolina, where he had further success rushing the passer before Howie Roseman decided Reddick was going to live in Philadelphia during the fall and winter for the foreseeable future.
6) Maxx Crosby, DE, Raiders
Maxx Crosby is arguably the most terrifying NFL pass rusher at attacking the arc. It’s not easy to consistently win on the outside shoulder of offensive tackles, but Crosby has figured out a way. 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.
Among the top-11 rushers, Crosby is one of only two drafted outside of the top three rounds in the NFL draft. 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.
Few rushers are more fun to watch. Crosby is a crafty technician who continues to find new ways to win on the outside. It’s impossible for him to have the same sort of efficiency as a rusher that others have, but his play should be commended.
No NBA player averages 40 minutes per game anymore. If Crosby hooped, he’d play 44 of the 48 minutes in an NBA game. He played 129 more snaps than the next-closest edge defender.
It’s outrageous that he was able to so effectively grow as a run defender while playing that many snaps. That is a testament to his conditioning and pure desire to remain on the field.
7) Joey Bosa, DE, Chargers
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.
MORE: Chargers Could Look To Add Some Defensive Help in 2023 Free Agency
Bosa could only manage five games played in 2022, forcing us to wait yet another season for him to truly be unlocked alongside some actual talent on the Chargers’ defensive front.
Before taking an NFL snap, Bosa was a professional pass rusher. He’s a true technician and an even greater threat as a pure outside rusher than his brother. But Joey’s also a true all-around giant, defending against the run with outstanding power and gap responsibility.
8) Matthew Judon, OLB, Patriots
Matthew Judon is easy to find. The Patriots’ outside linebacker 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.
That’s what makes him special. While most on the list possess outrageous explosiveness, Judon’s greatest weapons are his arms and hands. On the season, Judon finished with 69 pressures and ranked fourth among edge rushers with 15.5 sacks.
The former Baltimore Raven began life as a fifth-round pick, flashing during his second season, and becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber player by 2019. But his game has gone to the next level since joining New England, accumulating the third-most sacks in the NFL over the past two seasons.
9) Brian Burns, DE, Panthers
If you build a pass rusher in a lab, they’d look like Garrett. But if you wanted to be a bit more realistic and less alien in your creation, they’d come out looking like Brian Burns.
Nobody bends like Burns. He can duck underneath the smallest table in an IKEA, and it makes him a menace to offensive tackles.
The easiest way to think about Burns is to think about Robert Quinn. Burns is a more consistent pass rusher in terms of generating pressure because he has a more well-rounded skill set than simply having speed and bend. But nobody in their right mind would claim he’s a good run defender.
10) Za’Darius Smith, DE, Vikings
There’s no better indication of how insanely talented the league’s pass rushers are than seeing names like Za’Darius Smith barely sneaking inside the top 10, and Von Miller ranking 11th.
When you aren’t an explosive freak, you have to be able to win outside, through, and inside of offensive tackles. Smith does all three with outstanding consistency, producing outstanding power from his 270-pound frame. The only thing that has kept him from producing alongside the top of the list was an unfortunate injury in Week 1 of the 2021 season.
11) Von Miller, OLB, Bills
There is no more satisfying pass-rush move to watch than Miller’s ghost move. Unfortunately, after having an outstanding season, the veteran EDGE was lost for the remainder of it following Week 12. Buffalo was keeping him somewhat fresh because the team had the depth to allow for that, but an ACL tear ended his impressive year early.
Miller has always been special. Despite his reputation as one of the best pass rushers in the game over the last decade, everybody is aware that he’s also been one of the league’s best run defenders over that same time period.
Miller’s as well-rounded as we’ve seen from an EDGE with his size, and he’ll be a welcome sight whenever he’s back on the field in Buffalo in 2023.
Top EDGEs Remaining
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 that are outrageous talents in their own right.
12) Rashan Gary, OLB, Green Bay Packers
Rashan Gary needed a ton of seasoning before he was ready to cook at the NFL level. He was about as raw as a pass rusher could be coming out of Michigan. However, the 6-foot-4, 277-pounder posted one of the best NFL Combine performances of all time.
His 9.95 Relative Athletic Score meant he was an all-around weapon. The fact that he possesses arms over 34 inches made him an unbelievable blank slate.
And if the modern game is proving anything, it is that personal position coaches are getting better and better at taking raw athletic freaks and molding them into all-around weapons. It is no more evident than as edge defenders. Gary was on a roll before tearing his ACL in Week 9, and he should be able to get back into a groove sooner rather than later in 2023.
13) Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings
Danielle Hunter quietly got right back on track in 2022 after playing only seven games the previous season. Hunter may have been the original raw EDGE prospect who quickly was molded into a professional pass rusher. He was young when he entered the NFL, and by his age-22 season produced 12.5 sacks.
It took him a few weeks to get back into the swing of things in 2023. But once Week 6 rolled around and he got to play against an underwhelming Dolphins OL, it was game on. Hunter and Eric Kendricks have been the team’s two building blocks defensively throughout the years as they’ve struggled to put together secondaries. If they get that part right, Hunter could have a monster season.
14) Khalil Mack, DE, Los Angeles Chargers
Khalil Mack might be 32, but he still has a lot left in the tank. We’re still waiting for Mack and the older Bosa to play a big chunk of a season together on the field. Mack spent much of 2021 injured, and Bosa spent almost all of 2022 injured.
Mack is an outrageous technician and gifted athlete who has long been one of the best overall edge rushers in the NFL. He is a stout run defender with incredible pass-rushing chops.
15) Trey Hendrickson, DE, Cincinnati Bengals
It took a while for me to buy the Trey Hendrickson stock. How could somebody with negative aesthetics on the field be such a smooth operator on the edge? If the old adage of “look good, feel good, play good” is, in fact, true, we might be looking at the best pass rusher in the entire league if he’d only dress for the occasion!
He flashed in a part-time pass-rushing role in New Orleans, but he exploded once he was inserted as a full-time starter in Cincinnati. He possesses outstanding hands and a clear pass-rush plan on the edge. Hendrickson wins through and outside the arc.
16) Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Dallas Cowboys
Like with interior defenders, it’s difficult to crack the top 10 as a run-defending savant if the pass-rushing production doesn’t add all that much to the equation. Demarcus Lawrence has long drawn the ire of Cowboys fans because his sack production has been lackluster since 2019.
However, he is one of the best run defenders in the league, regardless of position. He is a stout edge-setter and an absolute menace in the backfield, using his strong, accurate hands to dissect blocks. His 44 defensive stops were second in the league, showing precisely how productive he is as a difference-maker.
17) Sam Hubbard, DE, Cincinnati Bengals
Not unlike Lawrence, Sam Hubbard is one of the most underrated defensive ends in the league. Like Lawrence, Hubbard is a difference-making run defender, and in 2021 and 2022 his productivity as a pass rusher has reached new heights.
Hubbard has spent his entire college and NFL career playing second fiddle as a defensive end. First, behind Joey Bosa, and as a professional, behind a few different high-profile rushers. But the Ohio kid has also spent his entire career simply being a good football player.
18) Shaq Barrett, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Few pass rushers were more consistent than Shaq Barrett from 2019-2021. Only the younger Watt, Aaron Donald, and Garrett sacked opposing quarterbacks more over that time frame than Barrett. But during that time, he also ranked inside the top five each season in pressures, which is a great indicator of future sack production.
But Barrett is also a crafty run defender, particularly for his size. He’s also dropped back into coverage over 500 times throughout his career, and he’s been sufficient in coverage over that time.
19) Denico Autry, DE, Tennessee Titans
With Harold Landry sidelined for the entire season, it was firmly the Denico Autry and Jeffery Simmons show in Tennessee. Autry was already coming off a season where he showed exactly how dangerous he could be, and he once again hit the ground running on an injury-deleted Titans defense.
The sub-300-pound pass rusher has flourished since turning 30, which is coincidentally when he actually became an edge defender instead of an undersized B-gap defender. He’s been nearly doubling his rush production since shifting outside, playing with violent and accurate hands and surprising explosiveness for a player his size.
20) Jaelan Phillips, OLB, Miami Dolphins
Jaeland Phillips was my favorite pass rusher from the 2021 NFL Draft class, and he’s proving me right early in his career. He finished the season with 70 pressures, tied for sixth among all edge defenders. But what is most impressive about Phillips is the versatility he brings as an outside linebacker.
He is already a good edge-setter, and in 2022 he dropped into coverage nearly 100 times. He is long and physical for his size, and he is already a technically-refined rusher with outstanding hands and a good rush plan.
The only thing keeping him from being higher on the list is those other players have established themselves over years of play at the NFL level. If Phillips has a similar season or continues to ascend, he could round into one of the best outside linebackers in the game.
21) John Franklin-Myers, DE, New York Jets
As one could expect, having a 280-plus-pound defensive end can be a massive advantage if they’re athletic enough to be a danger to offensive tackles around the arc. John Franklin-Meyers has been one of the more underrated defensive players in the NFL since 2020.
The Jets pass rusher might be the poster child for having the “run through your face” gene. He combines outstanding power with his length to long arm blockers into the quarterback’s lap. However, he also possesses one of the most devastating hump moves in the game, and he can be a menace against the run and pass.
22) Montez Sweat, DE, Washington Commanders
Speaking of raw edge rushers with freaky athleticism turning into good football players, look no further than Montez Sweat. Nobody at the position has ever run faster than Sweat did in the 40-yard dash. His 4.41 doesn’t even make sense at 260 pounds. It shouldn’t be possible.
The Commanders pass rusher is a bit stiff, but that really doesn’t matter all that much when you’re endlessly explosive with nearly 36-inch arms. Between him and Chase Young, there is no questioning who has been the better pass rusher between them.
23) Cameron Jordan, DE, New Orleans Saints
This ranking is easily the most painful among the top 32 because it very well might mark the end of an era. As his mid-30s approach, Cameron Jordan was not the same pass rusher that we’ve become accustomed to seeing. He also missed the second game of his NFL career, which means it’s probably all downhill from here.
MORE: Edge Rusher Free Agency Rankings 2023
No. I refuse to believe that we won’t get a bounceback year from Jordan in 2023. He still plays with outstanding power on the edge, and his ability to defend the run is very much alive and well. Jordan didn’t win as often as we’re used to seeing, but the entire front line in New Orleans struggled at times in 2022.
With Mickey Loomis kicking the salary cap can down the street yet again to try and compete in 2023, I expect Jordan and the rest of the Saints’ aging defense to catch a second wind and compete for the NFC South title.
24) Josh Allen, OLB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Although Josh Allen is still learning the finer points of being a professional pass rusher, his length and athleticism allowed him to blossom early on. He converts speed to power at an outstanding rate, and although his sack production hasn’t been the same since his rookie season, he’s become a better pass rusher.
But the best thing about Allen has to be the strides he’s made as a run defender. He fills out his 260-pound frame well, and he should continue to improve as the situation around him improves as he matures as a player.
25) Brandon Graham, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
Brandon Graham is practically an AARP member at this point, and it doesn’t seem to matter in the slightest. He dipped into the double-digit sack range at 34, playing under 300 pass-rush snaps in total. The veteran defensive end was able to take advantage of the battered and bruised offensive tackles opposite of him, who’d been fighting Josh Sweat and Haason Reddick previously.
With Graham fresh, he was able to show that he’s just as good today as he was before his injury. He’s been consistently productive for the better part of a decade now, and it will be interesting to see how much longer the veteran plays for.
26) Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Detroit Lions
The 2022 NFL Draft’s second-overall pick is going to be a very solid player for a really long time. To make this list as a rookie is incredibly impressive, given how many talented edge defenders are in the league.
Although Hutchinson’s sack production came in spurts, he was a consistent pressure threat throughout the entire campaign. Additionally, he proved to be a stout and intelligent run defender, and he produced hilarious and unsustainable production in coverage, with three interceptions as a rookie.
27) Alex Highsmith, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Playing as many snaps as Alex Highsmith does is a double-edged sword. On one end, he’s able to accumulate a ton of production simply because he gets more opportunities than most of his peers. In 2022 only Crosby, Hutchinson, and Burns played more snaps than Highsmith.
The downside is that his efficiency takes a hit because it’s incredibly hard to be consistently effective as a pass rusher when you’re gassed. Although Highsmith is a good player, nobody would consider him a dominant pass rusher, even if he is trending in that direction.
28) Josh Sweat, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles’ pass rush was the best in the NFL in 2022, and Josh Sweat certainly did his part. The 25-year-old came into his own this season, posting career-high marks in pressures and sacks. Sweat was a favorite of many a draftnik back in the day because his flexibility and hands are stupendous.
At just 25, he has a long future terrorizing opposing offensive tackles in the NFC East. And the league deserves it because Sweat was one of the best prospects in his draft class, who tested out of this world but fell because of a knee injury during his senior year of high school.
29) Kwity Paye, DE, Indianapolis Colts
Kwity Paye still has a way to go as a pass rusher at the NFL level, but when healthy, he’s already providing a ton of value against the run. That should come as no surprise because the Michigan EDGE is built like a refrigerator at 6-foot-2, 260 pounds.
Imagine a refrigerator with arms extending into your chest on the edge of the offensive formation. That’s exactly how Paye sets the edge. And he pairs an impressive frame with outstanding explosiveness, which allows him to stun blockers as a run defender with consistency.
30) Gregory Rousseau, DE, Buffalo Bills
Like Paye, Gregory Rousseau has a long way to go as a pass rusher. However, the second-year player flashed in his 300 rushing snaps. His length is unfair, and he uses it well to defend the run and pass.
He immediately showed he was a better player as a pro than he was as a college prospect. He used his length and strength far better, even as a rookie, than he did while playing for Miami.
31) Bradley Chubb, DE, Miami Dolphins
When you build a defensive end in a lab, they probably come out looking like Bradley Chubb. He plays with incredible power from his 275-pound frame, but health has been a consistent issue for him since entering the league.
Being reunited with Vic Fangio is a massive win for the Miami Dolphins, but specifically for Chubb, who produced at a high level with Fangio in 2020.
32) Josh Uche, OLB, New England Patriots
Arguably no pass rusher was more productive in 2022 than Josh Uche. When Judon is out there claiming Uche is the best pass rusher on the team, you know he must have some freaky ability. Ultimately, he just needs to do it more.
It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Uche ended up having the type of on-field impact of Reddick, who has been an unbelievable weapon on the edge for years now. The precedent has been set for players of Uche’s ilk. If he can get 600 snaps in a season, he could skyrocket on lists exactly like this one.