• Carlos Dunlap adds a new wrinkle to the Kansas City Chiefs’ expected starters on the edge.
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.
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|
Updated: August 11, 2022
TIER 1: VOLUME + PRESSURE RATE + PASS-RUSH GRADE
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|
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.
With LV Raiders All-Pro EDGE Maxx Crosby's season now over, here's two minutes of Crosby dominating pass blockers and mostly not getting the sack luck he deserves.
Crosby led the league in total pressures this year with 101, per @PFF
— Jon Macri (@PFF_Macri) January 17, 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
|2B||16||Harold Landry III||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.
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.