Welcome back to the Position Ranking Roulette! For those that are new, I take a look at each position in the league and how its' players favored for this past season only. We'll be using PFF grades, advanced metrics, and film to determine where each player ranks. Today, we'll take a look at a position that gets more important every season and sets the tone up front. Whether they lined up in the A or B gap, they'll be considered for this list, as long as they record 150 run defense snaps and 200 pass rush snaps. Let's take a look at the best interior defenders this season!
Photo: Kareem Elgazzar/USA TODAY Sports
12. DJ Reader (Last Season: N/A)
PFF Grade: 87.3 (6th)
Despite missing nearly half the games, DJ's impact was greatly felt by the Bengals defense. When DJ played a full game (9 games), the Bengals allowed 91 rush yards per game, 3.86 yards per carry, and 5 rushing TDs. In the games he missed or left early, they allowed 126.7 rush yards per game, 4.55 yards per carry, and 6 TDs. Individually, DJ ranked 9th with a 5.04% stop rate, 14th with a 9.96% pressure rate, and 2nd with a 2.16% batted pass rate. He wreaked havoc from the interior and gave a much needed boost to Cincy's defense.
11. Jeffrey Simmons (Last Season: #4)
PFF Grade: 81.1 (10th)
Coming off a career year, Jeffrey put up another solid season. He generated a 9.08% pressure rate while winning 12.8% of his pass rushes, both ranking near the top 20 among interior defenders, while posting 53 total pressures, which ranked 7th among all IDL. Add in 5 batted passes and 27 stops, Simmons made an impact in both the pass and the run.
10. Christian Wilkins (Last Season: #11)
PFF Grade: 85.1 (7th)
Wilkins has improved every season he's been in the league. He had the best stop rate among interior defenders at 5.78% while missing just 4% of his tackles, he tied for the most batted passes with 7, and he posted an 81.0 run defense grade, ranking 2nd among eligible interior defenders. Where Wilkins can still improve is his pass rush effectiveness, as he had a pressure rate of just 5.11%. If he can win more pass rushes and get to the QB - while maintaining his run game dominance, he'll put his name in the top 5 conversation.
9. Derrick Brown (Last Season: N/A)
PFF Grade: 84.4 (8th)
It took a few years, but Derrick Brown finally had a top-10 worthy season. He tied for 13th with 31 stops, tied for 5th with 5 batted passes, finished 12th with 10 QB hits, and posted a 80.6 run defense grade, 3rd highest among interior defenders. These are really solid numbers considering he lined up in the A gap on nearly 42% of his snaps, which is the 2nd highest rate on this list. Similar to Wilkins, he needs to increase his overall pass rush production to be considered a top nose tackle in the league.
Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty Images
8. Jonathan Allen (Last Season: #3)
PFF Grade: 90.1 (11th)
Allen put up another menacing season, as he was a threat against the run and pass. He ranked 5th with a 5.36% stop rate, and he finished 18th with a 9.75% pressure rate. He also won 20.7% of his pass rushes against true pass sets, which placed 15th among IDL. Lastly, he had the 7th highest pass rush grade among interior defenders at a 81.1 mark. He wasn't as dominant as last season, but he was still impactful in multiple ways.
7. Aaron Donald (Last Season: #1)
PFF Grade: 90.5 (3rd)
Even in one of his least productive seasons (his 2nd lowest PFF Grade and pressure rate at 90.5 and 10.1% respectively), AD was still a force on the field. He posted a 5.37% stop rate, ranking 4th among IDL, and he tied for 3rd with a 19.1% pass rush win rate. If we put his pressure rate (which ranked 11th) and stop rate at the same snap count as Chris Jones, he would finish with 62 pressures and 49 stops, both of which would rank in the top 3. It pains me to put him this low, but he was outplayed on a snap-by-snap basis by some of his peers, and he didn't have the game volume to justify his efficiency. I'm hopeful he'll get back to the #1 spot one more time in his legendary career.
6. DeForest Buckner (Last Season: #8)
PFF Grade: 82.3 (10th)
Buckner continues to prove he should be mentioned among the best IDL in the league. He ranked 2nd with a 5.38% stop rate and 47 stops, while also ranking in the top 10 with a pressure rate of 10.79% and 56 total pressures. He was extremely efficient as he missed just 3 tackles all season while posting a 15.5% pass rush win rate. He was the lone bright spot on a forgetful Colts defense this year.
Photo: Grave Hollars/IndyStar
5. Cameron Heyward (Last Season: #2)
PFF Grade: 89.8 (5th)
Make that three top 5 finishes for one of the best IDL in NFL history. Cam does it all as he ranked in the top 8 for both pressure rate and stop rate at 11.65% and 5.37% respectively. He also converted over a fifth of his pressures into sacks, while getting a QB hit or sack on nearly 38% of his pressures. Add in a 78.2 run defense grade, Cam did it all in another productive season.
4. Javon Hargrave (Last Season: #6)
PFF Grade: 78.2 (12th)
Hargrave may have solidified himself as the best pass rushing IDL in the NFL. He ranked 1st with a 12.58% pressure rate, 2nd with a 13.2 true pass set PRP, and 3rd with a 90.8 pass rush grade. He also played well against the run, posting a 4.22% stop rate and missed just 4 tackles. He was dominant for Philly, and opened up the door for his edge rushers to have great success.
3. Quinnen Williams (Last Season: N/A)
PFF Grade: 90.1 (4th)
Quinnen proved he was worth a top 3 pick by having a top 3 season in 2022. He had the highest PRP and true pass set PRP at 8.1 and 14.0 respectively, while also converting a quarter of his pressures into sacks. He posted a 12.38% pressure rate, ranking third among IDL, and had a QB hit or sack on half of his pressures. He was just nearly as impactful against the run, as he posted a stop rate of 4.64%, while missing just 5 tackles.
Photo: Robert Sabo/New York Post
2. Dexter Lawrence (Last Season: N/A)
PFF Grade: 92.0 (T-1st)
The top 2 could've gone either way, as Dexter is the first runner up on this years' list. For lining up in the A gap at a higher rate than any other IDL in the league (65.16%), he destroyed double teams and terrorized backfields at an insane rate. He finished 4th with a 12.28% pressure rate, while also finishing 1st with a 28.4% true pass set rush win rate. He was great at stuffing the run as well, as he posted a 4.40% stop rate to the tune of 38 total stops, which ranked in the top 10 among IDL. This may have been the most dominant season we've seen from a true 1 tech.
1. Chris Jones (Last Season: #5)
PFF Grade: 92.0 (T-1st)
Chris Jones nearly took home the DPOY award, and for good reason. He led all IDL with 15.5 sacks, 77 pressures on a 12.42% pressure rate, a 20.2% pass rush win rate while posting a 7.9 PRP, and he converted nearly a fifth of his pressures into sacks. He added 31 stops and led the Chiefs to a top 10 rush defense, allowing 107.2 yards on the ground per game. It was close, but Chris Jones takes home the gold as the best IDL in the league in 2022.
Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Some of the studs who missed out this year were JJ Watt, Leonard Williams, Calais Campbell, and Daron Payne. Although they all put up solid numbers, they weren't that efficient and needed a high snap volume to produce their big time stats. Additionally, expect guys who missed time like Jordan Davis, Christian Barmore, Zach Allen, and Vita Vea to find their way into the conversation for next years' list.
Tune in next time as we cover the top 12 tight ends!