For the second straight season, we have researched all 704 NFL Starters to get a full picture of the helmets, cleats and gloves worn by NFL football players. While completing this research is a tall task, it provides us with valuable information about what the world’s best football players wear. We have calculated the brand share and even honed in on some of the specific models these pros are wearing. For this article, we’ll be focusing on some of the league’s most terrifying defenders, the defensive line.
About the Research: This research focuses on the helmets, cleats and gloves of the 704 NFL Starters. We tracked 352 Offensive Players (32 QB’s, 32 RB’s, 96 WR’s and 160 OL) and 352 Defensive Players (64 DE’s, 49 DT’s, 64 OLB’s, 47 ILB’s and 128 DB’s). For this research, injuries were not considered, the best players at each position were selected. We used both ESPN and OurLads as a resource for our depth charts. The research was conducted from Week 15 to Week 17 (Dec. 20 – Jan. 2).
Our final note is to remember that players switch equipment all the time (sometimes even at halftime), so there is no way to ensure 100% accuracy throughout the season. Our findings still offer the best representation available of what brands and models are most popular among NFL Starters.
Helmets Worn by NFL Starting Defensive Lineman
Defensive line is one of the most physical positions on the gridiron. Every single snap, the D-Line is going head to head with the offensive line, attempting to dominate the line of scrimmage. The 2 sides are constantly going at it in the trenches and they experience violent collisions. Whether they’re bull-rushing the QB, flying off the edge, or just stuffing the run, it’s important that these guys have a protective football helmet. Let’s take a look at the most common helmet models and brands among the 113 starting defensive lineman in the NFL.
Riddell | Worn by 85% of NFL Starting Defensive Lineman
The most popular helmet brand among defensive lineman is Riddell. This past season, we saw 85% of starting defensive lineman wearing Riddell football helmets – most of them in the Riddell Speedflex. The Speedflex is the most popular helmet in football and has been for the last 5 years or so. The ‘flex is the perfect blend of modern styling and top of the line protection. The 5-star rated helmet does an incredible job absorbing impact and preventing it from reaching your head. It’s one of the best helmets on the market and has been a perfect option for some of the leagues’ best interior defenders, including Deforest Buckner and Quinnen Williams. You can grab a Riddell Speedflex from Riddell for about $470.
The other popular Riddell helmet is the Riddell Speed. The Speed was once the most popular helmet in the game but since the release of the Speedflex, we’ve seen its usage decline. Similar to the ‘flex, the Speed is a 5-star rated football helmet. If you’re looking for a lightweight football helmet, the Speed is a great option as it only weighs about 3.7 pounds. The Speed is still rocked by NFL veterans, including Leonard Williams and JJ Watt. You can still get a Riddell Speed from Riddell for about $370 ($100 cheaper than the Speedflex).
Schutt | Worn by 11% of NFL Starting Defensive Lineman
This season, we saw 11% of starting defensive lineman wearing Schutt football helmets. The most popular Schutt helmet among them was the Schutt F7. The F7 is the newest and safest helmet in Schutt’s lineup and scores a perfect 5/5 on the VT Helmet Rating Scale. The key to the F7’s success is the “tektonic plates” on the top of the helmet. These unique panels actually move independently from the rest of the shell to help disperse rotational force. Basically, the helmet does an excellent job of preventing the impact from reaching your head. The F7 is an excellent option for all positions and worn by some skilled edge rushers including Danielle Hunter and Jerry Hughes. You can check out the Schutt F7 from $500-$1000 on Schutt’s website.
Vicis | Worn by 2% of NFL Starting Defensive Lineman
Coming in third, with only 2% of the brand share among NFL starting defensive lineman, we have Vicis. Vicis is relatively new to the helmet game (founded in 2013), but they have created some of the safest helmets the world has ever seen. Vicis helmets have next level technology and are the top-ranked helmets from both the NFLPA and the VT Helmet Rating Scale. There are 3 Vicis helmets – the Vicis Zero1, Vicis Zero2 and the Vicis Zero2 Trench. They are an excellent option for anybody on the defensive line and worn by both interior lineman (DJ Reader), and edge rushers (Nick Bosa). Check out the Vicis Zero2 on Vicis.com, starting at $700
Xenith | Worn by 2% of NFL Starting Defensive Lineman
Lastly, we have Xenith. We rarely see Xenith worn in the NFL but Eagles teammates and defensive lineman, Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox, are both wearing Xenith football helmets. Unlike other football helmets, the chinstrap actually wraps around your entire head. Most helmets chinstraps simply buckle up in 4 places on the side of your head. Xenith chinstrap straps go around to the back of your neck so when you tighten up or buckle your chinstrap, it tightens up all around. It gives you a custom fit without paying the price of a custom fit helmet. Not only does this ensure a custom fit, it also feels lighter on your head because it has a lower center of gravity. Check out Xenith helmets and their technology here.
Cleats Worn by NFL Starting Defensive Lineman
In the NFL, defensive lineman are expected to be able to do a lot of things. Every Sunday, we see these guys stuff the run, rush right up the middle and also rush off the edge. To do all of this, these big guys need a super diverse football cleat capable of providing them with support and elite traction. Let’s take a look at what cleats and cleat models these guys are trusting.
Nike | Worn by 63% of NFL Starting Defensive Lineman
The most common cleat brand among NFL starting defensive lineman is Nike. This past season, we saw 63% of them trusting the Swoosh. There are 3 main models that these big fellas are choosing but the most popular was the Nike Alpha Menace Pro 2. The Alpha Menace Pro 2 debuted in 2019 and was designed for the biggest and strongest players on the field. The cleat is mid-cut, has a thick supportive upper, and a strap to lock down your foot. Another important part of this cleat is the traction plate – the “Alpha” plate. The Alpha plate has several long, sharp triangle studs that dig deep into the ground. These studs allow these defensive lineman to stand their ground, maintain leverage, and get after the ball carrier. The Alpha Menace Pro 2 is worn by both Jeffrey Simmons and Ed Oliver and you can get them for yourself for $100 from Eastbay.
The second most popular Nike cleat on the defensive line is the Nike Force Savage Pro 2. This cleat is super popular among the interior defensive lineman because of its incredible amount of support. These cleats are super thick, high-cut and have a super thick strap. These cleats even have small studs on the top of the upper to protect your toes when they get stepped on. These are the ultimate lineman cleat and perfect for anyone who wants top-notch support. These cleats are worn by some of the leagues best run stuffers, including Javon Hargrave and Michael Pierce. You can grab a pair on Amazon.
Now, the third most popular cleat is something a little bit older – the Nike Zoom Code Elite. These cleats initially dropped back around 2012-2013 but are still super common in the NFL. These are a classic, simple cleat with plenty of support. They’re super wide which is perfect for these bigger guys. They look great, provide plenty of traction, and get the job done. We’ve seen Quinnen Williams and Grady Jarrett rock the Zoom Code Elite this past season.They’re a little tough to find since they’re almost 10 years old but there’s some floating around on Ebay.
Adidas | Worn by 26% of NFL Starting Defensive Lineman
The second most popular brand among NFL starting defensive lineman is Adidas, making up 26% of the brand share. The most popular Adidas model is the Adidas Freak Carbon. The Freak Carbon is a cleat built for the bigger guys. These cleats have a thick, supportive upper and are usually high cut. The Adidas Razorframe traction plate is super stable and the sprint studs allow edge rushers like Myles Garrett to get after the QB. These are a great option for any lineman who wants solid support, but not something too heavy. You can grab a pair for $100 from Dicks Sporting Goods.
Jordan | Worn by 6% of NFL Starting Defensive Lineman
This season, we saw 6% of NFL starting defensive lineman rocking Jumpman football cleats. Jordan Brand usage is on the rise in the NFL and that’s mainly because these 80s-90s silhouettes have been discovered as an excellent option for the big guys on the gridiron. These classic kicks offer plenty of ankle support for these guys and more and more players are switching into them. The most common models we see are the 1s, 10s, and 11s, but each year we see a new model added into the mix. These cleats are a great option for anyone on the DL and have plenty of swag of course. Cameron Jordan (Jordan athlete) and Leonard Williams wore Jordans this past season. If you want a pair of Jordan cleats, we suggest you check StockX and GOAT.
Under Armour | Worn by 5% of NFL Starting Defensive Lineman
Finally, we have Under Armour making up only 5% of the brand share among NFL defensive lineman. If you told me 10 years ago, that Under Armour would be down this bad, I wouldn’t have believed you. UA was once a front runner in the cleat game but their usage has dropped off in the last 5 years. This past off-season, UA even ended their on-field liscensing agreement with the NFL so I’d expect their numbers to drop even further. The most popular model on the DL was the Under Armour Hammer. They’re a solid option for any position on the line and you can grab a pair for $100 from Academy.com.
Gloves Worn by NFL Starting Defensive Lineman
Every single snap, the defensive line goes to war with the offensive line. While there are several tactics to get around the OL, hand fighting is a key to all of them. Some of the best defensive lineman in the game have some of the best hands. They don’t let the OL get hands on them and are experts at swatting at the OL and pushing them off balance. Hand fighting can be brutal on the hands so its important that these guys wear a protective pair of football gloves. Defensive lineman almost always wear padded football gloves with lots of support so let’s take a look at which brands and models are the most popular.
Nike | Worn by 82% of NFL Starting Defensive Lineman
The most popular glove brand is Nike, with an astounding 82% of the total brand share among starting NFL defensive lineman. Nearly all of them are wearing the Nike Superbad 6.0 – the newest “hybrid” football glove from Nike. These gloves a perfect blend of a protective lineman glove and a sticky receiver glove. These gloves have both pads on the back of hand and a super sticky, magnigrip palm. To me, it’s no surprise these are the most common glove among the defensive line. They are perfect for the position and allow these guys to be protected in the trenches but also have enough grip to reel in the football given the chance. These gloves are worn by Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, and you can wear them if you grab some from Eastbay for $55.
The other popular Nike glove is the predecessor to the Nike Superbad 6.0, the Superbad 5.0. These gloves are very similar to the Superbad 6.0 but the materials and padding style is a little bit different. They’re still a hybrid football glove with back of hand padding and sticky palms. The greatest defensive player in the league, Aaron Donald wears these. You can still find some for $55 from Dicks.
Cutters | Worn by 10% of NFL Starting Defensive Lineman
Coming in second, is Cutters! This season, saw 10% of NFL starting defensive lineman wearing Cutters football gloves. The most common Cutters glove was the Cutters Gamer 2.0. Similar to the Nike Superbads, these are an awesome hybrid football glove. They have plenty of padding on the back of hand and Cutters’ C-Tack grip on the palm. These gloves do an excellent job protecting the back of hand and C-Tack grip is one most durable on the market. Cleveland Browns bookends, Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, both wore the Cutters Gamer 2.0 this past season. The Gamer 2.0 is an older glove so it’s difficult to find but I’ll link the new Cutters Gamer 4.0 here.
Adidas | Worn by 4% of NFL Starting Defensive Lineman
With only 4% of the brand share, we have Adidas. We didn’t see many defensive lineman wearing Adidas gloves this season but the most popular model we saw was the Freak Max 2.0, the newest lineman glove from Adidas. The Freak Max 2.0 is a heavily padded glove with some grip on the palm. In addition to the padding on the back, these also have padding on the bottom of the palm and thumb. This padding is strategically placed and helps protect the defensive lineman when battling in the trenches. These are a great option for any lineman and you can grab a pair for $65.
Under Armour | Worn by 2% of NFL Starting Defensive Lineman
Lastly, we have Under Armour making up 2% of the brand share. We only saw 2 players, Chase Young and Michael Pierce, in Under Armour gloves. Chase was in the Combat and Pierce in the Fierce. Both of these gloves are padded and protect them in the trenches. As I mentioned earlier, UA usage is on the decline in the NFL and these numbers further show that. You can check out what Under Armour gloves Eastbay has here.
There you have it… the gear worn by the best defensive lineman in the world! Let us know what you think about our report in the comments below!