Given the nature of today’s pass-happy NFL, it should come as no surprise that pass rushers are the second-most valued position in the league behind quarterbacks. As we learned during the Denver Broncos run to the Super Bowl 50 title, a dominant pass rush can be the only way to slow down a quarterback like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, or Ben Roethlisberger. Here is a look at the 10 best pass rushers in the NFL today.
10. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Houston Texans
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft may not have the same type of eye-popping sack totals as other players on this list. But make no mistake about it, Jadeveon Clowney is one of the most disruptive pass-rushers in the NFL today.
Clowney’s physical attributes are undeniable. At 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, the former South Carolina Gamecock has wide receiver-caliber speed and quickness. And the sky is the limit for the 2016 second-team All-Pro now that he is finally healthy. With Clowney and J.J. Watt coming off the edges, the Texans will make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks in 2017.
9. Chandler Jones, DE, Arizona Cardinals
Last offseason, the Arizona Cardinals made a brilliant decision to unload offensive guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick in exchange for Chandler Jones. The former Syracuse defensive end is one of the most athletic players in the league, and his pure pass-rush ability was something the Cardinals missed sorely prior to his arrival. Don’t be surprised to see Jones contend for the league-lead in sacks in 2017.
8. Joey Bosa, DE, Los Angeles Chargers
Joey Bosa experienced a controversial start to his NFL career. But by the end of the former Ohio State Buckeye’s rookie season, he had firmly entrenched himself as one of the premier pass-rushers in the league. In 12 games in 2016, Bosa compiled 10.5 sacks and proved that he can effectively play multiple positions at a Pro Bowl level. With a full NFL offseason under his belt, Bosa could start living up to those J.J. Watt comparisons in his second professional season.
7. Olivier Vernon, DE, New York Giants
Olivier Vernon has no place on this list if you base your evaluation solely off of stats. But if you evaluate based on overall disruptiveness to opposing offenses, Vernon is one of the best in the business. Vernon finished the 2016 season (his first with the Giants) with 10 total sacks. However, according to Pro Football Focus, the 26-year-old defensive end recorded 86 total quarterback pressures, which ranks second in the league behind Khalil Mack of the Oakland Raiders.
6. Cameron Wake, DE, Miami Dolphins
You can’t help but like everything about Cameron Wake if you’re familiar with his road to NFL stardom. The former undrafted free agent out of Penn State could ultimately end up in the Hall of Fame discussion. And at 35 years old, Wake still has plenty of gas left in the tank to have an All-Pro-caliber season in 2017. Wake’s burst and overall relentlessness separates him from other pass rushers around the league.
5. Vic Beasley, OLB, Atlanta Falcons
After having a mildly disappointing rookie season in 2015, Vic Beasley exploded onto the NFL scene and led the league in sacks in 2016. The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder is one of the most explosive edge defenders in the game. In his second NFL season, the former Clemson Tiger had clearly committed to achieving greatness. Beasley now boasts a wide repertoire of pass-rush moves to go along with his 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash.
4. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
Aaron Donald simply does not get the respect he deserves. Part of it could be the fact that he plays for the Rams; another part could be due to him being an interior defensive lineman (one of the most unheralded positions in football). When it comes down to it, Donald is the best interior pass rusher in the game. That is an inarguable fact.
3. Khalil Mack, OLB, Oakland Raiders
Khalil Mack has a strong case for being the best overall defensive player in the NFL today, largely due to his prowess as a pass rusher.
The 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year has posted back-to-back double-digit sack seasons. He is the type of player who demands consistent double teams from opposing offenses. What’s even more scary about Mack’s game is that he still has room to grow. At his current rate, Mack will end up as a first-ballot Hall of Famer when it’s all said and done.
2. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
It was hard for us not to give J.J. Watt the No. 1 spot on this list. The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year has 76 career sacks in 83 career games. At his current rate, the former Wisconsin Badger has a chance to go down as the best defensive player in league history.
If Watt can return to full strength after missing all but three games in 2016, the Texans will have the premier pass rush duo in the NFL. Don’t be surprised if Watt ends up with 15 or more sacks once again in 2017.
1. Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos
In our eyes, Von Miller is the best pure pass rusher in the NFL today. The Super Bowl 50 MVP has the best first step in the league. His ability to bend around the edge is comparable to NFL legends such as Derrick Thomas and Lawrence Taylor.
Miller requires constant double teams from opposing offenses, and is hands down one of the most disruptive players the league has seen in a long time. The five-time All-Pro is well on his way to becoming a future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.