Can you name the NFL's top five sack leaders? Hint: It's not easy


Sacks are a pretty overrated statistic in football in the big picture, and perhaps a bit random, but that doesn’t mean they’re not meaningful.

Taking down a quarterback is always a good thing, of course, and there are only certain types of players who are asked to rush the passer who can do it effectively. NFL teams are always on the lookout for guys who can do it.

Arizona Cardinals pass rusher Markus Golden is one of the NFL’s five leading sackers. (Getty Images)

And it’s not always the first-round picks and high-priced free agents who are gathering the sacks.

A look at the top five leaders in the category through Week 5 (prior to Monday night’s Carolina Panthers-Tampa Bay Buccaneers game) is pretty shocking. We’ll spot you Von Miller — you know him. But can you name the rest of the top five? Heck, can you name any of the other top five?!

Here’s the list (not listed: New York Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who is tied for fifth):

The NFL's unexpected sack leaders through Week 5. (
The NFL’s unexpected sack leaders through Week 5. (

Let’s start at the top. Alexander has been a stunning contributor to a defense that suddenly is playing good football. He had three sacks on Sunday, which is more — get this — than Alexander had any of his previous 10 NFL seasons. The Bills had an anemic pass rush last season and thought they were getting help through the draft. Instead, they’ve received unexpected contributions from two veterans, Alexander and linebacker Zach Brown, from whom few expected great returns.

No. 2 is Miller. Perhaps the only stunning thing about his place on the list is that he hasn’t slowed down one bit since his 2015 greatness, his appearance on “Dancing With The Stars” or his big-money contract he earned in the offseason. No slowing Miller down now.

Tied for third are the Arizona Cardinals’ Markus Golden and the Washington Redskins’ Brian Orakpo. These are not stunning names to see, as Golden was a second-round pick and Orakpo a former first-rounder. But Golden was overshadowed at Mizzou by eventual first-rounder Shane Ray (who has four sacks and a TD return for the Broncos) and on his own team after the acquisition of Chandler Jones (who also has four).

Who is Kerry Hyder, you ask? Originally signed by the New York Jets coming out of Texas Tech as an undrafted free agent, Hyder was cut and then signed by the Detroit Lions. Hyder spent most of last season on the Lions’ practice squad, getting a Week 17 callup to the 53-man roster and playing in only that one game. But this season, he has been a steady contributor despite playing in a rotation and starting three of the Lions’ five games. After shedding weight from college, Hyder’s quickness has been apparent and he’s now a key but unheralded player up front for the Lions.

No Panthers or Buccaneers rank in the top 44 in the NFL in sack, although someone could have a Vic Beasley-esque game on Monday (Beasley had 3.5 sacks against the Broncos on Sunday) and change this top five. But either way, it’s fun to see some names we’re not accustomed to seeing at the top of the sack leaders.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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