Myles Garrett [608x342]
Myles Garrett [608x342] (Credit: (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Why Cummins jumped at MLC and hadn t thought of the Hundred

With 2024 NFL training camps on the horizon, it is again time for the league's true insiders to make their voices heard. ESPN surveyed league executives, coaches and scouts to help us rank the top 10 players at 11 different positions, from quarterback to cornerback and all positions in between. This is the fifth edition of these rankings, and as usual, several players have moved up or fallen off last year's lists.

A reminder of the rankings process: Voters give us their best 10 players at a position, then we compile the results and rank candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average and dozens of interviews, with research and film-study help from ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen. In total, more than 80 voters submitted a ballot on at least one position, and in many cases all positions. Additional voting and follow-up calls with those surveyed help us break any ties.

Each section includes quotes and nuggets from the voters on every ranked player -- even the honorable mentions. The objective is to identify the best players right now for 2024. This is not a five-year projection or a career achievement award. Who are the best players today?

We will roll out a position per day over 11 days. The schedule: wide receivers (July 8), defensive tackles (July 9), edge rushers (July 10), safeties (July 11), running backs (July 12), interior offensive linemen (July 13), offensive tackles (July 14), cornerbacks (July 15), off-ball linebackers (July 16), tight ends (July 17) and quarterbacks (July 18).

The competition is fierce at edge rusher.

Twenty-one different rushers -- either 3-4 outside linebackers or 4-3 defensive ends -- recorded at least 10 sacks last season, compared to 13 a year ago.

Five of those players blew past the 16-sack mark.

Perhaps no player save quarterback can disrupt the flow of the game like a good pass rusher, which is why the market for even fringe top-10 players at this position pushes $30 million per year.

Despite 25 different players earning at least one vote from league scouts, execs and coaches in this year's top 10 edge rushers, the top tiers were clear-cut.

Below are some of the game's top edge rushers as ranked by sources around the NFL.

1. Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: 3 Age: 28 | Last year's ranking: 2

Garrett is now in Tier 1 by himself, earning 70% of the first-place votes.

"If you don't double team him, he's going to f---ing kill you," an NFL coordinator said.

In fact, Garrett is excelling single or double teams more than 30% of the time, trailing only Micah Parsons in pass rush win rate.

Garrett's status as the reigning Defensive Player of the Year earned him credibility among voters, but many of them don't consider 2023 any sort of breakthrough.

He has 46 sacks over the past three seasons, and he might have hit 20 sacks in 2022 had it not been for a car accident that left him injured that September.

"I don't think he's changed at all -- he just got more help [in 2023] around him, which accentuated his play," an AFC executive said. "He's always been the same dominant guy."

The only knock on Garrett was that he was quiet in a playoff game against the Houston Texans, with Laremy Tunsil holding him to three tackles and zero sacks. However, it's important to note that the entire Browns defense played poorly that day, giving up 45 points.

Garrett led all pass rushers in interceptions created by his pass rush (six).

2. T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers

Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: 5 Age: 29 | Last year's ranking: 4

One voter called Watt the "Aaron Donald of pass rushers," the player who should top every list.

Watt didn't quite match that feat, but he's back where he belongs -- in the conversation at the top. An injury-riddled 2022 campaign dropped him to fourth on last year's list.

His game-wrecking ways were on full display in 2023, leading the NFL with 19 sacks and finishing second in Defensive Player of the Year voting.

"He can't be labeled a high-motor guy -- he's just exceptionally hard to block, probably the hardest in the league," a high-ranking NFL official said. "He has technique, power, counters, violence, bend. Everything you want."

Watt has earned four All-Pro first team nods over the past five seasons, and his 96.5 sacks through his first seven years ranks third all time behind Reggie White (110) and DeMarcus Ware (99.5).

3. Micah Parsons, Dallas Cowboys

Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: 7 Age: 25 | Last year's ranking: 3

Dallas' playoff woes can't overshadow the greatness of Parsons, who produces through schematic challenges and positional transitions.

Once a hybrid off-ball linebacker, Parsons is now considered a pure pass rusher, even though most of his peers are bigger than his 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame.

He fought through that -- and kept beating tackles off the line.

Parsons and Hall of Famer Reggie White are the only two players in NFL history with at least 13 sacks in each of their first three seasons.

And last year, he had a career-high 14 sacks despite facing 167 double teams, most among edge rushers.

His 35.3% pass rush win rate is nearly 5 percentage points higher than anyone else.

"Unreal athleticism for the position -- twitch, speed and bend is phenomenal," an NFL coordinator said. "His issues are really more in the run game than anything else. When he has to take on heavy stuff, that's where you feel the lack of size a bit."

Now-Commanders head coach Dan Quinn deployed him all over the field while the Cowboys coordinator. Now, it's up to Mike Zimmer to follow that blueprint.

"If you put him at outside linebacker all game, in the same traditional spot, I'm not sure he'd have the same production," a veteran NFL defensive coach said. "He needs to be moved around, in my opinion. But he's so good in that role that he completely wrecks a game."

Also highlighting Parsons' disruption: He led all pass rushers in pass rush incompletions created (38).

4. Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers

Highest ranking: 2 | Lowest ranking: 9 Age: 26 | Last year's ranking: 1

Bosa probably didn't deserve to fall three spots in the rankings. But sack production is clearly valued in the voting, and his output dipped from 18.5 sacks during his 2022 Defensive Player of the Year campaign to 10.5 in 2023.

But he still possesses all the same qualities that made him No. 1.

"Awesome player -- tough, explosive, can bend, can turn speed to power, plays his a-- off," an AFC executive said. "Have to account for him all the time."

Added an NFC coordinator: "He's one big muscle. Has extreme leverage and power and just has a knack for disruption."

Bosa has combined for 115 quarterback hits since 2021. But his 18.6% pass rush win rate ranked 19th in the NFL, well below the top three players in this ranking.

5. Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders

Highest ranking: 2 | Lowest ranking: 7 Age: 26 | Last year's ranking: 6

Outside of the top four, Crosby easily cleared the rest of the field. More so than ever, he stole top-three votes from Watt, Parsons and Bosa.

Crosby was so dominant on his way to 14.5 sacks last season that the Raiders put an extra $6 million on his 2024 pay as a gesture.

"He reminds me a lot of Kevin Greene -- technically sound, best motor in the league, will outwork you for sacks," an NFL coordinator said. "Doesn't have the elite traits of some of the others but his traits are still high end."

Crosby is constantly in the backfield, leading the NFL in tackles for loss in back-to-back years (22 and 23, respectively).

6. Aidan Hutchinson, Detroit Lions

Highest ranking: 3 | Lowest ranking: Unranked Age: 23 | Last year's ranking: Honorable mention

The former No. 2 overall pick made waves as a rookie and broke through after a big sophomore season.

Detroit now has a face of the defense after Hutchinson produced 11.5 sacks, 33 quarterback hits, seven passes defended and three forced fumbles in 2023.

"High ceiling. He will be the next Nick Bosa," an NFL scouting director said. "Banking on him getting even better. Highly disruptive, physical, near rare motor."

7. Danielle Hunter, Houston Texans

Highest ranking: 5 | Lowest ranking: Unranked Age: 29 | Last year's ranking: N/A

Hunter regained his status as one of the game's best pass rushers with 16.5 sacks in 2023.

He has always had the ability of a top-10 rusher. But his presence on this list has been sporadic becasue of neck issues in 2020-21 and a transition to a new scheme in 2022.

He settled in under Brian Flores last season in Minnesota and a career year earned him a two-year, $49-million deal with the Texans.

"The thing with Danielle is he'll continue to have 12 to 14 sacks for at least two to three more years if he stays healthy," a high-ranking NFL official said. "He's that high caliber of an athlete that he should age really well."

8. Josh Hines-Allen, Jacksonville Jaguars

Highest ranking: 5 | Lowest ranking: Unranked Age: 27 | Last year's ranking: N/A

Talk about a contract year performance.

Hines-Allen's 27.5 sacks through his first four seasons weren't enough to earn a contract extension entering his fifth-year option.

So Hines-Allen, who up until this season was known as Josh Allen, went ahead and set a Jaguars franchise record with 17.5 sacks in 2024, which set in motion the franchise tag and an eventual five-year deal with a base salary of $141.25 million.

"Grew a ton as a player -- more decisive, better angles and get-off," a veteran NFL defensive coach said. "Played with more power. Has a really nice cross-chop that he's mastered. Him and Travon Walker will be a force next year."

9. Trey Hendrickson, Cincinnati Bengals

Highest ranking: 5 | Lowest ranking: Unranked Age: 29 | Last year's ranking: Honorable mention

Hendrickson cracking the list for the first time is football justice -- and long overdue.

The relentless pass rusher has made three consecutive Pro Bowls since joining Cincinnati as a free agent in 2021, finishing this year tied for second in sacks with 17.5. He has posted at least 13.5 sacks in three of the past four seasons, and he's always close to the top in pass rush win rate.

"Not sure why he doesn't get more love -- very productive rusher, a pain to play against and a good run player," an NFC executive said.

10. Brian Burns, New York Giants

Highest ranking: 6 | Lowest ranking: Unranked Age: 26 | Last year's ranking: 7

Burns looked poised to crack the top five but lost momentum, needing tiebreakers to take the 10th spot.

The consistent top-10 performer has one double-digit-sack season since 2019, and his last year in Carolina wasn't stellar, leading to a trade to New York. To be sure, a contentious contract standoff could have affected his play. And the Panthers rarely held leads, diminishing third-down rush opportunities.

Burns is the only player in the top 10 without a single top-five vote.

"He has everything you want in the position and will always be productive -- the only thing he's lacking is that elite power," an NFL coordinator said.

Honorable mentions

Khalil Mack, Los Angeles Chargers: After a impressive 17-sack season before turning 33 in February, Mack became the 41st player to surpass 100 sacks in an NFL career. "I believe if he's used properly and he's healthy he can have another year like that," an NFL coordinator said. "He's still incredibly tough to block and is a complete player."

Rashan Gary, Green Bay Packers:  Last season turned out to be one of Gary's best years since being drafted. He had a career-high two fumbles recoveries and two passes defensed with nine sacks and 44 total tackles. "More consistent and disruptive than the stats show. Explosive and violent. Improved tremendously from the start of his career," an AFC scout said.

Haason Reddick, New York Jets: Reddick closed out his seventh NFL season with 11 sacks, 38 tackles, 5.5 stuffs and one forced fumble. "He was still really good last year, probably the most consistent starter on the Eagles defense. The numbers weren't as gaudy as they were the previous season, but he was an aggressive edge rusher who teams had to account for all four quarters," an NFC personnel evaluator said.

Jaelan Phillips, Miami Dolphins: Before Phillips' season-ending Achilles injury, he posted 6.5 sacks, one interception and 43 tackles. "He was on his way to becoming a top guy before the injury. Has a really unique skill set."

Montez Sweat, Chicago Bears: Although Sweat didn't join the Bears' squad until late October, he still finished the season leading Chicago in sacks (six) and had four tackles for loss and three passes defensed. "His length and ability to cover ground creates problems for tackles. He lifted the Bears defense last year."

Will Anderson Jr., Houston Texans: The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year posted seven sacks, 10 tackles for loss and a 25.8% pass rush win rate. "Wins with power, instincts and motor, not raw athleticism. Really good first year for him," an AFC exec said.

Also receiving votes: Joey Bosa (Los Angeles Chargers), Jonathan Greenard (Minnesota Vikings), Matthew Judon (New England Patriots), Kayvon Thibodeaux (New York Giants), Alex Highsmith (Pittsburgh Steelers), Bradley Chubb (Miami Dolphins), Jadeveon Clowney (Carolina Panthers), Travon Walker (Jacksonville Jaguars), Josh Sweat (Philadelphia Eagles)