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CBS Sports ranks NFL's Top 20 edge rushers ahead of 2024 season

profilephotocropby:Suzanne Halliburton07/09/24


edge rusher nick bosa tj watt myles garrett
USA Today Network

If quarterbacks are the most important position on offense, then surely the guy who chases them on defense is the MVP on that side of the ball. That’s why the edge rusher is so key to a team’s fortunes.

Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports recently released his rankings, letting us know who he believes is the top edge rusher and those who may be closing in on the title.

And, as always, there will be a discussion on who ranks No. 1. Everyone has an opinion on the top edge rusher, whether it’s T.J. Watt or Myles Garrett or even Nick Bosa. So let’s take a look at the list.

1. T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers

T.J. Watt steelers edge rusher
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no question that Watt is the Steelers heart and team MVP. Benjamin sums up why:

“Myles Garrett has technically been steadier over the last half decade, if only because an injury limited Watt to 10 games in 2022. In every other way, though, No. 90 on the Steelers has been the standard-setter for edge rushing, and it’s not even particularly close. Clearing 13 sacks in each of his last five healthy seasons, with close to 30 forced fumbles and 200 quarterback hits in his vaunted career, the six-time Pro Bowler is the heart of Pittsburgh’s old-school program, pairing elite get-off with jarring physicality. If he’s on the field, Watt is easily the most feared player at his position.”

2. Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

myles garrett browns edge rusher
Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Garrett also has been a rock on a team that sometimes doesn’t field the best offenses. That means the defense needs to carry an oversized load.

“There isn’t a more consistent yet punishing defensive end in the game, plain and simple,” Benjamin wrote. “The former No. 1 overall pick is eyeing a seventh straight double-digit sack season in 2024, fresh off a Defensive Player of the Year campaign in which he logged 17 tackles for loss and 30 quarterback hits for arguably the NFL’s toughest defense. He’s forced multiple fumbles in all but two of his seven seasons. And he might just be settling in, posting the best pass-rush win rate of his position in 2023, per PFF.”

3. Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers

nick bosa saints edge rusher
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Bosa didn’t enjoy a dominant year in 2023. But he still lays claim to being the highest-paid defender in the NFL. He showed that an edge rusher can pull down the biggest money after signing a five-year, $170 million contract right before the start of 2023. His average salary of $34 million a season is the largest for a defensive player in NFL history.

“The former Defensive Rookie and Player of the Year endured a “down” year in 2023 even as San Francisco advanced to the Super Bowl,” Benjamin wrote. “And yet he still managed 10.5 sacks — his third straight double-digit campaign — and 35 quarterback hits, the second-best mark of his career. It speaks to the bar he’s set as a total-package difference-maker for one of the game’s most reputable defensive fronts.”

4. Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys

micah parsons cowboys
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Parsons entered the NFL as a star. He’s earned a spot in the Pro Bowl for all three of his seasons. He’s now playing for a bigger second contract from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

“When you think Cowboys, you think Parsons, whose colorful personality has only drawn more attention to a historic three-year start in Dallas,” Benjamin wrote. “Whether standing up, patrolling the middle or putting his hand in the turf, the three-time All-Pro has been a matchup terror for every opponent, averaging 13.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and almost 30 quarterback hits per year (!) since his award-winning 2021 debut.”

5. Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders

Maxx Crosby raiders edge rusher
© Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The Raiders discovered this prime edge rusher in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. And he’s earned spots in each of the past three Pro Bowls.

Benjamin wrote: “If it feels like Crosby has been around for at least a few years longer, it’s because his unhinged persistence up front has long made him a face of the Raiders. A three-time Defensive Player of the Year candidate in just five years, his maniacal push has resulted in 30-plus quarterback hits in three straight seasons, and his durability (zero missed games since his arrival) has been a cherry on top.

6. Danielle Hunter, Houston Texans

danielle hunter texans
Jeffrey Becker

Hunter left the Vikings in the off season to come home to Texas, signing with the Houston Texans. His new home base is a shortish drive from where he grew up in Katy, a suburb on the west side of Houston.

Benjamin wrote: “Injuries appeared to threaten his career back in 2021, his lone season without double-digit sacks of the last half decade. The ex-Minnesota Vikings fan favorite has since reverted to All-Pro form, pairing an unmatched physique with pocket-crushing results, including an NFL-high 23 tackles for loss in 2023. Now under DeMeco Ryans‘ direction in Houston, Hunter should remain a quarterback’s worst nightmare. “

7. Trey Hendrickson, Cincinnati Bengals

trey hendrickson bengals edge rusher
Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

Like several of the best on the list, this Bengals edge rusher made the Pro Bowl the last three seasons. His career seemed to turn when he signed in Cincinnati after spending his first four seasons in New Orleans.

“When the former backup broke out in his final season with the New Orleans Saints,” Benjamin wrote. “Some wondered if he’d go down as a one-year wonder. Cincy was right to commit big bucks to him as a free agent, however; only four others have more sacks (39.5) over the last three seasons, and he casually hit a career-high 17.5 in 2023. Run “D” isn’t nearly as prolific for him, but as a finisher in the pocket, few are more reliable.”

8. Haason Reddick, New York Jets

haason reddick edge rusher jets
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Reddick’s story is one of proving folks wrong. After all, he was a one-time college walk-on at Temple who ended up as a first-round draft pick in 2017. The Eagles traded him to the Jets back in April.

“The Pro Bowler’s 2023 streakiness may have contributed to the Philadelphia Eagles shipping Reddick to New York, but few rushers have been more dynamic — especially in crunch time — in recent years. His 50.5 sacks since 2020 rank fourth among all players, and his five forced fumbles in 2022 were key to the Eagles’ Super Bowl bid. Beyond his explosive traits, Reddick’s also been very durable.”

9. Montez Sweat, Chicago Bears

Montez Sweat Bears
Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports

Sweat got to the NFL as a first-rounder by Washington in the 2019 draft. However, the Commanders sent him to the Bears last season. Lucky Sweat. He made his first Pro Bowl in 2023.

“The former first-rounder shared the limelight while starting for a vaunted Washington Commanders front from 2019-2023,” Benjamin said. “But his impact as a one-man show was abundantly clear after the Bears acquired him via trade. He finished 2023, split between the two clubs, with a career-high 12.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. More than a technically refined pass rusher, Sweat has also proven formidable against the run.”

10. Khalil Mack, Los Angeles Chargers

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mack has been one of the most dominant players in the NFL since he arrived as the No. 5 pick (by the Raiders) in 2014. And last season was his best, at least in one stat category, as an edge rusher. He notched 17 sacks in 2023.

“The former Defensive Player of the Year is more volatile at this stage of his career, logging six (or 35%) of his career-high 17 sacks in 2023 in a single game. He’s not quite the wrecking ball he once was with the Chicago Bears. Even so, the track record is so immense that he remains a force to be accounted for.

Rounding out the Top 20 NFL edge rushers

11. Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions
12. Brian Burns, New York Giants
13. Will Anderson, Houston Texans
14. Kayvon Thibodeaux, New York Giants
15. Matt Judon, New England Patriots
16. Rashan Gary, Green Bay
17. Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints
18. Za’Darius Smith, Chicaco Bears
19. Alex Highsmith, Pittsburgh Steelers
20. Leonard Floyd, San Francisco 49ers

Teams start training camp later this month. If you’d like to check out the rest of this CBS Sports story, click it here. And to catch up with all of’s coverage of the NFL, click it here.