Pass rushing is an art. The best pass rushers ever have developed a plethora of moves that consistently leave offensive linemen looking stupid and confused. This list is based on the overall talent and career accomplishments of all pass rushers. These are the top 10 best pass rushers ever.
#10 – John Randle
Don’t get fooled by his short stature. Setting the bar for players like Aaron Donald is this former undrafted defensive tackle who became one of the most prolific pass rushers of all-time.
Randle stands alone at the top of the career sack leaderboard among defensive tackles with 137.5 and was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
The only thing more impressive than John Randle’s pass rush ability was his trash talking ability. He has a long list of legendary mic’d up moments.
#9 – Julius Peppers
Very few defenders dominated the past twenty years like the iron man that is Julius Peppers. Arguably the greatest Carolina Panther of all time, Peppers ranks fourth all time in sacks and was a part of the Panthers’ original Super Bowl run in 2003.
His size and technique made him able to reach great levels of production and impact wherever he went in the NFL, which led him to be named to both the 2000’s and 2010’s all decade team. Once eligible, there is without a doubt he will find his way to Canton, Ohio.
#8 – J.J. Watt
You are not going to out-work J.J. Watt. Since being a walk-on at the University of Wisconsin, Watt has done what very few could accomplish and established himself among the most decorated defensive players of all time. This 3x time defensive player of the year became the only player in history to record multiple twenty sack seasons.
Despite battling a plethora of injuries which led to multiple trips to the IR, Watt remains among the best defensive lineman in the NFL today as he looks to improve upon his Hall-of-Fame resume in Arizona. Even in the backend of his career, expect Watt to get his massive paws on the football more than once.
#7 – Derrick Thomas
The 1990’s was the prime era for pass rushers with players such as Kevin Greene, John Randle, Bruce Smith, Reggie White among others terrorizing the quarterback position. However, no player recorded as many sacks during the decade than the outside linebacker that is Derrick Thomas.
In only eleven seasons, the top five draft pick was able to record 126.5 sacks, 3 first team all pro selections, and was elected to the 1990’s all decade team. Nothing is more impressive as his single game achievements, as he holds the record for most sacks in a game with 7, and even holds the number two spot with a 6 sack game as well.
If it weren’t for a tragic car crash that ended his life early, Derrick Thomas would have cemented himself even more as one of the best pass rushers ever.
#6 – Aaron Donald
The highest ranking current player on the list, Donald has proven to be a wrecker of worlds for all interior lineman in the NFL. Double team or not, this beast of a man will find his way to the Quarterback. Standing at six feet, 285 pounds of pure muscle there is no athlete in NFL history quite built like this 3x Defensive player of the year.
Donald is the model of consistency as he has never had fewer than 8 sacks in a season. His most productive season was in 2018 with 20.5 which was an NFL record for defensive tackles. It’s rare for me to put a player this early in his career on my all-time lists, but Aaron Donald is that special. He is on a record pace, and still has plenty of time in his career to continue to build upon his already legendary legacy.
I would not be shocked at all if he becomes the only player in NFL history to earn 4 different defensive player of the year awards.
#5 – Michael Strahan
Michael Strahan seems to be good at anything he does. He’s a natural entertainer, as you cannot help but smile listening to him mic’d up or seeing his trademark tooth-gap grin. Obviously he is no stranger to success on the football field as well, where his hall-of-fame career was defined by both individual production and team success.
A bit of a late bloomer, Strahan did not come into his own as a rusher until his 5th year, but his production would skyrocket. His most productive season would come in 2001, as he would break the single season record with 22.5 sacks (shoutout Brett Favre).
Even with his records, nothing was as impressive as his performance in 2007 Super Bowl against the undefeated New England Patriots. No better way to end a hall-of-fame career.
#4 – Bruce Smith
This one is not going to sit well with a lot of people. While it may seem wrong to leave the NFL’s all time sack leader on the outside looking in, it’s warranted in my mind and I have reason.
Bruce Smith is without a doubt a generational sack artist and an all-time great, and well deserving of a top four spot. He is the lone member of the 200 sack club and was an integral piece to the 1990’s Bills four consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
In my eyes, however, the remaining three players were more dominant players during their peak. Despite not matching the longevity that Smith achieved in his 19 year career, they were more impressive at their best. Leaving Smith out of the top three is less of a knock on him, but a greater appreciation for the top 3 on this list.
#3 – Deacon Jones
There is no way one can make a list of the best pass rushers of all time without mentioning the OG sack artist. He practically invented the word sack. David “Deacon” Jones was the first player to master the art of pass rushing. His innovation at defensive line made him a unique player amongst his time, even using techniques that would later be banned in the NFL such as his trademark head-slap move.
Although sacks were not recorded during the years of his career, NFL researchers that have gone back to watch tape discovered he recorded 173.5 sacks during his career, including 26(!!!!) during the 1967 14 game season. Deacon was ahead of his time with what he was doing at the defensive end position, and is rightfully deserving of a top 3 spot.
#2 – Reggie White
In his first game in the NFL, the “Minister of Defense” burst on the scene with a 2.5 sack game topped off with an interception for a touchdown. It was a perfect preview to how Reggie White would perform for the next fifteen seasons. Domination.
While Reggie White would retire one sack behind Bruce Smith’s 200 career total, he did so in 4 less seasons. In his best year, White would record 21 sacks in a 12 game, strike shortened season. White’s sacks impacted beyond the stat sheet, as his signing with the Green Bay Packers led to a Super Bowl victory in 1996, with White recording two sacks in that game.
White is arguably the greatest defensive linemen of all time, but just falls short of GOAT status in the pass rushing argument.
#1 – Lawrence Taylor
Lists like this can be a little anti-climatic approaching the 1st ranked player. I’m sure most of you were thinking nobody else can be number one besides Lawrence Taylor and you had every reason to think that.
LT forced innovation. Joe Gibbs had to introduce the single-back offense to the NFL just in order to have an extra blocker to help block him. One of two defensive players to ever win MVP award, Taylor’s league dominance is replicated by any defensive player ever. Add on two rings and three defensive player of the year awards, it is almost impossible to match Taylor’s accomplishments too.
Not only is Taylor the best pass rusher of all time, he is the best defensive player to walk planet earth. While he isn’t quite in the 200-range sack total like Bruce Smith or Reggie White, Taylor’s numbers are nothing to be overlooked, and his impact is unmatched.
THANK YOU FOR READING!!
For more designs just like this check out my Instagram page @sogfootball where I interact most with my followers!