Ranking Best NFL Defensive Linemen and Linebackers 2022

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Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) celebrates after the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Colton Pool @CPoolReporter Aug 11, 2022, 12:04 PM
  • The following is a look at the top front-seven units in the NFL.
  • Defensive linemen and linebackers can help a team’s NFL odds.

Whether it’s taking down a running back with a tackle for loss or sacking a quarterback, stout defenses often rely on their defensive linemen and linebackers up front.

Here’s a ranking of the best front-seven groups, which can help you think about things like NFL parlays.

2022 NFL Defensive Lineman and Linebacker Rankings

RankingTeamGrade
149ers98
2Bills96
3Steelers94
4Browns92
5Rams90
6Packers88
7Chargers86
8Saints84
9Commanders82
10Buccaneers80
11Cowboys78
12Raiders76
13Dolphins74
14Colts72
15Bengals71
16Ravens70
17Panthers68
18Eagles66
19Vikings64
20Chiefs62
21Bears61
22Titans60
23Seahawks58
24Patriots56
25Cardinals50
26Giants48
27Lions47
28Jaguars46
29Texans44
30Jets42
31Broncos41
32Falcons40

NFL Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers and Tight Ends | Offensive Linemen | Secondaries

Defensive Lineman and Linebacker Rankings, Team by Team

32. Atlanta Falcons (Grade: 40/100)

Deion Jones tallied 137 tackles last year but was 89th in Pro Football Focus’ grades of linebackers who played at least 20% of the most snaps in the league. He hasn’t made a Pro Bowl since 2017.

Last season, the Falcons were 29th in adjusted line yards and last in adjusted sack rate, metrics from Football Outsiders which examine performance against the run and pressuring QBs. Their pass rush in PFF’s grades were also last, and their run defense was 28th.

31. Denver Broncos (41/100)

The Broncos’ adjusted sack rate was 18th, while their adjusted line yards were 24th. PFF graded their pass rush 31st, though, and their run defense 18th.

The Broncos traded away Shelby Harris but did add DJ Jones, who figures to start at defensive end. While playing for San Francisco last season, he was graded 20th by PFF among interior linemen. Alex Singleton and Randy Gregory also arrived in Denver via free agency.

Bradley Chubb has played 25 games in the last three years and has totaled 8.5 sacks in that time. He was 123rd in PFF’s grades among edge rushers last year.

30. New York Jets (42/100)

The Jets’ pass rush was graded 23rd by PFF, while their run defense was 30th. Their adjusted line yards were 21st, and their adjusted sack rate was 22nd.

Many of the Jets’ contributors from last year are back. That includes Quinnen Williams, who was tied for 40th among interior defensive linemen in PFF’s grades, the highest on the team.

Carl Lawson hasn’t played since signing his three-year, $45 million deal after a ruptured Achilles a year ago. John Franklin-Myers was 16th in PFF’s grades among edge rushers. The Jets did trade up for Jermaine Johnson II in the first round of this year’s draft. 

29. Houston Texans (44/100)

The Texans’ adjusted sack rate was 23rd and their adjusted line yards was 25th. Their pass rush was 17th and their run defense was 26th.
Jonathan Greenard was 11th in PFF’s edge rusher grades.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (46/100)

The Jaguars were 23rd in adjusted line yards and 27th in adjusted sack rate. Their pass rush was 25th and their run defense was 29th in PFF’s grades.

Josh Allen was graded PFF’s 18th-best edge player. The Jaguars added promising players like edge Travon Walker and linebacker Devin Lloyd in this year’s draft, but they’re young.

27. Detroit Lions (47/100)

Detroit’s adjusted line yards was 30th, and its adjusted sack rate was even worse in 31st. Its pass rush was graded 28th by PFF, and its run defense was last.

That’s why drafting Aidan Hutchinson, a star defensive end out of Michigan, second overall was so important. 

26. New York Giants (48/100)

Leonard Williams, who was signed to a lucrative deal with the intent of him being a star player, was 26th in PFF’s grades among interior defensive linemen last season. The Giants may have improved up front when they drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux fifth overall.

Last season, PFF graded the Giants’ run defense 24th and their pass rush 28th. They were 21st in adjusted sack rate and 31st in adjusted line yards.

25. Arizona Cardinals (50/100)

The Cardinals were 15th in adjusted sack rate and 17th in adjusted line yards. Their run defense was 21st and their pass rush was ninth in PFF’s grades.

As the former All-Pro played just eight games last season, JJ Watt’s health will be pivotal in this unit’s production. 

24. New England Patriots (56/100)

The Patriots were graded ninth in run defense and 24th in pass rush last season. They were 14th in adjusted sack rate and 22nd in adjusted line yards.

Though Jamie Collins Sr. and Kyle Van Noy are no longer on the team, linebacker Matthew Judon and defensive lineman Lawrence Guy can impact games.

23. Seattle Seahawks (58/100)

Seattle was much better against the run than pressuring QBs last season. Despite the Seahawks’ run defense being graded third by PFF, their pass rush was 30th. They were eighth in adjusted line yards and 29th in adjusted sack rate.

The Seahawks took a hit when they lost Bobby Wagner, but they added D-lineman Shelby Harris and still have Jordyn Brooks at linebacker.

22. Tennessee Titans (60/100)

The Titans’ PFF grade for run defense was 10th, while their pass rush was 27th. They were 10th in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate.

Jeffery Simmons, a Pro Bowl defensive tackle in 2021, was 22nd in PFF’s grades last season. Denico Autry was 36th in PFF’s grades among edge players.

21. Chicago Bears (61/100)

The Bears had the best adjusted sack rate in the league last year, but their adjusted line yards were 20th. The Bears’ run defense was graded 31st by PFF, while their pass rush was 15th.

While Khalil Mack is gone, Robert Quinn was a big reason for that effective pass rush, as he was second in the league with 18.5 sacks. Roquan Smith is a top-notch linebacker, though his future is uncertain.

20. Kansas City Chiefs (62/100)

The Chiefs’ adjusted sack rate was 26th, and their adjusted line yards were 27th. Their run defense was graded 16th, and their pass rush was 19th by PFF.

The Chiefs helped themselves by drafting George Karlaftis in the first round. Chris Jones was fifth in PFF’s defensive interior lineman grades, and Nick Bolton was 14th among linebackers.

19. Minnesota Vikings (64/100)

Minnesota’s PFF grades were 16th and 20th for pass rush and run defense, respectively. While ninth in adjusted sack rate, the team was last in adjusted line yards last season.

Nose tackle Dalvin Tomlinson was 16th in PFF’s grades, while Danielle Hunter was 15th among edge players. The Vikings also added Za’Darius Smith this offseason.

18. Philadelphia Eagles (66/100)

PFF graded the Eagles’ pass rush fifth and their run defense 22nd. They were 18th in adjusted line yards and 28th in adjusted sack rate.

And their stars aren’t getting younger. Javon Hargrave, a 29-year-old defensive tackle, was 33rd in PFF’s grades for the position last season. Fletcher Cox, who’s 32, tied for 30th in PFF’s grades of D-tackles.

17. Carolina Panthers (68/100)

While the likes of Shaq Thompson and Brian Burns are back, Carolina did lose Haason Reddick, the team’s leader in sacks in 2021.

The Panthers’ adjusted sack rate was third and their adjusted line yards were seventh. In PFF’s grades, their pass rush was 12th, and their run defense was 17th.

16. Baltimore Ravens (70/100)

While the Ravens were first in adjusted line yards, they were 30th in adjusted sack rate. In PFF’s grades, they were eighth in run defense and 20th in pass rushing.

Calais Campbell was eighth in PFF’s grades of interior defensive linemen last season. Linebacker Josh Bynes was 12th at his position and edge rushers Justin Houston and Tyus Bowser were 19th and 27th, respectively.

15. Cincinnati Bengals (71/100)

The Bengals were ninth in adjusted line yards and 19th in adjusted sack rate. Their pass rush was graded 12th and their run defense was 23rd by PFF.

But they have some impressive stars to turn to up front. That includes DJ Reader, PFF’s ninth-highest graded interior D-lineman, and Trey Hendrickson, who was fifth in the NFL with 14 sacks last season.

14. Indianapolis Colts (72/100)

While the Colts were 15th in adjusted line yards, they were 25th in adjusted sack rate. PFF graded their run defense fourth and their pass rush 18th.

They hoped to address those pass rush issues by picking up Yannick Ngakoue, who tallied 10 sacks in 2021. Linebacker Shaquille Leonard has been an All-Pro three of the past four years, and DeForest Buckner made the Pro Bowl last season. Grover Stewart was 20th in PFF’s grades of interior defensive linemen.

13. Miami Dolphins (74/100)

The Dolphins had the seventh-best run defense in PFF’s grades and 14th-best pass rush. Their adjusted sack rate was even better at fourth, while their adjusted line yards were 16th.

In PFF’s grades, Christian Wilkins was sixth among interior defensive linemen, and Emmanuel Ogbah was 20th among edge rushers. Miami also provided a spark to its pass rush with Melvin Ingram III, 14th in PFF’s edge grades, and some linebacker depth through the draft.

12. Las Vegas Raiders (76/100)

Maxx Crosby is the star of this unit. He was second in PFF’s grades of edge players in 2021 with a league-high 77 hurries. While they lost Yannick Ngakoue, they replaced him with Chandler Jones, who’s fresh off of a Pro Bowl appearance.

Las Vegas’ pass rush was graded sixth by PFF, but its run defense was 25th. The Raiders were 11th in adjusted line yards, however, and 24th in adjusted sack rate.

11. Dallas Cowboys (78/100)

Micah Parsons was the Defensive Rookie of the Year after being drafted 12th overall. Leighton Vander Esch was 39th in PFF’s grades, while Parsons was first.

The Cowboys’ adjusted sack rate was 12th, and their adjusted line yards were one spot behind at 13th. In PFF’s grades, their run defense was 27th, but their pass rush was seventh. 

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (80/100)

Vita Vea was a Pro Bowler last season and was 17th in PFF’s grades of interior D-linemen. While Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul are gone, the Bucs picked up Pro Bowler Akiem Hicks.

The Bucs were 11th in PFF’s grades for run defense but 27th for their pass rush. They were fifth in adjusted line yards and 16th in adjusted sack rate.

9. Washington Commanders (82/100)

Washington was fifth in PFF’s grades for run defense and 11th in pass rushing. The team was 11th in adjusted sack rate and 12th in adjusted line yards.

Jonathan Allen was tied for third among interior defensive linemen in PFF’s grades. Edge rushers Montez Sweat and Chase Young were top 25. After playing just nine games last season, Young is hoping to bounce back after a Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2020.

8. New Orleans Saints (84/100)

At 33 years of age, Demario Davis was ninth last season in PFF’s grades of linebackers. Pete Werner was even higher on that list, as he was graded sixth.

New Orleans was second in PFF’s grades for run defense and 22nd in its pass-rush grades. The Saints were third in adjusted line yards and sixth in adjusted sack rate, however.

7. Los Angeles Chargers (86/100)

The Chargers’ PFF grade for pass rushing was 13th and their run defense grade was 19th. They were 17th in adjusted sack rate and 28th in adjusted line yards.

They supplemented their front seven with some star power by trading for former Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack and signing Kyle Van Noy, who was 17th in PFF’s grades of linebackers last season. Joey Bosa, who’s made the last three Pro Bowls after a 10.5-sack 2021 season, is back.

6. Green Bay Packers (88/100)

The Packers’ adjusted sack rate was 20th, and their adjusted line yards were 26th. Their pass rush, though, was graded second by PFF, and their rush defense was graded 12th.

Green Bay placed an emphasis on defense in the draft, taking Devonte Wyatt and Quay Walker in the first round. That should pay off. 

Kenny Clark is fresh off a Pro Bowl season. Rashan Gary and Preston Smith were both top-12 in PFF’s grades of edge rushers. All-Pro De’Vondre Campbell was rated the second-best linebacker by PFF.

5. Los Angeles Rams (90/100)

Aaron Donald is beginning to earn a spot in the discussion for greatest defensive player of all time and boosts this unit immensely. Interior defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson was 11th in PFF’s grades. And while the Rams lost Von Miller, they added another legend in Bobby Wagner.

The Rams had the top-graded run defense and pass rush by PFF last season. They were eighth in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate.

4. Cleveland Browns (92/100)

Myles Garrett was third in the league with 16 sacks last year and was PFF’s top-graded edge rusher. Jadeveon Clowney is another star opposite him.

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (10th), Anthony Walker Jr. (tied for 19th) and Sione Takitaki (22nd) were all in the top 25 of PFF’s linebacker grades.

The Browns were 13th in adjusted sack rate and 14th in adjusted line yards. Their pass rush was eighth and rush defense was 15th in PFF’s grades.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (94/100)

Cameron Heyward was second behind only Aaron Donald in PFF’s grades of interior defensive linemen last season. Meanwhile, TJ Watt led the league in sacks (22.5) and was the Defensive Player of the Year. They also signed linebacker Myles Jack and D-lineman Larry Ogunjobi.

The Steelers’ pass rush was third in PFF’s grades, and their run defense was 14th. They were second in adjusted sack rate and 19th in adjusted line yards.

2. Buffalo Bills (96/100)

The Bills were top 10 in both adjusted line yards (fourth) and adjusted sack rate (seventh). Their run defense grade via PFF was 13th and their pass rush was 10th.

They then made a splash move by signing future Hall of Fame pass rusher Von Miller. Former Pro Bowler Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano, 23rd in PFF’s linebacker grades, are reliable defenders.

1. San Francisco 49ers (98/100)

In PFFs grades, the 49ers were fourth in pass rushing and sixth in run defense. They were second in adjusted line yards and fifth in adjusted sack rate.

Their front seven is loaded with stars. Linebacker Fred Warner (fifth), edge Nick Bosa (seventh), interior defensive lineman Arik Armstead (12th) and linebacker Dre Greenlaw (18th) were all in the top 20 of PFF’s grades.

Individual Edge Rusher Rankings

RankingPlayerTeam
1TJ WattSteelers
2Myles GarrettBrowns
3Nick Bosa49ers
4Trey HendricksonBengals
5Maxx CrosbyRaiders
6Von MillerBills
7Joey BosaChargers
8Cameron JordanSaints
9Robert QuinnBears
10Khalil MackChargers

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About the Author

Colton Pool

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Colton Pool is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM living in Bozeman, Montana, focusing on the NFL and NBA. Previously, he covered Montana State football at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and worked at newspapers in his home state of North Dakota. He graduated from North Dakota State in 2015.

Colton Pool is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM living in Bozeman, Montana, focusing on the NFL and NBA. Previously, he covered Montana State football at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and worked at newspapers in his home state of North Dakota. He graduated from North Dakota State in 2015.