ESPN recently surveyed more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to help them stack the top 10 players at 11 different positions, from edge rusher to interior offensive lineman. They just revealed their defensive tackle rankings, with Tennessee Titans superstar Jeffery Simmons clocking in at No. 2, just behind Aaron Donald, A.K.A. the greatest defensive player to ever grace an NFL field.
In last year’s ranking, a general manager said Simmons might be the closest thing to Donald as far as NFL defensive tackles go. No one is close to Donald, to be sure. But as far as game-wreckers, Simmons exploded onto the scene in his third season.
“One of the best defenders in football,” an NFL scouting director said. “Right behind Donald as far as tackles. He’s the scary guy you don’t want to see.”
In 2021, Simmons produced 8.5 sacks while recording the highest run stop win rate on this list (38.4%, 20th in the NFL).
“Game-wrecker,” an AFC scout said. “Can play 3-technique or nose tackle, high motor, physical, unique blend of get-off quickness and power, impacts the game in both phases. Another guy you have to know where he is at all times.”
Some evaluators argue he’s not as pure a pass-rusher as some of the others listed here. But that’s nit-picking. His presence and power cause disruption.
The process was rather straightforward. Voters gave ESPN their best 10 players at a position, which in turn was compiled into results and ranked candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, hundreds of interviews, research and film-study help from ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen.
Simmons exploded for 8.5 regular-season sacks and another 3.0 sacks in Tennessee’s lone postseason contest. He totaled 54 total tackles, 16.0 quarterback hits and 12.0 tackles in 17 regular-season appearances.