Separating the good from the great is not always easy in the NFL. In order to better help fans distinguish between the best and the elite defenders in the league, HawkBlogger.com introduces a new statistic we are calling Impact Plays. Impact Plays are defined as the total number of sacks, interceptions, passes defensed, forced fumbles and tackles for loss by a player. Each of these statistics represent a moment when a player made an individual play that had a meaningful impact on the game. Combining these together allows us to compare defensive lineman to cornerbacks to linebackers and safeties. This statistic will tend to skew toward pass-rushing lineman and cornerbacks who pile up sacks and passes defensed, respectively. Tackles for loss sometimes, but not always, are given for sacks. It is an inexact science, but after reviewing the rankings with and without including the TFL numbers, it was clear that it belonged.
Without further delay, here are the top fifty defenders, as ranked by Impact Plays in 2012: