Green Bay Packers edge rusher Za’Darius Smith previously seemed like an easily self-motivated player. But if he needed some extra juice heading into next season, he’s got it now. NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks did not include Smith among his top five edge rushers in the NFL.

Smith reacted appropriately.

Brooks’ list consisted of:

  1. Chandler Jones, Ari
  2. Cameron Jordan, NO
  3. Danielle Hunter, Min
  4. Khalil Mack, Chi
  5. TJ Watt, Pitt

All five of these guys are more than deserving of recognition as some of the top edge players in the league. However, putting all five ahead of Smith after a monstrous 2019 season doesn’t sit right with the star outside linebacker following a breakout year.

Smith logged career highs in sacks, tackles, tackles for loss, and quarterback hits. He even led the league in hits on the QB with 37- a number that has only been reached by three other players in NFL history since 2006. According to Pro Football Focus, Smith also led the league with 93 quarterback pressures.

Here were Smith’s 2019 notable totals from Pro Football Reference: 13.5 sacks, 55 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, and 37 QB hits.

For comparison’s sake, here are the totals for the players on Brooks list for last season.

Jones: 19 sacks, 53 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 26 QB hits and eight forced fumbles

Jordan: 15.5 sacks, 53 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and 25 QB hits

Hunter: 14.5 sacks, 70 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and 22 QB hits

Mack: 8.5 sacks, 47 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and 14 QB hits

Watt: 14.5 sacks, 55 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 36 QB hits, and eight forced fumbles

Don’t get the narrative twisted, these are great numbers, and all five of these guys are arguably the best five at what they do. However, none of the guys on Brooks’ list affected opposing quarterbacks more consistently than Smith did last year.  

This also isn’t the first time Smith has felt slighted. He was left off the 2020 Pro Bowl roster as an alternate but later replaced an injured Mack.

With all this added motivation, the Packers defense could get an even hungrier Smith in 2020.


Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. He has covered the Packers for over five years and currently works with Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.