The NFC West is by far the best division in the NFL. A physical throwback black and blue all-out down in the trenches war, you can be sure many games will be won up front. From San Francisco 49ers perennial Pro Bowl DE Justin Smith to St. Louis Rams rising pass-rusher in DE Robert Quinn the NFC West is absolutely loaded with talent up front. But who’s the best of the best? We identified the five best defensive lineman, as our positional rankings continue wrapping up the defensive side of the ball. So without further ado, our top five defensive lineman in the NFC West are:
[Related: NinerFans.com ranks Top 5 Linebackers in NFC West]
1. DE Robert Quinn (St. Louis Rams)
Analysis: If you’re wondering who the best pass-rusher in the NFC West is if you take 49ers OLB Aldon Smith out of the question then Quinn would be your answer! In 2013, Quinn had a monster season as he recorded 57 tackles, 19.0 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and seven forced fumbles. The artist of the strip/sack makes Quinn a threat on any given play and should only get better as he enters his fourth season.
2. DE Justin Smith (San Francisco 49ers)
Analysis: The player known as “Cowboy” continues to be the heart and soul of the 49ers defensive line. Another hot motor player that makes numerous plays purely off his hustle makes Smith the epitome of a blue chip player. Arguably the strongest player along the 49ers defensive line, Smith routinely man-handles his competition as he looks like a man among boys despite often being double-teamed. In 2013, Smith had another solid season as he recorded 49 tackles, 6.5 sacks, three tackles for loss and one forced fumble.
3. DE Chris Long (St. Louis Rams)
Analysis: Quinn may get the sacks but Long has been just as important to the revamped Rams defense. A relentless motor with the physicality and willingness to win his battles on every snap makes Long a potential double-digit sack artist year-in-and-year-out. A smart player that understands how to use his leverage while forcing plays back inside, Long edges out Bennett as his football IQ is much higher.
4. DE Michael Bennett (Seattle Seahawks)
Analysis: The lone pass-rushing threat along the defensive line, Bennett is basically a one-man wrecking crew. A speed-to-power type of rusher, Bennett is often seen setting the edge as he explodes off the snap. And while he has a tendency to over-pursue allowing the quarterback to step back into the pocket naturally he more than makes up for it with his sack numbers. In 2013, Bennett amassed 31 tackles, five tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in his first season in Seattle.
5. DT Darnell Dockett (Arizona Cardinals)
Analysis: An all-out warrior down in the trenches there is no question that Dockett makes our list. A physical presence with the tenacity to do the dirty work inside it’s Dockett’s play that sets the tone for the Cardinals defense. He won’t fill up the stat sheet with impressive sack numbers but make no mistake his play is nonetheless just as important. In 2013, Dockett recorded 46 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.