In today’s era of the NFL, offense is what sparks viewership and loyalty. Over the years, the NFL has changed dramatically. Nowadays, offenses are explosive and hard to stop. The dynamic of the sport has really changed, especially with so many quarterbacks being able to run in addition to their passing game. However, defensive players are changing as well. It’s a scary site when you see an outside linebacker running a 4.5 to 4.7 40-yard dash. Even 300-pound linemen can move faster than most people think. The defensive side of the ball is very underrated when it comes to the top NFL players.
Defense is the backbone to winning championships, and in my opinion, often more important than having an explosive offense. Everyone knows you can light up the scoreboard, but if you can’t stop your opponent, eventually you’ll run into problems come playoff time. With that being said, here’s our Top 10 best NFL defensive players in football today.
10) Jamal Adams
The Seahawks decided to pay Jamal Adams a ridiculous amount of money before the start of the 2020 season, and for good reason. Adams is one of the only playmakers on this horrific defense. His numbers don’t do him justice so far this year due to his injuries, but remember, this is about impact.
Quarterbacks are forced to keep an eye on Adams in the secondary. His disguises are great as well as his Football IQ. Adams plays the whole field and sees it well. His closing speed on the defensive side of the ball is what makes him a great safety. He can play up in the box and blitz, while trusting his ability enough to disguise and back off. It’s no question why Jamal Adams is on this list of Top 10 best NFL defensive players.
9) Lavonte David
David has stepped up big for the Bucs the past few seasons. Over the past two seasons he’s had over 120 tackles. He has 12 interceptions, 24 sacks, and over 1,000 tackles in his career so far. Lavonte David is a stomping force in the run game. He comes at every hole full speed and isn’t afraid to hit, which has contributed to Tampa Bay’s good season so far.
This defense never really got the love they deserved when Jameis Winston was at the helm. They were always put in bad field position, but when Brady came to town, we were able to see this defense work. David’s success the next couple seasons will mainly depend on injuries and being able to consistently improve.
8) Khalil Mack
Khalil Mack is hands down one of the best NFL defensive players. When Mack was traded to the Bears in 2018, he made an immediate impact putting together his best season yet. On the other hand, his 2019 season was mediocre at best. The team went from 12-4 to 8-8. Offenses are forced to scheme around Mack, which makes it very hard for QBs to make their 2nd and 3rd reads because of the pressure he brings. Khalil Mack gets held constantly and is always getting double teamed. He hasn’t gotten to those 2018 numbers since, but that’s because of the double and triple teams against him. When talking about impactful players, you can’t leave Khalil Mack off this list.
7) Cam Jordan
Cam Jordan does a great job clogging up the middle against the run game. As an older player on this list, he is still continuously improving and keeps his skillset sharp. He requires multiple double teams, which opens up his fellow Saints linebackers. Cam Jordan is a force up the middle when he’s healthy. He tremendously improves this Saints defense week in and week out. With over 94 sacks and 500 tackles in his career so far, Cam Jordan has definitely earned a spot on the list.
6) Darius Leonard
Darius Leonard has been a rock in the middle of the Colts defense, which is a big part of their success so far this season. Leonard has been very consistent the past two seasons, only missing 5.6% of his tackles. He is near the top of the list in pass rushing, stopping the run, and defending the pass. The Colts linebacker is a force in all aspects and that shouldn’t change anytime soon. Darius Leonard is known around the league as “The Maniac” because of his ability to attack the ball regardless of where it is on the field. He was held back by a minor injury this year, but he’s still a no brainer at #6.
5) Bobby Wagner
As one of the best linebackers in the game, Wagner knows how to lay the wood. His leadership will be key to this struggling Seahawks defense, if they’re going to improve. He’s fundamentally sound in his tackling, which is why he rarely misses tackles. One slight flaw that Wagner has is his pass coverage, but even that is still pretty solid.
Bobby Wagner has been a staple in the Seahawks defense for years and will continue to be that guy in the future. He’s had eight impressive seasons in the league to this point making him one of the top NFL players. Wagner always seems to be around the football, which has led to over 1,100 career tackles. He’s got incredible football IQ and a knack for finding the ball.
4) Myles Garrett
Garrett really stepped up his game so far this season for the Browns. The #1 overall pick comes with expectations and he seems to be doing a great job meeting them. Like most great edge rushers, he gets double teamed and attacked week in and week out. Held constantly because of his incredible speed and quickness, Garret is a proven force in this league. The Browns defensive end has 49 total pressures in the 2020 season and is a big part of why their defense is playing so well. He’s finally playing up to his potential, and if he continues at this rate, he’ll be on the watch list for Defensive Player of the Year.
3) Jaire Alexander
Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander came into the 2020 season to prove a point. He’s been sketchy in the past but has shown flashes of greatness. Just like Myles Garrett, Alexander has shown consistency week in and week out this year. The most yards he’s let up in a game so far has been 66, and that was Week 1 against the Vikings. He is a true shutdown corner this year.
He’s managed to only allow 56 yards over the next five games following Week 1. In two of the games, he allowed zero or negative yards. Given that the Packers defense is suspect this season, I can see why they’re picking on other defensive guys.
2) Aaron Donald
Donald proves every week why he’ll go down as one of the best defensive linemen to ever play the game. He has incredible strength and quickness and watching him over the past few seasons has been a site to see. Donald gets double and sometimes triple teamed, but still finds a way into backfield. He’s on record saying he “doesn’t just want to be great but wants to be the best to ever play at his position.” There’s not a team in the league that doesn’t respect him and key on him each offensive drive. So far this season, he is first in sacks with 10 and tied for 1st in forced fumbles with two. Aaron Donald is a dominant force on defense, and at this rate, could potentially be a future Hall of Famer.
1) TJ Watt
As far as impactful players go, Watt is at the top of the list. This Pittsburgh defense is elite in and Watt has a lot to do with it. He is the #1 rated pass rusher so far in 2020, featuring dynamic speed and a high efficiency off the ball. Watt’s incredible knowledge for the game is second to none. In 2019, he has forced eight fumbles, as well as, sacking the quarterback eighteen times. His game is steadily improving every year, which is why he sits at number one on the list. He should remain as one of the best NFL defensive players for years to come.
Busting up doubles teams and seamlessly dropping back into coverage makes him one of the elite edge rushers in the NFL. TJ Watt is extremely athletic, making him a huge proponent as to why this Steelers defense is thriving.