Pre-Draft: Top Five NFL Defenses

This year’s draft is not loaded with top defensive talent, however, there are a few big names to look out for. Patrick Surtain II and Micah Parsons should be at the top of everyone’s radar.

Surtain II, an Alabama product, is the best cornerback in the draft. Surtain II had 32 tackles last year, one interception, and a touchdown. He was also named Defensive MVP in the 2021 Rose Bowl.

Parsons, an elite defensive lineman out of Penn State, opted out of the 2020-2021 season. He hasn’t played a game since the 2019 Cotton bowl: December 28, 2019, however, in his last game he was named Defensive MVP and recorded 14 tackles, two forced fumbles, and two sacks.

Prior to Surtain II and Parsons joining the NFL on April 29, let’s take a look at my top five NFL defenses below.

5. Los Angeles Chargers

You might be surprised to see the Chargers make the list with how poor they were on defense last year. Coaching changes and injuries transformed this defensive unit into swiss cheese. For 2021, this squad is going to have a few big names return.

For starters, SS Derwin James will be returning alongside all-world edge rusher Joey Bosa. This duo alone is enough to elevate a defense. Derwin is a product of FSU and is one of the best strong safeties in the league.

The Chargers also have DC Brandon Stanley (formerly DC for the Rams) coming back for a second year. Stanley is familiar with the system and has already had a rough year under his belt. He will be ready to go with the talent that has returned.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

Preventing the opposition from scoring is part of what carried the Steelers to an 11 game win streak last year. In weeks 1-12, the Steelers D allowed an average of 17 points per game. TJ Watt (who many thought should’ve won DPOTY), recorded a league-high 15 sacks last season. Other individual contributors include Minkah Fitzpatrick (FS) and Cam Heyward (DT).

Their defensive unit fell flat at the end of the season, allowing 23 points to the Redskins in Week 13, 26 to the Bills in Week 14, 27 to the Bengals in Week 15, and 24 to the Colts in Week 16. All of the previously mentioned games were losses, except the Colts matchup in week 16.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady is not the only player on this team to make an impact. This crew held the Kansas City Chiefs to nine points in Super Bowl 55. Notable names here are Shaquille “Shaq” Barrett, and Jason Pierre-Paul “JPP”.

Shaq Barrett and JPP are a lethal duo on the front line that was an opposing quarterback’s worst nightmare last year. The duo recorded a combined 17.5 sacks and two interceptions last season. Great year for the Linebacker duo!

Bucs defense was great against the run last year, only allowing 1289 rushing yards all season. The Super Bowl champs, along with DC Todd Bowles, will be back next year!

2. Washington Redskins

Even when they do name the team “Redwolves”, they will still be the Redskins to me. Anyways… why did I rank the REDSKINS second in the league on the defensive side of the ball?

As most of you should know, the Redskins signed a once-in-a-generation player in edge rusher Chase Young. Young was signed 2nd overall in the 2020 NFL draft. “Predator”, as he is lovingly referred to by teammates, looked great last year. He was by far the most NFL-ready player in last years’ draft. Last year with the skins, Young recorded 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and one touchdown. He also made the pro bowl his rookie year.

Chase Young Rookie Highlights 2020-2021 Season

As far as defensive lines go, Washington has the best in the league. Five defensive linemen last year were former first-round picks. Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan (who will most likely not be returning next year), Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, and Matt Ioannidis (the only Skins lineman not taken in the first round).

In addition to the defensive line, Washington drafted a breakout safety in Kamren Curl. Last season, Kurl had 3 interceptions and a touchdown. He really came into his own towards the end of the year. They also acquired William Jackson, CB from Cincinnatti, through Free agency to further build their secondary.

The skins have well-rounded protection, reinforced by an airtight front line, going into the 2021 season.

1. LA Rams

This box-office defensive Stalwart is loaded with superstars, two of whom are the best in the league in their respective positions: Jalen Ramsey (CB) and Aaron Donald (DT). Their secondary is stacked, with Ramsey leading the charge alongside Darious Williams.

Los Angeles totaled 53 sacks last year, with Donald getting 13.5 individually. The secondary and DL of this team play at an elite level, and it shows on their opponent’s stat sheet. They limited their opponents to 3051 passing yards on the year (1000 less than the Rams offense.) They were also able to limit opponent third-down conversions to 74 out of 209 attempts.

Under their new defensive coordinator, Raheem Morris, this unit will be even better than last year. Raheem came to the Rams after a 10-week stint as interim head coach with my Atlanta Falcons. Raheem took over as head coach of an 0-5 Atlanta team after the departure of Dan Quinn. Morris took them to 4-6 in the 10 remaining weeks of the year. As a fan of the Falcons, I watched every game. When Raheem took over, it was as if the dirty bird defense underwent a renaissance. Morris is a positive addition to this team.

Expectations are always high for the best. We will see if the Rams can live up to the hype!