View Full Version : ESPN Power Rankings: Top 10 LB's

04-12-2011, 06:49 PM
ESPN.comís NFL writers rank the top 10 linebackers in the league today. Next week: Top 10 cornerbacks.

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis beat out a strong and diverse field for top billing in ESPN.com's latest positional power rankings.

All eight panelists ranked Willis among their top three, elevating the 26-year-old perennial Pro Bowler above James Harrison and DeMarcus Ware as our No. 1 linebacker in the NFL.

1. Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers
2. James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers
3. DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys
4. Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers
5. Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens
6. Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots
7. Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears
8. LaMarr Woodley, Pittsburgh Steelers
9. Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs
9. Jon Beason, Carolina Panthers

Even 12-time Pro Bowler Ray Lewis, the dominant linebacker of his era, pointed to Willis as a worthy successor to his undisputed reign. Not that Lewis is finished just yet. He placed fifth in the rankings behind Willis, Harrison, Ware and the Green Bay Packers' Clay Matthews. But there was no more complete linebacker than Willis.

"Nobody in the NFL plays their position better than Patrick Willis, and that is saying a lot," said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc., whose insights helped shape my ballot. "He is as good a linebacker as Peyton Manning is a quarterback, as Andre Johnson is a receiver, as Adrian Peterson is a running back. He has no weaknesses."

Willis, a three-time Associated Press All-Pro first-team selection, is the first 49ers player since Ronnie Lott to earn Pro Bowl honors in each of his first four seasons. Joe Thomas and Peterson are the only other 2007 draft choices with four Pro Bowls.

Apples and oranges: Comparing linebackers from 3-4 schemes to their 4-3 counterparts proved problematic for some panelists. AFC East blogger Tim Graham ranked Ware first among pass-rushers three weeks ago, but only ninth among linebackers.

"Patrick Willis, Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis would be great linebackers in a 3-4 or a 4-3," Graham explained. "DeMarcus Ware and Cameron Wake might not even be linebackers if they played in Indianapolis, Tennessee or Minnesota. At some point, I had to value elite pass-rushing abilities on my list even though those players aren't universal-type linebackers."

There was room for differing views. ESPN.com's John Clayton and AFC North blogger James Walker ranked Ware first among linebackers and first among pass-rushers. AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky ranked Ware first among linebackers and second among pass-rushers.

"Separating Ware, Willis and Harrison is like splitting hairs, because it really depends on what you want in a linebacker," said Walker, who went with Ware, Willis and Harrison atop his ballot. "Ware is a slightly better pass-rusher than Harrison, and Willis is a future Hall of Famer in his prime. Age also has to be a consideration if youíre building a defense, and Harrison will be 33 in May. But they're all great."

Follow the link to see who ranked who where....and the rest of the article
http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcwest/post/_/ ... inebackers (http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcwest/post/_/id/35956/power-rankings-top-10-nfl-linebackers)

04-12-2011, 06:52 PM
Steelers got the 2nd & 3rd best LB's in Tomlin's first draft- Timmons & Woodley after Willis.

04-12-2011, 10:09 PM
hali and woodely are better then lewis and urlacher

cant believe lewis is still getting votes for top Lbs in the game

04-13-2011, 10:00 AM
But which LB does every other LB fear? James Harrison.

James Harrison sets the tone for making our defense nasty. He's relentless and plays through the whistle. He's not only a pass rusher, but a relentless pursuer of the ball and a tackling machine.

Willis doesn't elevate his team in the same way imho. While he's very talented, he belongs in the 2nd tier of LBs imho.

I'd rank Ray Lewis higher as well. The guy sets the tone for his team and elevates everyone around him.

I'd also bump Woodley a little higher. He's got the best all around game for a 3-4 OLB. Not the best pass rusher, tackler, coverage, etc., but he does them all at a combined level others can't match. He's really underrated in coverage and containing the edge.

Dee Dub
04-13-2011, 11:17 AM
"Separating Ware, Willis and Harrison is like splitting hairs.....

Well not really. DeMarcus Ware is a one dimensional OLB. He isnt asked to cover all that often and at the point of attack versus run support he is a liability.

James Harrison is the most complete OLB in the NFL. Hands down.

04-14-2011, 01:02 PM
At what point does Timmons get a spot? I'm not sure he isn't better than Harrison and Woodley long term. He has more range and can do more things. But with this range of skills, it takes a bit longer to put it all together on the field. A 1 trick pony (not referring to our guys) that is good at that one trick, can see alot of early PT cause the team knows his weaknesses.

04-14-2011, 05:26 PM
hali and woodely are better then lewis and urlacher

cant believe lewis is still getting votes for top Lbs in the game

Ray Lewis is still a tremendous linebacker.

04-15-2011, 11:30 AM
hali and woodely are better then lewis and urlacher

cant believe lewis is still getting votes for top Lbs in the game

Ray Lewis is still a tremendous linebacker.


As much as I hate Lewis I sure wish he had spent his career in the black and gold.