Charles Haley, RIchard Seymour, Michael Strahan, Jason Taylor & Bryant Young
2020 Pre-Season Rank #15, 2021 Pre-Season Rank #5
Aaron Donald is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, and anyone who has ever done that twice has always been enshrined. Easily the best defensive player in the modern era, Donald is one of two current defensive players to have an MPA over one, and he is also now a Super Bowl Champion following Los Angeles''s win last year. The 20102 All-Decade Player is on an eight-year Pro Bowl and seven-year First Team All-Pro streak and is only two Sacks away from 100. Donald is a once-in-a-lifetime football player.
Injuries appear to be compiled on the body of J.J. Watt, and there is a good chance that he won’t make the accumulative MPAs. That won’t matter, as we have a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, and character-wise, a former Walter Payton Man of the Year. His AV/G is sparkling, and while he might be in decline, he could easily have a lot more left, and his new team, Arizona, hopes that he does, though based on what we saw in 2021 seems unlikely.
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2022 Pre-Season Rank #27, 2021 Pre-Season Rank #34.
Suh’s last Pro Bowl was in 2016 and his last First Team All-Pro was in 2014. He is still a good player, and the fact that he has had an extended stay with Tampa Bay has shed the vagabond label that he might have received. More importantly, he is now a Super Bowl Champion, and we can argue that Suh was the biggest beneficiary of the title in regards to Hall of Fame potential. Suh was just named as an All-Decade player, and if he remains decent, his chances will improve, especially now that he crept back over the AV/G.
2021 Pre-Season Rank #36, 2020 Pre-Season Rank #42.
One of the more surprising 2010s All-Decades picks was Cameron Jordan, but it was not like he did not have a great decade. Jordan is on a five-year streak of Pro Bowls with six in total, and his leadership and character have been raising his profile in recent years. This can only help his Hall of Fame cause, which is now aided by his Pro Bowls, Sacks and AV/G exceeding the MPA for the first time.
2021 Pre-Season Rank #28, 2020 Pre-Season Rank #36.
A 14-year veteran, Campbell’s six Pro Bowls happened in the last seven years, which includes all three of his seasons as a Jacksonville Jaguar, and his first in Baltimore. Campbell, who recently won the Walter Payton Man of the Year, also was honored with an All-Decade Selection. Campbell is 36, but is playing some great football and another good season with Baltimore will be colossal for his chances. Notably, Campbell is now over the MPA in Approximate Value.
2021 Pre-Season Rank #34, Last Year’s Rank #40.
A Super Bowl Champion with the Eagles, Cox's six-year streak of Pro Bowls ended last year and he also has a First Team All-Pro on the ledger. His AV/G is just over the MPA, and if he can maintain it without declining too far over the next few years, he is in the Hall of Fame hunt.
2021 Pre-Season Rank #75, 2020 Pre-Season Rank #87.
Heyward has been one of the top five Defensive Ends in football the last five years, but he will be 33 this year and has to keep his newfound peak at a relatively advanced age. Over the last half-decade, Heyward went to five Pro Bowls, earned three First Team All-Pros, and carved out a Hall of Fame run that we would not have predicted five years ago.
2021 Pre-Season Rank #99, 2020 Pre-Season Rank #144.The Cleveland Browns begin 2022 in disarray but not at Left Defensive End, where the enigmatic Myles Garrett has been one of the best defensive players over the last two seasons. Currently, on a two-year streak of First Team All-Pros and four-year run of 10-plus Sacks, Garrett's stock has risen as much as any other defensive player in that timeframe.
2021 Pre-Reaseon Rank #47, 2020 Pre-Season Rank #39.
From 2012 to 2017, Gerald McCoy was chosen to the Pro Bowl, but his star diminished in 2018, and he had an average year in Carolina in 2019. McCoy joined the Dallas Cowboys in the off-season, and he needed a return to greatness badly for any legitimate Hall of Fame shot. That didn't happen this year, as he underwent season-ending knee surgery during training camp. The Cowboys have subsequently cut him as per their rights in his contract. Going into 2021, the Las Vegas Raiders signed him, and that lasted one Game before another injury. This likely ends McCoy's pro career, and what looked like four years ago as a distant Hall of Fame shot.
2021 Pre-Season Rank #82, 2021 Pre-Season Rank #97.
Possibly the most recognized Charger as of this writing, Joey Bosa was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2016, and he is a four-time Pro Bowler with nearly 50 Sacks. His AP/G is close to the MPA, and it is believed that Bosa has an ever higher level in him. We think he does, and believe that a DPOY is possible. It is also equally possible that he could act his way out of the NFL
2021 Pre-Season Rank #93, 2020 Pre-Season Rank #128.
Buckner played his first four seasons with San Francisco and in his first year in Indianapolis (2020), he set a personal best of 16 in Approximate Value and earned his First Team All-Pro. Throw in a 2021 Pro Bowl and you have a player trending in the right direction.
2021 Pre-Season Rank #89, 2020 Pre-Season Rank #85
Clowney went to three straight Pro Bowls (2016-18) with the Texans but his 2019 season in Seattle was not spectacular and 2020 in Tennessee was worse. He joined Cleveland two seasons ago, but his peak period seems like it happened a decade before.
2021 Pre-Season Rank #95, 2020 Pre-Season Rank #122.
We noted last year that JPP hasn’t been to the Pro Bowl since 2012 and his best days seem like a lifetime ago. Perhaps he aimed to prove us wrong as he was healthy in 2020, returned to the Pro Bowl (his third), and won his second Super Bowl, but he enters his year a Free Agent, and his career might be over.
2021 Pre-Season Rank Unranked
Chris Jones is on a three-year Pro Bowl streak, and while a First Team All-Pro has eluded him, he is a three-rime Second Team All-Pro and Super Bowl winner with the Chiefs.
2021 Pre-Season Rank #2021, 2020 Pre-Season Rank #90.
We said a couple years ago that “Hunter is a pick for a lot of people to have a breakout defensive campaign, and he is coming off of back-to-back Pro Bowl and 14.5 Sack years”. That didn’t happen, as he missed the entire 2020 season with a neck injury, and was not great in 2021. Perhaps he should have dropped more in this list than he did, but this year is critical for any hope at all.
2021 Pre-Season Rank Unranked
One of the stars on the rebuilding (and potentially contending) Patriots is Matt Judon, who is on a three-year streak of Pro Bowls (the first two as a Raven), andshould crack the 50-Sack plateau this year.
2021 Pre-Season Rank: #124, 2020 Pre-Season Rank #119.
Griffin’s relatively low AV/G is largely based on him being a backup for his first four seasons, but that is only part of the issue. The Defensive End played ten years with Minnesota, where he went to four Bowls, before playiing with Dallas and Detroit in 2020. Griffin retruned to the Vikings in 2021, but was not the same player he once was, and he begins the 2022 Season on the unemplyment line.
2021 Pre-Season Rank #136, 2020 Pre-Season Rank #141.
Quinn’s last Pro Bowl might have been in 2014, but he is still a decent player who has an AV/G near .5. This is his thirs season in Chicago, and Quinn is an adequate pass rusher, but time is slipping away, though he notably joined the 100 Sack Club last year.
2021 Pre-Season Rank #131, 2020 Pre-Season Rank #133.
Lawrence went to the Pro Bowl in both 2017 and 2018, and while his 2019 was down from the two years before, it was better than his 2020 season. He is still capable of a bounce-back season.
2020 Pre-Season Rank #150.
Dunlap played most of his career with Cincinnati, going to the Pro Bowl in 2015 and 2016. He was traded to Seattle during the 2020 Season and begins this year with the contending Chiefs.
2021 Pre-Season Rank #150.
Jarrett went to the Pro Bowl in 2019 and 2021, and is beginning to his stride.