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2023/24 NFL season: ranking the top five defensive ends

With the 2023/24 NFL season rapidly approaching, we’ve broken down the top five players that quarterbacks around the league fear most - the best defensive ends.

Myles Garrett (Cleveland Browns)

Myles Garrett has not had the team success his talent deserves since being selected first overall in the 2017 NFL Draft but there's no more fearsome sight in the league for an offensive tackle than Garrett lining up against them.

Garrett has posted 16 sacks in each of the last two seasons and his figures for last year could have been even better if he hadn't been playing through an injury for several games. His speed and bend around the edge are elite and he arrives at the quarterback faster and with more force than they expect.

Garrett's production also deserves an upgrade for the fact that he is almost always double-teamed and sometimes triple-teamed as NFL offensive coordinators are not stupid and realize the threat to their plans that he poses. 

It's going to be interesting to see how that situation develops this season.

The Browns have bolstered their defensive line with the addition of free-agent signings Za'Darius Smith, Dalvin Tomlinson, Shelby Harris and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, so opposing OCs may not be as willing to commit all their resources into stopping the former Texas A&M standout as they have been in recent years.

Nick Bosa (San Francisco 49ers)

Nick Bosa did not report for training camp with the San Francisco 49ers this summer due to a contract dispute and if that situation is not resolved quickly, NFL fans could be denied the chance to watch one of the best defensive ends in the game. 

It's no surprise that Bosa values himself highly after registering 34 total sacks in the last two seasons for the 49ers.

The Ohio State star is the younger brother of Joey Bosa of the Los Angeles Chargers and has fared even better than his sibling since being drafted with the second overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. 

Bosa chalked up his first sack in his debut against the Buccaneers and went on to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. 

He also helped his team to the Super Bowl that season with nine sacks, an interception and two fumble recoveries in the regular season but the 49ers lost in the big game against the Chiefs despite Bosa making a strip-sack of Patrick Mahomes.

Bosa's career suffered a major setback in his second season, as he suffered a torn ACL in Week 2, but he recovered well enough to suit up for Week 1 of the 2021 season, which he ended with 21 tackles for loss and 21 sacks, which saw him tied for the most in the league. 

Bosa was back at it again last season, with a further 18.5 sacks seeing him named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. Negotiating his second NFL contract with the 49ers has clearly not gone smoothly, though, and fans of the game can only hope we will see him on the field.

Maxx Crosby (Las Vegas Raiders)

While the other players on this list were all first-round picks, Maxx Crosby of the Las Vegas Raiders has established himself as a threat to all quarterbacks despite a relatively unheralded start. 

Crosby was drafted in only the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft after playing for a relatively small college team at Eastern Michigan. He soon showed he was capable at the highest level, though, with 10 sacks in his first season for the Raiders before they moved from Oakland to Las Vegas.

The imposing 6ft 5in DE has been a reliable force for his team, starting every game of the last three seasons for increasing yearly sack totals of 7, 8 and 12.5 last season.

He also led the NFL in tackles for loss in 2022 with 12.5 and look set to remain one of the most feared linemen in the game.

Micah Parsons (Dallas Cowboys)

Cowboys star Micah Parsons began his career as a linebacker, but he was already taking snaps at defensive end by game two of his career and he is officially a DE for the start of the 2023 season. 

It's not surprising that his coaches want him to start each play as close to the quarterback as possible as his elite elusiveness and speed off the edge give him a great chance of disrupting the opposing team's passing game.

Parsons was a first-round pick in 2021 out of Penn State and made an immediate impact in the NFL with 13 and 13.5 sacks in his first two seasons. 

He looked the real deal from the off and was unanimously named the Defensive Rookie of the Year after his stellar first season. Still aged just 24, Parsons could be a star in the league for years to come.

Aidan Hutchinson (Detroit Lions)

To round out our top five defensive ends, we're going to go with youth and add Aidan Hutchinson, a pure DE who had a tremendously impressive rookie season for the Detroit Lions last year.

Hutchinson was the second overall pick in the 2022 Draft after playing his college ball as a Michigan Wolverine. 

He made the league sit up and take notice right away, with three sacks against the Commanders in Week 2 of his rookie season, and he ended the year with 9.5 sacks, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. 

He was named 2022 Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year, the first defensive player to win that award since Nick Bosa in 2019, and should be at the forefront of the marauding Lions defense again this season.

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