Micah Parsons claims the top spot in AP's NFL defensive line rankings

When Micah Parsons entered the NFL two years ago, the biggest question was where he was best suited to play.

After spending a spectacular rookie season shifting between off-ball linebacker and defensive end, Parsons has found a home as an elite edge rusher.

Parsons has established himself as one of the best in that role and was chosen as the top defensive lineman in the league by The Associated Press.

A panel of nine AP Pro Football Writers ranked the top five players at defensive line and edge rusher, making their selections based on current status entering the 2023 season. First-place votes were worth 10 points. Second through fifth-place votes were worth 5, 3, 2 and 1 points.

Parsons got five first-place votes and was picked on all nine ballots to come in first ahead of 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa.

Bosa got two first-place votes and was the only other player picked on every ballot to finish second. Three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald got one first-place vote and came in third with T.J. Watt getting the other first-place vote to finish fourth. Myles Garrett came in fifth.

Jeffery Simmons, Chris Jones, Maxx Crosby and Matthew Judon also received votes.

1. MICAH PARSONS, Dallas Cowboys: Parsons followed up a 13-sack season as a rookie with 13 1/2 last season, joining Aldon Smith and Reggie White as the only players with at least 13 sacks in each of their first two NFL seasons. Parson's 26 1/2 sacks rank sixth-most through two seasons. Parsons has been runner-up as Defensive Player of the Year both seasons and is a two-time All-Pro.

2. NICK BOSA, San Francisco 49ers: Bosa made an immediate impact on the Niners defense after being drafted second overall in 2019, winning Defensive Rookie of the Year and helping San Francisco reach the Super Bowl. After a knee injury sidelined him for almost all of 2020, Bosa has bounced back with 15 1/2 sacks in 2021 and 18 1/2 last season. He earned Defensive Player of the Year honors last season and can join White as the only players with three straight seasons with at least 15 sacks if he ends his contract holdout.

3. AARON DONALD, Los Angeles Rams: Donald is on a short list for best defensive players ever but slipped a little on this list after an injury-shortened 2022 season. Donald joined Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt as the only three-time winners of Defensive Player of the Year. He has 103 career sacks and his seven first-team All-Pro selections are one shy of the most ever for a defensive player.

4. T.J. WATT, Pittsburgh Steelers: Watt has established himself as more than J.J.'s little brother after leading the league in sacks in 2020 and ‘21. His 22 1/2 in 2021 tied Michael Strahan’s single-season record and earned him Defensive Player of the Year honors. Watt missed seven games last season with injuries but when he is on the field he is as productive as any other edge rusher.

5. MYLES GARRETT, Cleveland Browns: While the other four players on this list have consistently been part of top defenses, Garrett has done his work on teams that have struggled on that side of the ball. He has not been the reason. He has five straight seasons with double-digit sacks and is third in the NFL in total sacks with 74 1/2 since entering the league as the top pick in 2017.