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Top 10 NFL edge rushers in 2022: T.J. Watt, Myles Garrett lead deep collection of stars

NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2022" -- voted on by the players themselves -- kicked off on Sunday, Aug. 14. Players ranked 100-51 were revealed Sunday over the course of five hours, with each one-hour episode unveiling a new set of 10 honorees. Two edge rushers, Trey Hendrickson and Brian Burns, were revealed in Episode 3 (Nos. 80-71) at Nos. 78 and 76, respectively. With that in mind, NFL Network analyst and three-time Super Bowl champion Willie McGinest provides his ranking of the top 10 edge rushers heading into the 2022 NFL season.

It's not just about sacks when it comes to evaluating edge rushers. There are several other important things to examine, like pressures or hits that cause quarterbacks to throw the ball away.

The NFL's very best edge rushers disrupt the passer and consistently make game-altering plays. Those are the type of players you'll find in my top 10 list below. Let's get to it.

Shaquil Barrett
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · OLB

It was no easy task to make a pick for the final spot in the top 10 with guys like Joey Bosa forcing a career-high seven fumbles last season and Robert Quinn coming off an 18.5-sack performance in Year 11. As good as those two players were in 2021, Barrett gets the nod due to his consistency and the fact that he’s helped his team get to the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. Barrett's production has been off the charts since joining the Bucs in 2019: 37.5 sacks, 75 quarterback hits, 39 tackles for loss and 11 forced fumbles (all top five in the NFL). Undrafted in 2015, the eighth-year pro has found success by utilizing an arsenal of pass-rush moves, often beating offensive linemen at the point of attack with his strength, speed and power. Credit Barrett but also Bucs defensive-coordinator-turned-head-coach Todd Bowles, who has led the defense to back-to-back top-10 overall finishes by using myriad formations and blitzes as part of a uber-versatile pass rush. The Bucs did lose key cogs in their defensive front this offseason (Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul) but reloaded with veteran Akiem Hicks and rookie Logan Hall. Playing opposite up-and-comer Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Barrett should continue to wreak havoc this fall.

Maxx Crosby
Las Vegas Raiders · DE

The Raiders' defense registered just 35 sacks last season (T-20th in the NFL) but it did post a 33.6 QB pressure rate (highest in the NFL, per Next Gen Stats). That was thanks, in large part, to Crosby, who cashed in this offseason with a four-year extension worth nearly $100 million. Last season, he tallied eight sacks and a league-high 112 QB pressures (NGS). He regularly gets into the backfield by using his length and power to execute a variety of pass-rush moves. The knock on Crosby has been that his sack totals are too low, but I think we'll see him get back to double-digit production this season playing opposite another dynamic rusher in Chandler Jones.

Trey Hendrickson
Cincinnati Bengals · DE

Hendrickson's track record of dominating isn't as long as others on this list, but his last two seasons have been exceptional. After logging 13.5 sacks with the Saints in 2020, he made good on the four-year, $60 million contract he signed with Cincinnati last offseason, posting a career-high and Bengals single-season record 14 sacks in 2021. Since 2020, Hendrickson ranks in the league's top three with 27.5 sacks (third), 52 QB hits (third), 136 pressures (tied for third) and a pressure rate of 18.6 percent (first), per Next Gen Stats (min. 300 pass-rush snaps). He's a huge reason the Bengals went from worst to first in the division and made an appearance in Super Bowl LVI. 

Von Miller
Buffalo Bills · OLB

Even at 33 years old, Miller has one of the best get-offs of any NFL edge rusher. His ability to get into the backfield -- even when double-teamed -- is obviously a big reason why he received a six-year, $120 million deal from the Bills this offseason. The eight-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro's impact on the Rams last season played a key role in the franchise's Super Bowl run. According to Next Gen Stats, Miller had 17 QB pressures in the postseason (second to then-teammate Aaron Donald's 20) and a 15.9% pressure rate after posting a rate of 9.8% for the Rams during the regular season. Now in Buffalo, the two-time Super Bowl champion makes the Bills' defense even scarier as he'll open up more opportunities for guys like Ed Oliver and Gregory Rousseau to get the to quarterback and give a ball-hawking secondary more chances to make game-changing plays.

Khalil Mack
Los Angeles Chargers · OLB

The Chargers made one of the biggest non-QB moves of the offseason when they traded for the three-time All-Pro. Though Mack has recorded fewer than 10 sacks in each of the last three seasons, he's hungry to return to form and, most importantly, help a promising Chargers team win. Heading into his ninth season, Mack still has the tools to wreck an offensive game plan with a combination of speed, power and lower-body strength. Playing opposite Joey Bosa, a guy who just missed my top 10, will benefit Mack and allow him to get back to posting double-digit sacks.

Nick Bosa
San Francisco 49ers · DE

Bosa has been every bit of the player I had hoped he'd be when he came into the league in 2019. The two-time Pro Bowler has been an instrumental part of a 49ers defense that's helped the team to two NFC title games in three years. In 2021, Bosa ranked in the top five in the league in sacks (15.5, fourth), QB hits (32, third), QB pressures (68, fourth) and tackles for loss (21, tied for first). He's only expanded his repertoire since being named Defensive Rookie of the Year, and it shows every time he takes the field. He's almost impossible to stop off the edge, and I would think facing an elite player in Trent Williams every day in practice has certainly helped him.

Chandler Jones
Las Vegas Raiders · DE

The Raiders added a generational pass rusher this offseason in Jones, who has a league-leading 107.5 sacks over the last 10 seasons. He's often mentioned among the NFL's top edge rushers but flies somewhat under the radar due to the Cardinals' struggles during his six seasons with the team. (In fact, most people probably forget that Jones won a ring with the Patriots in 2014.) He said recently on NFL Total Access that it took him six years to learn how to rush the passer, which hits home on just how complex it is to play the defensive end position. A scarier thought: Jones said he's implementing new moves learned at Von Miller's Pass Rush Summit to his game in 2022. More pressures, hits and sacks are on the way.

Cameron Jordan
New Orleans Saints · DE

The seven-time Pro Bowler is an example of consistency as the anchor in the Saints' defense for the last decade. In 2021, he led an impressive Saints defense with 12.5 sacks, 22 QB hits and 13 tackles for loss, making his presence known down the stretch with 8.5 sacks in Weeks 15-18 as the Saints made a playoff push. Jordan's 6-foot-4, 287-pound frame and ability to bend around the edge make it incredibly hard for offensive linemen to contain him, resulting in a bevy of game-altering plays for Jordan and Dennis Allen's defense. Heading into the 2022 season with "unreal" confidence -- something Jordan has never been short of -- expect the veteran to build off last year's individual and team performances.

Myles Garrett
Cleveland Browns · DE

Garrett set a Browns single-season record with 16 sacks in 2021, earning his third Pro Bowl and second first-team All-Pro nod. He's also fresh off an appearance in The 99 Club in the Madden NFL 23 ratings after posting 92 pressures last season (second to Maxx Crosby's 112). He's such a unique player at the defensive end position, featuring a combination of strength, speed and athleticism. He has incredible lean and bend for a guy in a 6-4, 272-pound frame, making him a nightmare matchup for even the most elite tackles. 

T.J. Watt
Pittsburgh Steelers · OLB

Following in his brother's footsteps with an incredible five-year span of pass-rushing excellence, T.J. Watt has recorded the third-most sacks in a player's first five seasons in NFL history with 72 -- trailing only J.J. Watt (74.5) and Hall of Famer Reggie White (81). T.J. was named the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year after tying Michael Strahan's single-season sack record (22.5) despite missing two games (and most of another). He's extremely explosive and his relentless motor is unmatched, making him the best defensive player on the field more often than not. The Steelers' defense struggled last season, ranking outside of the top 20 in scoring and total yards allowed after finishing third in each category in 2020. That is no reflection of Watt's effort, though. Rather, it further proves that one great defensive player -- no matter how disruptive he might be -- needs more playmakers around him, unlike offenses that rank atop the league thanks in large part to a playmaking quarterback. Whether he gets more help from his teammates or not, Watt should have another brilliant campaign if he stays healthy, thanks to his pure talent and elite skill set.

Follow Willie McGinest on Twitter.

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