Top 10 Best NFL Linebackers of All Time

The Top Ten
1 Lawrence Taylor

Taylor, Butkus, Lambert, Singletary, and Lewis were all great linebackers. I don't believe Willis and Thomas belong on this list simply because they didn't play long enough.

Unreal speed, didn't play middle linebacker and forced teams to actually pay the Left Tackle and made the position the most important on the line. And the LT sometimes needed a TE, RB, FB or LG to guard him every time the guy rushed. Teams respected Taylor every phase of his career. If that does convince anyone, how many times did LEWIS win the NFL MVP, cause the only linebacker to do that was Lawrence Taylor. Finally if you see the linebackers today, many try to be like Lawrence Taylor, fast pass rusher who can stunt and drop in coverage. I never saw the man play but on film it is clear that LT was footballs Lebron James, pure freak of nature.

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

What Ray does only a movie came close..."win one for the gipper"! HE made other men play better every down. Player with the most years between Super Bowl Wins... Ray. Many claim their franchise has __ rings. Well not any other player has 12 years between wins and never lost a Super Bowl. Best MLB and ILB in NFL history. That plus he sets the Defense. He not only made HIS play, he made OTHERS play. Set them or move them at the right time and right place. The Chess Piece is moved by the mater, just that great. BEST EVER

Ray Lewis is great. Period, His greatness is uncomprehenable, he is such a hard worker, there is not a person on this earth that can out work him, he is the greatest leader to ever live on this earth, he knows he will win even when nobody else does, explains his 2 super bowl rings, one he was MVP, 13 time pro bowler and 2 time defensive player of the year. Greatness is re-invented by Ray Lewis.

3 Dick Butkus

Football is a game of heart and ferociousness. Nobody in my opinion ever played the linebacker game quite as tough, ferocious and relentless as Butkus. He was a human freight train as well as covering all aspects of a linebacker's skills superbly. He did it in the pre drug or extreme weight training era too. You young guys, go find some good video of him, it's well worth it. No doubt in my mind he should be #1.
Leave the stat reading and rant watching to those who admire more the paper game or showman types, Butkus embodied the very soul of what a linebacker should be.

4 Mike Singletary

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.

People underestimated him because of his size and considered him strange because of his 'Sammurai accent' and large eyes. But he was one of the greatest defensive players of the 80s, and was the keystone and leader of the Bears' famed '85 defense, perhaps the most dominant defense of all time.

5 Jack Lambert

Lambert and Butkus are easily the top two linebackers who ever played! LT was great but he was one dimensional, ok against the run and not good at all in pass protection. For Ray Lewis to be that high on the list is an insult to the great linebackers on this list! Ham is an easy top 5, he is the most perfect technical linebacker of them all. He didn't have quite as hard a hit as some of the others but his hands were like meat hooks once he got a hold of you you weren't going anywhere. No other linebackers were feared like Lambert and Butkus young people must be voting. Butkus changed the linebacker position and Lambert redefined it! Lot of excellent linebackers on here but those two are easily the best!

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

No way Patrick Willis is #9 on this list; no linebacker is quicker from sideline to sideline like Willis! He has achieved so much with seven seasons of straight 100 tackles, is a seven-time Pro Bowler, and winner of the Dick Butkus Award twice. He's only 29 years old. What truly separates him is his leadership and ability to elevate the linebackers around him. Look at NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith, and Ahmad Brooks; they are all Pro Bowl linebackers. He's the unquestioned leader of the 49ers defense!

Oh, and Ray Lewis said he sees himself in Patrick Willis, but Willis is a whole lot faster than Lewis.

7 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.

Derrick had he had a super bowl win he would had been #1 or had he lived on and played another 4 years easily would have had every sack record. LT is number one only because he played longer I guess. DT will always be the best to me. Ask Ray Lewis he will tell you! RIP DT

8 Brian Urlacher Brian Urlacher is a former American football middle linebacker who spent his entire 13-year career playing for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League.

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

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.

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.

9 Ray Nitchske

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!

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!

All great, but with Taylor and Lewis at the top of the list, poll was obviously taken by younger people. Nobody hit like nitchske and butkus

10 Clay Mathews

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 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.

Clay Mathews is the best linebacker and he is a beast!

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.

12 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.

Best outside backer of all time!

Please look at statistics beyond sacks! Ham did not rush the passer because he did not have to. Mean Joe and the Steel Curtain did that. Jack was as good a tackler as there ever was and the best linebacker and dropping into coverage. 32 interceptions during an era when the ball wasn't thrown 40+ times a game.

Hambis #1 in my opinion!

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.

13 Chuck Bednarik

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

14 Rob Morris
15 Derrick Brooks

I may be a TB fan, but this is disrespectful to have Derrick Brooks this low. Not only was he a force well into his later years, he was an ironman who missed very few games in his career. Always gave 110%.

Really? Clearly should be top 5 minimum.

Way too low. Should be in top ten

16 Demarcus Ware

He should rank much higher on this list than number 21.

Most consistent pass rush threat in the NFL, second fastest to 100 sacks

17 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.

18 Harry Carson
19 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.

20 Takeo Spikes
21 Von Miller Vonnie B'Vsean Miller Jr. is an American football outside linebacker for the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League.

He is an absolute monster and he kills the quarterback.

22 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

23 Aldon Smith
24 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!

25 Bill Romanowski William Thomas Romanowski (born April 2, 1966) is a former American football linebacker. He played in the National Football League (NFL) for the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos, and Oakland Raiders.
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