NFL’s top 5 defensive tackles for 2015

Ndamukong Suh has been a dominant defensive tackle for years and is being paid like after a massive free-agent haul.

There is little doubt who is the best defensive tackle in the game today, as Ndamukong Suh broke the bank in free agency to be paid like a top-notch quarterback, but the big-boy talent doesn’t end after him.

The best defensive tackles offer a mixture of pass-rush pressure and run-stopping ability, even if big sack numbers are always the goal of defensive linemen. Most of our top five defensive tackles are adept at working both run-stopping and pass-rushing aspects of their game.

1. Ndamukong Suh, Miami Dolphins
Suh is simply the most gifted and dominant defensive tackle in the game today. He routinely creates havoc in offensive backfields and headaches for offensive coordinators and line coaches trying to figure out how to best double-team him. Yet, he finds ways to make plays. He had 8½ sacks last year, despite all that attention, and 53 tackles. When he wasn’t getting to the quarterback for a sack, he was often getting pressure, credited with 37 quarterback hurries by Pro Football Focus, the most of any defensive tackle. It’s no wonder the Miami Dolphins were bullish on luring him away from Detroit with a contract that averages a whopping $19 million a season and could have him finishing his career as a Dolphin. Good luck blocking him, AFC East opponents. He may be fiery (read: sometimes dirty) and did have eight penalties, but he is also unstoppable at times.

2. Aaron Donald, St. Louis Rams
Donald is known for his pass-rushing ability as an interior defensive lineman, and he lived up to that status with nine sacks, the second-most among defensive tackles last year, and 29 quarterback hurries. But he is also strong against the run, garnering 48 tackles in 16 games. The Rams took it slow with him, not starting him until Week 5, but he didn’t miss a start after that and had eight sacks in his final 11 games. He also caused two fumbles and had only two penalties. Keep in mind, he was only a rookie in 2014, so even bigger and better things could be ahead for him with a generally revered defensive line in St. Louis.

3. Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills
Dareus led all defensive tackles with a career-high 10 sacks in 2014 and added 49 tackles in his fourth season in Buffalo. But he is only 25 years old and just reaching the prime of his career. At $5.1 million per season, he is a relative bargain for the Bills, although a contract extension is likely to happen soon, meaning he should continue to excel in Rex Ryan’s defense. His role could change to more of a run-stuffer, a role in which he excels. He will also start the season with a one-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, only the second time he will miss a game in his career, as he has been consistently productive in his four years in Buffalo.

4. Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
At 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, McCoy’s forte has always been his ability to rush the passer. He appears to be reaching his prime in that category with 9½ sacks in 2013 and 8½ last year, including seven passes knocked down in the last two years. He was also credited with 27 quarterback hurries by PFF. But, unlike Suh, Donald and Dareus, McCoy isn’t as strong against the run. Still, the Bucs know his value and rewarded him with a contract through 2022 that pays him an average of $13.6 million per season.

5. Sharrif Floyd, Minnesota Vikings
Floyd is still developing and easily played the fewest snaps (568) of any of our top five defensive tackles, but he proved he can have a well-rounded, effective game. After struggling in his first NFL season, Floyd excelled in Mike Zimmer’s defense, getting his first opportunity as a full-time starter after being a 2013 first-round draft choice. He had only 4½ sacks, but he had 20 quarterback hurries and may have been even better against the run with 42 tackles. It’s still a bit of an unknown how good Floyd can be, but he is trending in the right direction.

Honorable mention: Sen’Derrick Marks, Kyle Williams, Haloti Ngata, Damon Harrison, Vince Wilfork, Dontari Poe.

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