As a feature in the 2023 Sharp Football Preview Book, the Sharp Football Analysis team ranked positional units across the league for the 2023 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, offensive line, defensive front seven, defensive secondary, and head coach.
Next up: 2023 NFL front seven rankings.
These insights are an excerpt from Warren Sharp’s 500+ page book “2023 Football Preview” which is now available for download.
2023 NFL Front Seven Rankings:
Score based on 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. Ties are broken by the highest vote on any ballot.
What team has the best front seven in the NFL?
32. Arizona Cardinals
Arizona was a unanimous choice as the worst front seven. The unit lost its three leading pass-rushers, J.J. Watt, Markus Golden, and Zach Allen, who accounted for 51% of the team’s pressures in 2022. Second-round pick B.J. Ojulari must contribute immediately for this team to exceed low expectations.
31. Los Angeles Rams
There’s no support for Aaron Donald in the Rams’ front seven unless rookies Byron Young and Kobie Turner exceed expectations. That said, even Donald may not have the pass rush impact he once did. With Donald on the field, the Rams generated a 23% pressure rate last year compared to 35% without him.
30. Chicago Bears
The Bears’ front seven is their biggest weakness heading into 2023 after finishing last in the NFL in sacks and total pressures. DeMarcus Walker was signed in free agency after setting a career-high in sacks with the Titans last season. The Bears also added defensive tackle Andrew Billings and linebacker T.J. Edwards to help defend the run after allowing 4.9 yards per carry.
29. Las Vegas Raiders
How did defensive coordinator Patrick Graham manage to derail such a productive pass rush unit in his first year on the job? The Raiders ranked sixth in pressure rate in 2021 but plummeted to 27th last season. The majority of the unit returns plus the addition of rookie Tyree Wilson, so a higher ceiling is still there to be uncovered.
28. Atlanta Falcons
New defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen, the Saints’ former defensive line coach, has his work cut out for him. Atlanta ranked 31st in pressure rate generated a season ago. The additions of Bud Dupree and Calais Campbell will help stabilize the unit, but the ceiling is low without a premier edge rusher.
27. Detroit Lions
Despite adding LB Jack Campbell in the first round of the draft, the Lions’ defensive front still ranks toward the bottom. 2022 second-overall pick Aidan Hutchinson lived up to the hype as a rookie, finishing with 9.5 sacks, three interceptions, and two fumble recoveries.
26. Houston Texans
The addition of Will Anderson Jr. gives a boost to Houston’s front seven, but the team also must contend with the loss of Ogbo Okoronkwo.
25. Denver Broncos
The Broncos’ front seven is in full rebuilding mode after losing Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and Dre’Mont Jones over the last two seasons. The addition of Frank Clark will help in the short term, but there’s limited pass rush help around him.
24. Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota had two double-digit sack producers last year, but Za’Darius Smith was traded to the Browns, and Danielle Hunter’s status for 2023 is up in the air as he awaits a new contract or possibly a trade. The Vikings were 27th in pass rush win rate a year ago, and the duo of Hunter and Smith combined for 106 of their 236 total quarterback pressures.
23. Tennessee Titans
Tennessee’s front seven excelled against the run last year, contacting ball carriers at or behind the line of scrimmage at the league’s second-highest rate. The pass rush was less effective, but the return of Harold Landry from a torn ACL will help.
22. Baltimore Ravens
The front seven took a step back this year after ranking in the bottom 10 of pressure percentage in 2022. Last year’s second-round pick David Ojabo could be a wild card after playing just 21 snaps following a torn Achilles. The Ravens will also get a full season of Roquan Smith, who they traded for midseason.
21. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks’ front seven ranked in the middle of the pack in 2022, generating pressure in 2.5 seconds or fewer at the 15th-highest rate. Significant changes were made, adding to the uncertainty.
20. New England Patriots
Votes for the Patriots front seven ranged from 10th to 27th. New England ranked fourth in pressure rate overall, but just 14th in the rate of generating pressure in 2.5 seconds or fewer. Without a dangerous edge rusher capable of wreaking havoc on his own, there’s probably a modest ceiling for this unit.
19. Jacksonville Jaguars
There was absolutely no consensus on the Jaguars’ front seven with votes ranging from fifth to 27th. Jacksonville ranked third in pressure rate generated last season (38%) and ranked fourth in yards before contact allowed per carry to running backs, so the production is there to support this as a unit on the rise.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Votes from Tampa’s front seven ranged from 12th to 23rd. On the positive side, this unit contacted running backs at or behind the line of scrimmage at the league’s fifth-highest rate last year. However, the pass-rush was inconsistent, ranking 26th in pressure rate generated without a blitz.
17. New Orleans Saints
New Orleans has invested heavily in the front seven in recent years, but production hasn’t followed. The unit ranked 27th in pressure rate generated without the help of the blitz last year. The Saints added Bryan Bresee and Isaiah Foskey to the unit with their first two draft picks, so the depth will be strong but it may take time for the group to develop.
16. Los Angeles Chargers
The key to the Chargers’ front seven is the health of Joey Bosa, who played in just five games last year. Without Bosa, the Chargers’ blitz rate climbed from 29% to 34%, but their pressure rate still dropped from 36% with Bosa to 32% without him on the field.
15. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs ranked eighth in pressure rate a season ago, but the loss of Frank Clark is significant. 2022 first-round pick George Karlaftis ranked third among rookies in pressure rate (10.9%), but there will be a lot of pressure on this year’s first-rounder Felix Anudike-Uzomah to immediately produce in Clark’s absence.
14. Cleveland Browns
Cleveland’s front seven dropped eight spots down to 13th this year. The Browns elected not to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney. However, they did add Za’Darius Smith via trade, and new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has a history of getting high production from his EDGE players.
13. Indianapolis Colts
Ranking the Colts’ front seven was difficult because the run defense has been productive but it’s far more valuable to excel in the pass rush. Indy ranked 29th in pressure rate generated last year and must replace Yannick Ngakoue, who finished second on the team with 44 pressures.
12. New York Jets
Votes for the Jets’ front seven ranged from 10th to 17th. The low end of the spectrum likely focuses on the modest talent at most positions, while the high end recognizes the production which has been greater than the sum of its parts. On non-blitzes, the Jets surprisingly ranked sixth with a 32.9% pressure rate last year.
11. Carolina Panthers
Led by Brian Burns, there’s more than enough talent for Carolina’s front seven to emerge as one of the elite units in the league. Production, however, has yet to match the talent. Carolina ranked 21st in pressure rate last season.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers
The front seven is still a top-10 unit, albeit three spots lower than it was a year ago. Cameron Heyward and Alex Highsmith both had double-digit sacks in 2022, and T.J. Watt hopes to bounce back after missing most of the season with a torn pec. However, Myles Jack remains unsigned and Devin Bush departed for Seattle in free agency.
9. New York Giants
Anchored by Dexter Lawrence, the Giants have a top-10 front seven, though votes ranged from fifth to 14th. The unit ranked 11th in pressure rate last year, relying on the league’s highest blitz rate. The run defense, however, was an issue. New York created contact at or behind the line of scrimmage at the league’s second-lowest rate.
8. Green Bay Packers
The Packers blitzed at the fifth-highest rate in 2022 and finished eighth in the NFL in pressure percentage. Preston Smith and Rashan Gary combined for 14.5 sacks a year ago, and Green Bay spent their first-round pick on toolsy edge rusher Lukas Van Ness out of Iowa.
7. Buffalo Bills
The health of Von Miller will be critical to living up to this ranking. Buffalo generated a 38% pressure rate when Miller was on the field in 2022 and just 30% when he was sidelined.
6. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals posted just 30 sacks in 2022 but earned a top-10 ranking by finishing 13th in pressure percentage and fifth in quarterback knockdowns. They also drafted Clemson pass-rusher Myles Murphy in the first round, and he could provide solid depth as a pass rusher behind Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard, who combined for 14.5 sacks last year.
5. Washington Commanders
Washington’s most talented unit is the front seven, which ranked seventh in pressure rate a season ago and also excelled against the run. Even when lining up with a light box (six or fewer defenders), the Commanders allowed just 4.2 yards per carry, the league’s third-lowest rate.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Votes for the Cowboys’ front seven ranked from second to 16th. Though the pass rush was elite 一 they led the league in pressure rate 一 the run defense struggled at times. Opposing running backs gained three or more yards before contact on 25% of carries, which ranked 21st.
3. Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia ranked second in pressure rate a season ago and was the only team with four players who generated at least 40 quarterback pressures, led by Haason Reddick’s 68. The addition of rookie Jalen Carter could potentially elevate the pass-rush production to an even higher level.
2. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers front seven lost control of the top spot in our rankings this year but did receive one first-place vote and landed in the top four on every ballot. The Niners excel at limiting big plays on the ground, allowing 10 or more yards on just 5.9% of carries, the league’s top mark.
1. Miami Dolphins
The top-ranked front seven excels at stopping the run. Miami allowed three or more yards before contact on just 21% of carries last year, the league’s second-lowest rate. With a full season of Bradley Chubb, who was acquired before the trade deadline last year, this should be an elite unit.
Ranking each NFL Unit for 2023:
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 all 32 team chapters — pick up a copy of Warren Sharp’s new ‘2023 Football Preview’ book