Top 100 NFL Players by Position: 4-3 Defensive Tackles

Movie Quote of the Day:

“Gentlemen, you had my curiosity, but now you have my attention.”

– Calvin Candie, Django Unchained (2012)

NFL analysts, experts, players, etc. have been releasing their own rankings for the top players in the NFL. The NFL Network just released their Top 100 that is voted on by the players. Also, Mike Miller at Bleacher Report has been coming out with his own rankings of the Top 1,000 players in the NFL.

I decided to create my own version of this, but I’m going to put it together by position (except punters and fullbacks because nobody cares about them) and it’ll only be 100 players. I’m not even sure I can name 1,000 people that I know in the real world let alone the NFL. I’m also going to add honorable mentions and what I like to call the “Rising Star” of each position. Another thing I added when creating these lists is that the players have to currently be on a team. No free agents.

Today is about 4-3 defensive tackles. They’re found in a 4-3 defense and their job is to plug up the middle of the field, stop the run, and to deny the quarterback running lanes when the edge rushers are about to get the sack. They also apply their own pressure to the opposing quarterback. Here’s my list:

Rising Star: Star Lotulelei, Carolina Panthers

2014 stats: 26 total tackles and two sacks

Lotulelei was projected to be an early draft pick in 2013, but fell to the Panthers at the 14th overall pick. He has been one of the key pieces to the front seven of the Carolina defense, which is one of the best in the league. Lotulelei has been in the NFL for two seasons and has started 29 games for Carolina. So far, he has a career 68 total tackles and five sacks. Lotulelei was named on the All-Rookie team by almost every sports media outlet (Pro Football Writers of America, ESPN.com, Pro Football Focus, etc.).

Honorable Mention: Kyle Williams, Buffalo Bills

2014 stats: 41 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one interception

Williams

Williams is the oldest player on this list, 32 years old. He used to be a nose tackle before Buffalo switched to a 4-3 defense. He’s a veteran for Buffalo’s great defense. He has 457 total tackles and 34.5 sacks in his nine seasons. Williams has made the Pro Bowl four times (2010, and, 2012-2014), he was Second-team All-Pro in 2010. Sporting News named him All-Pro in 2013 and the Pro Football Writers of America named him All-Pro last season.

Top 5 4-3 Defensive Tackles:

5. Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams

2014 stats: 48 total tackles, nine sacks, and two forced fumbles

Donald was only a rookie last year and had a fantastic season. He earned all kinds of honors. Donald made the Pro Bowl and Pro Football Focus named him to the All-Rookie team. On top of that, the Associated Press and the Pro Football Writers of America named Donald Defensive Rookie of the Year. Even though he had one of the better seasons amongst 4-3 defensive tackles, he’s still just a rookie. I have to see the same kind of production out of him before I move him up the list.

Atkins

4. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals

2014 stats: 34 total tackles, three sacks, and one forced fumble

Atkins sort of had a down season in 2014 after tearing his ACL and missing almost half the 2013 season. Atkins is a 3x Pro Bowler (2011, 2012, and 2014). He was also named First-team All-Pro (2012) and Second-team All-Pro (2011). Atkins has 170 total tackles and 32 sacks in five seasons in the NFL.

3. Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills

2014 stats: 49 total tackles, 10 sacks, and one forced fumble

Yes, another Buffalo Bills defensive linemen. That shouldn’t shock football fans, they easily have the best 4-3 defensive line in the NFL. Dareus had a quiet first two seasons in the NFL, but the last two seasons he has really started to hit his stride. He made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons and was named First-team All-Pro last season. So far, Dareus has 202 total tackles and 28.5 sacks in his four seasons. He was also ranked 53rd on the NFL Top 100. Dareus is about to be under the final year of his contract, Buffalo needs to lock him up for the future.

2. Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2014 stats: 35 total tackles, 8.5 sacks, and one forced fumble

McCoy signed a 7-year/$98 million contract extension to stay in Tampa, but that didn’t stop his performance on the field. McCoy has made the Pro Bowl and was named First-team All-Pro the last three seasons (2012-2014). He also has a career 154 total tackles, 27 sacks, and 13 passes deflected. McCoy has been fantastic the last three seasons and he’s just starting to enter his prime.

1. Ndamukong Suh, Miami Dolphins

2014 stats: 53 total tackles and 8.5 sacks

As a Green Bay Packers fan, I was so relived to see Suh (and Nick Fairley) leave Detroit during free agency. It’s just fewer playmakers to torment Aaron Rodgers and that Green Bay offensive line. I always dreaded playing the Lions every year because of their defensive line, especially when Green Bay had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Now, the only player to really worry about is Ezekiel Ansah.

I’ll never forget the first time that I really got to watch Suh play in the 2009 Big 12 Championship game against Texas. I knew Suh was going to be a stud in the NFL, but I hated that Detroit drafted him. Suh was named AP Rookie of the Year in 2010. He has 239 total tackles and 36 sacks since entering the NFL in 2010. Suh’s also a 4x Pro Bowler (2010, and 2012-2014), 4x First-team All-Pro (2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014), and Second-team All-Pro (2012). He’s the dirtiest player in the NFL, but he’s the best 4-3 defensive tackle in the NFL. You have to respect him for his talent.

All stats from: http://www.nfl.com/stats/player
Tomorrow: 3-4 Inside Linebackers

Thanks for reading

Shane Price
Follow me on Twitter – @priceisright53

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