With the NFL offseason calendar reaching its mid-way point, here the NFL Insiders of The 33rd Team take a moment to tier out each NFL team’s Front-Seven unit into separate tiers from Tier 1 to Tier 7. After tiering each NFL starting quarterback, their supporting weapons, and the league’s best offensive lines, we continue our transition to the defensive side of the ball here:
Tier 1 consists of the best defensive fronts in the NFL that will be exceptional against the run and pass. While there was a larger emphasis put on stopping the pass, both are factors here. Each of these teams has a premier pass rushing duo with a mix of young, up-and-coming talent, and established veterans.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Akiem Hicks, Vita Vea, William Gholston, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Devin White, Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett
“Tampa’s Front-seven is not only dominant with a difference-maker in Vita Vea, who creates significant production for others, but I love their long-term prospects as well given the age and upside of both Devin White and Joe Tryon.” — Former NFL GM Mike Tannenbaum
Greg Rousseau, Ed Oliver, DaQuan Jones, Shaq Lawson, Matt Milano, Tremaine Edmunds, Von Miller
San Francisco 49ers:
Samson Ebukam, Javon Kinlaw, Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, Dre Greenlaw, Fred Warner, Azeez Al-Shaair
Kwity Paye, DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Yannick Ngakoue, Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke, Zaire Franklin
Tier 2 consists of premier units along the DL. Each of the teams listed below employ some of the best pass rush duos and also are stout against the run. Keeping these units from the top tier is the fact that they have at least one question mark in the group. Each of these units should help their teams to be among the top 12 in total defense, and each have pass rushers who can challenge for the league lead in sacks.
Green Bay Packers:
Dean Lowry, Kenny Clark, Jarran Reed, Preston Smith, De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker, Rashan Gary
Los Angeles Rams:
A’Shawn Robinson, Greg Gaines, Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd, Ernest Jones, Bobby Wagner, Justin Hollins
Demarcus Lawrence, Carlos Watkins, Neville Gallimore, Dante Fowler Jr., Devante Bond, Leighton Vander Esch, Micah Parsons
“Dallas is extremely intriguing to me because of Micah Parsons’s rare ability and Dan Quinn’s ability to move players around creatively and effectively. I think Dante Fowler Jr. has a chance to be an underrated signing this year and in part replace the production of the departed Randy Gregory.” — Tannenbaum
Tier 3 is made up of more one-dimensional units that excel at one aspect of defensive play (pass rush, run defense, creating turnovers, pass defense) over the others. The Eagles, Titans, and Commanders really struggled at creating pressure on the QB last season despite doing a strong job at limiting rushing attacks. Meanwhile, the Chiefs, Bengals, and Steelers, excelled at creating sacks and pressure while struggling against the run to some extent.
Chase Young, Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat, Cole Holcomb, Jamin Davis, David Mayo
Chris Wormley, Tyson Alualu, Cameron Heyward, T.J. Watt, Devin Bush, Myles Jack, Alex Highsmith
Jeffrey Simmons, Teair Tart, Denico Autry, Harold Landry III, David Long Jr., Zach Cunningham, Bud Dupree
Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Derek Barnett, Kyzir White, T.J. Edwards, Haason Reddick
Sam Hubbard, DJ Reader, BJ Hill, Trey Hendrickson, Logan Wilson, Germaine Pratt, Akeem Davis-Gaither
Kansas City Chiefs:
George Karlaftis, Derrick Nnadi, Chris Jones, Frank Clark, Nick Bolton, Jermaine Carter Jr., Willie Gay
Tier 4 consists of the middling Front-Sevens that should appear around league average in most main categories in regard to DL and LB play. Strong veteran players and young, ascending players will be sprinkled in this tier, though none are fully put together or premier units at this time.
Justin Madubuike, Michael Pierce, Calais Campbell, Tyus Bowser, Josh Bynes, Patrick Queen, Odafe Oweh
J.J. Watt, Rashard Lawrence, Zach Allen, Devon Kennard, Zaven Collins, Isaiah Simmons, Markus Golden
Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, Matt Ioannidis, Yetur Gross-Matos, Shaq Thompson, Damien Wilson, Cory Littleton
New Orleans Saints:
Cameron Jordan, Shy Tuttle, David Onyemata, Marcus Davenport, Pete Werner, Demario Davis, Zack Baun
Los Angeles Chargers:
Jerry Tillery, Austin Johnson, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Joey Bosa, Kenneth Murray Jr., Drue Tranquill, Khalil Mack
Folorunso Fatukasi, DaVon Hamilton, Roy Robertson-Harris, Josh Allen, Devin Lloyd, Foyesade Oluokun, Travon Walker
Tier 5 consists of units that struggle in a major category. With the majority of the talent on these defenses being young or newly placed together, this could easily be the most volatile tier out of the pack. It would be reasonable to see some of these teams either exceed expectations or underwhelm.
Myles Garrett, Jordan Elliott, Taven Bryan, Jadeveon Clowney, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Anthony Walker, Sione Takitaki
Las Vegas Raiders:
Maxx Crosby, Johnathan Hankins, Bilal Nichols, Chandler Jones, Denzel Perryman, Jayon Brown, Divine Deablo
DJ Jones, Mike Purcell, Dre’Mont Jones, Bradley Chubb, Alex Singleton, Josey Jewell, Randy Gregory
New England Patriots:
Deatrich Wise Jr., Christian Barmore, Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, Matthew Judon, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Josh Uche
Tier 6 holds teams with a lack of top-end talent, particularly in the pass rush category. No pass rusher in this tier had over 9 sacks in 2021, and these teams are looking for young players to emerge or veterans to return from injury to ascend.
Romeo Okwara, Alim McNeill, Michael Brockers, Aidan Hutchinson, Derrick Barnes, Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis
Harrison Phillips, Dalvin Tomlinson, Jaylen Twyman, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, Za’Darius Smith
New York Jets:
Carl Lawson, Sheldon Rankins, Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers, Hamsah Nasirildeen, CJ Mosley, Quincy Williams
New York Giants:
Jihad Ward, Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Tae Crowder, Blake Martinez, Azeez Ojulari
Zach Sieler, Raekwon Davis, Christian Wilkins, Andrew Van Ginkel, Elandon Roberts, Jerome Baker, Emmanuel Ogbah
Tier 7 consists of low-end starter talent across the majority of the Front-Seven. These units will likely struggle to create pressure at a high and consistent level, and face issues with stopping the run, especially since they may see a lot of time playing from behind.
Al-Quadin Muhammad, Khyiris Tonga, Justin Jones, Robert Quinn, Nicholas Morrow, Roquan Smith, Matthew Adams
Jonathan Greenard, Maliek Collins, Ross Blacklock, Rasheem Green, Neville Hewitt, Christian Kirksey, Kamu Grugier-Hill
Darrell Taylor, Quinton Jefferson, Shelby Harris, Uchenna Nwosu, Cody Barton, Jordyn Brooks, Joel Iyiegbuniwe
Marlon Davidson, Ta’Quon Graham, Grady Jarrett, Arnold Ebiketie, Deion Jones, Rashaan Evans, Lorenzo Carter