25 of the NFL’s Best Pass Rushers of All-Time

25 of the NFL’s Best Pass Rushers of All-Time

A quality and consistent pass rush is essential to a successful defense and that’s something you could always count on with the best pass rushers of all-time. They knew how to get after the quarterback, apply constant pressure, get sacks frequently, and force the offense into mistakes.

Some pass rushers are most effective in a 4-3 defense, while others are more effective in a 3-4 defense. Some pass rushers are linebackers, while others play on the defensive line. While pass rushers come in different shapes and sizes, they all know how to terrorize a quarterback.

With quarterbacks throwing the ball more frequently in today’s NFL, pass rushers are more valuable than ever before — but don’t let that fool you. Some of the meanest, scariest, and most talented pass rushers are retired and currently in — or on their way to — the Hall of Fame. 

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Who Are the Best Pass Rushers of All-Time?

25 of the NFL’s Best Pass Rushers of All-Time
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An effective pass rush does a lot for a football team. It makes the quarterback think twice at the line of scrimmage, rushes the quarterback into bad decisions, and opens the door to a potential sack — or even better, a turnover. When done correctly, pass rushing is a game changer.

The art of the pass rush is something many players have tried to conquer, but only a few have mastered it enough to be labeled as the best pass rushers of all-time. These pass rushers were a quarterback’s worst nightmare on every play — both before the snap and during the play. 

As we make our way through our list of the best pass rushers of all-time, keep in mind that the NFL didn’t make sacks an official defensive stat until 1982 — though Pro Football Reference has unofficial sack numbers from 1960-1982, which gives us over 60 years of data to look at. 

Without further ado, let’s take a look at who the best pass rushers of all-time are in the NFL. 

25. Alan Page

Years: 1967-1981 (15 seasons)

Teams: Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings

Career Stats: 218 games, 215 games started, 148.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 23 fumble recoveries, 3 safeties, 3 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: Inducted in 1988

Alan Page was drafted 15th overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 1967 and became a mainstay on the team’s defensive line, which was famously known as the Purple People Eaters. His 148.5 sacks ranks 8th all-time (unofficially) and he’s a former MVP and Defensive POY winner.

24. John Abraham

Years: 2000-2014 (15 seasons)

Teams: New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals

Career Stats: 192 games, 175 games started, 560 tackles, 148 tackles for loss, 133.5 sacks, 47 forced fumbles, 6 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, 1 safety, 1 defensive touchdown

Hall of Fame: not yet, but eventually

John Abraham was drafted 13th overall by the New York Jets in 2000 and became a regular starter in 2001. His best season came in 2008 when he recorded a career-high 16.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. Abraham’s 133.5 career sacks currently ranks 18th all-time (unofficially). 

23. Terrell Suggs

Years: 2003-2019 (17 seasons)

Teams: Baltimore Ravens, Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs

Career Stats: 244 games, 226 games started, 895 tackles, 202 tackles for loss, 139.0 sacks, 37 forced fumbles, 15 fumble recoveries, 7 interceptions, 1 safety, 3 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: Too soon, but eventually

Terrell Suggs was drafted 10th overall by the Baltimore Ravens in 2003 and he made it worth their while, winning Defensive Rookie of the Year that season. He would go on to help the Ravens win two Super Bowls and was even named Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. 

22. Von Miller

Years: 2011-present (10 seasons)

Teams: Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Rams

Career Stats: 142 games, 142 games started, 509 tackles, 142 tackles for loss, 110.5 sacks, 26 forced fumbles, 9 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions, 2 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: Still playing, but when retired

In the same season Suggs won Defensive POY, Von Miller burst onto the scene as the Defensive ROY. Miller was drafted second overall by the Denver Broncos and has recorded more than 10 sacks in seven different seasons. His 110.5 sacks unofficially ranks 36th all-time.

21. J.J. Watt

Years: 2011-present (11 seasons)

Teams: Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals

Career Stats: 135 games, 135 games started, 547 tackles, 177 tackles for loss, 102.0 sacks, 26 forced fumbles, 16 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions, 1 safety, 3 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: Still playing, but when retired

J.J. Watt was drafted nine spots behind Von Miller in the 2011 draft and while he didn’t have the rookie year that Miller had, Watt won Defensive POY the following season — something he has done three times in his career. As of right now, Watt’s 102.0 career sacks ranks 51st all-time. 

20. Jason Taylor

Years: 1997-2011 (15 seasons)

Teams: Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Washington Redskins

Career Stats: 233 games, 199 games started, 788 tackles, 151 tackles for loss, 139.5 sacks, 46 forced fumbles, 29 fumble recoveries, 8 interceptions, 3 safeties, 9 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: Inducted in 2017

Jason Taylor was a third round draft choice of the Miami Dolphins in the 1997 draft and spent a majority of his 15-year career with the team. He’s a six-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, and one-time Defensive Player of the Year (2006). Taylor’s 139.5 career sacks ranks 11th all-time. 

19. Mark Gastineau

Years: 1979-1988 (10 seasons)

Teams: New York Jets

Career Stats: 137 games, 107 games started, 107.5 sacks, 9 fumble recoveries, 2 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: maybe someday

Mark Gastineau was drafted by the New York Jets in the second round of the 1979 draft. He’s one of just a few players to record more than 20.0 sacks in multiple seasons — doing so in 1981 and 1984 (as well as 19.0 sacks in 1983). His 107.5 sacks unofficially ranks 38th all-time. 

18. Simeon Rice

Years: 1996-2007 (12 seasons)

Teams: Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers,Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos

Career Stats: 174 games, 161 games started, 483 tackles, 93 tackles for loss, 122.0 sacks, 28 forced fumbles, 8 fumble recoveries, 5 interceptions, 1 safety

Hall of Fame: Not yet, but should be

Simeon Rice was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals with the third overall pick in 1996. He won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in his first season with 12.5 sacks and would record more than 10.0 sacks in eight different seasons. His 122.0 career sacks ranks 29th all-time. 

17. Leslie O’Neal

Years: 1986-1999 (13 seasons)

Teams: San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Rams

Career Stats: 196 games, 178 games started, 767 tackles, 132.5 sacks, 21 forced fumbles, 16 fumble recoveries, 3 interceptions, 3 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: Not yet, but should be

Leslie O’Neal was the San Diego Chargers’ eighth overall pick in 1986, winning Defensive ROY that same season. He recorded double-digit sacks in eight different seasons, including a career-high 17.0 sacks in the 1992 season. His 132.5 career sacks ranks 20th all-time.  

16. Jack Youngblood

Years: 1971-1984 (14 seasons)

Teams: Los Angeles Rams

Career Stats: 202 games, 187 games started, 151.5 sacks, 10 fumble recoveries, 2 safeties

Hall of Fame: Inducted in 2001

Jack Youngblood was drafted 20th overall by the Los Angeles Rams in 1971 and became a full-time starter in 1973. He would go on to record more than 14.5 sacks in the next four seasons and a career-high 18.0 sacks in 1979. His 151.5 sacks unofficially ranks sixth all-time.

15. Jared Allen

Years: 2004-2015 (12 seasons)

Teams: Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers

Career Stats: 187 games, 181 games started, 648 tackles, 171 tackles for loss, 136.0 sacks, 32 forced fumbles, 19 fumble recoveries, 6 interceptions, 4 safeties, 2 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: Not yet, but eventually

Despite being drafted in the fourth round of the 2004 draft, Jared Allen started 10 games his rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings. After posting 27.5 sacks in his first three seasons, he posted more than 11.0 sacks in seven straight seasons, including a career-high 22.0 in 2011. 

14. John Randle

Years: 1990-2003 (14 seasons)

Teams: Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks

Career Stats: 219 games, 185 games started, 556 tackles, 40 tackles for loss (since 1999), 137.5 sacks, 29 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, 1 defensive touchdown

Hall of Fame: Inducted in 2010

John Randle went undrafted in 1990 and many coaches believed he was too small for his position, but he proved everyone wrong after being picked up by the Minnesota Vikings. He posted double-digit sacks in eight straight seasons and his 137.5 sacks ranks 14th all-time. 

13. Chris Doleman

Years: 1985-1999 (15 seasons)

Teams: Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons

Career Stats: 232 games, 213 games started, 975 tackles, 150.5 sacks, 44 forced fumbles, 24 fumble recoveries, 8 interceptions, 2 safeties, 3 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: Inducted in 2012

Speaking of the Minnesota Vikings, they drafted Chris Doleman fourth overall in 1985. He finally made a name for himself in his third season and posted a career-high 21.0 sacks in his fifth. He had more than 11.0 sacks in eight seasons and his 150.5 sacks ranks seventh all-time. 

12. Julius Peppers

Years: 2002-2018 (17 seasons)

Teams: Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers

Career Stats: 266 games, 240 games started, 719 tackles, 175 tackles for loss, 159.5 sacks, 52 forced fumbles, 21 fumble recoveries, 11 interceptions, 6 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: Not yet, but eventually

The Carolina Panthers had high hopes for Julius Peppers after drafting him second overall in 2002. He would go on to win Defensive ROY in 2002 with 12.0 sacks and posted more than 10.5 sacks in 10 different seasons. His 159.5 career sacks currently ranks fifth all-time. 

11. DeMarcus Ware

Years: 2005-2016 (12 seasons)

Teams: Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos

Career Stats: 178 games, 173 games started, 657 tackles, 171 tackles for loss, 138.5 sacks, 35 forced fumbles, 8 fumble recoveries, 3 interceptions, 3 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: Not yet, but eventually

The Dallas Cowboys drafted DeMarcus Ware with the 11th overall pick in 2005. He recorded more than 10.0 sacks in eight of his first 10 seasons (seven straight), including 20.0 sacks in 2008 and 19.5 sacks in 2011. His 138.5 career sacks currently ranks 13th all-time. 

10. Richard Dent

Years: 1983-1997 (15 seasons)

Teams: Chicago bears, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers

Career Stats: 203 games, 150 games started, 677 tackles, 137.5 sacks, 37 forced fumbles, 13 fumble recoveries, 8 interceptions, 1 safety, 2 defensive touchdowns 

Hall of Fame: Inducted in 2011

Richard Dent was an eighth round draft choice by the Chicago Bears in 1983, but he will go down as one of their best defensive lineman ever. He posted a career-high 17.5 sacks in just his second season and his 137.5 career sacks ranks 14th all-time (tied with John Randle). 

9. Doug Atkins

Years: 1953-1969 (17 seasons)

Teams: Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns

Career Stats: 205 games, 176 games started, 94.5 sacks (since 1960), 11 fumble recoveries, 3 interceptions, 1 safety

Hall of Fame: Inducted in 1982

Doug Atkins was the Cleveland Browns’ 11th overall draft pick in 1953, but he would go on to play a majority of his career with the Chicago Bears — where he won two NFL Championships. He only has 94.5 listed career sacks, but that’s not including the first seven years of his career. 

8. Gino Marchetti

Years: 1952-1966 (14 seasons)

Teams: Baltimore Colts, Dallas Texans

Career Stats: 161 games, 151 games started, 56.0 sacks (since 1960), 13 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, 1 safety, 2 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: Inducted in 1972

The Dallas Texans drafted Gino Marchetti in the second round of the 1952 draft, but he only lasted one year with the team before moving to Baltimore. His 56.0 sacks doesn’t include the first eight years of his career, but he posted more than 11.0 sacks in four of his last six seasons. 

7. Derrick Thomas

Years: 1989-1999 (11 seasons)

Teams: Kansas City Chiefs

Career Stats: 169 games, 157 games started, 641 tackles, 126.5 sacks, 41 forced fumbles, 19 fumble recoveries, 1 interception, 3 safeties, 4 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: Inducted in 2009

Derrick Thomas was drafted fourth overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1989 draft and finished his career with 126.5 sacks, despite only playing 11 seasons. He won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 1989 and posted a career-high 20.0 sacks the following season.  

6. Michael Strahan

Years: 1993-2007 (15 seasons)

Teams: New York Giants

Career Stats: 216 games, 205 games started, 854 tackles, 131 tackles for loss (since 1999), 141.5 sacks, 24 forced fumbles, 15 fumble recoveries, 4 interceptions, 1 safety, 3 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: Inducted in 2014

The New York Giants got more than they bargained for after drafting Michael Strahan in the second round in 1993. After only posting just 18.0 sacks in his first four seasons, he posted more than 10.0 sacks in six of his next 11 seasons — including a record 22.5 sacks in 2001. 

5. Kevin Greene

Years: 1985-1999 (15 seasons)

Teams: Los Angeles Rams, Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers

Career Stats: 228 games, 176 games started, 734 tackles, 160.0 sacks, 23 forced fumbles, 26 fumble recoveries, 5 interceptions, 3 safeties, 3 defensive touchdowns 

Hall of Fame: Inducted in 2016

Kevin Greene was a fifth round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1985. After posting just 13.5 sacks in his first three seasons, he would record more than 10.0 sacks in 10 of his next 12 seasons. His 160.0 career sacks ranks fourth all-time as he terrorized QBs from 1988-1999.

4. Deacon Jones

Years: 1961-1974 (14 seasons)

Teams: Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers, Washington Redskins

Career Stats: 191 games, 168 games started, 173.5 sacks, 15 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions, 2 safeties

Hall of Fame: Inducted in 1980

The Los Angeles Rams drafted Deacon Jones in the 14th round of the 1961 NFL Draft. After a decent first three years, he really turned it up a notch from 1964-1970. He posted more than 21.5 sacks in three seasons and 19.0 sacks in 1965. His 173.5 sacks ranks third all-time. 

3. Reggie White

Years: 1985-2000 (15 seasons)

Teams: Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers

Career Stats: 232 games, 228 games started, 1,111 tackles, 198.0 sacks, 33 forced fumbles, 20 fumble recoveries, 3 interceptions, 2 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: Inducted in 2006

Reggie White was drafted fourth overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1984. Over the next 14 seasons, White would record more than 11.0 sacks in all but two years, including 57.0 sacks over a three-year period from 1986-1988. His 198.0 career sacks ranks second all-time. 

2. Bruce Smith

Years: 1985-2003 (19 seasons)

Teams: Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins

Career Stats: 279 games, 267 games started, 1,224 tackles, 200.0 sacks, 43 forced fumbles, 15 fumble recoveries, 2 interceptions, 2 safeties, 1 defensive touchdown

Hall of Fame: Inducted in 2009

Bruce Smith was a mainstay on the Buffalo Bills’ defensive line after being drafted first overall in 1985. He was a big reason why the team went to four-straight Super Bowls and recorded more than 10.0 sacks in 13 different seasons. His 200.0 career sacks is a current NFL record. 

1. Lawrence Taylor

Years: 1981-1993 (13 seasons)

Teams: New York Giants

Career Stats: 184 games, 180 games started, 142.0 sacks, 11 fumble recoveries, 9 interceptions, 2 defensive touchdowns

Hall of Fame: Inducted in 1999

Lawrence Taylor will go down as one of the best pass rushers of all-time. He was drafted by the New York Giants second overall in 1981. He won Defensive ROY once, Defensive POY three times, MVP once, and two Super Bowls in his career. He posted a career-high 20.5 sacks in 1986. 

Who Are the Best Pass Rushers in the NFL Right Now?

NFL fans have witnessed quite a few pass rushers display their talent and skill throughout the years. Some of them are still playing, some of them are in the Hall of Fame, and some are still waiting for that gold jacket. Either way, they’ve helped pave the way for pass rushers today. 

With NFL offenses throwing the ball more frequently than ever before, a quality pass rush is crucial to a coach’s weekly gameplan. With that said, some defensive stars in the NFL today are separating themselves from the rest of the pack with their incredible pass rushing abilities. 

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Some of those players include MylesGarrett, AaronDonald, T.J. Watt, JoeyBosa, NickBosa, KhalilMack, ChaseYoung, DanielleHunter, ShaquilBarrett, CameronJordan, ChrisJones, FrankClark, and ChandlerJones — as well as Von Miller and J.J. Watt, who were mentioned above.

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