With the 2023 NFL Draft in our collective rearview mirror, we can gather our thoughts to power rank the top NFL defenses. The bulk of free-agent signings and trades are also complete, so there’s nothing but clear blue spring and summer skies ahead leading to offseason minicamps, training camp, and eventually the NFL preseason.
We’re left to evaluate the rankings using the results and statistics from the 2022 season; however, personnel changes, trades, new head coaches, and new defensive coordinators all come together to inform the rankings.
Who has the best and worst defenses in the NFL? Below, you will find our latest NFL Defense Power Rankings, ranking all 32 teams from around the league from worst to best.
NFL Defenses Ranked 32-21
32. Arizona Cardinals
With one of the worst front-seven groups in the league, Arizona allowed an incomprehensible league-worst 69.8% completion percentage and 218 first downs (second most). With inconsistent pressure on the quarterbacks, offenses carved them up, and all those first downs kept the defense on the field.
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The Cardinals did add LSU EDGE BJ Ojulari and Syracuse CB Garrett Williams in Rounds 2 and 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft, respectively, so the rebuild is under way. However, the Cardinals are in the middle of a teardown with new head coach and former Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, so this unit is still likely a year or two away from moving up the power rankings.
31. Detroit Lions
A recurring theme with bad defenses is a poor defensive line, and the Lions are no exception. Rookie Aidan Hutchinson put up a great year, but his supporting cast was lacking. Detroit’s defense allowed a first down on 37.3% of passing plays (third worst).
With three top-100 draft picks used on defense – Iowa LB Jack Campbell (18th overall), Alabama CB Brian Branch (45th), and Western Kentucky DT Brodric Martin – the Lions bolstered a defense that allowed 5.2 yards per carry (tied for second worst) and 22 rushing touchdowns (tied for third-worst).
🏈 Drafting your fantasy team? See where the lions and the other team defenses on this list slot in our fantasy football rankings.
30. Los Angeles Rams
Building around DT Aaron Donald has been a recipe for success, but the surrounding ingredients are lacking. Trading away CB Jalen Ramsey and releasing veteran LBs Bobby Wagner and Leonard Floyd have this group trending in the wrong direction.
CB David Long Jr. and safeties Nick Scott and Taylor Rapp are also gone. There’s a lot of moving parts. Los Angeles added six defenders in the draft, along with a baker’s dozen of UDFAs to see what will stick this offseason.
All that said, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is one of the best in the business, so an overachieving 2023 season isn’t out of the question.
29. Las Vegas Raiders
With seven of their nine draft picks spent on defense, Las Vegas looks to improve upon what was a frustrating defensive effort in 2022. The Raiders allowed the fourth-most passing yards (4,129) and posted the fifth-worst rate for allowing rushing plays to go for first downs (27.4%).
They’ve also given help to EDGE Maxx Crosby via free agency: cornerbacks Duke Shelley, David Long, and Brandon Facyson, as well as safeties Marcus Epps and Jaquan Johnson. Not to mention 2023’s No. 7 overall pick, Texas Tech EDGE Tyree Wilson.
28. Atlanta Falcons
A not-so-secret superstar in CB A.J. Terrell anchors a defensive secondary that desperately needs help generating a push. They had a league-low sack percentage (3.6%) and second to last in pressure rate (22%).
They didn’t address that need until the third round of the draft (Ohio State EDGE Zach Harrison). However, they did add Bud Dupree, Calais Campbell, David Onyemata to play alongside Grady Jarrett. 2022 IDP sleeper Kaden Elliss will hopefully provide a tougher run defense up the middle.
27. Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota’s defense has been their Achilles’ heel, and 2022 put that on full display with an early first-round exit from the postseason.
Eric Kendricks was cut in March. Harrison Smith is 34; Za’Darius Smith and Jordan Hicks are 30. The Vikings brought in former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores to be their defensive coordinator. His Miami teams did have their moments, but it will be a tall task to whip this veteran-laden defense into shape.
26. Chicago Bears
Some may have the Bears lower after what was an abysmal 2022 season. Chicago allowed the second-most rushing yards (2,674) and generated the fewest sacks (20).
Adding LBs Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards will certainly help. I’m more excited to see the continued development of SS Jaquan Brisker, who will continue to prove himself to be one of the most exciting young defenders in the game.
Speaking of youth, three picks spent in Rounds 2 and 3 were made on defense, so a reinvigoration is well underway.
25. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts are still waiting to reap the rewards from defensive additions made over the years like DE Kwity Paye and safeties Julian Blackmon and Nick Cross. LB Shaq Leonard can’t stay healthy, although Zaire Franklin stepped up nicely at times.
The Colts used a second-round pick on Kansas State CB Julius Brents, and the hope is he’ll be able to contribute right away.
24. Houston Texans
The run defense in Houston was especially bad, ranking dead last in yards allowed (2,894). Freshly minted head coach DeMeco Ryans should put his mark on this squad—it’s just a matter of acquiring the right players.
Trading up to the No. 3 spot in this year’s draft to add Alabama EDGE Will Anderson Jr. was a bold move for what the Texans believe is a special player.
Anderson is our top prediction on our NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year odds page.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags opted to not address the defense until Rounds 4 and 5, and then selected four straight defenders.
Jacksonville ranked fifth worst in passing yards allowed (4,055) while generating only 35 sacks (tied for seventh fewest). There’s a lot to be desired at the cornerback position, and it appears the franchise has opted to kick that can down the road until next season.
22. Green Bay Packers
First-round pick Iowa LB Lukas Van Ness will pair well with Green Bay’s formidable linebacker group. His pass-rushing talent should improve upon Green Bay’s fourth-worst sack total (30).
Cornerback is a strength, spearheaded by Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes, but the defense’s weakness was against the run. They allowed 2,372 rushing yards (seventh most) and were one of only five teams to allow five or more yards per carry.
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21. Seattle Seahawks
The run defense was the undoing of Seattle’s 2022 defense, allowing the third-most rushing yards (2,554). There is room for some optimism though.
The Seahawks added Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon with the fifth overall pick to go along with some upside picks that emerged from the draft in 2022 like CB Tariq Woolen and LB Boye Mafe.
I also really love the free agency acquisition of DB Julian Love, who can really do it all.
NFL Defenses Ranked 20-11
20. New York Giants
You might have the Giants ranked lower on this list given their thin defensive backfield, but they can’t do much worse at generating turnovers than they did in 2022. After snagging just six interceptions, tied for the fewest in the NFL, they can only get better with formidable upfront talents like DE Leonard Williams, NT Dexter Lawrence, and edge rushers Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Keep an eye on veteran FA addition LB Bobby Okereke, who will be able to provide some stability to a linebacker group that’s delivered only a shaky run defense.
19. Cleveland Browns
The Browns doubled down on the interior by signing FA DT Dalvin Tomlinson and committed a third-round choice on Baylor DT Siaki Ika. Is that enough to repair a defense that allowed 22 rushing touchdowns (tied for third most)? That remains to be seen.
EDGE Myles Garrett needs more help, and by adding Tomlinson, S Juan Thornhill, and DE Ogbo Okoronkwo, Cleveland is moving in the right direction, albeit slowly.
18. Los Angeles Chargers
Much is made of the impact of head coach Brandon Staley—both good and bad—but there’s no denying the impact he’s had in the paradigm shift across NFL defenses with creative use and disguise of a two-high shell to create problems for offenses. It just hasn’t yet translated to much success for the Chargers’ defense in recent years.
In order to take the next step, they must improve against the run. Second rounder USC EDGE Tuli Tuipulotu and Washington State LB Daiyan Henley will rotate in and provide incumbents Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack some much-needed help along the edges of the box.
17. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs, ranked No. 1 in our NFL offense power rankings, are led by Nick Bolton as the unsung hero of this defense. Also can’t forget about stud interior lineman Chris Jones and cornerbacks L’Jarius Snead and Trent McDuffie. Free agent addition EDGE Charles Omenihu is a solid piece, but the Chiefs are hoping for more impact from 2022 first-rounder EDGE George Karlaftis. Plus, they drafted late first-round pick Kansas State EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah.
16. Washington Commanders
Washington only generated nine interceptions last year, the fifth-lowest mark in the NFL. They’re not a bad defense; they’re just not particularly great at any one thing.
Safety Kamren Curl had a great year, but he’s a box safety, and that success had more to do with the shortcomings of his supporting cast. The Commanders were right in selecting two cornerbacks with their first two draft picks—Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes (16th overall) and Illinois CB Jartavius Martin (47th).
Signing LB Cody Barton away from Seattle doesn’t interest me much. A healthy EDGE Chase Young is a rising tide that will lift all boats, but this is a unit lacking in firepower.
15. Tennessee Titans
The Titans had the stingiest run defense in the NFL, allowing only 1,307 yards. Unfortunately, the same praise can’t be sung for the pass defense, which ranked dead last with 4,671 yards allowed while also giving up 29 passing touchdowns (tied for second worst).
The Titans are tearing it all down and didn’t spend a single piece of draft capital on defense. Free-agent adds in cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting and linebackers Azeez Al-Shaair and Arden Key don’t really move the needle.
14. Carolina Panthers
There are a lot of moving parts to this defense. DE Deshawn Williams, DT Shy Tuttle, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, S Vonn Bell, and S Eric Rowe are either going to be starters or push for serious playing time.
Where they’re good, the Panthers are good. Guys like DT Derrick Brown, LBs Frankie Luvu and Shaq Thompson, and CB Jaycee Horn—these are all Pro Bowl caliber players. Where they need more consistency is the pass rush, and EDGE Brian Burns didn’t play up to his talents in 2022. 2020 second-round EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos needs to live up to his upside.
13. New Orleans Saints
The Saints addressed key concerns along the defensive line by adding Clemson DT Bryan Bresee and Notre Dame EDGE Isaiah Foskey in the first two rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft. ILB Demario Davis continues to get it done, as does S Tyrann Mathieu, but age has to be a concern.
DE Cameron Jordan isn’t getting any younger. CB Marshon Lattimore has had his moments and can be a star player. The question for the Saints is can they duplicate the 48 sacks they had in 2022 (tied for fifth) with a revamped defensive front.
They only forced seven interceptions (third fewest), so that’s unusual for a team that’s pressuring the quarterback. Something’s gotta give.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He may be 33 years old, but LB Lavonte David continues what has to be a near Hall of Fame-worthy career. S Ryan Neal is a huge signing after the 2022 season he had in Seattle. CB Jamel Dean is one of the most unheralded, yet talented corners in the game.
With the 19th pick in the 2023 draft, Pitt DT Calijah Kancey addressed what I felt was the Bucs’ biggest need. They’re just not getting it done in the middle, at the point of attack on defense. This left their secondary vulnerable, as evidenced by their 29 passing TDs allowed (tied for second most).
11. Miami Dolphins
Jalen Ramsey isn’t done yet, as he graded out as PFF’s third-best cornerback last season. He now joins a squad on the come-up.
Free agent adds LB David Long Jr. and S DeShon Elliott may be two of the more underrated of the offseason. Miami added pass rusher Bradley Chubb halfway through last season, and he’ll fare much better with defenses forced to focus on the young phenom EDGE Jaelan Phillips.
NFL Defenses Ranked 10-1
10. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals opted to use their first three picks on defense, and it’s safe to see why. Safeties Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates are gone, and top cornerback Chidobe Awuzie is recovering from a torn ACL.
They signed safety Nick Scott away from the Rams. Last year’s first and second-round picks, safety Dax Hill and CB Cam Taylor-Britt, looked great at times in their rookie seasons. Cincinnati just needs more out of their pass rush (30 sacks, fourth worst), which was a strength two seasons ago.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers
A down year should have been expected when the Steelers lost EDGE T.J. Watt for most of the year. However, they did get a ton of great production from his replacement EDGE Alex Highsmith.
LB Cole Holcomb was a great free agent signing. S Minkah Fitzpatrick is lights out, but I do wonder about some of the ancillary pieces. Signing guys like S Keanu Neal, LB Elandon Roberts and CB Patrick Peterson have big risks attached.
8. Baltimore Ravens
Second-year safety Kyle Hamilton is going to be special this year, especially if you hadn’t already noticed him in 2022. The Ravens were below average against the pass, allowing 3,947 yards (seventh most), but they made up for it with a tough run defense, ranking third in yards allowed (1,566).
The Ravens spent a first-round pick on a wide receiver, but used their next three selections on defenders. This is a defense that could easily leap into the top one or two spots on this list with stars like LB Roquan Smith and CB Marlon Humphrey leading the charge.
7. New England Patriots
The Pats, ranked No. 19 on our NFL offense power rankings, addressed a critical need with their first-round selection of Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez. The rookie should start immediately, and this move will only help his teammate CB Jack Jones, who had some special moments in his 2022 rookie season.
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley is one of the better players you may have never heard of, but this defense is another unit that overachieves. Safeties Kyle Dugger, Jabrill Peppers and Adrian Phillips are a special trio. Look for EDGE Josh Uche and second-round pick Georgia Tech EDGE Keion White to really take off this season.
6. Buffalo Bills
The Bills seem confident to rely on a heavy rotation along the defensive line as they did not add any pieces to that unit. Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde form a great safety duo in their secondary, which also features veteran CB Tre’Davious White and a young player to watch in CB Kaiir Elam.
Losing MLB Tremaine Edmunds is a step back, but Bills should feel pretty good about the long-term potential of third-round selection of Tulane LB Dorian Williams. This is a scheme-first defense and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier schemes as good as anyone in the league.
Damar Hamlin is the best bet on our NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award odds page.
5. Denver Broncos
It was the Broncos’ defense that allowed Russell Wilson the opportunity to blow so many tight games last year. CB Patrick Surtain has blossomed into one of the top corners in the NFL since coming into the league in 2021, but this is a defense that plays greater than the sum of its parts.
Losing the mostly unknown, but seriously talented defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero to the Carolina Panthers hurts, but the Broncos should pick up where they left off with Vance Joseph assuming that role.
The return of Sean Payton could get this team back on track in 2023.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles collected 70 sacks in 2022. That’s 15 more than the next-best team. There has been a ton of turnover via free agency, but they’ve seemingly already restocked the shelves with two first round picks: George DT Jalen Carter (ninth overall) and Georgia EDGE Nolan Smith (30th).
LB Nicholas Morrow is a free-agent addition to watch, and veteran safety Terrell Edmunds is a plug-and-play replacement. CB Darius Slay gets a lot of press, but it’s the pass-rushing talents of Brandon Graham, Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat that made this defense what it was last year.
Reddick is included in our NFL season predictions as a possible Defensive Player of the Year Award winner.
3. New York Jets
If you blinked, you may have missed it – the Jets defense is legit. In his first year, CB Sauce Gardner earned All-Pro honors, and interior stud lineman Quinnen Williams was special in 2022 after a disappointing 2021. Look for a big leap forward from 2022 first-rounder DE Jermaine Johnson.
The Jets didn’t rest on their pass-rushing laurels, either. They added Iowa State EDGE Will McDonald IV with the 15th overall pick.
2. Dallas Cowboys
EDGE Micah Parsons may grab the headlines, but the Cowboys had another five players ranked in the top 30 at their positions according to PFF. Tied for third with 54 sacks, this is a unit that looks to create disruption by generating 16 INTs (tied for seventh) and 22 forced fumbles (most).
They added two more defenders in the first three rounds of the draft (Michigan DT Mazi Smith and Texas LB DeMarvion Overshown) that should push for early playing time right away.
- NFL Bet Tip: Micah Parsons to Win Defensive Player of the Year (+750) at DraftKings Sportsbook
1. San Francisco 49ers
In allowing the lowest first-down rate on run plays (19.8), the 49ers forced offenses to play one-dimensional football. They were tied for the league-lead in interceptions (20) and tied for sixth in forced fumbles (16).
EDGE Nick Bosa, LB Fred Warner, CB Charvarius Ward and LB Dre Greenlaw all played at or near an All-Pro level. The loss of defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, ranked No. 31 on our NFL head coach power rankings, certainly creates an air of downside potential, but this defense has proven itself combative, consistent, and capable.