NFL's best duos at every position: Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence combine for top EDGE pair

2RH79F2 Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (11) and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (90) stand on the field before an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Hodde)

• The Dolphins' speed shows at running back and wide receiver: Raheem Mostert plus De'Von Achane and Tyreek Hill plus Jaylen Waddle are the top duos at their respective positions.

• Elite edge defender duos abound: The Cowboys' pairing of Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence edges out Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith, and T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith.

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As we come to the end of rankings season this offseason, it’s time to look at the best duos, and one trio, at each position where this is possible.

What’s apparent as you look across the league is that some teams are reaping the rewards for investing heavily in certain positions, with four teams heading into the season as our top pairing at multiple positions.

RUNNING BACK: Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane, Miami Dolphins

Mostert and Achane ranked first and second, respectively, in PFF rushing grade among all running backs with 100 or more carries last year. The concern here is projecting Mostert's production in 2024, given that he is 32 years old.

Achane will likely steal some of his carries away after electrifying as a rookie, forcing 30 missed tackles on just 108 carries and gaining 15 or more yards on 53.4% of his attempts.

WIDE RECEIVER: Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins

There’s stiff competition for this spot, with the San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles also boasting outstanding duos.

Hill’s 2023 season was simply incredible. He averaged 3.72 yards per route run, more than half a yard better than the next-best wide receiver. Waddle was incredibly productive in his own right, tying for eighth at the position with an average of 2.52 yards per route run.

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TIGHT END: Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely, Baltimore Ravens

Losing a player of Mark Andrews caliber due to injury in 2023 was a big blow to the Ravens, but it at least allowed them to see Isaiah Likely‘s capabilities, potentially pushing the offense to use two-tight end sets more frequently in 2024.

Andrews’ 1.93 yards per route run average ranked fourth among tight ends last season, while Likely proved himself tough to bring down after the catch with 12 missed tackles forced on 34 receptions.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE: Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles were the only NFL team with two of the 12 best offensive tackles in PFF pass-blocking grade last year. Mailata allowed 46 pressures from 719 pass-blocking snaps, while Johnson allowed 35 from 616.

Both are impressive run blockers, too, slotting in as two of just four players at the position to boast PFF run-blocking grades above 75.0 and PFF pass-blocking grades above 80.0.

OFFENSIVE GUARD: Tyler Smith and Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys

Martin over the past two seasons hasn’t been at his previous level of earning 90.0-plus PFF grades, but he has still been one of the top pass-blockers at the position. His 75.1 PFF pass-blocking grade in 2023 ranked 10th after he allowed just 24 quarterback pressures from 655 pass-blocking snaps.

Left guard Tyler Smith is ascending, coming off a season in which he ranked eighth among guards in PFF run-blocking grade (80.7).

EDGE DEFENDER: Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys

Competition is fierce here. One could make a strong case for either Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith of the Cleveland Browns, or T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith of the Pittsburgh Steelers to be in the top spot.

Parsons earned a 93.7 PFF pass-rushing grade in 2023, racking up 106 quarterback pressures from 532 pass-blocking snaps. Opposite him, Lawrence posted a 79.3 PFF pass-rushing grade and was a phenomenal run defender, trailing only Maxx Crosby in PFF run-defense grade (92.2).

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INTERIOR DEFENDER: D.J. Reader and Alim McNeill, Detroit Lions

The Lions, after adding Reader to their defensive front this offseason, have a duo that looks like the NFL’s best on paper heading into the 2024 season.

Reader ranked 10th at the position with a 75.3 PFF run-defense grade last season. He is a better pass-rusher than he’s given credit for, too, with his 79.1 PFF pass-rushing grade ranking 14th at the position.

McNeill has a strong case as being the most underrated interior defender in the NFL right now. His 86.8 PFF overall grade ranked eighth at the position last season, and he has improved every year.

LINEBACKER: C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams, New York Jets

The Jets boast a pair of top-10 linebackers in PFF grade from 2023.

Mosley led all linebackers with a 90.6 PFF coverage grade and came away with six combined interceptions and pass breakups last season. Williams was right behind him with an 88.7 PFF coverage grade, and while he did let up four touchdowns in coverage, he also made plenty of plays on the ball, tallying nine combined pass breakups and interceptions.

CORNERBACK (TRIO): Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed and Michael Carter II, New York Jets

With how often teams have three cornerbacks on the field, it felt only right to make this a trio rather than a duo.

Sauce Gardner is arguably the best cornerback in football right now, entering his third season in the league. He has earned PFF coverage grades of 90.0 or better in each of his first two years. Opposite him, D.J. Reed earned a 79.5 PFF coverage grade last season, giving up just 475 yards in coverage across the season. Carter rounds out the group in the slot, coming off a season during which he surrendered an average of just 8.1 yards per reception.

SAFETY: Kyle Hamilton and Marcus Williams, Baltimore Ravens

Marcus Williams battled through injuries last season but still impressed while healthy. He has earned PFF coverage grades above 70.0 in both of his seasons with the Ravens and led all safeties with eight pass breakups in the regular season despite missing some time.

Kyle Hamilton is a Swiss Army knife who can be deployed all over the field. His 90.1 PFF coverage grade in 2023 ranked third among safeties, but he also impressed as a blitzer, racking up 16 quarterback pressures from 45 pass-rushing snaps. His 40 tackles that resulted in a defensive stop ranked second at the position.


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