The top 10 pass rushers in the NFL for the 2021 season

TJ Watt is the NFL best pass rusher right now.
TJ Watt is the NFL best pass rusher right now.

The NFL has become a pass-happy league in the last decade and, as a result, positions that revolve around the passing game became more important. It is a natural result of the ever evolving game of football.

Having a pass rusher who can disrupt the timing of a play and be a constant threat in the backfield is essential to any team who wants to compete for the Super Bowl. They're the main superstars of the defense and the fans love when they sack the quarterback.

On that note, let's take a look at the top 10 pass rushers in the NFL for the upcoming season:

Top 10 pass rushers in the NFL for 2021

#1 - T. J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers

Watt is doing a fantastic job of keeping his family name on top now that he has reached the peak of his career.

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He's been fantastic for the Steelers the last three years and now he's got two First-Team All-Pro honors to his name, along with leading the league in sacks in 2020 (15) and accumulating 49.5 of them during his career, plus 17 forced fumbles and 25 pass deflections.

Watt can do it all, and he's the best pass rusher in the league.

#2 - Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams

Donald isn't even an EDGE but he just misses out on the first place. While Watt is a pure pass rusher by nature, Donald does a fantastic job moving the pocket and pressuring the quarterback on the interior of the offensive line.

He's the best defensive player in the league overall, and he's an elite pass rusher as well. It's just that Watt is almost unstoppable on the EDGE.

#3 - Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

Speaking of unstoppable players, the athleticism Myles Garrett possesses is scary, and it was the main reason why he was drafted first overall in 2017. Since then, he's also become a master of technique for the position, and he's improved every year, leaving the disturbing episode with Mason Rudolph behind.

He's got First-Team All-Pro honors for the first time in 2020 and it doesn't seem like it's going to be the only time during his career.

Smith has been rock solid since joining the Packers in 2019.
Smith has been rock solid since joining the Packers in 2019.

#4 - Za'Darius Smith, Green Bay Packers

Smith has developed into a really productive rusher since moving to Green Bay in 2019, amassing 26 sacks and 89 pressures in his two years with the Packers.

He's playing on a team that maximizes his skills, allowing him to use all his power and technique on every down through the ends but also pressuring on the interior of the line sometimes. He's a superstar for Green Bay.

#5 - Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It's unfair to judge an EDGE's performance only through his sack numbers. Shaquil Barrett is the best example of that: he only got 8 sacks in 2020, a huge dropoff from his 19.5 the year before. However, Barrett led the league in pressures, with 77.

He was a huge difference maker for the Buccaneers once again and we can expect this to continue in 2021. He's finally signed his contract extension, so Tampa Bay can rest easy in the position for at least a couple of years.

#6 - Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers

If not for some injuries that have affected his career so far, Bosa could've been ranked even higher, but availability is a key factor for any player and he's only got two 16-game seasons.

When he's on the field, however, Bosa is a monster, with his combination of length, athleticism and technique being nearly flawless for the Chargers. He was an All-Pro the last two years and he's the best player on Los Angeles' defense.

#7 - Brian Burns, Carolina Panthers

There's no way you can make a list of the most underrated players and leave Brian Burns out of it. On his second season, he seemed more mature on how to use his length and, as a result, his stats improved: 9 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 57 pressures on 15 games.

Burns is still a young player whose skills will only get better with time. He's already one of the best defensive players in the league and surely he'll keep himself in this conversation for years to come.

Minnesota Vikings v Los Angeles Chargers
Minnesota Vikings v Los Angeles Chargers

#8 - Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings

It was clear from week 1 how much the Vikings were going to miss Danielle Hunter. The moment he got shut down for the season, any hope of Minnesota dethroning Green Bay for the NFC North crown was gone.

He's amassed 29 sacks in 2018-2019 and there's no denying he's one of the fastest and most explosive EDGEs in the league. His return will be a major upgrade for the Vikings' defensive line and a big improvement on the weak outing they had in 2020.

#9 - Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears

It's ok if you feel Mack should be higher on this list, but he surely lost some ground to some younger names in the last two seasons in Chicago.

Mack's still a great player and has all the talent in the world to be a difference maker in the Bears' defense. It's just that, sometimes during 2020, it felt like he wasn't on his best form. Still, there's nothing that suggests he can't return to the top of this list.

#10 - Chase Young, Washington Football Team

Closing this list, it's incredibly easy to ask for a breakout year from Chase Young, but he was so good as a rookie that it's impossible to think he will not be even better now with a year of experience - and a full offseason with the coaching staff surely helps him too.

He amassed 7.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in only 15 games last year and was a constant threat to any offensive line. Washington's front seven are getting more and more experienced and they'll be a force to reckon with over the next few years, with Young leading the charge.

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Edited by Diptanil