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2022 NFL season's top 10 edge rushers: No. 1 spot goes to Browns' Myles Garrett over Cowboys' Micah Parsons

Each week of the 2022 NFL season, the Next Gen Stats analytics team will present a different Position Power Ranking meant to spotlight the top performances among a specific group of players. This week, we've assembled a list of the top 10 edge rushers heading into Week 14.

Before we dive in, though, a note on our methodology: To help create quantifiable rankings, we have devised a formula that yields a Next Gen Stats percentile score, which measures how a player is performing relative to his peers. The formula uses each individual's percentile score across a series of key metrics to create one composite score, indicating which players at that position performed best. We will lean on this formula to inform our rankings when applicable.

NOTE: The composite score for each player is based on overall defensive impact in both the pass and run game. Scores are based on each player's performance in Weeks 1 through 13.

Myles Garrett
Cleveland Browns · Year 6

The No. 1 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft has lived up to his billing and then some. Garrett’s consistency has been remarkable -- he is the only defender to generate at least a 12 percent pressure rate in each season from ’17 to ‘22. After a career year in 2019 where Garrett led the NFL in pressure rate (18.1 percent), the Browns rewarded him with a new contract that carried highest average annual value among defenders at the time. He has responded by recording a league-high 188 pressures since then. This season, he has continued that dominance, generating three more pressures (52) than any other defender. Key to Garrett’s success is his elite burst off the ball: He has averaged the quickest get-off in the NFL (0.70 seconds) for the second consecutive season.

Micah Parsons
Dallas Cowboys · Year 2

The NFL’s greatest Swiss Army knife on the defensive side of the ball has not slowed down in Year 2. It’s no secret that pass rushing is where Parsons has primarily made a name for himself. Parsons leads the NFL with an 18.8 percent QB pressure rate since being drafted in 2021 (min. 300 pass rushes), and he has matched Aldon Smith as the only players in NFL history to have nine games with two or more sacks in their first two seasons (with five games left this season to surpass Smith). If pass rushing was all Parsons could do, he’d still be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation -- but there’s even more to his game. Parsons ranks second among all edge players with 94 defensive stops since 2021 (trailing only Maxx Crosby’s 101). His 136 tackles lead all edge players in the same time span. On a team level, he’s spearheaded a Cowboys group that comfortably leads the NFL in pressure rate (35.8%) and sack rate (11.2%), as Dallas is nipping at Philadelphia’s heels in the remarkably competitive NFC East.

Nick Bosa
San Francisco 49ers · Year 4

For a 49ers team that leads the NFL in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense, and pass TD-INT ratio allowed, it all starts up front. Specifically, it all starts with Bosa, who is having a career year. Bosa is the NFL’s sack leader with 14.5, and his 4.7% sack rate also is tops in the league (min. 200 pass rushes). His presence makes the 49ers defense jump from good to elite. With Bosa on the field, the 49ers have created pressure on 31 percent of opponent dropbacks and allowed a 76.7 passer rating this season. When he’s on the sidelines, those numbers shift to a 24 percent pressure rate and a 90.9 opponent passer rating. The 49ers are atop the NFC West, and Bosa’s defensive unit is the main reason why.

Brian Burns
Carolina Panthers · Year 4

What can’t Burns do? The list of potential answers to that question gets smaller and smaller with each season he plays in the league. Fresh off his first Pro Bowl selection in 2021, Burns has continued to improve in 2022. Among edge players, Burns ranks second or tied for second in tackles (53), stops (41) and run stuffs (14) this season. Burns already has a career-high 10 sacks, and he ranks tied for fifth in the NFL among players at all positions with 47 QB pressures. Though the Panthers are unlikely to make a playoff push sitting at 4-8, Burns and fellow recent draft picks Jaycee Horn, Jeremy Chinn and Derrick Brown are part of a defensive core that could facilitate the franchise’s turnaround.

Uchenna Nwosu
Seattle Seahawks · Year 5

Nwosu was featured in our list of the top-10 likeliest first-time Pro Bowlers three weeks ago, and not much has changed since then regarding his breakout season. Nwosu has shown that an increased role doesn’t have to lead to decreased efficiency, as he has put up career numbers in his debut season with Seattle. Nwosu’s impact as a pass rusher has been vital to the Seahawks’ 7-5 start, as he ranks tied for eighth in the NFL with 43 QB pressures. He’s also managed to dominate in the run game, ranking tied for fourth among edge players with 10 run stuffs. Nwosu, along with trade acquisition Shelby Harris and rookies Tariq Woolen, Coby Bryant and Boye Mafe, have helped fuel a resurgent defense that has Seattle in the mix to win the NFC West.

Alex Highsmith
Pittsburgh Steelers · Year 3

While T.J. Watt’s pectoral injury had an overall negative impact for the Steelers, his absence did allow Highsmith to emerge as an elite pass rusher. Highsmith has played a career-high 86 percent of the Steelers’ defensive snaps this season, and the greater opportunity has led to a bigger impact on the field. Highsmith has racked up 49 QB pressures this season, trailing only Myles Garrett’s 52 among players at all positions. Highsmith has twice as many sacks (10) as any other Steelers player, as he stepped into a leading role with Watt sidelined for seven games. The Steelers are 4-1 in games that both Watt and Highsmith have played in, and they will need to continue that pace if they are going to make up ground in the playoff race.

Za'Darius Smith
Minnesota Vikings · Year 8

After only playing in one regular-season game in 2021 due to a back injury, Smith was released by the Packers in March and signed with the division-rival Vikings. Smith has rediscovered his pre-injury form, ranking top-10 in the NFL with 46 QB pressures and 9.5 sacks this season. His three turnovers forced by QB pressure are tied for most among all edge players. Wherever Smith has gone, winning has followed: If the Vikings defeat or tie the Lions on Sunday, they will clinch the NFC North title and it will mark the fifth consecutive season that Smith’s team has won its division (dating back to his final year with the Ravens in 2018).

Josh Sweat
Philadelphia Eagles · Year 5

Fresh off his first career Pro Bowl selection last season, Sweat has taken his game to a new level yet again in 2022. Sweat has had a knack for the big play, ranking tied for first among all edge players with three turnovers forced by QB pressure this season (and trailing only teammate Javon Hargrave’s four among players at all positions). Sweat’s impact in the run game has been strong as well, posting a run stuff on five percent of his run defense snaps this season (first among edge players, min. 150 such snaps). As longtime franchise cornerstones Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox get deeper into their careers, Sweat has stepped up to help the Eagles’ pass rush remain elite during an 11-1 start.

Matt Judon
New England Patriots · Year 7

Judon ranks fifth in defensive stops (38) among edge defenders and trails only Nick Bosa in sacks (13.0). He has performed more like a home run slugger than a steady and consistent disruptor this season, as his 13.1 percent pressure rate falls in the great-but-not-quite-elite territory. However, Judon’s pressure rate is probably deflated by his role in the Patriots’ defense. Bill Belichick asks his defensive front to two-gap, slowing down their initial pass rush. As a result, the Patriots consistently rank among the bottom five teams in terms of slowest pass rush get-off from the edge. This shows up in Judon’s pass rush get-off, which is considerably below average on early downs (1.02 seconds) but speeds up on later downs to 0.85 seconds. It is no surprise that over half of Judon's pass-rush production has come when he can pin his ears back -- he is tied for the league lead with seven sacks on third and fourth down.

Maxx Crosby
Las Vegas Raiders · Year 4

The reigning pressure leader might have taken a step back in pass-rush efficiency this season, generating a 9.9 percent pressure rate (down from 15.7% in 2021), but he has more than made up for it by becoming an overwhelming force in the run game. Crosby leads all edge defenders with 15 run stuffs this season, and he has recorded a whopping 14 more defensive stops (55) than any other player at his position. Opposing offenses have adjusted accordingly, running away from his side on 55 percent of carries (the fifth-highest rate in the NFL with a minimum of 100 run snaps aligned at edge). This has proven to be a wise strategy -- offenses have averaged a full yard less running at Crosby (3.9) than away from him this season (4.9). Despite his dip in pass-rush efficiency, Crosby's production has not suffered. He is still tied for the 10th-most pressures (41) and ranks fourth in sacks (10.5).

HONORABLE MENTION: Montez Sweat, Commanders; Khalil Mack, Chargers; Trey Hendrickson, Bengals; Haason Reddick, Eagles.

-- Mike Band, Keegan Abdoo and Cole Jacobson contributed to this piece.

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