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Top 25 Pac-12 Defensive Players in the NFL

A talented cast of former Pac-12 players are making their mark in the NFL

Photo: Getty Images

Article By: Christopher Caravello

*For the purpose of this article, rookies, free agents, and any players who have decided to opt out of the 2020 season will not be ranked.

1. Richard Sherman CB (Stanford)

An original member of Seattle’s famed “Legion of Boom” secondary, Sherman has remained an elite DB after moving down the coast to San Francisco. During 2019, he allowed a passer rating of 45.3 over the entire season, which ended with the 49ers playing in the Super Bowl. Sherman allowed 29 completions for 227 receiving yards in the regular season and led the NFL with 0.44 yards per coverage snap, according to Pro Football Focus.

NFL Team: San Francisco 49ers

2. Cameron Jordan DE (Cal)

The 5-time Pro Bowl selection and 2019 2nd team All-Pro is still a force to be reckoned with after his 10th year in the league. Jordan racked up a career high 15 1/2 sacks in 2019 and has 87 total sacks in 144 career games with the Saints. Of those 144 games, he has started all but 1.

NFL Team: New Orleans Saints

3. Marcus Peters CB (Washington)

Despite landing on his 3rd NFL team after a mid-season trade from the Rams in 2019, Peters seems to produce in whatever secondary he lands in. After his Washington career was cut short with a dismissal, Peters tied for the NFL lead in interceptions his rookie year. During his stellar 2019 he allowed a passer rating of 63.4 with two pick-sixes, bringing his career total for pick-sixes to 6.

NFL Team: Baltimore Ravens

4. Kenny Clark DT (UCLA)

One of the most elite interior defensive linemen in the NFL, Clark was recognized with his first Pro Bowl after the 2019 season. He had a career high 9 sacks and hit career numbers in every category in addition to playing the highest amount of snaps in his career.

NFL Team: Green Bay Packers

5. DeForest Buckner DT (Oregon)

Since becoming the 7th overall pick in the 2016 draft by San Francisco, Buckner has racked up 28.5 sacks and six multiple-sack games. After anchoring a Super Bowl defense in 2019 and becoming a 2nd team All-Pro selection, Buckner was acquired by the Colts in a block buster trade and signed to a long-term contract.

NFL Team: Indianapolis Colts

6. Eric Kendricks LB (UCLA)

Kendricks had an exceptional year in 2019, making the Pro Bowl and being selected to 1st Team All-Pro after recording 130 tackles and tying the NFL lead for pass break ups by a linebacker. He has started 70 out of the 74 games that he’s played in since his rookie season.

NFL Team: Minnesota Vikings

7. Jurrell Casey DT (USC)

After a dominating performance in the post-season in 2019 for Tennessee, Casey was traded to Denver where he is expected to continue flourishing after being selected to his 5th straight Pro Bowl.

NFL Team: Denver Broncos

8. Arik Armstead DE (Oregon)

Coming off a career-high 10 sacks in 2019, Armstead signed a contract extension worth $85 million dollars to continue anchoring the 49ers dominant defense.

NFL Team: San Francisco 49ers

9. Budda Baker S (Washington)

A hard hitting DB who left UW after their playoff appearance, Baker became the highest paid safety in NFL history this off season after making his 2nd Pro Bowl. His versatility and high level of play materializes in ways that don’t always show up on the stat-sheet, but there is no doubt that Baker is one of the best safeties in the league going into his 4th season.

NFL Team: Arizona Cardinals

10. Cory Littleton LB (Washington)

Despite going undrafted out of Washington, Littleton has become one of the most underrated LB’s in the league and signed a major contract with the Raiders this offseason. During his four years as a Ram, Littleton went from special teams’ standout to full time starter and tallied 315 tackles, six interceptions, 26 pass breakups, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and eight 1/2 sacks.

NFL Team: Las Vegas Raiders

11. Vita Vea DT (Washington)

Vea helped lead the top-ranked rushing defense in 2019 while also generating a ton of QB pressure. His dominant presence on the interior causing the pocket to collapse has helped his teammates wreak havoc from the outside. Vea should continue to produce in his 3rd season.

NFL Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

12. Everson Griffen (USC)

After 10 years in Minnesota and making his 4th Pro Bowl in 2019 with eight sacks and 11 tackles for a loss, Griffen signed a $6 million dollar deal with the Cowboys.

NFL Team: Dallas Cowboys

13. Marcus Williams (Utah)

Utah has been known to produce quality safeties in the NFL and Williams is the latest. Since being drafted in 2017, Williams has an elite 90.7 PFF grade and is ranked as the 13th best safety in the NFL by the publication. During his career he has 187 tackles and 10 interceptions.

NFL Team: New Orleans Saints

14. Anthony Barr LB (UCLA)

Posting a career-high 79 tackles to go along with 1.5 sacks, four pass breakups and an interception in 2019, Barr has been a steady presence on the Minnesota defense the past several years. An All-American while at UCLA, Barr was the highest Bruin LB draft selection in program history.

NFL Team: Minnesota Vikings

15. Jayon Brown (UCLA)

Jayon Brown is an underrated star in the NFL. Ranked as the 10th best linebacker for 2020 by PFF, Brown is elite in coverage. The former UCLA standout was drafted in the 5th round in 2017 and has 254 career tackles and 8.5 sacks over three seasons in the NFL.

NFL Team: Tennessee Titans

16. Adoree Jackson (USC)

Jackson is a former 5 star recruit and lived up to that hype with the Trojans as he went on to get drafted in the 1st round. Known for his blazing speed, Jackson has quickly made his mark in the NFL and enters 2020 as PFF's 12th best corner in the League.

NFL Team: Tennessee Titans

17. Leonard Williams (USC)

Leonard Williams was a top 6 pick out of USC in 2020. His career has been a minor disappointment so far after managing just 17.5 sacks and 266 tackles.

NFL Team: New York Giants

18. Kevin King (Washington)

Finally coming off a season in which he was able to stay healthy, King showcased the talent that made Green Bay select him in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft. He intercepted 5 passes, two of which ended up being game winners.

NFL Team: Green Bay Packers

19. Shaq Thompson (UW)

Thompson is a versatile weapon on defense and is often tasked with covering in the slot as a linebacker. The former Husky star has 356 career tackles and 29 TFL.

NFL Team: Carolina Panthers

20. Steven Nelson (OSU)

Nelson had a breakthrough in 2019 as he put together an excellent season with an 80.5 PFF grade. During his NFL career he has 243 tackles and 5 interceptions.

NFL Team: Pittsburgh Steelers

21. Justin Reid (Stanford)

Reid impressed at the NFL combine with a 4.40 40 yard dash and that led to him being take in the 3rd round of the NFL Draft. At just 23 years old, Reid is already ranked the 19th best safety for 2020 by PFF.

NFL Team: Houston Texans

22. Lawrence Guy DT (Arizona State)

After a slow start to his career was caused by injury and multiple roster moves, Guy found a home in New England and has developed into a solid rotation on the defensive line and is also a special teams contributor. Guy was named a team captain for the 2020 season and also was included on the Patriots all-decade team for the 2010’s.

NFL Team: New England Patriots

23. Nickell Robey-Coleman (USC)

Robey-Coleman was undrafted out of USC but has put together a great career with 289 tackles and 6 interceptions. The former Trojan is ranked by PFF as their 18th best corner in the NFL for 2020.

NFL Team: Philadelphia Eagles

24. Myles Jack (UCLA)

Jack was excellent during his first 3 years in the NFL but surprisingly regressed in 2019. The exciting linebacker has managed 287 tackles and 10 TFL during his career.

NFL Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

25. Desmond Trufant (UW)

The pinnacle of Trufant's career came when he reached the Pro Bowl in 2015. The former Husky star signed a 2 year $21 million contract in 2020 and has 13 career interceptions.

NFL Team: Detroit Lions

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