NFL Defensive Position Rankings: Aaron Donald Remains The Best in the League

by Alexis Kraft
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It’s that time of year when NFL fans of all capacities; analysts, broadcasters, writers, etc. are coming out with their predictions for the upcoming season. If you’ve been following along with my previous work this offseason, you know that I have a lot of fun with preseason predictions and opinions. It’s fun (for me, at least) to create discussions about these topics. As everyone knows, there is certainly no shortage of opinions.

Today, I am going to share with you my Top-10 Best Players for each position in the NFL. There are a lot of players who I view as equally talented, but I will do my best to rank them according to who I truly believe is the best. These players will be ranked based on talent, not necessarily how I think their individual teams will perform during the upcoming season.

These rankings are also under the assumption that all of these players stay healthy the entire season. And of course, some of these opinions could be based on personal preference or a “gut” feeling or belief. NFL talent is very subjective. My rankings aren’t necessarily set in stone, but simply how I currently feel about them right now.

Defensive Tackle

  1. Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams  
  2. Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers 
  3. Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs 
  4. Grady Jarrett, Atlanta Falcons 
  5. DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis Colts
  6. Jonathan Allen, Washington Football Team
  7. Quinnen Williams, New York Jets  
  8. Kenny Clark, Green Bay Packers 
  9. Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles  
  10. Vita Vea, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Has there ever been a more obvious choice for No. 1 on a list? Aaron Donald is ten steps ahead of everyone else at defensive tackle in the NFL. While Heyward, Jones and Jarrett are all very close to each other, there is a bit of a drop off after them. Jonathan Allen from Washington, as well as Quinnen Williams in New York are fun players that I really like. It will be interesting to see if Fletcher Cox from the Eagles will play consistent this season, or start to decline.

Edge Defenders

  1. Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears 
  2. TJ Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
  3. Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns 
  4. Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers
  5. Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
  6. Chase Young, Washington Football Team
  7. Von Miller, Denver Broncos
  8. Za’Darius Smith, Green Bay Packers
  9. JJ Watt, Arizona Cardinals
  10.   Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

This list is a bit complicated, because it’s mixing a couple different positions and schemes. However, looking strictly at NFL edge defenders, this list should not be very surprising. All 10 of these players are more than deserving of spots on this list, and should be expected to perform incredibly well this season.


  1. Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers  
  2. LaVonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
  3. Deion Jones, Atlanta Falcons 
  4. Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts 
  5. Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks   
  6. Devin White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  7. Roquan Smith, Chicago Bears 
  8. Jayon Brown, Tennessee Titans 
  9. Devin Bush, Pittsburgh Steelers 
  10. Eric Kendricks, Minnesota Vikings

After Fred Warner, the linebackers get difficult. The duo of LaVonte David and Devin White in Tampa Bay might be the best in the NFL, but David remains more consistent. Bobby Wagner is a long-time resident of this list as Rams fans are most certainly aware. Devin Bush could potentially move a bit higher after this season, with Roquan Smith being “make-it-or-break-it” this season. His talent is there, but the consistency is not. 


  1. Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos  
  2. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers
  3. Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers
  4. John Johnson III, Cleveland Browns 
  5. Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints
  6. Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings 
  7. Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs
  8. Jamal Adams, Seattle Seahawks
  9. Jessie Bates III, Cincinnati Bengals 
  10. Budda Baker, Arizona Cardinals

This list is relatively generic, with a few exceptions. Some might be surprised that that John Johnson III is ranked so high. However, Rams fans know just how good and how underrated  he truly is. He should perform well with the Browns this season, as part of a truly scary secondary in Cleveland. Budda Baker could maybe be ranked a bit higher, but he could improve with some more consistency. 


  1. Jalen Ramsey, Los Angeles Rams  
  2. Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers 
  3. Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore Ravens
  4. Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins
  5. Tre’Davious White, Buffalo Bills 
  6. Denzel Ward, Cleveland Browns 
  7. Stephon Gilmore, New England Patriots
  8. Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints 
  9. James Bradberry, New York Giants  
  10. Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s surprising that so many pundits have started to put Jaire Alexander ahead of Jalen Ramsey among NFL cornerbacks. While some might have viewed Ramsey’s “slow” season last year as an indication of decline, Rams fans know that isn’t the case. Quarterbacks just don’t want to throw to him because the damage that he can do.

Ramsey, Alexander and Humphrey stand out from the rest of the cornerbacks on this list pretty dramatically. Lattimore is ranked No. 8 from a talent standpoint, but he’s in for a big prove it type season. Carlton Davis might surprise some, but don’t sleep on this Super Bowl winning cornerback. 


  1. Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens 
  2. Harrison Butker, Kansas City Chiefs
  3. Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers 
  4. Josh Lambo, Jacksonville Jaguars
  5. Will Lutz, New Orleans Saints
  6. Jason Meyers, Seattle Seahawks 
  7. Greg Zuerlin, Dallas Cowboys
  8. Dan Bailey, Minnesota Vikings
  9. Younghoe Koo, Atlanta Falcons
  10. Matt Prater, Detroit Lions

As far as ranking NFL kickers, I just combined consistency and experience. Justin Tucker has long been considered one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL. Josh Lambo is ranked No. 4, but he was statistically the most accurate kicker in the NFL in 2020. Guys like Greg Zuerlin and Dan Bailey were once considered the most reliable kickers in the NFL, but have fell in the talent rankings due to the rise of others.


  1. Johnny Hekker, Los Angeles Rams 
  2. Michael Dickson, Seattle Seahawks 
  3. Thomas Morstead, New Orleans Saints 
  4. Sam Koch, Baltimore Ravens 
  5. Tress Way, Washington Football Team
  6. Logan Cooke, Jacksonville Jaguars 
  7. Jake Bailey, New England Patriots
  8. Bret Kern, Tennesee Titans 
  9. Jack Fox, Detroit Lions  
  10. Mitch Wishnowsky, San Francisco 49ers

In the words of the Johnny Hekker aka the No. 1 overall punter on this list: “Punters are people too!” It is very hard to rank punters, but Johnny Hekker has long been considered the best punter in the league. His only competition is Michael Dickson of the Seahawks, who is No. 2.

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