The NFL has evolved into a passing league. That’s common knowledge and is pretty much an indisputable fact at this point. The league itself is promoting this shift by consciously having the officials target defensive backs in pass coverage this season. It appears that defensive backs are no longer allowed to make any kind of contact with a receiver, period. With this new officiating emphasis working against defenses there is only one real plan of attack to stop opposing passing games….
Pressure the quarterback.
If having a great quarterback is the key to having a great offense in today’s NFL then the key to having a great defense is attacking the other team’s QB. That is why elite pass rushers have become such a valuable commodity in the NFL. A great pass rusher has always been a valuable tool for defenses to work with, but with today’s limitations for defenders in pass coverage the importance of getting after the QB becomes all the more vital.
So who are the best in the game today at getting after opposing QBs?
That’s a harder question to answer than one might expect. There are so many good pass rushers in the NFL today that it’s almost impossible to limit the list down to ten. Don’t believe me? Check out these players that didn’t make this top ten list:
That would be a fantastic top ten pass rusher list right there. Every one of those guys is someone I would want on my favorite team. I could make another list of guys that aren’t as big of names that didn’t make the top ten either but are knocking on the door. Guys like Chandler Jones and Junior Galette. When I started to make this list I thought it would be relatively easy, but it proved to be much more difficult than I anticipated.
First off, to try and scale down the amount of information I’m basing this list largely off of last season. It’s a “what have you done for me lately” league so I went off of these players most recent performances not their entire career’s body of work.
Ultimately, this is the criteria I used for the list. First is the eye test. When I watch the guy play do I feel like I’m watching a dominant pass rusher. Second, how are their total QB pressure numbers? That means looking at more than just sacks, but adding sacks, hits, and hurries to see how many total plays that player impacted the QB. I also compared those total pressures to the number of snaps they played. If it took one player 900 snaps to create the same number of pressures that another player created in only 700 snaps I took that into consideration. Finally, I also looked at the player’s Pro Football Focus pass rushing grade. That factored into my rankings the least, but I did want to see if their grade matched what I was already thinking about a player.
So with all of that in mind, here’s my list of the NFL’s top ten pass rushers.