2015 NFL Player Rankings: Defensive Linemen

J.J. Watt is a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year honoree

Just like last year, Athlon Sports' 2015 NFL Preview magazine includes NFL player rankings at every position. The rankings in the magazine are provided by Dan Shonka of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services, a company that's been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.

 

Related: 2015 NFL Player Rankings - Quarterbacks


When it comes to the NFL's top defenders, the list starts with Houston Texans All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt. Now a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year honoree, Watt's jaw-dropping athleticism and big-play ability was on full display last season, as he not only terrorized quarterbacks, he also helped his own put points on the board thanks to his three touchdown catches as a situational tight end. While Watt is clearly the cream of the crop right now, he's not the only defensive linemen that is getting paid handsomely for his efforts either. Ndamukong Suh, the No. 1 defensive tackle, inked a record-breaking six-year contract with the Miami Dolphins this offseason that could be worth more than $114 million and is guaranteed to play the former Lion nearly $60 million.

 

Rankings courtesy of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services

 

Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL

 

2015 NFL Player Rankings: 3-4 Defensive Ends

 

1. J.J. Watt, Houston

A unanimous All-Pro, Watt has never missed a game in his four-year career, recording 51.5 sacks in the past three years.

 

2. Sheldon Richardson, N.Y. Jets

The 2013 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year built on his first season by registering 67 tackles and eight sacks.

 

3. Muhammad Wilkerson, N.Y. Jets

Wilkerson has played in 61 games since he was drafted four years ago and has collected 237 career tackles and 24.5 sacks.

 

4. Calais Campbell, Arizona

Campbell is a wiry and strong player at the point of attack and has the speed to run a play down from behind.

 

5. Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia

A battler from snap to whistle, Cox takes good angles in both long and short pursuit and has good use of hands at the point of attack.

 

6. Justin Smith, San Francisco

This relentless and tenacious warrior announced his retirement in May, so his inclusion on this list is more a tip of the cap for Smith's impressive 14-year career.

 

7. Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh

An explosive player with innate strength, the fifth-year pro has put together back-to-back solid seasons.

 

8. Haloti Ngata, Detroit

Detroit acquired Ngata, a nine-year veteran and five-time Pro Bowler, this offseason to offset the loss of Ndamukong Suh.

 

9. Mike Daniels, Green Bay

One of the top disruptors in the league, Daniels is undersized for a 3-4 defensive end, but he’s quick and resourceful in his play.

 

10. Jurrell Casey, Tennessee

The four-year veteran is a productive, quick and high-effort competitor. Casey refuses to stay blocked and has the burst to close and finish a play.

 

11. Jason Hatcher, Washington

12. Ray McDonald, Free Agent

13. Timmy Jernigan, Baltimore

14. Corey Liuget, San Diego

15. Tommy Kelly, Free Agent

16. Cory Redding, Arizona

17. Cedric Thornton, Philadelphia

18. Jared Crick, Houston

19. Vinny Curry, Philadelphia

20. Desmond Bryant, Cleveland

 

2015 NFL Player Rankings: 4-3 Defensive Ends

 

1. Cameron Wake, Miami

The 2014 Pro Bowl selection has the hand strength and leverage to control the blocker and stack the run. Wake finished 2014 with 11.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

 

2. Michael Bennett, Seattle

Bennett plays with strength and leverage and sets the edge of the defense with good lateral quickness. He has elevated his total game over the past five years.

 

3. Junior Galette, New Orleans

The long-armed edge pass rusher has an explosive first step. A good athlete with exceptional change-of-direction ability, Galette has 22 sacks the past two years.

 

4. Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit

A talented and disruptive high-effort athlete, Ansah controls the blocker with his long arms and big hands. He elevated his overall game his second season.

 

5. Jason Pierre-Paul, N.Y. Giants

The speed rusher takes advantage of his long arms and huge hands. He finished the season with 77 tackles and 12.5 sacks.

 

6. Everson Griffen, Minnesota

Griffen has outstanding lateral quickness with a relentless burst to the quarterback. An explosive leverage player, Griffen had 12 sacks last season.

 

7. Charles Johnson, Carolina

A productive pass rusher with the ability to stop the run, Johnson has quick feet with his outside rush or inside charge. Has 52.5 sacks in the last five years.

 

8. Cliff Avril, Seattle

Avril has explosive first-step quickness and uses his long arms to set the edge in the run game. Avril has recorded 13 sacks the past two years.

 

9. Mario Williams, Buffalo

A Pro Bowl pass rusher who can turn speed to power on a rush. He has sudden first-step quickness and covers a lot of ground quickly.

 

10. Robert Quinn, St. Louis

The 2014 Pro Bowler possesses natural hand, foot and lateral quickness. He refuses to stay blocked and can slip and accelerate off a block.

11. Chris Long, St. Louis

12. Robert Ayers, N.Y. Giants

13. William Hayes, St. Louis

14. Jerry Hughes, Buffalo

15. Carlos Dunlap, Cincinnati

16. Jeremy Mincey, Dallas

17. Justin Tuck, Oakland

18. Olivier Vernon, Miami

19. Jared Allen, Chicago

20. DeMarcus Ware, Denver

21. Cameron Jordan, New Orleans

22. Anthony Spencer, New Orleans

23. George Johnson, Tampa Bay

24. Jonathan Massaquoi, Tennessee

25. Lamarr Houston, Chicago

26. O’Brien Schofield, Atlanta

27. Derek Wolfe, Denver

28. C.J. Wilson, Oakland

29. Jarius Wynn, Buffalo

30. Greg Hardy, Dallas

 

2015 NFL Player Rankings: Defensive Tackles

 

1. Ndamukong Suh, Miami

A new arrival with the Dolphins, Suh has recorded 239 tackles including 36 sacks from the inside at defensive tackle.

 

2. Marcell Dareus, Buffalo

A Pro Bowl selection after a 10-sack season, Dareus is a long-armed power player who doesn’t stay blocked.

 

3. Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay

The five-year veteran has catlike quickness, good agility and body control to work his way through traffic. He excels as a one-gap penetrator.

 

4. Aaron Donald, St. Louis

The relentless, slippery leverage player has good flexibility to dip and bend. The 2014 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year had nine sacks and 48 total tackles.

 

5. Kyle Williams, Buffalo

He missed 11 games due to injury in 2011, but other than that, he has been a tireless blue-collar worker Bills fans appreciate.

 

6. Johnathan Hankins, N.Y. Giants

Hankins plays hard inside out to the perimeter and has good lateral quickness and change of direction.

 

7. Kawann Short, Carolina

Playing in front of NFL tackling leader Luke Kuechly, Short absorbs blocks and gets upfield push in the pass game.

 

8. Stephen Paea, Washington

With his strength and leverage, Paea is tough to block one-on-one. He gains an advantage with his first-step quickness.

 

9. Terrance Knighton, Washington

This wide-bodied pocket presser was just what the doctor ordered for Washington to stop the inside running game.

 

10. Jared Odrick, Jacksonville

A free-agent signee, Odrick is projected to play inside in a four-man front. He’s a disruptive player who gets upfield pressure.

 

11. Vince Wilfork, Houston

12. Sharrif Floyd, Minnesota

13. Brandon Williams, Baltimore

14. Jay Ratliff, Chicago

15. Tyrone Crawford, Dallas

16. Sen’Derrick Marks, Jacksonville

17. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati

18. Star Lotulelei, Carolina

19. Damon Harrison, N.Y. Jets

20. Henry Melton, Tampa Bay

21. Dan Williams, Oakland

22. Nick Fairley, St. Louis

23. Tyrunn Walker, Detroit

24. Jonathan Babineaux, Atlanta

25. Linval Joseph, Minnesota

26. Clinton McDonald, Tampa Bay

27. Michael Brockers, St. Louis

28. Kevin Williams, Free Agent

29. Bennie Logan, Philadelphia

30. Tom Johnson, Minnesota

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