As a new feature in the 2022 Sharp Football Preview Book, the Sharp Football Analysis team ranked positional units across the league for the 2022 season.
The ranking guidelines were up to the specific voter with the only requirement that the focus is on the upcoming season only, not the future outlook.
With a combination of numbers, film, and projections, the rankings were averaged for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers/tight ends, defensive front seven, defensive secondary, and head coach.
Next up: 2022 NFL Defensive Front 7 rankings. The entire unit was considered, not just the starters.
2022 NFL Defensive Front 7 Rankings, by Unit
|1||Los Angeles Rams||89|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||89|
|5||Los Angeles Chargers||75|
|8||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||72|
|9||Green Bay Packers||71|
|12||Las Vegas Raiders||57|
|17||Kansas City Chiefs||52|
|22||New England Patriots||31|
|24||New York Jets||30|
|27||New York Giants||22|
Score based off average ranks of positional unit (on a 100 point scale) for all 32 teams, from Sharp Football staff voters. If all voters had a team at #1, that score would be 100.
What team has the best front 7 in the NFL?
32. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons added three Day 2 selections to the front seven and signed Rashaan Evans, so there is some youth to develop. However, Atlanta’s pass rush ranked dead last in pressure rate generated (22%) and lost pass rusher Dante Fowler. Even if there’s some hope for the future, this unit will likely struggle again in 2022.
31. Houston Texans
Houston ranked 28th in pressure rate a season ago and lost leading pass rusher Jake Martin. The additions of 34-year-old Jerry Hughes and 35-year-old Mario Addison probably won’t give this unit enough of a boost to be competitive.
30. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks’ pass-rush generated pressure in 2.5 seconds at the second worst rate (17.5%). The front seven was respectable in run defense, but without Bobby Wagner that area likely takes a step backward as well.
29. Chicago Bears
The Bears ranked 27th in pressure rate generated last season, lost Khalil Mack, and did not add a meaningful replacement. With both Mack and Robert Quinn on the field, they generated a strong 32.5% pressure rate, but that rate fell to 26.3% when Quinn was on the field without Mack. Expect this unit to take a significant step backward.
28. Detroit Lions
Detroit’s front seven earned votes ranging from 23rd to 30th. The low end of that spectrum is likely based on the Lions’ pressure rate (24.3%) ranking 31st last season, but the addition of rookie Aidan Hutchinson could allow this unit to make significant strides.
27. New York Giants
New York has some talent in the front seven, but the production hasn’t matched. Opponents averaged 1.8 yards before contact in the run game last year, which ranked 28th. The addition of Kayvon Thibodeaux should boost the pass rush, but he likely will not be a difference-maker against the run early in his career.
26. Arizona Cardinals
Due to the loss of Chandler Jones, Arizona’s front seven took the biggest hit, dropping 14 spots in our rankings. When Jones was on the field, he accounted for 24% of the team’s pressures and 38% of the sacks. Third-round rookies Myjai Sanders and Cameron Thomas were the only notable additions.
25. Denver Broncos
After losing Von Miller, Denver ranked 27th in pressure rate (25.7%). The additions of Randy Gregory and rookie Nik Bonitto should help, but this does not appear to be a front-seven opponents will fear.
24. New York Jets
New York’s front seven was a liability last year 一 it ranked 30th in pressure rate 一 but a healthy Carl Lawson and the addition of Jermaine Johnson could potentially lead to significant strides.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars
The additions of Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd contributed to Jacksonville’s front-seven rank climbing nine spots since last year. The future is potentially bright, but considering Walker’s lack of pass-rush productivity in college, immediate expectations for the unit should be kept to a modest level.
22. New England Patriots
Matt Judon ranked ninth among edge-rushers in pressure rate, but he was the only Patriots edge-rusher to log more than 250 pass-rush snaps. This front seven is a patchwork unit, and others need to step up around Judon for the defense to improve.
21. Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota generated pressure at a strong 33.5% rate when Danielle Hunter was on the field last season. If he’s healthy, the front seven should be fine 一 but he’s played just seven games over the last two years. If Za’Darious Smith can also return to full strength after missing almost all of the 2021 season, it’s possible we’ve underrated this unit.
20. Tennessee Titans
A front seven anchored by Jeffery Simmons and Harold Landry has potential, but the unit lacked consistent production. Tennessee ranked 25th in pressure rate, and 28th in pressure rate on non-blitzes.
19. Cincinnati Bengals
When Trey Hendrickson was on the field, he accounted for 32% of the team’s pressures and 41% of sacks. Although he’s a legitimate weapon, there just isn’t enough depth to take the front seven seriously as a top-tier unit.
18. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore’s front seven took a big hit after a disappointing year, dropping nine spots in our rankings. Some changes to the unit backfired last year, as Baltimore ranked 25th in pressure rate on non-blitzes. Odafe Oweh led the team in pressures and needs to take another step in his development for this unit to exceed expectations.
17. Kansas City Chiefs
Four Chiefs had at least 250 pass-rush snaps on the edge last year and only Melvin Ingram (lost in free agency) ranked in the top half of the league. Rookie George Karlaftis will need to produce immediately for the front seven to exceed expectations.
16. New Orleans Saints
New Orleans returns its top five leaders in quarterback pressures, from a unit that ranked 19th in pressure rate. No one of significance was added, but further development from 2021 first-round pick Payton Turner could improve from the front seven.
15. Miami Dolphins
Votes for the Dolphins’ front seven ranged from ninth to 19th. Differences may depend on how we view the talent versus the scheme. Miami led the league in pressure rate last year, but they also blitzed at the second highest rate. Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer made the most of a unit lacking any top-tier difference-makers.
14. Carolina Panthers
The front seven is Carolina’s most proven unit, as it ranked 10th overall with a 32% pressure rate generated last season. Led by Brian Burns, that production should remain, though Yetur Gross-Matos must take some strides in his development after a rookie year in which he generated just 12 pressures.
13. Dallas Cowboys
If we ranked Dallas’s front seven lower than expected, blame the run defense. Even when stacking the box with seven or more defenders, the Cowboys allowed 4.0 yards per carry, which ranked 24th. Micah Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence can get after the quarterback, but this can’t be an elite unit until they stop the run.
12. Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas pass rush ranked sixth in pressure rate generated overall, but 12th in pressure rate generated in 2.5 seconds or less. The addition of Chandler Jones potentially takes this unit to a higher level this season.
11. Indianapolis Colts
Among 140 players with at least 250 pass-rush snaps, the Colts did not have a single player rank among the top 60 in pressure rate a season ago. Yannick Ngakoue, who ranked 33rd, will be a helpful addition, but Kwity Paye (ranked 64th) must make strides in his second year for this unit to ascend.
10. Washington Commanders
We ranked Washington’s front seven in the top five last year, but the production didn’t match the potential. The ceiling remains high, but Chase Young must live up to lofty expectations. Young ranked 66th out of 75 edge-rushers in pressure rate a season ago.
9. Green Bay Packers
No one generated pressure on non-blitzes at a higher rate than Green Bay (32.8%) 一 a particularly important stat in Joe Barry’s defense which ranked in the bottom 10 in blitz rate. That production helped boost the front seven into the top 10 in our unit ranks, despite a struggling run defense that will rely on two rookies to get things back on track.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa was one of four teams with three players to record at least 40 pressures last year, and all three return (Shaquil Barrett, Devin White, and Vita Vea). The loss of Ndamukong Suh weakens the unit, but second-round pick Logan Hall will help fill his shoes.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
T.J. Watt alone is reason to rank the Steelers’ front seven near the top of the league. However, it’s worth noting just how much the team relies on Watt. When he was on the field, Pittsburgh allowed 5.2 yards per play and 6.2 yards per play without him. If this unit underperforms, a lack of depth will be the reason.
6. Cleveland Browns
With Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney on the field together, Cleveland generated a spectacular 35% pressure rate. That dropped to 25% when either player was off the field, however. If both stay healthy, the front seven is a top-tier unit.
5. Los Angeles Chargers
Joey Bosa ranked 11th among edge-rushers with a 14.2% pressure rate generated. Khalil Mack’s 12.5% pressure rate joins the unit, giving the Los Angeles front seven a potentially elite duo. The addition of nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day, who excelled in Brandon Staley’s scheme with the Rams, also helps upgrade the defensive line.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
Philly’s front seven was ranked in the top 10 on every ballot and received one first-place vote. The interior defensive line is clearly among the league’s elite, especially after the addition of Jordan Davis. But will the edge-rushers produce? Derek Barnett ranked 68th out of 75 qualified edge-rushers in pressure rate last season.
3. Buffalo Bills
Buffalo is one of three teams ranked in the top five in each defensive unit category. The Bills ranked second in the league in pressure rate (35%) and added Von Miller, leading to a jump from 17th to fourth overall in our front-seven rankings.
2. San Francisco 49ers
The Niners’ front seven landed in the top five on every ballot, including one first-place vote. They generated pressure in 2.5 seconds or less on 25.8% of opponent dropbacks, the league’s fifth-best rate. With rookie Drake Jackson stepping in to replace Arden Key, the unit should be able to replicate that production.
1. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams own our top-ranked front seven despite not receiving a single first-place vote. Multiple second-place votes helped boost a unit that should remain dominant despite losing Von Miller. The Rams were one of five teams to allow fewer than four yards per rush attempt last season, despite stacking the box at the league’s second lowest rate.
Ranking each NFL Unit for 2022:
For all of the team-by-team unit rankings and full team chapters, including a dozen more visuals & info-graphics, defensive breakdown, and detailed Fantasy football implications — plus the other 31 team chapters — pick up a copy of Warren Sharp’s new ‘2022 Football Preview’ book