Top 10 Interior D-Linemen/DTs heading into the 2019 season

Ranking the top 10 interior defenders/DTs heading into the 2019 NFL season

I going through position by position and ranking the Top 10 of each heading into the 2019 season. Below are the position groups I've already graded.
Top 10 QBs
Top 10 RBs
Top 10 WRs
Top 10 TEs
Top 10 OTs
Top 10 iOLs

Top 10 iDL/DTs:

1. Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams 

This is probably the easiest #1 ranking through all positions. The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year was even more spectacular en route to winning the award for a second straight season. He set a Rams franchise record with an NFL-high 20.5 sacks. Brian Baldinger thinks he's the best interior D lineman in NFL history and it's hard to argue why he's not. 

2.  Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia Eagles 

In many other eras, Fletcher Cox would be in consideration for the best iDL in the league but he's having to compete with possibly the GOAT in Donald. Cox earned his fourth All-Pro selection in five years last season, but his first on the First Team. He was a force at defensive tackle in 2018, finishing with 95 pressures, 60 hurries, 34 quarterback hits, 10.5 sacks, 46 tackles, 30 stops, and 12 tackles for loss. Per NFL Next Gen stats, Cox finished second in pressure rate for interior defenders at 11.4 (behind Donald at 14.1).  PFF also had Cox the 2nd rated defensive interior player with a 92.5, only trailing Donald. 

3. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans 

J.J. Watt returned to form after two seasons dealing back and leg injury. The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year finished 16 sacks and with a 90.6 grade from PFF. Watt also had a career-best seven forced fumbles in 16 games. Watt is very versatile, able to play on the edge or kick inside. He's athletic and has the length to keep the o linemen at bay. 

4. Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs 

Jones jumped onto the scene into 2018 for the Chiefs defense. At just 24 years old, he led the Chiefs and finished third in the NFL with 15 1/2 sacks last season.  Jones was extremely athletic coming out of the draft so we might not have even seen his ceiling yet. 

5. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals

He’s been around for quite some time and is still producing at a high level.  He was named to the 2018 Pro Bowl. and ranked 63rd in the NFL Top 100 Players of 2018. Even though Atkins earned the lowest overall grade (83.5) and pass-rush grade (85.1) we’ve seen from the big man in four years, the Cincinnati standout still finished 2018 ranked 16th in overall grade (83.5) and sixth in pass-rush grade (85.1) among qualifiers. He also finished the year ranked fifth in pass-rush win percentage (16.2%) among the 48 at his position with at least 300 pass-rush snaps in 2018. For as long as Atkins is earning top-10 marks as a pass-rusher, he’ll be in consideration for the PFF50. And though he enters 2019 at 31 years old, it’s highly unlikely he dips outside the top 10 after earning 85.0-plus pass-rush grades in four consecutive seasons.

6. DeForest Buckner, San Francisco 49ers

Buckner was impressive last season. He had career highs in total pressures (53), defensive stops (37) and quarterback sacks (12). Only the Rams' Aaron Donald (20.5), J.J. Watt(16) and the Chiefs' Chris Jones (15.5) had more sacks. Only five players had more quarterback pressures than Buckner’s total (53). 

7. Damon Harrison Sr., Detroit Lions

Damon Harrison, aka "Snacks" Harrison, was the leagues best run-stopping defender with a league high 93.8 run def grade from PFF. Even though he’s mostly just a two-down defensive lineman, his dominance when he’s in the game is transformative. A solid nose tackle is absolutely essential in Matt Patricia’s defense, and we saw just how big of difference he made in the running game last year

8. Akiem Hicks, Chicago Bears

After reaching career bests in sacks, tackles, and forced fumbles, Hicks set new career highs in sacks and tackles for a second consecutive season. His 19.5 tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage were elite. PFF ranked him 4th with a grade of 91.6 overall. 

 9. Kenny Clark, Green Bay Packers 

In his third season, Clark, the former 1st round pick, racked up 55 tackles and six sacks, the second most on Green Bay’s defense, on his way to being named a Pro Bowl alternate. His 36 QB hurries tied for seventh among NFL interior defensive linemen, according to Pro Football Focus.

10. Grady Jarrett, Atlanta Falcons

Grady Jarrett finished Atlanta’s final home game with four hurries, two sacks, and two run stops. Jarrett has been the highest graded interior defensive lineman in the NFL since week 12 (91.6). Jarrett has also proven to be an asset against the run for the Falcons, recording 179 tackles, 31 tackles for a loss and three forced fumbles in his four NFL seasons.

Just missed the cut:
Brandon Williams, Baltimore Ravens
Ndamukong Suh, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers
Jurrell Casey,  Tennessee Titans
Sheldon Rankins, New Orleans Saints

What do you think of my Top 10 Interior D-Linemen? Am I missing anyone you would've included? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and make sure to follow me on Twitter @TylerJaggi

Comments (2)
No. 1-1

Sheldon Rankins is going to get better