There are a ton of defensive studs in the NFL. Let’s make some way too early predictions for defensive statistic leaders in the 2023 season. Players surely love filling up a stat sheet. On the one hand, notching a ton of sacks or tackles could mean the player is one of the best at their respective positions.
On the other hand, racking up a ton of stats could also be misleading. It’s important to not just be a stat-sheet or box score watcher. The NFL is filled with elite talent on both sides of the ball, and the league’s parity continues to grow.
Let’s make some predictions for major defensive category leaders in the 2023 season.
2023 NFL Season: Projecting defensive category leaders
Sack leader: Matt Judon
Nick Bosa led the NFL in sacks in 2022 with 18.5 en route to his first Defensive Player of the Year award. Very quietly, Matt Judon notched 15.5 sacks himself in 2022. The reason I think Judon will lead the league in sacks in 2023 is the continued development of his running mate, Josh Uche, who had a double-digit sack season, and the fact that New England did get better in the secondary, taking Christian Gonzalez in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Judon now may have more time to get to the QB if the Patriots’ secondary can clamp down on opposing wide receivers.
Interceptions: Justin Simmons
Justin Simmons played in just 12 games in 2022 and was tied for the league lead in interceptions in 2022 with six. He averaged an interception in every other game, so his pace in 2022 would have had him at eight or nine picks, which would have lead the league.
With Patrick Surtain II probably getting even better in year three, and Denver adding reinforcements in the secondary in the 2023 NFL Draft, Simmons could league the league in picks.
He’s also slowly increased his interception total since entering the league in 2016.
Total tackles: Roquan Smith
Roquan Smith was traded to the Baltimore Ravens halfway through the 2022 season and between his time with the Ravens and Bears in 2022, Smith had 169 total tackles in 2022, tied for third in the NFL.
With him now entering a full offseason with the Ravens and his new teammates, expect Smith to settle in even more and led the league in this category in 2023.
Passes defended: Sauce Gardner
Sauce Gardner led the league in 2022 with 20 passes defended. He did this as a rookie, so I don’t see why he can’t repeat it in 2023. An argument that he will not might be that opposing offenses won’t be throwing his way as much since they know how good he is, but ball-savvy cornerbacks always find a way.
Gardner is going to lead the league in this category again in 2023.
Tackles for loss: Myles Garrett
Myles Garrett had 18 tackles for loss in 2022, which was the third most in the NFL in 2022, and gives him five straight seasons of double digit TFLs.
The Browns added Dalvin Tomlinson and Za’Darius Smith to their defensive front, who are both excellent players. This may give Garrett much more opportunity to thrive in a Browns’ defense that needs to show big improvement in 2023.