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Next Gen Stats' top 10 disruptors of 2022: Reigning NFL DPOY Nick Bosa ranked, but not No. 1

The pass-first NFL needs a counter to its talented quarterbacks. Enter the disruptor, a defender who consistently affects the opposition's attempt to move the football through the air. With the help of Next Gen Stats, I'm back to deliver the top 10 disruptors in the NFL from the 2022 season.

To complete these rankings, I'm leaning on the same criteria that I used in previous iterations. I'm looking at five key categories: QB pressures, QB pressure rate, QB hurries (when a defender gets within 1.5 yards of the QB at any moment between snap and pass forward or sack), sacks, and perhaps the most significant metric: turnovers caused by pressure.

I tend to weigh turnovers caused by pressure with the most significance, given the impact turnovers have on a game.

This exercise requires a careful balance of volume and efficiency, leading to the occasional ranking that might not make sense with simple logic. Player A has more pressures than Player B; why is he ranked lower?

When the numbers are comparable, I lean toward higher efficiency. Are these defenders maximizing their pass-rushing snaps, or are they benefiting from a higher total of snaps?

Using all of those Next Gen Stats metrics as a guide, here are the 10 players that were the best at disrupting quarterbacks in 2022.

JUST MISSED: Maxx Crosby, DE, Las Vegas Raiders; Za'Darius Smith, DE, Cleveland Browns (Vikings in '22); Josh Sweat, DE, Philadelphia Eagles; Sam Hubbard, DE, Cincinnati Bengals; Dexter Lawrence, DT, New York Giants; Khalil Mack, OLB, Los Angeles Chargers; Josh Allen, OLB, Jacksonville Jaguars.

Quinnen Williams
New York Jets · DT
  • QBP: 49
  • QBP rate: 13.4%
  • Hurries: 31
  • Sacks: 12
  • TO-QBP: 3

This is a rare year in that we’re getting not one, not two, but three defensive tackles on this list. With a lower QB pressures total, Williams initially didn’t make the cut, but after examining his output further, it became clear that he deserved a spot in the top 10.

The former first-round pick caused plenty of problems for opposing offenses, as evidenced by a pressure rate higher than that of the two other defensive tackles on this list. Williams doubled his sack total from the previous season, which helped, as did the three turnovers caused by pressure.

Williams picked a perfect time to blossom, just before the start of a contract year. If he replicates this performance in 2023, he’ll be paid quite well in 2024 and beyond.

Brian Burns
Carolina Panthers · DE
  • QBP: 62
  • QBP rate: 12.9%
  • Hurries: 42
  • Sacks: 12.5
  • TO-QBP: 2

Burns doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

Perhaps it’s a product of Carolina’s struggles to field a winning team. Maybe it’s because he plays in a division that was most recently dominated by Tom Brady. Regardless of the reason, it’s about time we start giving Burns more attention because it’s very much overdue.

Burns’ 2021 numbers were solid -- 48 QB pressures, 11.5% QB pressure rate, 37 hurries, nine sacks, two turnovers caused by pressure -- but 2022 was the season in which he officially cleared the bar to enter this group. Burns improved on each of those totals, save for TO-QBP, breaking double digits in sacks for the first time in his career. He maximized his 16 games played, receiving his second straight Pro Bowl selection. 

Matt Judon
New England Patriots · OLB
  • QBP: 50
  • QBP rate: 11.8%
  • Hurries: 39
  • Sacks: 15.5
  • TO-QBP: 3

Judon’s first half of 2022 put him on track to threaten the single-season sack record shared by T.J. Watt and Michael Strahan. If you stopped paying attention after that point in the season, you’re probably wondering why Judon isn’t ranked higher on this list.

Well, his production tailed off a bit. After recording 11.5 sacks in the first nine games, Judon logged just four more over the final eight weeks. He finished with respectable pressure and pressure rate totals, but most of his standing here is built on his sacks and turnovers caused by pressure -- the most important metrics in this exercise.

The man known for wearing red sleeves remains an intimidating force for most opposing offenses. After recording 28 sacks in his two seasons with the Patriots, it will be no surprise if he’s on this list again a year from now.

Javon Hargrave
San Francisco 49ers (Eagles in '22) · DT
  • QBP: 53
  • QBP rate: 13.2%
  • Hurries: 25
  • Sacks: 11
  • TO-QBP: 4

Hargrave was among the Eagles players who had to find their way in a new defense when Jonathan Gannon was hired as coordinator in 2021. The new scheme was initially met with frustration by one of Hargrave’s teammates, fellow defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. A year and a half later, those same Eagles were not only comfortable, but thriving on their way to playing in the Super Bowl.

While Cox temporarily struggled, Hargrave was nothing but productive, racking up 18.5 sacks and totaling 111 QB pressures during the last two seasons. His 2021 numbers were good enough to earn him a Pro Bowl nod (and a ninth-place spot on this list), but he was arguably better in 2022, besting his hurries, sacks and turnovers caused by pressure totals. His pressures and pressure rate declined a bit, but Hargrave’s most consequential numbers were improved as part of an Eagles defense that flirted with history and included another player on this list.

It makes sense that San Francisco didn’t blink at handing him a four-year, $84 million deal at 30 years old this offseason. He proved he can be counted on to disrupt opposing offenses every week, especially when he shares the field with quality teammates.

Alex Highsmith
Pittsburgh Steelers · OLB
  • QBP: 63
  • QBP rate: 13.8%
  • Hurries: 34
  • Sacks: 14.5
  • TO-QBP: 2

Highsmith’s arrives on this list after Pittsburgh’s much more widely known edge rusher, T.J. Watt, missed seven games. That is not entirely coincidental, but more importantly, it adds to what was already a highly impressive season for an edge rusher who has blossomed in the NFL.

Since joining the Steelers via a third-round pick in 2020, Highsmith has developed into a surprisingly powerful force off the edge who benefited from playing opposite Watt.

Instead of receding into the background when Watt was sidelined due to injury last season, Highsmith put together the best year of his career, more than doubling his previous single-season high for sacks and posting a QB pressure rate that was better than many of the NFL’s household names. That’s more than worthy of a spot on this list.

Chris Jones
Kansas City Chiefs · DT
  • QBP: 55
  • QBP rate: 10.3%
  • Hurries: 34
  • Sacks: 15.5
  • TO-QBP: 4

Typically, interior defensive linemen don’t make this list, save for all-world defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Coincidentally, in a year in which Donald missed six games, another defensive tackle produced on a level worthy of this list.

Jones receives some attention on a national level because he plays for the perennial powerhouse Chiefs. This is true. But his performance is the main reason the spotlight is frequently trained on him, and he certainly lived up to high expectations in 2022. 

For context, here are Donald’s numbers from 2021, which were good enough to earn him an eighth-place spot on this list a year ago:

  • QBP: 64
  • QBP rate: 10.8%
  • Hurries: 43
  • Sacks: 12.5
  • TO-QBP: 1

Donald produced higher totals in pressures and hurries, but where Jones truly separates himself is in the most significant outcomes: sacks and turnovers caused by pressure. 

Jones was a game-wrecker whose contributions appeared throughout the 2022 season. His impact in the Chiefs’ demon-exorcizing AFC title game win over the Bengals was evident through all four quarters, especially when defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo moved Jones to the edge for a one-on-one matchup with right tackle Hakeem Adeniji, producing a crucial third-down sack in the game’s final minute. That’s the type of player Jones has been for years: a fortune-changing disruptor.

Haason Reddick
Philadelphia Eagles · OLB
  • QBP: 62
  • QBP rate: 15.4%
  • Hurries: 33
  • Sacks: 16
  • TO-QBP: 3

The Eagles flirted with history in 2022, coming just short of resetting the single-season record for sacks registered by one team. There's a reason two Eagles made this list, and Reddick was the best of the team’s talented group.

Reddick was an absolute machine in 2022, recording 16 sacks, three turnovers caused by pressure, and a QB pressure rate north of 15 percent. Folks who watched him in his one-season stint in Carolina (2021) could see this coming. Unfortunately for Philadelphia's opponents, they didn't see it soon enough.

In 2022, Reddick was undeniable. He was all but inevitable. And at $15 million per year, he's a steal for the Eagles.

Myles Garrett
Cleveland Browns · DE
  • QBP: 72
  • QBP rate: 16.3%
  • Hurries: 48
  • Sacks: 16
  • TO-QBP: 3

When I initially built this top 10, Garrett flirted with the top spot, but never quite made his way into it. Third place will do just fine.

Thus far, Garrett's ceiling for sacks has been established at one firm number: 16. He's hit that mark in each of the last two seasons, and for the first time in his career, he received serious consideration for Defensive Player of the Year, finishing fifth in the voting. If he breaks through that 16-sack mark, he just might win the award.

In the meantime, he jumps from the sixth spot on this list in 2021 to third in 2022 because of his year-to-year improvements. Garrett increased his totals in three of the five listed metrics, going from 66 QB pressures to 72, boosting his pressure rate from 13.6% to 16.3% and finishing with five more hurries than he posted in ‘21. He's on the right track to peak in the coming years.

As it stands now, he's among the best and most disruptive defenders in the NFL. That's no longer debatable. Most of the players in these rankings change with each passing year, but Garrett always finds his way into the top 10 for good reason: He's as reliable as they come.

Nick Bosa
San Francisco 49ers · DE
  • QBP: 73
  • QBP rate: 15.9%
  • Hurries: 45
  • Sacks: 18.5
  • TO-QBP: 3

The 2022 Defensive Player of the Year undoubtedly earned that honor last season, recording a career-high, league-leading 18.5 sacks.

Why, then, is the reigning DPOY not No. 1 on this list?

Well, it was a narrow miss. Bosa's totals are right up there with the top player on this list, but as I stated in the introduction, turnovers caused by pressure were the differentiator. That's it.

Bosa had a fantastic season, the best of his impressive career. Two years after suffering a torn ACL in a Week 2 game against the Jets, Bosa was back and better than ever, building on a Pro Bowl campaign that saw him record 15.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. He's an elite edge rusher who is undoubtedly deserving of a massive new deal. Entering a contract year, he'll aim to continue to produce at the premier level that saw him earn the top defensive honor. And judging by what we've seen from him, there's no reason to believe he won't do just that.

Micah Parsons
Dallas Cowboys · LB
  • QBP: 70
  • QBP rate: 16.4%
  • Hurries: 43
  • Sacks: 13.5
  • TO-QBP: 5

The 2022 season was unique in that none of the top 10 disruptors posted a QB pressure rate higher than 16.4 percent. Two of my top 10 disruptors from the 2021 season broke 19 percent, including Parsons, who ranked fourth on my list a year ago with a QBP rate of 21.1 percent.

This time around, Parsons vaults to the top spot because of the complete résumé he put together.

Parsons finished third in total QB pressures (70). Yes, his pressure rate was lower in ’22 than it was in ’21, but that’s because he stepped into a role in which he rushed the passer more often (427 pass-rush snaps in ’22; 279 in ’21). His 43 hurries were the third most of any defender in the league. His 13.5 sacks bested his previous career-high mark of 13 and his five turnovers caused by pressure were the second most in the NFL.

Parsons has quickly proved himself a dynamic and essential part of Dallas' defense. While he finished as the runner-up for the Defensive Player of the Year award for a second straight season, his reputation has quickly been solidified. No. 11 instills fear in every opposing offense.

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