Ranking the top 5 pass rushers entering the 2021 NFL season

Rams, NFL, Aaron Donald, Bills, Washington Football Team
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL season has been away from our viewing pleasure for too long, and the suspense surrounding the resumption of the 2021 NFL season is vastly increasing. One of the things football fans enjoy doing to help ease the pain of a lengthy NFL offseason is projecting who the best player at each position will be and creating tier lists of the best guys.

Today, we will be doing the same as we break down who the five best pass rushers are as we prepare to enter the 2021 NFL season.

5. Trey Hendrickson, Cincinnati Bengals

If Trey Hendrickson seems like an oddity to make this list, it’s because you’re probably right. However, Hendrickson does deserve the credit to be on this list as he ranked in the top three in sacks in the NFL last season and he has established himself as a very good pass rusher when healthy.

The New Orleans Saints did not like losing Hendrickson to the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason, but the Bengals sure are glad to have him. Hendrickson is a pure power rusher who saw a career breakout season with the Saints in 2020 that landed him a hefty pay raise in free agency. In 2020, Hendrickson racked up 25 total tackles, 25 quarterback hits, 12 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, and 13.5 sacks.

4. TJ Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers

It’s no surprise seeing TJ Watt on this list, as he ranked first in the NFL in tackles for a loss and sacks in 2020. Watt is an athletic outside linebacker with exceptional pass rush abilities and he has proven that he’s one of the NFL’s best defenders.

Watt excels at possessing a wide variety of finesse moves from the edge that allows him to shed blockers in a unique way and get to the quarterback. In 2020, Watt accumulated 53 total tackles, 23 tackles for a loss, 41 quarterback hits, seven passes defended, and led the league with 15 sacks.

3. Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears

Khalil Mack may not be as dominant as he used to be, but he is still very much deserving of this number three ranking. Mack has been one of the best edge rushers over the past few seasons and he could regain his Defensive Player of the Year form with the Chicago Bears in 2021.

Mack, the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has recorded four double-digit sack seasons in his career and has also been named to six Pro Bowls. In 2020, Mack accumulated 50 total tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 13 quarterback hits, one safety, three forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered, and nine sacks for the Bears.

2. JJ Watt, Arizona Cardinals

There may not be a bigger name at the edge rushing position than JJ Watt, and he is poised for a bounce back year in 2021. The Houston Texans used to be one of the most promising young teams in the AFC, but over the past couple seasons, they became one of the biggest dumpster fire squads in the entire league. The Texans have made their fair share of terrible decisions, which led Watt to request his release from the team.

Watt opted to shock everyone and sign with the Arizona Cardinals, and the team could give him a fresh start in a division with a lot of talented quarterbacks. He is one of the best edge rushers in NFL history, and he could certainly live up to this number two selection in 2021.

1. Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams

Aaron Donald checks in at the number one spot on our list, and this should come as no surprise. Donald has easily been the best defensive player over the past five seasons, and his dominance is sure to continue for years to come.

Donald could wind up as the best defensive player to ever step foot on the gridiron, and there’s no doubt that he’s the number one ranked defensive pass rusher heading into the 2021 NFL season. In 2020, Donald accumulated 45 total tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, 28 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles, and 13.5 sacks for the Los Angeles Rams.

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