Execs, coaches, scouts rank NFL's top 10 edge rushers for 2023

Execs, coaches, scouts rank NFL's top 10 edge rushers for 2023

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Who are the best edge rushers in the NFL? exes, coaches , scouts and players from around the league ranked their top 10 in our annual summer series.


NFL training camps are fast approaching, which means it is again time for the league's true insiders to have their say. As part of ESPN's 2023 NFL season preview, we surveyed league executives, coaches, scouts and players to help us rank the top 10 players at 11 different positions, from quarterback to cornerback and all positions in between. This is the fourth edition of these rankings, and as usual, several players have moved up or fallen off last year's lists.

By way of refresher, here's how our process works: Voters give us their best 10 players at a position, then we compile the results and rank candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, along with dozens of interviews, research and film-study help from ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen. In total, more than 80 voters submitted a ballot on at least one position, and in many cases all positions. We had several ties, so we broke them with the help of additional voting and follow-up calls with those surveyed.

Each section includes quotes and nuggets from the voters on every ranked player -- even the honorable mentions. The objective is to identify the best players right now for 2023. This is not a five-year projection or a career achievement award. Who are the best players today? Check out who makes the list at every position on ESPN+

We will roll out a position per day over 11 days. The schedule: Off-ball linebackers (7/8), defensive tackles (7/9), edge rushers (7/10), cornerbacks (7/11), safeties (7/12), tight ends (7/13), running backs (7/14), offensive tackles (7/15), guards and centers (7/16), quarterbacks (7/17) and wide receivers (7/18).

Breaking down the top edge rushers into tiers reveals a few things ... and a new No. 1.

After several edge rushers in their 30s held down spots last year, 12-year vet Von Miller is the only recipient older than 30. This year's list features four stars jostling at the top, including a 24-year-old out of Dallas who's just getting started and an infusion of youth. Eight players from this year's top 10 are 28 or younger.

Pass-rusher remains a premium position that garners money and respect. Four of the top six rushers make between $23 million and $28 million annually, with Nick Bosa potentially reaching the $30-million plateau soon enough. Save quarterback and maybe wide receiver, no position comes with more cachet.

Let's look at some of the NFL's top game-wreckers as ranked by execs, coaches, scouts and players around the league.


1. Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers

Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: 5
Age: 25 | Last year's ranking: 3

Four years ago, the 49ers stumbled into the No. 2 overall pick in the draft thanks to a fluky four-win season fueled in part by then-quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's season-ending injury.

Their selection, Bosa, became the best pass-rusher in the NFL.

"Size, strength, power, speed, quickness, solid length, repertoire of moves and high motor," a high-ranking NFL official said. "He's got it all."

He was the league's sack king last season with 18.5. He produced a 15.3% pressure rate on his pass rushes in 2022, per Next Gen Stats, and his 48 quarterback hits led the field by 12.

Evaluators say Bosa's leverage, "get-off," technique and attention to detail set him apart.

"He's just so fast and twitchy," an NFC exec said. "He turns the edge so well and has a knack to get the ball back. [He] seems to make a game-changing play every week."


2. Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: 4
Age: 27 | Last year's ranking: 2

Our 2021 No. 1 pass-rusher shook off some early career inconsistency and became one of the most disruptive forces in the NFL.

Garrett is coming off back-to-back seasons of 16 sacks, and his 23.0 disrupted plays -- sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles or passes defended -- led all edge players last year.

"He really probably should be first every year," an NFC executive said. "He's just not as consistent as some others on the list. But he's the best singular talent."

Garrett has 24 turnovers forced by pressure since 2017, leading the rest of the defensive field by five.

"He might be the most imposing defensive player at any position," an NFL personnel evaluator said. "His ability to take over a game is unique."

3. Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys

Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: 6
Age: 24 | Last year's ranking: 2 (off-ball linebackers)

After the Cowboys deployed Parsons as a hybrid linebacker/pass-rusher in 2021, we placed him in the off-ball linebacker category last summer. But many voters wondered why he didn't appear as a true pass-rusher because of his obvious skills there.

He didn't disappoint in Year 2, with a league-leading 29.7% pass rush win rate as his snaps on the edge increased.

Parsons and T.J. Watt went back and forth in the voting throughout, with Parsons winning a tight tiebreaker decided by several general managers because of youth and versatility.

"It wouldn't surprise me if he's No. 1 by next year," an NFL coordinator said. "His talent is undeniable."

Since 2021, he's pressured quarterbacks on 18.3% of his pass rushes, which tops the league among edge rushers with 500+ attempts, according to Next Gen Stats.

And when he's not rushing, he can gracefully slide into a linebacker role and play the run or the pass.

"He has a knack for setting up blockers and getting them off balance," an NFL personnel evaluator said. "It's not just ability. He sets up tackles and has a plan. And he brings versatility."

4. T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers

Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: 7
Age: 28 | Last year's ranking: 1

Watt set a historic pace with 70 sacks in his first five seasons. But a pectoral injury cost him seven games last year. His 5.5 sacks in 2022 marked a career-low, but he still crashed lanes with eight pass breakups. Watt could occupy any of the top-four spots and most wouldn't complain.

"[Ranking pass-rushers] is all preference, but when healthy, Watt is hands down the best in the game," an NFC exec said. "Watt is to edge rush what [Aaron] Donald is to interior."

He was the top-ranked rusher last year. Now healthy, it wouldn't shock if he regained the spot next year.

He excels in every area -- he can deftly drop back into coverage or cause a fumble in the running game. Watt overwhelms offensive tackles with his refined pass-rush attack.

"You know he's going to be fueled by last year and come out with a monster performance [in 2023]," the exec said.

5. Haason Reddick, Philadelphia Eagles

Highest ranking: 2 | Lowest ranking: Unranked
Age: 28 | Last year's ranking: Unranked

Reddick has reached elite status as a pass-rusher after a banner year in Philadelphia, receiving several top-three votes from evaluators.

This wasn't always his path -- the former first-round pick recorded 7.5 sacks over his first three seasons in Arizona, which miscast him as a defensive end and inside linebacker at various points.

Reddick overcame his uneven start to post 12.5 sacks in his final year in Arizona, followed by 11 sacks with Carolina and 16 with Philadelphia last year.

"He's a closer," an NFC executive said. "Three years, three teams, double-digit sacks back-to-back-to-back. That's an impossible stat."

Reddick's five forced fumbles for the Eagles led the NFL, and his 27.5% pass rush win rate ranks second.

"This is the perfect case of talent entering into the proper situation where he's used correctly," an NFL personnel evaluator said.

6. Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders

Highest ranking: 5 | Lowest ranking: 8
Age: 25 | Last year's ranking: 5

Not many NFL players at any position are more relentless than Crosby, who applies constant pressure on quarterbacks and running backs.

According to Next Gen Stats, he generated 69 defensive stops from the edge position in 2022, the most in a season since 2016. He also recorded 82 pressures in 2021 which is a Next Gen Stats era record. Crosby didn't log many top-five votes, but he was unanimously a top-10 player for voters.

"His effort and intensity on a daily basis, I've never seen it matched," a veteran NFL defensive coach said. "He just cares so much."

Crosby's 36 quarterback hits ranked second behind Nick Bosa, and his 22 tackles for loss led the league. He's also excellent against the run as an edge rusher, with a 33.9% run-stop win rate.

7. Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers

Highest ranking: 5 | Lowest ranking: Unranked
Age: 25 | Last year's ranking: 8

Burns' value to the Carolina Panthers was clear at the trade deadline, when the Los Angeles Rams offered two first-round picks and more for the rights to Burns. Carolina refused.

"He has special ability: length, bend, closing speed, multiple moves," an NFL personnel evaluator said. "But he's not a household name because he plays in Carolina."

Burns posted his first double-digit-sack season in 2022 (12.5) and made his second consecutive Pro Bowl. His 16.4% pass rush win rate ranked 25th in the league. Multiple voters pointed out that he didn't have a natural bookend rusher last year and played for two different coordinators. New defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, considered one of the league's best defensive minds, should maximize Burns' skill set.

"If he was in San Francisco in Bosa's spot, he'd be a superstar, too," the evaluator said.

8. Matthew Judon, New England Patriots

Highest ranking: 3 | Lowest ranking: Unranked
Age: 30 | Last year's ranking: Unranked

Evaluators long saw Judon as a gifted player who underachieved a bit in Baltimore, where he averaged 6.9 sacks per season over five years.

But since pairing with coach Bill Belichick in New England, he's been one of the game's most productive edge rushers, with 28 sacks since 2021. Judon also had seven pass breakups last year.

"He has the ideal traits -- now he has the elite production to match," an NFL coordinator said.

Voters lauded Judon's versatility, with one noting a game vs. Pittsburgh where he chased down an adequately fast Mitch Trubisky in the open field for a sack and also broke up a pass deep in coverage.

"He's more craftiness and nuance -- not as high level of a player as some of the others at the top," an NFL scout said.

9. Von Miller, Buffalo Bills

Highest ranking: 3 | Lowest ranking: Unranked
Age: 34 | Last year's ranking: 6

A 34-year-old coming off a torn ACL isn't usually well positioned on a top-10 list, but Miller is an exception. He had eight sacks in 11 games before suffering the injury on Thanksgiving in Detroit.

"I thought about keeping him off my list but you just can't -- he's still so good," an NFC exec said. "If he can get it back, Buffalo's defense will be dangerous."

Miller is chasing history; his 123.5 sacks rank 19th all time.

"If you need one play with the game on the line, he's probably still pretty high on the list," an NFC scout said. "He's maybe the best pure pass-rusher of the last decade."

10. Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers

Highest ranking: 5 | Lowest ranking: Unranked
Age: 27 | Last year's ranking: 4

A top-five fixture for years, Bosa is another edge rusher who slipped due to injury. A groin tear that required surgery cost him most of last season. He finished with 2.5 sacks in a season punctuated with a costly helmet-throwing penalty in a playoff loss to Jacksonville.

Bosa has long set a standard for technician-type edge rushing, attention to detail and ideal length to fluster offensive tackles. But the production -- 60.5 sacks in seven seasons -- doesn't match many of his elite peers.

"He's been really good for a long time at the art of knowing how to beat your opponent -- I just wonder if the body will start breaking down," an NFL personnel evaluator said. "He's still a relatively young guy, but he's played a lot of football."

An NFL personnel director pushes back on that a bit, calling Bosa a "game-plan-type player," high on the opponents' scouting report.

"Not as disruptive as his brother [Nick Bosa] but still super talented," the director said.


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