We still have several weeks of offseason remaining and that means several lore rankings are on the way from major media outlets and the like. In fact, ESPN unveiled their edge-rusher rankings for 2021 on Monday after recently surveying more than 50 team executives, scouts, coaches, and players to determine the top ten players at each position. According to ESPN’s polling, Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt finished as the second-best pass rusher in the NFL entering the 2021 season.
How about some comments from the ESPN insider rankings from those polled?
“Incredibly productive player in every phase,” an NFC exec said, per ESPN. “Probably has the best combination of motor and smarts in the league. He wins with intelligence, effort, technique, positioning.”
Another voter that ESPN polled had similar sentiments regarding Watt’s overall game.
“The truth is he might not have been the best athlete at his own position,” an NFC defensive coach said, referring to former teammate Bud Dupree, who signed with Tennessee as a free agent. “He’s not the most explosive guy. But he’s so damn relentless and smart and technically perfect that he just wins. He’ll probably have a Hall of Fame career for all those reasons.”
In case you wanted to know, Watt did receive first place votes in this ESPN poll. His lowest ranking was eighth overall, however.
Who finished ahead of Watt in ESPN’s edge-rusher rankings? Well, it’s none other than Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. Personally, I view that as a bit of a snub, but Watt should be used to snubs by now. Last season, Watt finished as the runner-up for the annual NFL Defensive Player of the Year award to Aaron Donald. Watt has, however, now been voted to three consecutive Pro Bowls in addition to being named a First-Team All-Pro selection the last two years.
Last season, Watt led the NFL in both sacks and tackles for loss with 15 and 23, respectively. He also accomplished that it just 15 games played.
Watt will likely sign a huge contract extension in the next nine or so weeks and assuming he does, it should result in him being the highest paid defensive player in the NFL.