PFF Interior Defender Rankings: Top 32 ahead of the 2024 NFL season

2TC4MD6 Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones celebrates during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

• Chris Jones takes over for Aaron Donald: The retired Donald yields his spot to the elite Chiefs interior defender, who has the highest pressure rate at the position over the past two seasons.

• Rookie Byron Murphy II already makes the cut: The Seahawks' 2024 first-rounder comes in at No. 25 and has the profile to make an immediate impact in the NFL.

• Get a head start on fantasy football: Use PFF's fantasy football mock draft simulator to create real live mock draft simulations to get ready for your live draft!

Estimated Reading Time: 12 minutes

The NFL offseason continues, and with it PFF’s spin around the league with position rankings.

We have already ranked the top 32 players at a variety of different positions (click through others below), and this time we turn our attention to interior defenders.

For the first time in a decade, the list won’t feature Aaron Donald, as the best interior defender in football retired after the 2023 season, leaving a void at the top of the rankings.

Other Position Rankings:

QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | EDGE

Full Roster Rankings

1. Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs

With Aaron Donald having retired, the player who has been closest to him over the past few years takes over the throne. The best thing you can say about Chris Jones is that he had been bridging the gap between Donald and everybody else in the league.

Over the past two seasons, Jones has the highest pressure rate at the position and 24 more pressures than any other interior defender.

2. Dexter Lawrence, New York Giants

What separates Lawrence from other defensive tackles is his elite pass-rushing production, primarily from a nose tackle alignment.

Others may be nose tackles in name only, but Lawrence has 81 total pressures over the past two seasons when lined up as a nose tackle. No other player has more than 16.

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3. Quinnen Williams, New York Jets

One of the most disruptive defensive tackles in football, Williams has been a game-wrecker since breaking out in 2022. Over the past two seasons, only Lawrence and Jones have more total pressures than his 122, and he has 74 defensive stops over that time, as well.

Williams has put together back-to-back seasons with a 90.0-plus PFF grade.

4. Derrick Brown, Carolina Panthers

The first player on the list who is more of a run specialist than a pass-rusher, Brown has been the best interior run defender in the game over the past two seasons, earning a 90.1 PFF run-defense grade.

He tallied a massive 53 defensive stops last season alone, 10 more than any other interior player.

5. Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers

Heyward, one of the few remaining players from the outstanding 2011 draft class, is still playing outstanding football for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Injury caused him to miss some time in 2023, but in the four seasons before that, he was averaging a PFF overall grade above 90.0.

At 35, Heyward is still a force to be reckoned with until he walks away.

6. DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis Colts

A versatile lineman able to move all over the formation, Buckner spends far more of his time lined up outside or over tackles than most interior defenders, but he’s a problem for offensive lines from any spot. He totaled more than 50 pressures in each of the past two seasons, with 90 defensive stops to go along with them.

7. Javon Hargrave, San Francisco 49ers

Hargrave was a better run defender than a pass-rusher earlier in his career, but over the past few seasons, he has been one of the best pass-rushers in the game, seemingly at the expense of that run defense. He had consecutive seasons with a PFF pass-rushing grade above 91.0 before last season’s 86.5 mark. He cleared 60 total pressures in each of the past three years, but in none did he earn a PFF run-defense grade above 51.4, a below-average mark relative to other interior defenders.

8. Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee Titans

Simmons at his best is as good as anybody on this list, but he hasn’t had the consistency of the players above him.

He recorded 47 total pressures and 29 defensive stops in 2023 while marred by injury, and that campaign still featured at least one dominant outing where he notched a pair of sacks and six quarterback pressures against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 8.

9. Jalen Carter, Philadelphia Eagles

For the first half of his rookie season, Carter looked like he might rival the best defensive tackles in the game right out of the gate.

Through Week 8, Carter boasted a 91.6 PFF overall grade to trail only Dexter Lawrence. His second half of the season was less consistent, but he was still a wrecking machine when at his best.

Overall, Carter finished with 50 quarterback pressures and an 84.6 PFF pass-rushing grade. If he takes a step forward in his second year, the rest of the league needs to look out.

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10. Christian Wilkins, Las Vegas Raiders

New Raiders acquisition Christian Wilkins was an all-around force for the Miami Dolphins over the past few seasons. He has the fourth-best PFF run-defense grade among all interior defenders over the past two seasons and racked up a career-high 61 quarterback pressures in 2023.

Wilkins actually didn’t hit free agency coming off his best season, but his two campaigns before that were among the league’s best.

11. Justin Madubuike, Baltimore Ravens

Madubuike had a breakout 2023 season, leading all interior defenders in sacks. Including the playoffs, his 77 total pressures ranked third after only Aaron Donald and Chris Jones.

Madubuike has been an average run defender in his career thus far, but he showed last season that he can be one of the most impactful pass-rushers in the game.

12. Christian Barmore, New England Patriots

Another player coming off a breakout season, Barmore earned an 83.8 PFF overall grade last season and was even better as a pass-rusher. He recorded 49 quarterback pressures and 40 defensive stops and was used by the Patriots all over the line to exploit matchup advantages and attack blockers with his speed and burst.

13. DJ Reader, Detroit Lions

A 335-pound defensive tackle, Reader has always been more than just a run-stuffer but has consistently improved his ability to create pressure throughout his career. His last two years in Cincinnati were the best of his career from a pass-rushing standpoint, and he can singlehandedly destroy run plays with his power and quickness as he maneuvers into the backfield.

14. Jonathan Allen, Washington Commanders

Allen isn’t coming off his best season, but he still racked up 49 quarterback pressures and 37 defensive stops for the Commanders last year.

At his best, Allen is one of the most formidable pass-rushers in the game. He is just two years removed from a 90.9 PFF pass-rushing grade on the back of 67 pressures and double-digit sacks.

15. Alim McNeill, Detroit Lions

A former third-round pick, McNeill has improved each year of his professional career and was a star in 2023. He earned impressive PFF grades as both a run defender and a pass-rusher, resulting in an 86.8 overall mark that ranked him among the best players in the league.

If McNeill isn’t done improving, he could shoot up these rankings with an even better 2024.

16. Kobie Turner, Los Angeles Rams

From Week 11 onward in 2023, Turner posted an 89.5 PFF overall grade, which ranked fifth in the league. His PFF pass-rushing grade came out to 90.3, the best in the NFL and just ahead of his teammate Aaron Donald.

Losing Donald to retirement changes the picture the entire Rams defense will see every snap, but Turner looked like a star in the making as a rookie.

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17. Leonard Williams, Seattle Seahawks

Versatility has always been a hallmark of Williams’ play in the NFL, and that versatility may be highlighted better than ever before in new head coach Mike Macdonald’s defense. Williams amassed 52 quarterback pressures last season across two different teams, and he graded well across all facets.

18. David Onyemata, Atlanta Falcons

Onyemata is now on a sequence of seven straight seasons with at least 30 pressures, and he has added 54 defensive stops over the past two seasons while playing for two NFC South teams.

Onyemata is a disruptive presence on the defensive interior and has developed into an excellent player.

19. Arik Armstead, Jacksonville Jaguars

Armstead has always had something of a tweener body type, but the 49ers had settled into using him as a fairly conventional interior pass-rusher in recent years. Last season, including the playoffs, he notched 58 quarterback pressures and 18 defensive stops.

Jacksonville may elect to use him more on the outside in 2024, but Armstead brings some real pass-rushing juice wherever he lines up.

20. Zach Sieler, Miami Dolphins

Sieler is a former seventh-round draft pick out of Ferris State who has gone on to become an impact starter along Miami's defensive line and one of the most underrated players in all of football.

Sieler set a career high in quarterback pressures (60) last season and has now recorded at least 30 defensive stops in four straight seasons. He also produced his second consecutive year of at least 900 snaps.

21. Vita Vea, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vea would have arguably the best highlight reel of any defensive tackle in the NFL. His wins can be absolutely absurd. At 350 pounds, he has the power to ragdoll 300-pound offensive linemen and the explosiveness to take advantage of it. He just doesn’t make that impact as consistently as he should.

Last season, he totaled 39 quarterback pressures and 30 defensive stops to go along with an 80.0 PFF overall grade. All are good marks, but none correspond to the physical dominance he can display at times.

22. Ed Oliver, Buffalo Bills

Another player who has perhaps never quite lived up to his expected potential, Oliver is coming off a career year in terms of pass rushing, racking up 72 quarterback pressures, including the playoffs.

Oliver also recorded 32 defensive stops, another career high. An undersized, athletic defensive tackle, Oliver finally started looking like the dominant force he was supposed to become — not simply a good player.

23. Osa Odighizuwa, Dallas Cowboys

is an ascending player who has improved each season in the NFL after being drafted by Dallas in the third round in 2021.

2023 was full of career highs for Odighizuwa, who earned at least above-average PFF grades as both a run defender and a pass-rusher. He finished with 44 total pressures and 27 defensive stops.

24. DaQuan Jones, Buffalo Bills

Losing Jones to injury was a big blow to Buffalo’s defense last season. Through nine games, he sported an 80.9 PFF pass-rushing grade, the best on the team. He had 20 total pressures across only 152 pass-rushing snaps and was playing well against the run.

Jones' play was impressive enough that Buffalo prioritized re-signing him despite that injury.

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25. Byron Murphy II, Seattle Seahawks

The first and only rookie to make the list, Murphy being ranked here is based purely on projection and what he accomplished in college.

Murphy has the profile to make an immediate impact in the NFL. With a prototypical pass-rushing skill set, he also has the strength that meant he was often lining up at nose tackle in Texas over 360-pound T'Vondre Sweat.

Murphy had an elite pass-rush win rate of 19.6% last season and a 91.9 PFF pass-rushing grade against true pass sets.

26. Dalvin Tomlinson, Cleveland Browns

Earlier in his career, Tomlinson was one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles in the NFL but wasn’t offering much as a pass-rushing force. Over the past few seasons, however, that dynamic has reversed itself, with four straight seasons of consistently good PFF pass-rushing grades corresponding to a gradual year-on-year decline in his run-defense grade.

He recorded 36 total pressures in 2023 for the Browns, but also a career-low 49.2 PFF run-defense grade.

27. Kenny Clark, Green Bay Packers

At one point, Clark was the league’s prototype for the modern, one-gapping nose tackle. He has seasons on his resume with elite production and PFF grades above 90.0 overall, but his more recent body of work has been good rather than great. Last season, he tallied 66 quarterback pressures and 25 defensive stops, including the playoffs, and he played an impressive 913 snaps.

28. Grady Jarrett, Atlanta Falcons

At his best, Grady Jarrett was a top-five player on this list, but as he plays into his 30s, we haven’t seen his very best for a few years now. 2023 was an injury-curtailed season, but even the year before he earned only above-average PFF grades and production as opposed to the elite marks he had been hitting just a couple of years prior.

Jarrett has enough credit in the bank to make the list still, but this is a big season for him to bounce back and prove that he isn’t firmly in decline late in his career.

29. Devonte Wyatt, Green Bay Packers

After barely featuring in his rookie season, Wyatt was far better in Year 2, particularly at rushing the passer.

He racked up 48 quarterback pressures, including the playoffs, adding 26 defensive stops and playing almost 650 total snaps.

Wyatt has the juice to be a very disruptive interior pass-rusher.

30. Sheldon Rankins, Cincinnati Bengals

Brought in this offseason as part of the plan to replace DJ Reader on the defensive line, Rankins notched 42 pressures last season as a member of the Houston Texans. He also had 28 defensive stops, but 11 missed tackles helped explain a below-average run-defense grade.

Rankins has high-level PFF grades in every facet of play at various points in his NFL career but has struggled to record them all at the same time.

31. Grover Stewart, Indianapolis Colts

One of the league’s better run defenders, Stewart has graded consistently well in that area in every season of his NFL career. He has shown in the past few years that he can impact the passing game, as well, notching the second-most pressures from a nose tackle alignment over the past two seasons.

32. Daron Payne, Washington Commanders

Payne isn’t coming off his best year, but he could be a rejuvenated force in 2024 in Dan Quinn’s defense. He totaled 35 quarterback pressures last season, but that was down from 49 the year before. He has notched at least 40 pressures in back-to-back seasons, having had exactly 39 in each of the two years before that.

The powerhouse of a defensive tackle's best season may be incoming in a new defensive system.


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