Top 5 Linebackers In The NFL [2011 Edition]

The Linebacker has long been one of my favorite positions to watch. Growing up a Chargers fan during the nineties, I like many of you, had to suffer through some bad years. Sure there were bright spots; the 94 season was one of them. But really, being a Chargers fan was about being a fan of the players. Guys like Rodney Harrison, Normand Hand, Natrone Means, heck even Curtis Conway! But for me personally there wasn't any Charger or player in the NFL who I loved to watch as much as Junior Seau. He was worth the price of admission. He could fire up the crowd like no other with his lightning bolt fist pump thing he did. Naturally I've become pretty fond of watching linebackers play, and Junior had a lot to do with it. So it was a lot of fun looking around at each team and coming up with what I feel are the top 5 linebackers in the league.

Here are the top 5 linebackers in the NFL, according to BOLTHYPE:

[UPDATED for the 2011 Regular season]

1. Demarcus Ware
Demarcus Ware can legitimately be considered the best linebacker in the NFL. In the past 5 seasons, he's lead the league in sacks 3 times, and was in the top 3 twice.

2. Patrick Willis
Willis is consistently among the NFL's leading tacklers and a perennial All-Pro. This past season, he also showed his ability to get to the QB with 6 sacks.

3. Clay Matthews
Matthews has emerged as one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the NFL, and he's abilities and knowledge of the game continue to expand. He'll be a force for years to come.

4. Rey Lewis
Lewis is aging, but he more than makes up for it with his on-field leadership and his experience. He'll still put you into the ground and has the stats to prove it.

5. Brian Urlacher
Urlacher bounced back after an injured 2009 and returned to form in 2010. He's still a dominant defender and remains a force to be reckoned with.


So what do you guys think? Any glaring omissions? Someone ranked way too high? Share your thoughts in the comments below [Keep in mind that the list has been updated since it was originally published in 2008]:

May 28, 2011

Join our team:


DaMonster said... Jun 29, 2008, 9:14:00 PM

Lofa Tatupu should be in the top ten

Anonymous said... Jun 30, 2008, 3:18:00 AM

Patrick Willis should also be on there.. I agree with damonster.. Lofa should also be in the top 10 also.. and don't for get about Burgess from Oakland..

Sporty32AM said... Jun 30, 2008, 7:32:00 AM

Jason Taylor isn't even a LB?

Meat22 said... Jun 30, 2008, 9:26:00 AM

Jason Taylor is not a LB he is a defensive end. Tayler whould probably number one in the top defensive ends. Lofa Tatupu should be in the top ten and also dallas cowboys new addition of Zack Thomas.

Rob Zepeda said... Jun 30, 2008, 9:32:00 AM

Jason Taylor plays LB in the 3-4 defense. He would play linebacker on a 3-4 team and D End on a 4-3...just like Demarcus Ware and Shawne Merriman would. But the Dolphins are going to the 3-4 full time this season, and assuming Taylor remains on the team, he'll be playing linebacker.

Sporty32AM said... Jun 30, 2008, 10:00:00 AM

Ok, so once again, since he has never played in a 3-4 as a LB, He is STILL a DE, Im not willing to say he would be in the top 10 LB's just because Miami switched their Defense... There is alot more responibility to playing LB in the 3-4 that differs from playing DE in a 4-3...

Anonymous said... Jun 30, 2008, 9:15:00 PM

Leave it to a Charger fan to capitalize "offense" in the Shawn Merriman write-up. Is this a blog or the work of a 3rd grader? GO BRONCOS!!!

Rob Zepeda said... Jun 30, 2008, 9:36:00 PM

@Bronco Fan
what if I were to tell you... both?

Anonymous said... Sep 29, 2008, 11:25:00 PM

Ray lewis not in top 10? wow... lol I mean of course he's getting older... but still... Ray Lewis...

Anonymous said... Mar 25, 2009, 3:22:00 PM

Ray Lewis is too good not to be in the top 10..... he is a future hall of famer.

Anonymous said... May 4, 2009, 12:36:00 PM

wow what a crime Jon Beason should be in the top 10 he is the best MLB in the league after Ray Lewis

Anonymous said... Jun 17, 2009, 7:10:00 PM

Well I mean Ray Lewis, James Farrior, James Harrison, Joey Porter and Lofa Tatupu have to be in the Top 10 no?

Anonymous said... Jun 17, 2009, 7:13:00 PM

Excuse me but second the best MLB or ILB in the NFL is James Farrior.

Anonymous said... Jun 20, 2009, 1:35:00 PM

to the 2 retards that cant read....Patrick Willis is #3 and Jon Beason is #9......a little education can go a long way!

Anonymous said... Jun 20, 2009, 2:29:00 PM

haha to the retard that posted that last one...this is an updated post. This same article was up last year with different linebackers in different places. Thats why they said that. The author just updated it for this year and the same comments were still on it.

GrnzDaBst said... Jun 20, 2009, 5:04:00 PM

3 to four of you should learn to read.

GrnzDaBst said... Jun 20, 2009, 5:08:00 PM

Ok... LOL! I guess I should learn to read a little deaper into it too.

Anonymous said... Jun 23, 2009, 2:39:00 AM

How about a list of the Top Ten CHARGER linebackers of all-time?!? We've had some very interesting players here, even if you exclude the one that was probably the Greatest linebacker to have ever played the game, Junior Seau. Any takers or voters? Speak now gentlemen (and possible ladies), or forever hold your tongues.
And how about a list of the Ten Worst linebackers to play here? Or is that too cruel?
Many have labored in relative obscurity here, but there have been some wonderful players at the position: Donnie Edwards, Marty Schottenheimer (joke: Marty was a 7th-round draft pick as a linebacker for Pittsburgh), or maybe Lowe? Merriman's a given as Great, but besides him..., hmmm.

Anonymous said... Jun 23, 2009, 12:55:00 PM

Demeco Ryans should be in the top ten, he's the best coverage MLB next to Urlacher and he racks up 100+ tackles every year, not to mention the only real other talent on that front seven is Mario Williams. Farrior is old, he played in one of the best defenses in the league for the last couple years and he's never done anything spectacular, i can't believe he's on the top ten. Seriously, that team pushes everything to the midddle because of their superb play by outside LBs, thats why he racks up 90 tackles a year. I say you move Ray to number ten, take Farrior off the list, put Ryans in and have Tatupu as an Honorable mention.

Anonymous said... Jun 28, 2009, 5:28:00 PM

i think jon beason deserves to be on this list

Anonymous said... Sep 21, 2009, 7:03:00 PM

where is terrell suggs????

Anonymous said... Sep 29, 2009, 9:11:00 PM

Yo beason is on the list and so is Willis are you people blind!

Anonymous said... Nov 9, 2009, 3:23:00 PM


we goin to the superbowl..


Anonymous said... Nov 12, 2009, 10:58:00 AM

let's not forget jerod mayo of the patriots!

Anonymous said... Nov 18, 2009, 3:17:00 PM

There are some great linebackers on this list. Ray Lewis is good and has great leadership, but I do agree that he should be replaced with Lofa Tatupu. With James Farrior, he is good but as the author said its hard to judge someones greatness when they are on a DEFENSE that has so many players that make so many plays. He has Harrison and Troy P around him. Demeco Ryans is another MLB that could arguably be on this list too.

Anonymous said... Dec 1, 2009, 3:51:00 PM

p willis #1 he is back 2 back pro bowler

Anonymous said... Dec 1, 2009, 5:07:00 PM

james harrison should be in top three

Anonymous said... Dec 15, 2009, 5:13:00 PM

man ray lewis should be in #1:) u all know what i am saying ?

Anonymous said... May 23, 2010, 4:50:00 PM

Demarcus Ware!! Its not even a question whethers hes the best LB in the league, he has everything.

Anonymous said... May 24, 2010, 10:07:00 PM

merriman on this list thats a joke and im a hardcore maryland fan..

where in hades is demecco ryans?
also urlacher at two? for real?

this list is a joke...

Anonymous said... Jun 22, 2010, 10:18:00 AM

Kirk Morrison... Raiders all the way

Anonymous said... Jun 24, 2010, 6:32:00 AM

london fletcher should be up there because he has been the league leader in tackles for the last decade.

Anonymous said... Jul 18, 2010, 4:25:00 AM

Beware of Demarcus Ware

Anonymous said... Aug 5, 2010, 8:42:00 PM

Keith Bulluck bitches, long overlooked

Anonymous said... Aug 11, 2010, 2:58:00 AM

now that elvis dumerville is a LB...he should at least round out the top 10
#1 sack leading LB not on the list?

Anonymous said... Aug 13, 2010, 6:38:00 AM

carlos dansby?

Anonymous said... Sep 23, 2010, 4:18:00 PM

James Harrison is da best, d playa of da year i dont care wat ya say and b4 ya tell me 2 spell rite, im using text

Anonymous said... Oct 2, 2010, 3:06:00 PM

james laurinitas

Anonymous said... Oct 23, 2010, 10:16:00 AM

Well you idiots need to stop naming 3-4 OLB becuase they are only d-ends or ex-d ends thats why they have so many sacks(D-ware,Clay Mathews, Brian Orakpo, Jason Taylor) all played d-end as far as the true list its:



Tornadofury711 said... Apr 1, 2011, 3:32:00 PM

completely agree, why isn't D.j williams on here?

Mmmfm said... May 21, 2012, 8:16:00 PM

brian and ray are tied with #1

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