Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: 2022 IDP Defensive Line Tiers

Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) celebrates his fourth quarter sack against the Chicago Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

For IDP fantasy football leagues, there is a ton of variance in preseason player rankings, but utilizing tiers can help us properly value each group of players in 2023 fantasy football drafts. 

For pass-rushers, it’s important to note that it's a bad idea to look only at past sack numbers when predicting the future success of NFL pass rushers. All sacks are not the same, and some metrics can point us toward players whose sack totals are likely to increase or decrease.

The following tiers rely on stable and predictive metrics above all else, with details on each tier. Using these groupings will allow fantasy drafters to focus more on evidence and data, and less on intangible projections or past surface stats. 

Be sure to also check out the 2022 linebacker tiers released last week.

League average grades and rates for Stable metrics | Defensive Linemen 2021 (min. 100 snaps)
DL position Average pass-rush grade Average pass-rush win-rate Average pressure rate Average pressure to sack conversion rate
EDGE 66.3 13.18% 10.5% 15.13%
DI 63.5 9.55% 7.3% 10.0%

TIER 1: VOLUME + PRESSURE RATE + PASS-RUSH GRADE

TIER 1 RANK PLAYER TEAM
1A 1 Myles Garrett Browns
1A 2 Nick Bosa 49ers
1A 3 T.J. Watt Steelers
1B 4 Aaron Donald Rams
1B 5 Maxx Crosby Raiders
1B 6 Rashan Gary Packers
1C 7 Joey Bosa Chargers
1C 8 Trey Hendrickson Bengals
1C 9 Danielle Hunter Vikings
1C 10 Marcus Davenport Saints

Sacks and pass-rush prowess are the most coveted qualities for IDP edge defenders, and while all players can come up with sacks without having much pass-rush prowess, the ones IDP managers can rely on consistently need to have the ability to do both at a high level. This top defensive linemen tier is dominated by the NFL’s best pass rushers, based on evidence from last year and previous seasons. This group represents the best bet to exceed double-digit sacks in 2022 based on their elite pass-rush metrics.

Starting at the top, Myles Garrett’s 93.3 pass-rush grade — among the most stable metrics at the position — over the past three seasons is higher than any other edge player, putting himself in the best position to get sacks on a consistent basis. T.J. Watt’s wildly high sack rate (36.29%) last season should come down, but even expecting some regression from Watt, he still ranks among the best players at his position in stable metrics and gets a ton of volume. 

Nick Bosa fits right in with Garrett and Watt across the board in key pass-rush metrics, including elite three-year pass-rush (90.1) and overall (90.2) grades since he entered the league.

Aaron Donald stands alone as the only defensive tackle in the first two tiers, with all other interior defenders getting their own tier. This highlights just how different Donald is from the rest of his peers, ranking among even the best edge defenders year over year. Bet on Donald to be elite until he gives you a reason not to (or, more likely, until he retires).

Aaron Donald | 2021
Pressure rate Win-rate Pressure to sack conversion rate
EDGE average 10.5% 13.18% 14.3%
DI average 7.3% 9.55% 10.0%
Aaron Donald 13.61% 22.94% 14.53%

Maxx Crosby and Rashan Gary jump into this top tier as last season’s pressure leaders at the edge position. If their presence among the elite here is a surprise, it’s likely due to their below-average pressure-to-sack conversion rates last season, which is not a stable stat year over year, nor is it something IDP managers should be entirely basing their rankings on from one season to the next. Betting on the players who dominate at the line of scrimmage and consistently affect the quarterback is a much better indicator of future success when it comes to predicting sacks. Combined with a high expected volume for both players, they fit the criteria to join a select few in exceeding double-digit sacks in 2022.

The rest of the best are familiar names like Joey Bosa and Danielle Hunter, while Trey Hendrickson and Marcus Davenport have earned their right to be considered early in IDP drafts this season. Both players ranked inside the top-12 at their position in pass-rush grade, win rate and pressure rate last season.

Meanwhile, Bosa never disappoints from a pass-rush metric standpoint, which keeps him in this conversation every season. Hunter arguably has the biggest question marks around him stemming from his health, but when on the field there’s no denying that he is one of the most productive and effective NFL edge rushers, racking up sacks and tackles at an extremely high rate.

Tier 2: HIGH VOLUME + STRONG PASS-RUSH METRICS

TIER 2 RANK PLAYER TEAM
2A 11 Demarcus Lawrence Cowboys
2A 12 Brian Burns Panthers
2A 13 Shaquil Barrett Buccaneers
2B 14 Matthew Judon Patriots
2B 15 Josh Allen Jaguars
2B 16 Harold Landry III Titans
2C 17 Chase Young Commanders
2C 18 Aidan Hutchinson Lions
2C 19 Khalil Mack Chargers
2C 20 Chandler Jones Raiders
2C 21 Kayvon Thibodeaux Giants
2C 22 Von Miller Bills
2D 23 Montez Sweat Commanders
2D 24 George Karlaftis Chiefs
2D 25 Odafe Oweh Ravens
2D 26 Preston Smith Packers
2E 27 Emmanuel Ogbah Dolphins
2E 28 Za’Darius Smith Vikings
2E 29 Randy Gregory Broncos
2E 30 Yannick Ngakoue Colts
2E 31 Denico Autry Titans

The second defensive linemen tier includes high-volume players who consistently generate pressures at a high rate, which creates a larger pool of players that can also be considered reasonable threats to hit double-digit sacks.

Demarcus Lawrence starting at the top is going to surprise some IDP managers, considering his age (30) and low sack total (3) last season. Still, Lawrence played just seven games last season (less than 200 pass-rush snaps) and managed a 15% pressure rate, combined with an excellent 11.4% run stop percentage, which remains consistent with his most recent seasons. Lawrence ranks among the league’s best run-defending edge defenders, keeping him on the field for all three downs and raising his production floor. This, along with consistently great pass-rush marks, should keep him in consideration among the top IDP edge defenders. 

Both Brian Burns and Shaquil Barrett produce above-average pressure rates, combined with encouraging pass-rush grades in a great position to be on the field a lot, keeping their IDP stock high. 

Harold Landry, Matthew Judon and Josh Allen all figure to play a lot once again this coming season, and all three have the ability to affect the quarterback regularly with good win rates and pressure rates.

Chase Young is coming off a very disappointing season where he played just nine games before tearing his ACL. There’s concern that he may not be available to start the year, which pushes him down this list a bit. Even before the injury, however, Young’s numbers were not ideal for an edge defender who many expected a breakout season from in 2021.

Young managed just an 8.66% pressure rate, and his 1.5 sacks on the year reflected that poor number. Betting on talent can still pay off after a down year, especially for a player so early in their NFL career and one so physically gifted. Young still earned a 71.2 pass-rush grade and posted an above-average win rate (13.36%) in 2021. With defensive linemen often taking time to develop and acclimate to the NFL, Year 3 makes sense for either a true breakout season or cause to panic for Young, as long as he’s healthy.

The 2C section is where IDP managers will have the option of old reliables like Khalil Mack, Chandler Jones and Von Miller, or the shiny new toys of the unknown in Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux. Most people lean toward the younger players, but the older guys here are still proving themselves to be more than useful. Each of Jones, Mack and Miller boast strong pass-rush grades, win rates and pressure rates as recently as the 2021 season, so there’s safety in betting on reliability. However, there’s the risk of decline as these players get older. And betting on the rookies can be disappointing if they don't hit the ground running in Year 1.

Tier 2D offers a variety of pass rushers to choose from, with Montez Sweat coming off a down season, a rookie in George Karlaftis who should have high volume, a solid Odafe Oweh in his second season and a still productive older Preston Smith. Smith posted a 14.8% pressure rate in 2021, which ranked 15th among edge defenders who played 100 pass-rush snaps, adding nine sacks. He’ll likely be the one to fall further in most drafts among this group, but he should play a lot of snaps once again and there’s still plenty of fuel left in the tank.

Denico Autry rounds out the second tier and is going to be forgotten in loads of drafts, but he's in line for another high-volume role in Tennessee in 2022. Autry posted 61 total pressures on just over 500 pass-rush snaps, to go along with nine sacks last season. Autry fits the exact criteria for this tier with an expected high-volume role accompanied by a strong pressure rate. 

Outside of Za’Darius Smith, the 2E group consists of typical pass-rush specialists, but ones who could earn good snap volume as more than capable edge rushers.

TIER 3: DT-REQUIRED ESSENTIALS

TIER 3 RANK PLAYER TEAM
3A 32 DeForest Buckner Colts
3A 33 Cameron Heyward Steelers
3A 34 Chris Jones Chiefs
3A 35 Jeffery Simmons Titans
3B 36 Jonathan Allen Commanders
3B 37 Christian Wilkins Dolphins
3B 38 Christian Barmore Patriots
3B 39 Javon Hargrave Eagles
3C 40 Quinnen Williams Jets
3C 41 David Onyemata Saints
3C 42 Daron Payne Commanders
3C 43 Arik Armstead 49ers
3D 44 Larry Ogunjobi Steelers
3D 45 Kenny Clark Packers
3D 46 Leonard Williams Giants
3D 47 J.J. Watt Cardinals

The interior defenders (aside from Aaron Donald) get their own tier, as it is a very different position with wildly different levels of expected production compared to the edge players. For DT-required leagues, this doesn’t necessarily mean targeting these players this far down the overall ranks, but more to rank them separately for when IDP managers are ready to start attacking the position.

3A DT’s pass-rush ranks in 2021:
3A Defensive Tackle Total Pressures
(DT rank)
Total Sacks
(DT rank)
Win Rate
(DT rank)
DeForest Buckner 49 (9th) 7 (T-8th) 15.33% (11th)
Cameron Heyward 61 (T-6th) 10 (2nd) 15.65% (10th)
Chris Jones 65 (3rd) 9 (T-3rd) 19.70% (4th)
Jeffery Simmons 62 (5th) 8.5 (6th) 13.62% (19th)

After Donald, the best pass rushers on the interior sit in the 3A section. With this being such a rare position to find sack upside, IDP managers will be hard-pressed to find a higher ceiling outside of this group. All four players are great bets to finish inside the top-10 at their position in total pressures, which gives them a great shot at strong sack numbers.

Jonathan Allen, Christian Barmore and Christian Wilkins are interior players on the rise and should challenge the top-five at the position for pass-rush production. Javon Hargrave posted a career-high 91.5 pass-rush grade in 2021, managing 61 pressures and 7.5 sacks, with plenty of other positive metrics suggesting that their pass-rush prowess can continue.

Quinnen Williams begins a drop-off in IDP quality for interior defenders. While he’s still fine as a starting DT for IDP, the dropoff in pass-rush metrics ranks just slightly above average compared to those ahead of him on this list. 

TIER 4: VOLUME EDGE PRODUCERS

TIER 4 RANK PLAYER TEAM
4A 48 Cameron Jordan Saints
4A 49 Sam Hubbard Bengals
4A 50 Jaelan Phillips Dolphins
4A 51 Kwity Paye Colts
4A 52 Gregory Rousseau Bills
4B 53 Carl Lawson Jets
4B 54 Azeez Ojulari Giants
4B 55 Arnold Ebiketie Falcons
4B 56 Alex Highsmith Steelers
4B 57 Jonathan Greenard Texans
4C 58 Drake Jackson 49ers
4C 59 Leonard Floyd Rams
4C 60 John Franklin-Myers Jets
4C 61 Robert Quinn Bears
4C 62 Jerry Hughes Texans
4C 63 Travon Walker Jaguars
4C 64 Joe Tryon-Shoyinka Buccaneers
4D 65 Jadeveon Clowney Browns
4D 66 Markus Golden Cardinals
4D 67 Bradley Chubb Broncos
4D 68 Haason Reddick Eagles
4D 69 Bud Dupree Titans
4D 70 Frank Clark Chiefs
4D 71 Yetur Gross-Matos Panthers

Volume is king in IDP, for better or for worse, and this group represents a mix of unproven or aging edge defenders who don’t necessarily have the pass-rush metrics to encourage elite production going forward. 

Cameron Jordan, a 33-year-old edge, leads the way and has been about as consistent throughout his career as any other player at his position. Unfortunately, aside from the final month of the season, Jordan largely disappointed in the box score, and that mirrored what his pass-rush metrics showed. Jordan’s pass-rush grade (69.7) and win rate (11.89%) hovered just above or just below average all season, representing a potential decline for his career.

Jaelan Phillips and Kwity Paye both have enough question marks that they fall further on this list than they would for dynasty purposes. Phillips, specifically, posted a high pressure-to-sack conversion rate (21.8%), which is a regressive stat. Meanwhile, his pass-rush grade (61.3), pressure rate (10.2%) and win rate (11.23%) were all below average as predictive measures. Combined with a concern for volume again this season with Miami bringing in Melvin Ingram, Emmanuel Ogbah and Andrew Van Ginkel, who will all potentially eat into his snaps in 2022.

Expected snap count plays a large role in this tier, combined with a lack of great pass-rush metrics, and Haason Reddick at 4D is likely the best example. This will be Reddick’s third team in three years after playing at least 800 snaps in each of the past two, but the Eagles have not had an edge play 800 snaps since 2015. There are a handful of capable edge rushers in Philadelphia that Reddick will share snaps with, so keep that snap decrease in mind considering his below-average pass-rush grade (65.9) and win rate (12.5%).

TIER 5: LOWER VOLUME + POSITIVE PASS-RUSH METRICS

TIER 5 RANK PLAYER TEAM
5A 72 Josh Sweat Eagles
5A 73 Jermaine Johnson II Jets
5A 74 Trevis Gipson Bears
5A 75 Romeo Okwara Lions
5B 76 Mario Addison Texans
5B 77 Josh Uche Patriots
5B 78 Uchenna Nwosu Seahawks
5B 79 Melvin Ingram Dolphins
5C 80 Payton Turner Saints
5C 81 Darrell Taylor Seahawks
5C 82 Deatrich Wise Jr. Patriots
5D 83 Charles Harris Lions
5D 84 Andrew Van Ginkel Dolphins
5D 85 Ogbonnia Okoronkwo Texans
5D 86 Charles Omenihu 49ers
5D 87 Arden Key Jaguars

The last edge defenders group poses the biggest fantasy issue: Their snap volume is likely to be less than ideal to rely on regularly throughout the season. The positive for them is that their pass-rush metrics are decent enough to take a shot on as depth options. though they are unlikely to greatly exceed those expectations.

TIER 6: SECONDARY DEFENSIVE TACKLE OPTIONS

TIER 6 RANK PLAYER TEAM
6A 88 Grady Jarrett Falcons
6A 89 Dexter Lawrence Giants
6A 90 Devontae Wyatt Packers
6A 91 Ed Oliver Bills
6B 92 B.J. Hill Bengals
6B 93 Matt Ioannidis Panthers
6B 94 Fletcher Cox Eagles
6B 95 Sebastian Joseph-Day Chargers
6B 96 Vita Vea Buccaneers
6C 97 Calais Campbell Ravens
6C 98 Akiem Hicks Buccaneers
6C 99 Dalvin Tomlinson Vikings
6C 100 Jordan Davis Eagles

Filling out the defensive tackle position for DT-required leagues can be tricky, but there are still some solid options available to shore up that position in IDP leagues. 

Tier 6A has the highest pass-rush upside of the remaining DTs, including Grady Jarrett, who had a down 2021 season but still should play a lot. His 10.5% win rate suggests that he can put himself into a position to bounce back after a one-sack season. 

Matt Ioannidis is an underrated interior defender coming off a strong season in Washington where he posted a 72.5 pass-rush grade, 9.58% pressure rate and 12.4% win rate but just 2.5 sacks. Bet on him to outperform his perceived value in Carolina, where he should be in for another 600-plus snaps, if healthy.

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