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Ranking the NFC North Defenses by Position

Here is a complete breakdown and comprehensive rankings of the NFC North defenses by position before the 2024-25 NFL season.

The NFC North boasts some of the NFL’s top defensive units. From star pass rushers to premier cornerbacks, the teams have all the talent in the world on defense. However, which defense tops them all? Find out in the NFC North defense position rankings before the 2024-25 NFL season.

Ranking the NFC North Defenses by Position

Edge Rusher

1. Aidan Hutchinson 

2. Montez Sweat

3. Rashan Gary

4. Dallas Turner

Aidan Hutchinson has been the heartbeat of the Detroit Lions’ defense for the past two seasons. Drafted second overall in the 2022 NFL Draft, Hutchinson has surpassed expectations and has become one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Montez Sweat and Rashan Gary are close in talent, but Sweat has had a more productive career and has been less injury-prone than Gary. Moreover, Sweat’s pivotal role in the midseason resurgence of the Chicago Bears gives him some bonus points. While Dallas Turner shows promise for a bright future and the upside of becoming the top pass rusher in the NFC North, the remaining trio has already solidified their status as elite pass rushers in the NFL.

Defensive Tackle

1. Kenny Clark

2. D.J. Reader

3. Andrew Billings

4. Harrison Philips

Kenny Clark has served as a cornerstone of the Green Bay Packers defense for the past eight seasons. As one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL, Clark is still an underrated DT who doesn’t get much praise. D.J. Reader is a new face in the NFC North, joining the Lions from the Cincinnati Bengals. Reader has been a consistent run-stopper with the Houston Texans and the Bengals and should continue to be the main man in the middle with the Lions. Meanwhile, Harrison Philips and Andrew Billings have made valuable contributions to their respective teams. While Philips has demonstrated greater productivity, Billings holds a more crucial role within the Bears’ defensive scheme.

Middle Linebacker

1. Tremaine Edmunds

2. Alex Anzalone

3. Ivan Pace Jr. 

4. Edgerrin Cooper

Tremaine Edmunds emerged as the Bears’ marquee free agent acquisition last season, proving to be a smart investment. Edmunds had a big responsibility to fill the void left by Roquan Smith and was able to live up to expectations. Alex Anzalone was the “bully” of the Lions’ defense, having himself quite the year for Detroit. Ivan Pace Jr. was the best-undrafted rookie in the entire league last season, working his way to becoming the starting linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings. He will have a fantastic career and was everywhere on defense last season. Edgerrin Cooper, selected as the first linebacker in the 2024 NFL Draft, is primed to start for the Packers in the upcoming season. Anticipated to make a significant impact in his rookie year, Cooper has the potential to establish himself as one of the better linebackers in the NFC North.

Outside Linebacker

1. T.J. Edwards

2. Quay Walker

3. Jack Campbell

4. Blake Cashman

The Bears hit the jackpot, signing T.J. Edwards to a team-friendly deal. Edwards was one of the best outside linebackers in the league last season and was a leader for the Bears on defense. Quay Walker has been a solid linebacker for the Packers but has occasionally let some emotions get the best of him. Jack Campbell was a surprise pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft for the Lions but had a solid rookie year, racking up 95 total tackles and two sacks. Blake Cashman should be productive for the Vikings in the upcoming season. However, with only one productive season on his resume, he needs to prove he can be a consistent player at linebacker.


1. Jaylon Johnson

2. Jaire Alexander

3. Carlton Davis

4. Byron Murphy 

Arguably the best cornerback in the NFL last season, Jaylon Johnson went on an absolute tear, shutting down opposing wide receivers. Johnson ended the season as an All-Pro and Pro Bowler. Despite Jaire Alexander’s standing as one of the league’s top cornerbacks, injuries hampered his performance last season, causing him to relinquish his title as the NFC North’s best cornerback. To bolster their defense, the Lions addressed a major weakness by acquiring cornerback Carlton Davis in the offseason and selecting Terrion Arnold in the first round of the draft. Davis is a well-respected veteran in the league and should continue to be a productive corner in Detroit. The Vikings signed Byron Murphy last season to come in and become the starting corner. Although he had a solid season, Murphy got exposed against some of the better wide receivers in the league.

Free Safety

1. Xavier McKinney

2. Kevin Byard

3. Camryn Bynum

4. Kerby Joseph

The Packers did something they don’t usually do and signed a free agent to a big contract. Xavier McKinney deserves that contract, as he is among the best young free safeties in the league. Kevin Byard was another offseason signing, as the Bears found a replacement for Eddie Jackson. Byard still has a lot left in the tank, and with a premier defense to play with, it should alleviate some extra responsibility he had in previous seasons. Camryn Bynum is one of the more underrated free safeties in the league. He’s due for a big year in Minnesota. While Kerby Joseph has surpassed expectations over the past two seasons, his productivity hasn’t matched the other three free safeties mentioned.

Strong Safety

1. Harrison Smith

2. Brian Branch

3. Jaquan Brisker

4. Javon Bullard

Recognizing Harrison Smith as the premier strong safety in the division is certainly warranted. Smith has maintained his role as the Vikings starting strong safety for over a decade without showing signs of slowing down. Brian Branch had a remarkable season for the Lions, highlighted by his memorable pick-six against Patrick Mahomes. Jaquan Brisker has improved and has been a solid strong safety for the Bears. All that’s left for him is to stay healthy and consistent on the field. Like Edgerrin Cooper, Javon Bullard is another second-round pick expected to start for the Packers next season. Playing alongside McKinney should ease the pressure off Bullard and allow him to develop nicely during his rookie year.

Grading The Overall NFC North Defenses

The NFC North defenses have proven talent and a chance to shut down opposing offenses. Among them, the Chicago Bears stand out with star players across all defensive units, securing the top position. The Bears are poised to be one of the most imposing defenses in the NFL next season. Second place was a toss-up between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. Both defenses have similar talent in all three phases.

However, the Lions gain a slight edge due to having more experience. Since some starters will be rookies for the Packers, it might take some time to get some continuity on defense. Finally, the Minnesota Vikings finish in last place. This doesn’t mean the Vikings have a bad defense. The Vikings can show out on defense with Brian Flores as the Defensive Coordinator. However, players like Danielle Hunter switching teams leave the Vikings with less star power than the other teams in the NFC North.

Read More: Ranking The NFC North Offenses By Position

Main Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


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