The linebacker position is one of the most essential positions on defense. They normally call the signals, cover the gaps, and play zones over the middle of the field. It’s really the Swiss army knife of the defense, they can tackle, run the field, cover a tight end (when necessary) and blitz like crazy.
The NFL is full of top tier LBs, but there are a lot of teams who desperately need to improve that position on their depth chart.
For clarification, Outside Linebackers who are used as edge rushers in a 3-4 will not qualify as LBs. Only inside linebackers in a 3-4 and the 3 linebackers in a 4-3 (Middle, strong, weak) will be counted in this ranking.
32. Philadelphia Eagles
Since their Super Bowl win 2 years ago, the Eagles have lost all of their LBs that helped them establish the most dominant defense in the league. They need to replenish their LB unit.
31. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have had one of the weakest groups of linebackers in the league for a few years now. I wonder when they’ll finally address that position. They could find themselves in a spot to pick Isaiah Simmons with the 6th pick, but word around the grape vine is Justin Herbert is their guy. Regardless, they need linebackers.
30. Cleveland Browns
Losing Joe Schobert in free agency was a big blow after already trading away Jamie Collins at the beginning of the 2019 season. But hey, Mack Wilson seems promising, right?
29. Los Angeles Rams
I like Kenny Young, and Samson Ebukam has been pretty versatile, but they aren’t enough to solidify the 2nd level of this Rams team. I recommend that they try to bring someone else in, whether via trade or the draft.
28. Baltimore Ravens
They traded away Kenny Young as a part of the Marcus Peters move (definitely not knocking them for that, complete game changer) and they let Patrick Onwuasor and Josh Bynes walk in free agency. L.J. Fort can get it done as a featuring act, but they need a headliner. I personally like Kenneth Murray for them.
27. Green Bay Packers
They lost Blake Martinez in free agency and replaced him with Christian Kirksey. If it weren’t for that then they’d be a lot higher on the list. I think they could be in the running for a good ILB in the first round, or they should be at least looking at drafting one.
26. Kansas City Chiefs
I like Anthony Hitchens, and role players like Damien Wilson and Emmanuel Smith are nice. However, I’d love to see a guy like Patrick Queen fall to them. Then again, their current roster won a Super Bowl, so too much improvement isn’t dire. You can’t ever be too good, though.
25. Denver Broncos
Todd Davis and Alexander Johnson are solid linebackers, but they need a true centerpiece to work around. Kenneth Murray could help them in pass coverage, because they were already an elite run defense last year.
24. Las Vegas Raiders
Cory Littleton has a lot of potential, and Nick Kwiatkoski is a great addition. I just think they need one more guy for the outside. I like this unit overall.
23. Cincinnati Bengals
Josh Bynes was a great addition for this team. They still need another LB to really round out the roster, but they don’t have to do it in the first round. If Zack Baun slips into the early 2nd round, then they should think about scooping him up.
22. New York Giants
Blake Martinez is a tackling beast. He is a great addition for this team, but they need a real playmaker out there to pair with the former Green Bay Packer. If I’m the Giants, I’m locking down Isaiah Simmons if he’s on the board at pick 4. If there’s a chance he isn’t on the board, they might even consider swapping places with Detroit similar to the way Chicago did with San Francisco 4 years ago to secure Mitch Trubisky.
21. New England Patriots
If they could just hold on to players for once, they wouldn’t suck so bad in my rankings. At least they have Hightower and Bentley. They still need to work on filling out the LB position as well as the rest of their entire roster.
20. Tennessee Titans
I’m a big fan of Rashaan Evans. He plays against the run very well. I like Kamalei Correa as well. He plays all over the field and is going to develop well when given the chance. I do think they need another guy to fill in to truly make the 3-4 work.
19. Indianapolis Colts
Darius Leonard is a young phenom. He can tackle exceptionally well and makes the big plays when they’re needed. Everyone needs some help though. Leonard alone catapults the Colts into the top 20.
18. Buffalo Bills
I am a fan of Tremaine Edmunds. He’s is a strong tackler and is good on the blitz. Matt Milano is a good complimentary piece. They don’t need to worry about LB at all, but compared to the rest, this is where they stand.
17. Carolina Panthers
Shaq Thompson is a great player. Tahir Whitehead is a nice addition. But, at the end of the day, Luke Kuechly retired. That hurts them a ton.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
Devon Bush is a great player, and that really propels this team. He just needs a complimentary player on the interior and this LB unit is as solid as the rest.
15. Houston Texans
Zach Cunningham is a great tackler, and Dylan Cole is valuable in pass coverage. That duo is young and talented. Another LB to round out the group and add some depth would really help them out.
14. Atlanta Falcons
Deion Jones has enough coverage ability to make up for all 3 linebackers in a 4-3. However, if the Falcons can replenish the hole in their roster from losing De’Vondre Campbell, then they’ll be in the top ten.
13. Detroit Lions
What I like most about this group isn’t the roster itself, but the potential they have to improve it. They are in prime position to pick Isaiah Simmons and add his playmaking ability to a group that includes Jamie Collins, Jarrad Davis, and Reggie Ragland. Sounds absolutely deadly.
12. New Orleans Saints
A stout group of linebackers marred by injury, The Saints should look to add a young stud to help take over the mantle as Demario Davis dives deeper into his 30s. Patrick Queen has been projected to land in the area of the Saints’ first round pick.
11. Washington Redskins
The Redskins have a very strong group of linebackers. Reuben Foster is a great ILB and adding the veteran experience of Thomas Davis is only going to help the group as a whole improve. Ryan Kerrigan’s work in coverage also helps boost this unit.
10. Chicago Bears
Roquan Smith is a great ILB. He is an absolute beast. He combines great power and physical traits with a very strong sense of when to plug gaps in the line. He always finds a way to make a play. Danny Trevathan is a great complimentary piece to help lock down the inside.
9. Miami Dolphins
I know, it’s kind of crazy that the Dolphins are ranked this high, but hear me out: they have a crazy group of studs. Raekwon McMillan is a tackling beast. Kyle Van Noy makes an impact everywhere on the field. Elandon Roberts is another solid player. Jerome Baker is up and coming and has all the physical traits to become a great LB. This is a great LB group.
8. Arizona Cardinals
They added De’Vondre Campbell to a group that consists of Jordan Hicks, who is another high-volume tackler, Devon Kennard, and Haason Reddick. Reddick can be used to rush the passer and stuff the run anywhere on the field. This unit is very underrated and I think it could make the difference for this entire defense.
7. Minnesota Vikings
Anthony Barr is one of the best linebackers of the past decade. He covers well and can lay the lumber when needed. Eric Kendricks is one of the best tacklers in the middle of the field. Those two players make up the entire 2nd level of the Vikings defense. They are one of the best LB duos in the league.
6. Seattle Seahawks
Bobby Wagner is the best MLB in the league, plain and simple. He brings this team into the top 10. KJ Wright, though he is declining slightly, brings this team up to number 6. The untapped potential of Shaquem Griffin leaves some question marks as to whether or not this unit can improve.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags added Joe Schobert, who is a great player in the middle of the field. He and Myles Jack are the duo of the future for Jacksonville’s defense. This team has done a wonderful job filling the hole left from the departure of Telvin Smith.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Jaylen Smith, Leighton Vander-Esch, and an aging Sean Lee make up a dangerous trio of linebackers for the entire NFC. The only question is their depth, with Sean Lee getting older and Jaylen Smith having a history of serious injuries.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Lavonte David and Devin White make up potentially the best inside linebacker duo in the NFL. David has been one of the best backers in the league for several years and is a true model of consistent excellence. Devin White is one of the fastest and most explosive players in the league, and this duo should continue to shine for the next few years.
2. New York Jets
The Jets have quietly built one of the scariest 2nd levels in the league. Assuming Avery Williamson is back and completely healthy, C.J. Mosely is one of the best 3-4 linebackers in the league, and adding Patrick Onwuasor is a major boost. Onwuasor is one of the most versatile linebackers in the league, with the ability to rush off the edge and drop back in coverage, with some blitzes up the middle mixed in. This group is going to be absolutely dangerous.
1. San Francisco 49ers
This group is absolutely unbelievable. Fred Warner is one of the best middle linebackers in the league. He has an uncanny ability to lurk in a zone and bait QBs into a pick. Dre Greenlaw developed quickly into a starter and a very good one at that. Kwon Alexander, when healthy, continues to show that he’s one of the best young 4-3 linebackers in the league. This unit is going to dominate next year. The 49ers didn’t lose a single piece of a LB unit that will once again prove to be a problem for the league.