7. Trent Cole, Eagles
Perfect leverage makes him darn near uncontainable. Doesn’t face as many double teams as other guys on this list.
6. Justin Tuck, Giants
A versatile force who is capable of winning every one-on-one matchup.
5. Osi Umenyiora, Giants
A slightly quicker though more finesse version of Tuck (assuming he rebounds from ’08 knee injury).
4. Dwight Freeney, Colts
Still draws more attention on passing downs than anyone in the game.
3. Julius Peppers, Panthers
Better athlete than football player, but that’s okay when you’re arguably the best athlete in the league.
2. Jared Allen, Vikings
Almost a lock to notch 15 sacks every season. Superb raw ability is buttressed by his tenacity.
1. Mario Williams, Texans
A man without weaknesses who excels on all four downs despite facing constant double teams. Probably the best run-stopping defensive end in football.
Also considered: John Abraham, Falcons; Patrick Kerney, Seahawks
3-4 Defensive Ends
Defensive end has become a more important position in 3-4 defenses in recent years (for elaboration, read this). A 3-4 defensive scheme is built to stop the pass, though stopping the pass stems from first stopping the run. That’s the primary job of the ends. Here are the Top Seven 3-4 defensive ends in football.
7. Justin Smith, 49ers
Not a prototype for this position, but he’s a player who does everything well.
6. Aaron Smith, Steelers
Headlines Pittsburgh’s potent three-DE rotation.
5. Ty Warren, Patriots
Gets underappreciated in the shadows of Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork; plays with splendid all-around technique.
4. Glenn Dorsey, Chiefs
Hasn’t really played this position until this year, but based on what he showed last season, he’ll be challenging for the No. 1 ranking by 2010.
3. Luis Castillo, Chargers
When he’s healthy, there isn’t a more disruptive, energetic player.
2. Haloti Ngata, Ravens
Has surprising quickness for a man with such power.
1. Richard Seymour, Patriots
A future Hall of Famer. The more someone knows about football, the more they admire the ninth-year pro.
Also considered: Kendall Langford, Dolphins; Shaun Ellis, Jets; Marcus Spears, Cowboys
By Andy Benoit