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Former Wildcat Za’Darius Smith named NFL’s best edge defender

Who doesn’t love Wildcats at the rankings? And, it’s not basketball.

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It’s close.

Football is close to returning. While the college season for many conferences is still up in the air as some have pushed back the season while others have moved to a conference-only schedule, it feels that the NFL is going to go on no matter what.

Per usual with a season commencing in the next few months, rankings come to life.

USA Today’s Doug Farrar ranked his top-11 best edge defender in the NFL. Former Wildcats star and current Green Bay Packers linebacker Za’Darius Smith topped the list, one that also included stars like Nick Bosa, JJ Watt and Khalil Mack.

Here is an excerpt of what Farrar wrote on Smith, one of the league’s best outside linebackers.

“Smith led the NFL with 105 total pressures, the most by any edge defender since Von Miller matched that total in 2015, and he did it from all over the field — everywhere from wide-nine end to inside linebacker. Wherever he aligned, trouble was coming for opposing quarterbacks. As great as he was on the edge, he was perhaps more effective inside the tackles,” Farrar wrote.

Coming out of Lexington, Smith wasn’t a top prospect. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. The 6-foot-6, 265-pounder has become a force at the next level.

It wasn’t until Smith got to Green Bay that he started seeing his game take off. In his first four seasons in the league, Smith went for 18.5 sacks. Last season, he totaled 13.5. But, as Farrar mentioned, it goes further than just sacks.

A Pro Bowler last season, Smith will be aiming his sights on being a part of the All-Pro team in 2020.