Every defensive line in the National Football League requires an off-ball linebacker to function correctly. Not only do they play a big part in tackles, but the top NFL linebackers also play a part in defending the pass as a pass rusher.
You can measure the value of the linebacker position by the roles he plays in defense. So, the players who do everything will rank slightly better than the players who can pass quickly.
Let’s find out with Scott Fujita in this article!
Rankings Of The Best Linebackers In NFL
It’s hard for us to decide on the list of top linebackers in NFL this time around. The attacking play and modern rules have made the tournament more difficult, even for the best tacklers. Linebackers’ playstyle is influenced for that reason.
Also, the pass coverage has become more critical and affects locations, but there is still hope. The linebackers in the NFL at the top of the list are the most elite and versatile names. They will become a model for the younger generation to follow and develop.
Let’s explore this list now.
1. Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks
Wagner is definitely the best LB in NFL at just 31 years old. He elevates every play, from creating impact in defending the pass to stopping the run. Stability is one of the most decisive factors for this inside linebacker to lead this ranking. Wagner missed just one game in his five seasons.
No player has scored more tackles than Bobby Wagner, for a total of 1213.
This guy’s achievements have always been outstanding. In the last NFL season, Wagner scored 138 combined tackles, 11 quarterback hits, three sacks, and seven tackles for loss.
Check out this video to know why Bobby Wagner secures the top position on this list.
2. Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers’ NFL linebacker, Warner, is a prime example of the importance of highlighting what a player can do during his draft.
Warner’s position at BYU is more of an overhang defender. He did pretty well during his time on campus. However, it also left everyone wondering about the proper position and caused Warner to slip into the third round. The 49ers must have been delighted because they now have a perfect linebacker.
His blend of elite coverage skills, good bodybuilding, improved running resistance and pressuring passersby made him shine.
3. Eric Kendricks, Minnesota Vikings
You need to shine at the passing game to be the best outside linebacker in the NFL right now. Eric Kendricks of the Vikings has improved on that aspect of the game every season he’s been in.
Last year, the Kendricks did not allow a pass to touch the ball when targeted in the passing game for the first time. He also posted four passes and three career-high interceptions. The best mark of his career is the NFL passer rating (60.5).
Kendricks’ steady running also helps the Vikings put pressure on the opponent. Along with his excellent covering ability, no one can deny his talent.
4. Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
David has spent most of his NFL career with the Buccaneers, and he has yet to show any signs of slowing down at 31. In 2020, he scored 117 mixed tackles, three forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks, and 12 tackles for loss.
David only failed once in nine seasons to score 100 combined tackles.
He acted as Tampa Bay’s defensive leader throughout the following season. Though David’s career hasn’t always been a bed of roses, he’s boosted his momentum when given the opportunity to participate in the Super Bowl.
Also, according to the PFF, only three defenders have achieved coverage of 80.0 or higher while having at least 90 goals since 2011. David has done it twice in the past two seasons.
Along with Devin White, who has scored nine sacks and 33 total pressures, Tampa Bay has a top-quality defense.
5. Demario Davis, New Orleans Saints
The second year in a row of Davis at the New Orleans Saints promises a new season of higher form. In that, he scored a better-than-average PPF in every aspect we’ve measured across games.
In 263 attempts over the past two years, Davis has missed just 16 tackles. This number is one of the best ratios compared to other NFL linebackers during the same game period.
6. Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts
Since joining the league in 2018, Leonard has been one of the most consistent NFL middle linebackers.
He’s an anti-escape force, capable of putting pressure on enemy passers when given lightning missions. What’s more, Leonard can take on the responsibility of protecting the area and the claimants of those queuing up in today’s game.
The scariest part is that Leonard is still not at his peak. This guy is just getting started and promises to bring more excellent gameplay in the future.
7. Deion Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Jones entered the NFL as one of the best NFL linebackers. His cover rate in the first two seasons was reasonable, with 21 saves and six interceptions. In 2020, he scored the second-highest AV score of his career, 9.
The lad has also proven to be one of the best quarterback presses, with a career-high ten quarterback hits. Jones is genuinely the all-rounder linebacker template and can handle any situation.
Another reason Jones stayed on the list is his playstyle – not just picking passes, but also what he does after scoring an intercept.
8. Roquan Smith, Chicago Bears
Roquan Smith is a coverage star from the university. Although it took him some time to prove his style of play at the NFL level, it started to gain popularity in 2020.
Smith’s coverage score last season was 84.0 PPF, with only about 75.8 passers in his coverage. It is about 20 points lower than the average pass and nearly 30 points lower than the other NFL linebacker’s targeted intermediate pass.
9. Dont’a Hightower, New England Patriots
Even though Hightower didn’t participate in the 2020 season, he still qualifies to be on the list of the best middle linebackers in NFL. His absence led to setbacks and defeats for the Patriots. Many opinions also think that this guy deserves at least one to three Super Bowl MVP titles on his shirt.
Hightower’s play set the stage for the return of the Patriots to the Atlanta Falcons. Nor can we forget his defensive drive and ability to pressure Jared Goff early and often at Super Bowl LIII.
With the Hightower back in the middle of the Patriots defense, you can expect that unit to operate at a higher level in 2021.
10. Alexander Johnson, Denver Broncos
Alexander Johnson’s path to becoming an NFL starting player was rather unusual. Even though he wasn’t drafted from the start, this guy exploded when he competed. The Broncos are indeed very pleased with their decision to give this guy a chance in 2019.
Even though Johnson’s 2020 season doesn’t pass the shadow of his debut season, he’s still a nasty opponent. This best linebacker has had 58 defensive stops over the past year, placing it third in the entire NFL season.
The ranking of the best linebackers NFL is very long. Here are a few names next on the list.
- Matt Milano, Buffalo Bills.
- Jayon Brown, Tennessee Titans.
- Zach Cunningham, Houston Texas.
- K.J. Wright, Free Agent.
- Myles Jack, Jacksonville Jaguars.
- Blake Martinez, New York Giants.
- Devin Bush, Pittsburgh Steelers.
- Nick Kwiatkoski, Las Vegas Raiders.
- Josey Jewell, Denver Broncos.
- Benardrick McKinney, Miami Dolphins.
- Jaylon Smith, Dallas Cowboys.
- Cory Littleton, Las Vegas Raiders.
- Kenneth Murray, Los Angeles Chargers.
- Tremaine Edmunds, Buffalo Bills.
- Devin White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Each player on the list has their advantages over any other NFL linebacker. Their play-making and skills contributed to good games and helped the team gain an advantage.
The list of top middle linebackers may change depending on personal thoughts and objective factors. However, the first names on the list will be difficult to replace. In the future, will any star shine and write his name in NFL history?