Top defensive matchup nightmares

J.J. Watt leads the top 10 players offensive coordinators fear

Updated: July 15, 2014, 9:11 AM ET
By Field Yates | ESPN Insider

JJ WattScott Halleran/Getty ImagesJ.J. Watt is the NFL's most feared defender by a wide margin.

Yesterday, we profiled the 10 biggest offensive matchup nightmares in the NFL -- the kind of players who never let opposing teams feel secure, no matter how much time they spend scheming to stop them.

Now, we turn our attention to the defensive side of the ball and highlight 10 guys bound to give offensive coaches fits. These are the players who can disrupt an offense entirely on their own. The guys we chose are both the dreams and nightmares of coaches and scouts all around the league.

1. J.J. Watt, DE Houston Texans

When I polled evaluators, no offensive player was mentioned more as an impossible matchup than Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Watt is Johnson's nightmarish counterpart on defense. The 25-year-old has no holes in his game. He can win with power, explosiveness, speed or quickness, employing a considerable arsenal of pass-rushing moves and techniques to blow by the offensive line. He can wreak havoc all over the line of scrimmage -- outside the tackles, over a guard and even from a nose tackle alignment if asked. Watt is the best defensive player in football and the hardest one to neutralize.

When Watt isn't applying pressure to the quarterback, he's able to get his Inspector Gadget-like arms in passing lanes. He's deflected 23 passes over the past two seasons. Nobody in football is better at swatting the ball at the line. Few, in fact, are better anywhere: Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson has just six more pass deflections during the same time frame.

Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.