Ranking the 15 Best NFL Defensive Ends

The defensive designation is a pivotal part of the NFL and is crucial to leading a team to long-term success. So, who are the the best NFL Defensive Ends? Stick around to find out!

The make or break in the NFL is down to intricate details. Furthermore, finding the right balance in the defensive end is substantially relevant to edge out in the most critical battles.

Therefore, without much delay, let’s take a look at the 15 Best NFL Defensive Ends.

Ranking the 15 Best NFL Defensive Ends

The following list is compiled from various trusted sources such as NFL.com and PFF.

Before we go into the specifics, let’s first overview the 15 Best NFL Defensive Ends.

Name Team
15. Jerry Hughes Buffalo Bills
14. Brandon Graham Philadelphia Eagles
13. Za’Darius Smith Green Bay Packers
12. J.J. Watt Arizona Cardinals
11. Von Miller Denver Broncos
10. Danielle Hunter Minnesota Vikings
9. Shaquil Barrett Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8. Chase Young Washington Football Team
7. Demarcus Lawrence Dallas Cowboys
6. Cameron Jordan New Orleans Saints
5. Nick Bosa San Francisco 49ers
4. Myles Garrett Cleveland Browns
3. Joey Bosa Los Angeles Chargers
2. T.J. Watt Pittsburgh Steelers
1. Khalil Mack Chicago Bears

Jerry Hughes

Jerry Ray Hughes Jr. is an American defensive end who currently plays for the Buffalo Bills.

Despite the fact that Hughes will be 33 years old when the season begins, he has shown no signs of slowing down. Furthermore, Hughes has put up impressive numbers, which should keep us interested if the past is any indication of what is to come.

Jerry ranks fifth among qualifiers at his position, with a pass-rush win rate of 19.8 percent over the last three seasons. In addition, the Buffalo Bills will continue to rely on him in 2021, hoping for another strong performance.

Meanwhile, recent draft picks such as A.J. Epenesa, Gregory Rousseau, and Carlos Basham Jr. have been groomed to take on the mantle in the future.

Brandon Graham

Brandon Lee Graham (Brandon Graham) is a defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles in the National Football League.

While Graham’s sack totals do not reflect his impact as a pass-rusher, he has been one of the most disruptive athletes in the league. Furthermore, the 34-year-old is tied for 16th in total sacks at the position since 2014.

Only Khalil Mack, Cameron Jordan, and Von Miller have recorded more pressures than Graham’s 445 total. Over the same time period, he also leads the league with 88 tackles for loss or no gain against the run.

So it’s no surprise that Brandon is one of the league’s most well-rounded edge defenders.

Za’Darius Smith

Za’Darius Smith, born September 8, 1992, is an American football player for the Green Bay Packers.

Smith has produced some of his best plays since moving from the Baltimore Ravens to the Green Bay Packers. Furthermore, the Packers’ star receiver posted a career-high 89.7 overall grade in a dominant 2019 season.

Furthermore, with a total of 93 pressures, he led the NFL. Despite having an average 2020 season, the 29-year-old managed to post an impressive 84.2 pass-rushing grade.

Smith has also been effective when kicking between the tackles. In addition, over the last two years, he had an incredible 20.2 percent pass-rush win rate on over 100 such snaps.

J.J. Watt

Justin James Watt, a defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals, moves up our list of the 15 Best NFL Defensive Ends.

While Watt has dealt with injuries throughout his career, when healthy, the 33-year-old is one of the best defensive linemen in the league.

Watt has a stellar track record to go along with his sharp defensive instincts. Not to mention that the talented starlet from Wisconsin has four consecutive PFF grades of 90.0-plus.

Watt won three Defensive Player of the Year awards between 2012 and 2015. To add to his impressive resume, he has been the league’s third most valuable edge defender since 2018, according to PFF WAR.

Von Miller

Von B’Vsean Miller Jr. is an American football player for the Denver Broncos. He was born in Dallas, Texas.

Miller hopes to return to his usual excellent form after recovering from a severe ankle injury. Prior to his injury in 2019, the versatile player had a PFF grade of 79.3.

However, the 44-year-old faces a real risk of deterioration. Miller’s resume, on the other hand, speaks for itself, as he has put up some impressive numbers during his NFL career.

No other edge defender in the league has a higher grade than Miller’s 94.6. With 640 pressures from 2011 to 2019, he has been a thorn in the side of his opponents.

Danielle Hunter

Danielle Hunter is a Minnesota Vikings defensive end from Jamaica. The young starlet from St Catherine has been one of the league’s best.

Hunter has consistently demonstrated his undeniable talent on the field since being drafted in the third round out of LSU in 2015. Furthermore, in run defense grade over the last six seasons, the 27-year-old has ranked in the 87th percentile of all qualifying players at the position.

Hunter made his mark as a pass-rusher for the first time in 2019. He broke his previous career high by ten points with an 84.5 pass-rushing grade.

In addition, the 6-foot-5-inch-tall athlete had 88 quarterback pressures in 2019. While he was sidelined by an injury in 2020, he hopes to improve on his 2019 form this season.

Shaquil Barrett

Shaquil Akeem Barrett, better known as Shaq Barrett, is an American football player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Barrett’s opportunity on the team has increased since his move to Tampa Bay. In his first four seasons with Denver, he had an above-average grade of 74.0 or higher, but he was limited to a rotational role.

Since joining the Buccaneers in 2019, he has accumulated 157 total pressures, more than any other edge defender in the NFL. As a result, it’s no surprise that Tampa Bay triggered a four-year contract extension for him.

Chase Young

Chase Young, who ranks eighth, is an American defensive end for the Washington Football Team. With a strong showing in 2020, Young is one of the league’s most promising names. Furthermore, as a rookie, he has an overall grade of 87.1, ranking him fifth among NFL qualifying edge defenders.

What’s concerning is that, despite a strong performance last season, Young still has significant room for improvement in terms of pass-rushing. Last season, the 23-year-old led all players at the position with a 93.3 overall grade.

Demarcus Lawrence

Demarcus Lawrence is a defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys in the National Football League. The strong defensive end from South Carolina, born on April 28, 1992, has been one of the league’s best pass-rushers.

Lawrence has consistently made his presence known with a top-10 pass-rush win rate at the position since 2017.

In recent years, however, the 30-year-old has also been an elite run-defender. Demarcus has been one of seven players in his position to achieve a run-defense grade of 90.1 since 2017.

Jordan, Cameron

Chandler, Arizona native Cameron Tyler Jordan is a defensive end for the New Orleans Saints in the National Football League. Jordan is widely regarded as one of the most dependable defensive ends in NFL history.

Jordan is a constant presence on the field, rarely leaving it. Furthermore, the 33-year-old has six consecutive PFF grades of 82.0 or higher.

With such a lethal combination of durability and top-tier performances, it’s easy to see why Jordan has ranked second in total pressures since 2015.

Nick Bosa

Nicholas John Bosa, who ranks fifth, is an American defensive end for the San Francisco 49ers.

Following a strong rookie season in 2019, Bosa was sidelined in Week 2 of the 2020 season with a torn ACL. However, the 24-year-old hopes to regain his majestic form as the new season begins.

To demonstrate how good of a rookie season Bosa had, his 80 pressures easily outnumbered those of the other rookies since PFF began tracking in 2006. His overall grade of 89.8 ranked first among all rookies in 2019.

As a result, Bosa’s return from injury is a huge boost for the 49ers as they prepare for the 2021 season.

Myles Garrett

Myles Lorenz Garrett is a defensive end for the Cleveland Browns. Garett, known for his tough demeanor, is a dependable Browns player.

Garrett has ranked near the top of almost every significant pass-rush grade category since his arrival in the league. He also ranks in the 98th percentile for pass-rushing grade, pass-rushing grade on proper pass sets, and pass-rushing grade without play-action.

Not to mention that the 26-year-old is among the best in his field.

Joey Bosa

Joseph Anthony Bosa is an American football professional who currently plays for the Los Angeles Chargers.

It didn’t take long for the highly versatile outside linebacker to establish himself as one of the league’s top pass-rushers. Bosa was a force to be reckoned with from the start, recording 59 pressures as a rookie in 2016.

Furthermore, the 2016 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year has only improved in the four years since. In addition, he is the only active edge rusher with a pass-rush win rate greater than 20% since 2016.

While he has proven his worth time and again, Bosa has been plagued by injuries. As a result, questions about his fitness loom ahead of the 2021 season.

T.J. Watt

Trent Jordan “T. J.” Watt is an American football player who currently plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Watt is best known for his natural ability to command the field with his powerful presence.

Over the last two seasons in Pittsburgh, the 27-year-old has put up incredible pass-rushing numbers.

Watt leads all edge defenders in sacks with 29.5. Furthermore, he leads the league with 46 quarterback hits since 2019. The Wisconsin outside linebacker is second in total pressures, trailing only Shaquil Barrett.

Watt also had PFF grades of 91.3 and 91.6 with the Steelers the previous two years.

T.J has evolved into a star edge rusher in the NFL and a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

Khalil Mack

Khalil Delshon Mack is an American football outside linebacker and defensive end who currently plays for the Chicago Bears. Mack has established himself as a dependable athlete since breaking into the sport in 2014.

Unsurprisingly, Khalil showed early signs of brilliance. Mack was named Defensive Rookie of the Year by ESPN’s NFL Live analysts after a string of outstanding performances.

Furthermore, his stellar stats reflect his dominance on the field. In each of his first seven NFL seasons, the 31-year-old has had an overall grade of 85.0 or higher.

Furthermore, PFF WAR ranked Mack as the league’s most valuable edge rusher in 2020, demonstrating his on-field dominance.


A strong and dependable defensive lineup can help transform a weak team into a serious title contender. Furthermore, it allows a team to build on a solid foundation while freeing the attackers to do their thing.

Finally, the players mentioned above are the foundations of their respective teams, allowing the group to achieve the ideal balance. As a result, they have solidified their places among the 15 Best NFL Defensive Ends.

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