Best NFL Linebackers of All Time


The Top Ten

1 Lawrence Taylor Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor was ranked Number 3 in the NFL Top! 00 All Time player list behind only jim brown and jerry rice

RAY LEWIS IS RANKED 16 you guys make no sense

Greatest of all time... period!
Only 1 of 2 defensive players to win NFL MVP. 2 Superbowl championships...

Lewis is condidered "greatest" because he is still a current player.

Lawrence Taylor is the GOAT! I am not saying this because I am a Giants Fan I am saying this because think about it he has so many records the superbowls all the awards the all-star games the pro bowls is in the Hall Of Fame! The NFL did a test! They had three votes Best Giants player Lawrence Taylor best defensive player ever Lawrence Taylor won and best ever player Lawrence Taylor got 2nd!

I watched LT play and he was not only fast but had tremendous instinct to where the ball was going. His reaction time was incredible. He had it all, the perfect linebacker. No one I mean no one is close

V 46 Comments
2 Ray Lewis Ray Lewis Raymond Anthony Lewis Jr. is a former American football linebacker who played his entire 17-year career for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League.

Ray defends everything. If you check his achievements they are very similar to LT's The difference is ray didn't need chemical assistance to achieve his greatness and he was a student who also was a masterful teacher and leader. He was faster than Butkus, more team oriented than LT, and had just as much or more desire than M. Singletary whom I feel are the other elite LB's who played the game.

Ray Lewis is the definition of a linebacker. He is the quarterback of the defense and takes charge, and he is inspirational, AND he will light you up if you even get near him. BEAST

Like he say, and I quote "they praise QB's for the legacy on how they been able to keep offenses consistent for so long, how long has the Ravens defense been in the top 5 and they left one thing here, 52, the most consistent thing the Ravens has ever had!

Rray Lewis easily topples anyone in his way. He's like a bus going 100 miles an hour. its suicide to get in its way. not only did he hit like a truck, he could run like a starting TB. he was a force to be rekened with. you couldn't get through him... and you couldn't get around him... good luck.

V 49 Comments
3 Dick Butkus

Although I do think Ray Lewis is a beast. Dick Butkus should be #1. Back then players had far fewer resources for fitness, rehab, nutritional knowledge, strength coaches and pathetic equipment to what players have now. I can't even imagine what a freak he would of been if he had half of what athletes get now.

Butkus utterly dominated without modern high tech training, drugs or championship level teams around him. He did it all on his own for almost a decade and made himself the most feared, punishing hitter ever. Almost a one man offense stopping machine. That alone puts him at #1 in my book but he did it all nearly perfectly and wrote the book for the modern linebacker. There is nobody else quite like him.

This was a football player! You won't see this kind of toughness and passion in todays game! My top 3 for all time greatest backers would be 1. Butkus 2. Nitchske 3. Lambert because they played when football was not about the $$$ and blood on the jersey was worn with pride! Would love to see Butkus out there in todays game... He might rack up a few fines but it would be fun to watch!

Simply the best. No one can touch this guy, even Lawrence Taylor.

V 34 Comments
4 Jack Lambert

Jack lambert was way better than singletary you don't see singletary in the most feared tacklers list do you?

I loved watching Lambert play. He looked too small to hit hard but man could he ever. He smack talked just a little more than I like to see but he really backed it up with the hard hits and really smart play. He should be up near the top of any list of the all time greatest.

don't mess around with jack splat. he'll come at you with a fury like no other - madcowsarecrazy

Changed the linebacker position

V 12 Comments
5 Patrick Willis Patrick Willis Patrick L. Willis is a former American football linebacker who played his entire eight-year career with the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League.

Why is Patrick Willis down at no. 7 sure is stats aren't as interesting as Ray Lewis' or Lawrence Taylor's but that's because he hasn't been in the league as long think of it this way ever since he's been in the NFL he has been in the pro bowl every year except the Superbowl (7x) and all American from when he started (2007) through 2012 (6x) if you take his size and his speed you'll end up with this destructive linebacker Patrick Willis is the only linebacker that has a chance to catch up with a running back in open field ever since he came to the league he has averages over 100 tackle a regular season with only just under 100 by 3 no linebacker has been a better linebacker than he is and to top it off he still hasn't shown us his best if he doesn't end up in the hall of fame even if it's for his childhood (mother died father was abusive had to take care of his siblings work full time in cotton fields at age ten left home at 17 with his siblings yet still will give his father another ...more

With the combination of speed and power, he is one of the greatest linebackers to ever play in NFL history. Even though he is still in his early years of his career he has the stats to prove how great of a player he is. With the speed of an average NFL running back at line backer gives him the talent to chase down many fast running backs and receivers, which makes him versatile in pass coverage and run game

Making it to the pro bowl every single year he's been in the nfl, that says something.


V 15 Comments
6 Brian Urlacher

Of today, sure. But of all time. The guy has already played for a million years and now falcons running back Michael Turner can run over him. The guy is really slowing down and Lance Briggs is moving ahead of him

Maybe not the best all-time, but of modern linebackers he's in the top 3 and should be a first ballot hall of fame inductee.

Much better in coverage than Ray Lewis. There was a time when he was ranked ahead of Ray.

He had that major injury that put a blow on his speed and career. Yet he remained resilient and finished out as one of the most highly respected LB's in NFL history.

V 6 Comments
7 Mike Singletary

I think he should be the best linebacker of all time because on the field he would ask his guys what they should do and it worked and when the play was made 9/10 it would work. Of the field he was a nice guy like Merlin Olsen.

He was probably the most intelligent linebacker in NFL History and should be #3 his instincts and he had such a great ability to read an offense, and he coach Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis before they were great.

Probably the craziest linebacker there ever was, and in a good way. Butkus was intense physically and verbally, but Singletary was intense and on the verge of crazy in mental aspect of how he played. Theisman and others called him "Crazy Eyes" for a reason. Not many have ever had as much heart, passion, and football smarts.

He led 85 bears defense and that was the greatest team ever

V 3 Comments
8 Derrick Thomas

Could have played at least 4 more years and if he had, with 9 sacks each (easy) would have destroyed the all time career sack record if my math is right. I think that if he had finished his career he would have been number 1 on anyones list. I would like to see a sacks per game stat to compare with the top guys on this list. Keep in mind the Chiefs didn't play a lot of playoff games in DT's career.

With nine Pro-Bowl selections and 1990s all decade selection as just a couple of his accomplishments. He should definitely be hire on this list. RIP.

Fast, Smart, was a serious problem for any offence. RIP

How about Derrick Brooks, or Zack Thomas?

V 3 Comments
9 Ray Nitchske

Ray, was definitely a monster of the day. Anyone that played againest him will tell you that!

He still has many years and can do greater over the years so I definitely wouldn't but him on this list yet there are many other great linebackers!

The player of the century listed number 8? This is a joke and not a good one! The only linebacker who is even worthy of mention in the same breath is Dick Butkus. Ray Lewis? Fine player but not in the same league!

Definitely the GOAT. Reasons:
He had a great adventure in life
Better than butkus
Epic to watch

V 7 Comments
10 Clay Mathews

Clay is a fantastic linebacker, Tell me what Green Bay Packer play have you heard on defense that Clay isn't there? By far the best along side A.J. hawk. - Celmore

This is not a good choice. Matthews is still midway through his career, and even though he is dominant at his position today, there are several players who have had a hall of fame, all pro career

Clay Mathews is a beast no matter where he ranks on here

Wow just wow

V 9 Comments

The Contenders

11 Junior Seau

Played for 20 years. The first ten years of his career, which were his best, they did not keep stats on tackles made, and that is what he did best. So you can more than double his tackle stat numbers at the least. Inspirational to the whole team and any community he was associated with.

I saw Junior in person for many years. It seemed that if he did not make the tackle himself he was almost always involved in making the stop. Also he was somewhat underrated because he played his prime years in San Diego.

You can't put clay Mathews over junior seau clay Matthews isn't there yet maybe in a couple more years maybe but even then junior seau should be in the top ten

Belongs in top ten

V 9 Comments
12 Derrick Brooks

NO. 29 IS DERRICK BROOKS? FAR TO LOW! He would not let you get back to the line of scrimmage no matter what. He was also a leader of the best defense of the 00's and led a franchise turnaround. - greatesttop10s

Really? Clearly should be top 5 minimum.

Way too low. Should be in top ten

Derrick Brooks should be higher than #13

V 2 Comments
13 Jack Ham Jack Ham Jack Raphael Ham Jr. is a former American football outside linebacker who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League from 1971 to 1982. He is considered one of the greatest outside linebackers in the history of the NFL.

By far the most technically sound linebacker ever. He is very underrated playing in the same corps as Lambert. The best defense of all time (70's Steelers) had 10 starting Pro Bowlers, Ham included. No linebacker was better in pass coverage than Ham, a great compliment to the tenacious Lambert.

Jack should be in the top10 he's one of the most all around linebacker

V 2 Comments
14 Tedy Bruschi

Someone else said it best! To be a good Linebacker after a stroke says it all! That's in a Pickup game, but to be Good in the NFL is amazing!


V 1 Comment
15 Chuck Bednarik

He almost killed a guy!

Played both ways.WW11 vet.Toughest guy on the field all the time.

Listed much too low. Chuck Bednarik was an amazingly athletic player and was the greatest linebacker of his era. He also was one of the last players to play 60 minutes. As mentioned before, he also layed out the h.o.fer Frank Gifford who recently died of cte (probably because of that hit! ), which kindled and stroked the flames of the great New York - Philadelphia rivalry.

This guy was one Bad MFer. Left people unconscious on the field. There are many good Linebackers on this list, Nitschke etc.. Ray Lewis was good and I agree better than LT, but you can't count out the older generation - shorter seasons, less rules, and PAIN

16 Harry Carson V 2 Comments
17 Rob Morris
18 Willie Lanier

Somewhat overshadowed by Butkus, I would put Lanier over every other MLB ever. Huge hitter, sure tackler, great in coverage, and a coach on the field. One of the best players I have ever seen.

Butkus - lambert - then Lanier - that's just the way it is

19 -u gotta ne kidding me - Joe about 3rd after butais and lambert

19 Joe Schmidt

With all the great players in the game, including all the terrific linebackers, Schmidt was the leader of those great 1950's Lions' NFL Championship teams and the league's 1962 MVP.

20 A.J. Hawk

Who created this list? I'll fight them. Cheesedead is right; he may be okay but is nowhere near even the hall of 'very good.'

Are you kidding me? Aj hawk? I'm the biggest packer fan alive, and he is not even in the top 1000 linebackers of all time

PSearch List

Recommended Lists

Related Lists

Top Ten NFL Teams of All Time Best NFL Wide Receivers of All Time Greatest NFL Players of All Time Top Ten NFL Quarterbacks of All Time Top 10 Best NFL Offenses of All Time

List Stats

1,000 votes
52 listings
8 years, 342 days old

Top Remixes (13)

1. Patrick Willis
2. Lawrence Taylor
3. Ray Lewis
1. Lawrence Taylor
2. Ray Lewis
3. Derrick Thomas
1. Lawrence Taylor
2. Ray Lewis
3. Mike Singletary

View All 13


Add Post

Error Reporting

See a factual error in these listings? Report it here.