1. Matt Judon
When I came up with these rankings, the No. 1 spot came down to Stevenson, Dugger, and Matt Judon. At the end of the day, I went with the only one of the three who finished with individual accolades in 2022.
Judon was easily the top Patriot on defense last season. He led the team with 15.5 sacks (tied for No. 4 in NFL) and 28 QB hits while also amassing 60 tackles (missing one), three defended passes, and two forced fumbles.
His presence in helping stop the run is great, but so is his ability to join the pass rush. For reference, the Patriots recorded 168 pressures last season and Judon was responsible for 42 of them (25.0%). He was also responsible for 17.8% of hurries and 33.3% of QB knockdowns.
Not only did his efforts earn him his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl appearance, but Judon’s performance was good enough to see him finish ninth in NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting. Furthermore, he was the only linebacker in the top 10 other than Micah Parsons.
In theory, 11 starting defenders per team means that there are 352 in the league when healthy. So the fact that Judon was seen in the top 2.6% of the group is seriously impressive.
Just like other players on this list, Judon found a ton of success despite the Patriots’ struggles last year. If the entire team can turn things around this season, the sky is the limit for one of the NFL’s best defenders.