Every week the ranks will likely change as we are ranking defensive players solely on sacks. You can use tabs to narrow down what you are looking for with the overall NFL, AFC, and NFC. The slider is going to help you pinpoint who has the most sacks within a certain span of weeks. You can go from the second half of the season, or to just the last three weeks. This gives you more flexibility to see what you want to view. The Lineups Rating will sit next to the player to show their overall rating from a formula we have created based on defensive stats.
Getting into totals and per game numbers, you can see the splits between home and away. A player might have a noticeable difference in sacks at home and on the road. However you can’t really base this for future references if you are trying to project sacks. It is a small sample size of road and home games where the schedule might be more favorable for a player in home games or vice versa. So it is important to dig a little deeper and figure out why the numbers are the way they are.
QB pressures, forced fumbles, and safeties are also included here. QB pressures are much more frequent in comparison to the other two stats, so we just see their overall totals. However a player can have knack for forcing turnovers more frequently than others. Safeties are a rare play but we can see who leads the league in forcing them as well. QB pressures is an important stat because it can have an impact on the play without showing up in the box score as a sack. That is why we want to showcase it here and why it was created as well.
What Makes A Good Pass Rusher?
Each pass rusher is made up of a different mold of strengths and weaknesses, and the ones who have little to no weaknesses are going to be the ones to produce the big numbers because they can get by anybody. Starting with having elite awareness, this is a crucial thing to have when being a strong pass rusher. There is always a lot going on each play and pre-snap. Being able to take what has happened in the past and being able to use that when necessary is a big help. Pass rushers that can get off the line and read snap counts well have a slight edge, but it is just a small piece of the puzzle.
Reading offensive lineman is big to know what they are going to do. It is a battle all game long as often you will be matched up against the same name unless you flip sides more frequently. After they assess the offensive lineman, it is important for a defender to not get caught up with them, because they still need to find the ball and read the play. Whether that is a play action, a run, or a drop back pass, getting to where the ball or player is going to be is important. Getting past the blocker is only the first step, and it doesn’t do much good if you don’t know where the ball is after that.
Teams will often look for defensive players with a high motor, and not everyone is have that. It is also not something you can teach, it is more on the player to have that or develop that attitude of chasing down and going 100% on every play. Having that high motor can help make up for some of the other missed attributes of a player. Now going full blown for every play of the game is going to cause some durability issues, so it is still smart to harness energy and be able to know when to turn it on and off.
Being able to battle with your hands is important as that is what you are mostly going to be doing when you battle an offensive line. If you get caught up and have the offensive lineman’s hands inside your shoulder pads, it is going to be tough to get by him. There are a few different techniques like using a bull rush and shedding these blocking moves, but we will get into that in a moment. A player can also dip past a higher blocking offensive lineman and this is known as the dip.
Having multiple pass rushing techniques is big because if you are a one dimensional pass rusher, it is going to be tough to overcome once an offense figures you out. You will also not be able to beat every offensive lineman with one or two moves. The best pass rushers are able to beat you inside or out, bull rush you, or just simply beat you right off the line. Jumping snap counts is a bit overrated, but a quick defensive end is going to need to have some awareness built in just due to the vulnerability they will leave if it is a run play or they miss the quarterback.
After all is said and done, you must be able to bring down the quarterback right? Very few things are more frustrating than getting to the quarterback and not bringing him down when you have the chance. There is the mix of speed, physicality, strength, and size that must be possessed to go along with these traits. Very rarely does a player put it all together, but when they do, they are often one of the top pass rushers for a period of time or if the productions stays steady, it could be all-time.
Best Pass Rushers Of All-Time
Bruce Smith will go down as one of the best pass rushers of all-time, and possibly the best. He has the most sacks of any player in NFL history, and that record is looking very safe right now. He played most of his career in Buffalo, where he racked up over 120 sacks there. He also played in Washington where he continued strong numbers. Overall Smith was the heart of the Buffalo defense and they went to a few Super Bowls that ended in heart breaking fashion. Reggie White is just a few sacks short of Smith, and is second all time in sacks. He played with Philadelphia and Green Bay. White is one of the most dominating presences on the defensive side.
Lawrence Taylor will go down as the best defensive player to ever play, and added pass rushing to his game as an outside linebacker. He had seven straight seasons with double-digit sacks and was also a two-time Super Bowl champion who dominated the game on every front. Taylor jumpstarted what the linebacker position looks like now being able to get to the quarterback but also being a run stopping force and playing well in coverage. Another top linebacker, Kevin Greene had 160 sacks in his career, and was a monster with endless energy. No matter what team he played for, Greene’s production hardly changed.
The term “sack” actually started with Deacon Jones, and he had over 170 sacks that were calculated. The stat wasn’t officially recorded until after his career ended. Overall he was a Hall of Famer and one of the best defensive ends of all-time. Derrick Thomas was one of the best pass-rushers of all-time, but had a sad end to his career due to a car crash, and then died early at age 33. He holds the longest single game sack record with seven total sacks. He also had 126 in his career.
Getting into more recent years, Michael Strahan holds the single season sack record with 22.5, and ranks 6th all-time in sacks. If you watched Michael Strahan get that final sack, you have to say Brett Favre went down a bit too easy. Overall Strahan was an absolute force on the defensive side. One of the best undrafted free agent signings of all-time, John Randle had double-digit sacks in eight straight seasons. He finished with 137 sacks and went down as a hall of famer. The Colts had a dominant pass rush with Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, who both rank inside the top 20 in sacks all-time.
Julius Peppers played for a long time, and is fourth overall in sacks. He played 16 years in the NFL, and has 159.5 sacks. Jason Taylor is another lengthy playing defenseman who ranks 7th all-time on the sacks list. We have seen a lot of names recently creep their way up the list. Terrell Suggs as 139 sacks all time and should move up a few with him still playing. DeMarcus Ware is another one who is 9th all-time in sacks. Von Miller and Cameron Wake are two active players still producing strong numbers. Both rank inside the top 35 in sacks all-time.
Individual sacks are something we can look at more for IDP fantasy football leagues, where overall team sacks can be considered non-IDP fantasy leagues. Now scoring systems are going to dictate how much a sack is worth. If a sack is worth the amount of a tackle, or slightly more, then, they are not as important as tackles because those are more frequent and easier to predict. Now if sacks are worth much more than tackles, then it is going to put more of an importance on getting players with a chance for sack production.
There are going to be a few things to look at when finding players who get sacks. The first is going to be a defensive scheme. A 4-3 or 3-4 system is going to change the way players get sacks, but also just overall production in general. Defensive ends have more fantasy value than defensive tackles, although there are a few names that can beg to differ. But for the most part defensive ends are going to be the ones who get a majority of the sacks. We like defensive ends more from a 4-3 system because there are four lineman to deal with instead of three for the opposing offensive lines. A linebacker in a 3-4 system might have more chances if they are used as an edge rusher and listed as a linebacker.
We never want to look at historical production as a major way to look at future projections, but it is part of it. There are some consistent players that generate sacks year in and year out. We just need to make sure that their role is still the same within an offense, and that they are not getting into years where we might see a decline. For example J.J. Watt isn’t the IDP player he used to be, and just because the sacks have been there in his career, the drop off has begun. Just because a player has a 15 sack season the year prior does not mean he will have it again. There is always more to the story for what we need to see when it comes to those outliers.
When looking at the positions that get sacks, it is between linebackers and defensive lineman. You will have some defensive backs play closer to the line or are used more creatively and nab a few extra sacks. Depending on how your IDP league is set up, you might just have an IDP spot which doesn’t narrow down what the position has to be. This opens the player pool so you can just find players who get sacks. Now if the league is a bit more specific, then you are going to have things broken out a bit where you need to fill a defensive line and linebacker spot.
Looking at 2019, there were 23 player with eight or more sacks at the defensive line position. At linebacker there was just 15. Going back a year prior, there was only eight players at the linebacker position with eight or more sacks. There was 25 defensive lineman. Overall the defensive line spot is going to have more available guys to generate sacks so there is more depth there to think about when drafting. Adjusting on the fly throughout the season is also important because injuries will occur, and roles could also change. You can generally find a player or two for the second half run because of those scenarios.
NFL Sacks Leaders FAQ
Who Led The NFL In Sacks In 2020?
TJ Watt led the league in sacks this season with 15. Watt has been one of the best pass-rushers over the last few seasons and is also someone who forces quite a bit of turnovers.
Who Has The Most Sacks Of All-Time?
Bruce Smith has the most sacks of all-time with 200. He played from 1985 to 2003 with two teams, the Buffalo Bills and the Washington Redskins. Smith had 13 seasons with double-digit sacks and had a career high 19 in one season back in 1990.
Who Has The Most Sacks in A Single Season?
Michael Strahan had 22.5 sacks in 2001 with the New York Giants, and these leads all players for most sacks in a season. There are a few names that are just a half sack short. More recently Aaron Donald threatened the record with 20.5 in 2018.
Who Has The Most Sacks In A Game?
Derrick Thomas recorded seven sacks in a single game, which is the current record. He did it with the Kansas City Chiefs, on November 11th, 1990 against the Seahawks. This also came in a losing effort where the Chiefs lost by one point.
What Position Gets The Most Sacks?
Defensive ends have generally been the position to consistently record the most sacks, because a lot of their play by play responsibility is getting to the quarterback and defensive tackles get stuffed more. Edge linebackers can also record a lot of sacks.