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11/2011 Inside Linebacker Rankings

November 11th 2011 08:14
I have compiled a list of the top 15 3-4 inside linebackers in the NFL.

1. Patrick Willis- The dude can do everything at a high-level and is one of the best players against the run. Willis also more than holds his own in coverage, and he can even bring the heat up the middle; easily the best linebacker in football.

2. Lawrence Timmons- Such a beast, and he is also more than competent as a pass rusher.

3. Bart Scott- The best linebacker against the run, and he redirects plays almost at will. His play goes beyond statistics and quotes, the only way to capture his greatness is by watching and learning.

4. Derrick Johnson- Johnson is one of the most underrated players in the NFL, and those who know who he is are too slow to talk about his All-Pro talent. There is no better LB in coverage than Johnson, and he has been one of the best defensive players this season.

5. Takeo Spikes- Takeo Spikes almost never misses a tackle, and thus his consistency alone makes him a top ten inside linebacker. When you factor in some very good work in coverage with great overall play against the run, you get one of the best five ILBs in the NFL. Spikes is also a solid blitzer, and he is an underrated veteran player in general. Playing next to Patrick Willis for a while will do that to you, as people think he is already way past his prime.

6. David Harris- I really hope he gets back to form, as Harris is one of the best 3-4 ILBs out there with his ability to disrupt the run and his terrific coverage skills. Harris is a very versatile linebacker who is also a successful pass rusher for an ILB.

7. Brian Cushing- Yes, Cushing is a better player than DeMeco Ryans. The reason being is that Ryans is a one-dimensional player who is great against the run and a decent blitzer, but he struggles in coverage. Cushing has great instincts and is almost as good of a run-stuffer as Ryans, and he is also much better in coverage and slightly better as a pass rusher.

8. London Fletcher- It's always annoying to see the savvy veteran on various underrated lists, because Fletcher isn't really underrated thanks to all these people commonly labeling him as such. However, Fletcher is still a playmaker who provides value in all facets of the game. He also plays next to to criminally overrated Rocky McIntosh, and I have no reason as to why his partner is even a starter in the NFL.

9. NaVorro Bowman- I really believe in Patrick Willis's new star partner on the inside, and he has been absolutely sensational this season. He is at least above-average in every area of the game, and Bowman has already emerged as one of the best linebackers against the run in the NFL.

10. DeMeco Ryans- I'll take the other Texans inside linebacker here, and he has always been one of the better linebackers against the run. Ryans also provides value as a pass rusher, but he is a definite liability in coverage.

11. Desmond Bishop- Bishop really emerged last year and grabbed a chokehold of the starting inside linebacker slot alongside A.J. Hawk. While Nick Barnett is better than Hawk, Bishop was able to top Barnett after the veteran went down with an injury.

12. James Farrior- One of the most consistent players in the league, Farrior is solid- as always- against the run and is an important asset in coverage for the Steelers. Farrior is a yearly fixture at linebacker for the team, and he was instrumental in the very successful development of current superstar ILB- and second on this list- Lawrence Timmons.

13. Karlos Dansby- Although some scouts say that he would be a better fit as a 4-3 OLB, Dansby is still a pretty darn good 3-4 ILB. He is very good against the run thanks to his aggressive gap-penetration, and Dansby can definitely hold his own against tight ends. While he gives up a lot of catches, they are usually for minimal gains. And oh by the way, the aforementioned gap-penetration ideal also makes him a solid pass rusher (for a 3-4 inside linebacker that is).

14. Nick Barnett- Robbed of his job by Desmond Bishop, Barnett signed with the Buffalo Bills and is continuing his menacing work in run defense. Barnett is also a decent pass rusher who does solid work in coverage.

15. Daryl Washington- I wanted to devote the last spot to an up-and-coming linebacker who deserves this ranking. Ken Wisenhunt has a thing against giving rookies a lot of snaps, but Washington was very good in limited playing time last season. He has broken out in a big way now that he has more opportunities, and Washington has been one of the best 3-4 ILBs in the league this year. He is a stud against the run, makes plays in coverage, and he is already one of the best at bringing the heat from the inside.
Still going strong at 36


2/2011 Linebacker Rankings

February 23rd 2011 15:59
1. Patrick Willis- A surefire tackler that is steadily becoming a force in coverage.
2. James Harrison- The man that is truly the best on Pittsburgh, and it might as well be a tie between him an Willis for first. There are so many good linebackers in the league. Harrison is an incredible pass rusher that is an underrated player against the run.

3. Terrell Suggs- Suggs is an insane pass rusher that is strong against the run. As good as Ray Lewis still is, Suggs is now the best linebacker in Baltimore.
4. David Harris- He does everything. Harris is called the Jets' defensive QB for good reason. He excels at making line calls, and his leadership qualities are invaluable to any team. Harris tackles and makes plays in coverage too.

5. Jon Beason- Beason is a steady tackler and leader.
6. LaMarr Woodley- Everybody knows how great of a pass rusher Woodley is.
7. Lawrence Timmons- He is a strong all around player that was the best defensive player in the league in 2011. It's just that nobody could look over his three stalwart teammates. Timmons is a keeper.

8. DeMarcus Ware- He is a hybrid DE/LB so it's very tough to place him. He led the league in sacks and was a monster as a pass rusher, but that's all he does. I value linebackers for all around play, but Ware is a beast and one of my favorites. He can definitely jump into the top 5, but I wish he refined other parts to his game. Again, he is a hybrid player so it's tough to rank him.
9. DeMeco Ryans- A force when healthy.

10. Jerod Mayo- He is a great pure tackler.
11. Clay Matthews- There is no denying his ability as a pass rusher.
12. Ray Lewis- The name and intensity says it all, even at this age.
13. Curtis Lofton- Don't forget him when talking about great tacklers and LBs against the rush.
14. Chad Greenway- Definitely deserved to have the tag slapped on him. He tackles at such a high rate that it isn't even cool.

15. London Fletcher- See Lewis, Ray. Fletcher has been underrated for too long in his career. He does so much for his team. I would vote Fletch into the HOF, no question.
16. Elvis Dumervil- I can't wait to see another full season out of the Haitian.
17. DJ Williams- He is such a great tackler, but he too gets forgotten.
18. Karlos Dansby

19. Tamba Hali
20. Anthony Spencer
21. Barrett Ruud
22. Bart Scott
23. Cameron Wake
24. James Anderson
25. Desmond Bishop
26. Keith Rivers
27. Lance Briggs
28. Jonathan Vilma
29. AJ Hawk
30. Stephen Tulloch
31. Dhani Jones
32. Brian Urlacher
33. Derrick Johnson
34. Rey Maualaga
35. James Laurinitis
36. Paul Posluszny
37. Lofa Tatupu
38. Brian Orakpo
39. Shaun Phillips
40. Brian Cushing
41. EJ Henderson
42. Nick Barnett
43. Kirk Morrison
44. Kevin Burnett
45. Daryl Smith
46. Bradie James
47. Rocky McIntosh
48. David Hawthorne
49. Clint Session
50. Shawn Bradley
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