There is no more challenging position in the NFL to rank than the top edge rushers heading into 2021. There are about 20 pass rushers who are in the conversation for rankings 16-25. So many talented young athletes infest the group of established pass rushers. These rankings are based partially on past performances, current form, and a projection going forward. However, it will mostly look toward what to expect in the future, which means some veterans just miss out while the youngsters supplant them.
Top 25 edge rushers in the NFL for the 2021 season | 25-16
This list includes a lot of projections moving forward. Many of the up-and-coming pass rushers find themselves in this range.
25. Josh Sweat, Philadelphia Eagles
Sweat was always a high-potential guy when the Eagles drafted him in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Sweat deserves more reps on the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive line, and hopefully, he can showcase his skills with a higher snap count in 2021. His forklift sack against one of the best offensive tackles in the game in Terron Armstead was eye-opening, but he generated several more high-quality reps on tape as a pass rusher in 2020.
24. Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders
Crosby was an outstanding draft prospect that went later than he should have. He possesses excellent bend and has been productive in his first two seasons with the Raiders. He’s even outdone what his teammate and No. 4 pick Clelin Ferrell has in their time together with the Raiders. He’s one of the top edge rushers in the league in 2021 because his repertoire is still being molded, and he possesses the athleticism of a top-end pass rusher.
23. Jadeveon Clowney, Cleveland Browns
Admittedly, Clowney is only on this list because of who he’ll be playing across from and the hope that Clowney gets back to his Houston form. If he can benefit from playing on a defensive line with an alien, we could see a career year from the former first-overall pick.
22. Haason Reddick, Carolina Panthers
Reddick might deserve to be higher on the list of top edge rushers of 2021, but then again, is he really an edge rusher? Do we know what his role will be in Carolina? He’s always been a bit of a tweener, but he finally flourished in a role that allowed him to pin his ears back. Hopefully, the Panthers afford him that same freedom.
I’m pretty sure he owes the Giants offensive line a portion of his signing bonus in Carolina. In Brandon Thorn’s True Sack Rate, Reddick had the second-best sack score of all pass rushers in the study.
21. Romeo Okwara, Detroit Lions
This young man produced some very high-quality reps as a pass rusher in 2020. It’s always cool when an undrafted free agent flourishes in the NFL. He displayed a few different pass-rush moves on his way to sack production in 2020. His strip-sack of Mitch Trubisky was sublime. Okwara can rip through and bend the arc to soften rush angles on his way to the quarterback as well.
If his younger brother Julian can learn a bit from his big brother, they could be an exceptional pass-rushing duo for the kneecap-biting Fighting Dan Campbells.
20. Frank Clark, Kansas City Chiefs
Clark’s regular-season production has become somewhat hit or miss. The Chiefs are probably okay with that, though, because he’s turned into an assassin as a postseason player. He’s tallied 8 sacks and 10 tackles for loss in just six playoff games over the past two seasons.
Clark’s explosion for a 270-pound defensive end pops on the field. His power is palpable, and his ability to counter when initially stonewalled gets him to the quarterback on solid hustle plays.
19. Trey Hendrickson, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals allowing Carl Lawson to walk in free agency was an interesting decision. Lawson and Hendrickson are making similar money going forward. Watch the film on each player and tell me Hendrickson is an upgrade. I’m not here to tell you he’s not a good player. His per-snap production is unbelievable.
He’s a bit of an awkward mover, but he put together a couple of superb reps as a pass rusher that led to a few of his sacks. If Hendrickson has another high-caliber season, he will prove a lot of doubters wrong. And Bengals fans will love their decision to sign him over Lawson.
18. Montez Sweat, Washington Football Team
Sweat’s introduction to this list might be a tad premature, but there’s no way he can hang around his defensive linemates without picking up on the finer aspects of rushing the passer. From a technical perspective, he lacks pure pass-rush moves to make a difference consistently. However, his unrivaled explosiveness and desire to win leads to production. His fiery play style leads me to believe he’ll do everything within his power to improve on the technical side.
17. Yannick Ngakoue, Las Vegas Raiders
Ngakoue is a tricky evaluation. He’s legitimately poor against the run most times. Yet, his pass-rush arsenal is vast. His natural abilities mesh well with his pass-rush moves. Ngakoue’s game is predicated on finesse. His inside spin can be devastating, and his hanging rip is one of the prettiest moves on the planet when properly executed.
16. Carl Lawson, New York Jets
Lawson is one of the top 2021 edge rushers in the NFL despite his middling sack production. He affects the quarterback at a rate that traditional stats won’t catch. Only T.J. Watt hit the quarterback more times in 2020 than Lawson. His speed-to-power moves are startling. He skates past offensive linemen in a way few can. And on the off chance a tackle can actually drop anchor, Lawson can snatch their soul out of their bodies as they crash face-first on the ground.