Defining positions in the front seven of NFL defenses isn’t as easy as it used to be. In this list of the top 25 edge rushers in the NFL, we are looking at players who usually line up on the outside shoulder of offensive tackles for these rankings. These are traditional 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers.
With as much as nickel and dime defenses that are being played in the league now, more often than not, these types of players align on the outside in a four-man front. Still, it also isn’t uncommon to see such disruptors align inside and attack slower guards or even centers with their huge athletic advantage.
The edge rusher position is just loaded right now with premier talent, and while rookies are not included in the rankings, it wouldn’t be surprising if Chase Young were to compete for the top overall spot one year from now. What is remarkable is the list of great players that just fell short of the top 25. Leaving players such as Arik Armstead, Trey Flowers, Brandon Graham, Justin Houston, Matthew Judon, Ryan Kerrigan, and rookies from a year ago, Josh Allen and Bryan Burns were challenging to do.
With all of that out of the way, here are my top 25 edge rushers in the NFL.
Top 25 edge rushers in the NFL for the 2020 season
25. Dee Ford, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers outstanding pass rush was noticeably better when Ford was available. He is somewhat of a finesse player on the edge but gets off the ball well and shows great flexibility. Ford narrowly edged out some excellent players for this spot.
24. Bradley Chubb, Denver Broncos
As early draft picks go at this position, Chubb doesn’t leap out as a premier athlete. And he is coming off an injury, which doesn’t help his stock in these edge rusher ranks that are incredibly competitive. Still, Chubb has already proven to be a high impact player, and he should get back to that right away. Remember, he did have 13 sacks as a rookie.
23. Everson Griffin, Unsigned
Besides Calais Campbell, Griffin is the oldest player on this list, which is somewhat worrisome when considering how his offseason has gone. But this is a refined pass-rusher with a nasty spin move and a great feel for when to dip inside after setting up his opponent in previous snaps. With their poor pass-rush, the Seattle Seahawks should get Griffin locked up as soon as possible.
22. Carlos Dunlap, Cincinnati Bengals
Playing in Cincinnati hasn’t been the best way to get the recognition a player such as Dunlap deserves. But he has been a well above average starting edge defender now for some time. Like everyone listed, Dunlap greatly affects the passing game, but running his direction is a difficult chore for any offense. Dunlap did his best work down the stretch for Cincinnati even though the Bengals were a bottom-feeding team and rarely played with the lead.
21. Dante Fowler, Atlanta Falcons
Fowler’s pass-rushing tape for the Rams last year was impressive. He should be a considerable upgrade over Vic Beasley after racking up 11.5 sacks last year. As was the case with the Rams – and this is a considerable advantage – Fowler will have a great interior pass-rusher in Grady Jarrett alongside him in Atlanta.
20. Preston Smith, Green Bay Packers
Smith had the best season of his career in his first year in Green Bay. He has a long powerful build, and while he isn’t overly twitchy, his technique has really improved, and he fits the Packers’ scheme quite well. He also changes directions well for someone with his body type. The “Smith Brothers” were an outstanding investment by the Packers.
19. Jadeveon Clowney, Unsigned
Does Clowney just value himself too highly financially to get a deal done? Did the pandemic hurt his chances of getting signed? Who is to say for sure, but Clowney isn’t like most of the players on this list. He is a straight-ahead power player that can dominate vs. the run and does great work when kicked inside. But he isn’t an edge bender in the traditional sense amongst outside pass-rushers.
18. Yannick Ngakoue, Jacksonville Jaguars
Run defense certainly isn’t Ngakoue’s forte, but he can bend the edge with a low pad level without losing speed, a rare trait. Who knows how much longer Ngakoue will play for the Jaguars, but it isn’t crazy to think that a change of scenery could bring more out of this talented player.
17. Frank Clark, Kansas City Chiefs
Clark started a little slow during his first year with the Chiefs but finished strong and helped his new club get to – and win – the Super Bowl with his five postseason sacks. This is somewhat of a pivotal year in Clark’s career. Clark has good power and goes through his man or around him.
16. Calais Campbell, Baltimore Ravens
The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner is an outstanding addition to already great Ravens defense that last year was incredibly blitz-dependent to get to opposing quarterbacks. It might be wise to limit Campbell’s snaps at his age. However, he has great versatility along the line of scrimmage as a big end on early downs and as a very disruptive interior force in passing situations. Campbell is a monster against the run.
15. Robert Quinn, Chicago Bears
Quinn has had some very high points in his career, particularly early on with the Rams. However, 2019 very well could have been his best season a pro, and few seemed to recognize it. Meanwhile, Chicago jumped all over Quinn in free agency. He is a massive upgrade over Leonard Floyd opposite Khalil Mack.
14. Melvin Ingram, Los Angeles Chargers
In a league loaded with premium edge defenders, the Chargers have the NFL’s best pairing in Ingram and Joey Bosa. But Ingram isn’t coming off his best year, which is a little worrisome. Ingram is an explosive player though that changes direction well and is sudden in all his movements.
13. Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys
Some looked at Lawrence’s 2019 season (only five sacks) as a small step back from the year before. But the tape doesn’t show that at all. Lawrence is just a high-quality all-around edge rusher that causes problems week after week. And he can beat his opponent in many different ways.
12. Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Many see Barrett as a one hit wonder, and in many ways, that can’t be denied. And he did benefit from the attention garnered by Tampa Bay’s excellent underrated defensive line. However, Barrett was stuck behind excellent players in Denver and, when given the chance with the Broncos, played extremely well in that small sample size. 2019 will probably go down as Barrett’s best season of his career, and his 19.5 sacks led the league, but he earned a lot of what he got and didn’t get fluky sacks as some might think.
11. Za’Darius Smith, Green Bay Packers
Even the Packers, who went out and signed Smith and Preston Smith last offseason, could not have forecasted what Za’Darius accomplished in his first year in Green Bay. His production was legit, whether aligned outside or kicked into the interior. Smith led the NFL with 105 pressures in 2019. He exploded upon his arrival to Green Bay, and there is no reason to think it won’t keep up.