Welcome back to my third cycle of the Position Ranking Roulette! We're doing these rankings a little differently than previous years. The snap count threshold will be higher, there will also be a minimum games played requirement, and we'll be considering scheme and opponent toughness more heavily. Additionally, the talent surrounding each player will be accounted for. For the linebacker position, each player must have totaled at least 500 defensive snaps and appeared in at least 10 games. Let's review the top 12 linebackers in the NFL from last season!
Photo: David Grunfeld/New Orleans Saints
*These rankings are for the previous season only*
12. Kaden Elliss (Last Season: Unranked)
PFF Grade: 81.5 (6th)
If you read my Free Agency Preview, then you'll know I think highly of Kaden. He was used at a good mix of LB and edge, and he was productive at both. Out of 60 LBs that qualified, he ranked 2nd in stop rate at 56.25%, 13th in impact tackle rate (tackle rate multiplied by stop rate) at 25.4%, and 5th in pressures with 20. He did it all and then some in a breakout season.
11. Nick Bolton (Last Season: Unranked)
PFF Grade: 75.7 (14th)
Bolton keeps getting better and played well in his third season as he always seemed to be around the ball. He had the 5th highest tackle rate of all LBs at 15.56%, as well as 55 stops and a low 5.4% missed tackle rate. He wasn't the best in coverage, but had 2 INTs and was a solid pass rusher as he recorded a QB hit or sack on 63.64% of his pressures. If Nick Bolton can get better against the pass, we could be looking at a superstar in the making.
10. Matt Milano (Last Season: #7)
PFF Grade: 73.7 (18th)
Despite a relatively low PFF grade, Matt was solid this year. He shined in coverage, as he had an 11.43% ball hawk rate (INTs and pass breakups per coverage snap), while also allowing just 6.16 yards per target. Additionally, he posted 19 pressures to the tune of a 32.76% pressure rate. The only downside to his game was that he missed 16.7% of his tackle attempts, which was the highest rate of all eligible LBs. If he can clean up his mistakes in the tackling department, Milano could break the top 5 next season.
9. Demario Davis (Last Season: #3)
PFF Grade: 82.7 (5th)
Demario has been one of my favorite LBs in the league, and the vet put up another great season. He was a menace in coverage again, as he posted an 11.9% ball hawk rate and allowed just 6.57 yards per target. He was great blitzing as well, turning in 6.5 sacks with a 26.09% pressure rate to pair with it. Similar to Milano, he struggled securing tackles, missing on 14.4% of his attempts. Hopefully he can clean this up as he wraps up a stellar career.
8. Logan Wilson (Last Season: Unranked)
PFF Grade: 72.7 (21st)
In last year's PRR, I specifically mentioned Logan has a shot to break into this years' list. He not only accomplished that feat, but made it into the top eight as well. He had an impact tackle rate of 32.34%, third highest among LBs, while recording 49 stops and posting a 23.64% pressure rate. He struggled a bit in the pass game, but he made up for it by rarely missing tackles in the open field.
Photo: Darron Cummings/Associated Press
7. Dre Greenlaw (Last Season: Unranked)
PFF Grade: 81.2 (7th)
Dre is the Robin to Fred Warner's Batman, but more like a Robin loaded on pre-workout. He had the 2nd highest impact tackle rate at 32.91%, ranked in the top 10 lowest missed tackle rates at 5.8%, and allowed just 6.43 yards per target. In addition, across 15 games, he recorded 130 total tackles and 59 stops. He's a stout run defender and a solid coverage player as well.
6. Lavonte David (Last Season: #8)
PFF Grade: 84.1 (3rd)
Lavonte earns another top eight bid, and this marks his third straight season making the list. Exactly half of his tackles were registered as stops, and he was fantastic in coverage with an 88.5 grade in that area, the highest mark on this list. He broke up 5 passes and allowed just 6.37 and 7.9 yards per target and per completion respectively. Even at his age, he continues to show that he's one of the top LBs in the game.
5. Tremaine Edmunds (Last Season: Unranked)
PFF Grade: 79.0 (11th)
The 24 year old who just inked a big contract with the Bears finally breaks into the top five. Tremaine was fantastic in coverage this season, leading all LBs with a 12.5% ball hawk rate, while also ranking in the top five in yards per target and yards per reception at 5.29 and 7.4 respectively. Add in a +20% pressure rate and over 100 total tackles in just 13 games, Tremaine deserves to be mentioned among the best LBs in the game.
4. TJ Edwards (Last Season: Unranked)
PFF Grade: 84.8 (2nd)
TJ has become one of the best undrafted players in all of football, and had a terrific 4th year with the Eagles. He posted a 15.38% tackle rate, while also dominating in pass coverage, allowing just 4.69 yards per target, the lowest among all LBs. Additionally, he had a 10% ball hawk rate and amassed a pressure rate of 42.31%, hitting the QB on nearly half of those pressures. He did it all for Philly, and pairs up with another top-5 LB from this season in Chicago.
3. Roquan Smith (Last Season: #5)
PFF Grade: 70.6 (25th)
This man is an animal. He wasn't great at the start of the year with the Bears, but from Week 9 on, after being traded to the Ravens, he had a defensive grade of 84.7, tied for 3rd highest among all LBs in the league - and ranked in the top 20 out of all defenders. His play elevated the Ravens defense from mid-tier to top 5 after his arrival, and made jobs easier for guys like Patrick Queen and Kyle Hamilton. Overall, Roquan recorded 62 stops, tied for 3rd most in the league, and had 3 INTs with 2 pass breakups; another standout season for the All-Pro.
Photo: Rob Carr/GettyImages
2. Fred Warner (Last Season: #10)
PFF Grade: 83.7 (4th)
After dropping on last years' list, Fred pops back up into the top 3 this season. Yes, he was surrounded by great talent, but he makes the 49ers defense click. He shut down the run by posting 60 stops and an 88.5 run defense grade, and he took away passing lanes by allowing a 65.5% completion rate, the lowest among all eligible LBs. Add in a pick and 5 pass breakups, Fred had another stellar season to catapult the 49ers to the #1 defense in the league.
1. Bobby Wagner (Last Season: #11)
PFF Grade: 90.7 (1st)
After leaving Seattle, Bobby proved he's still got it. He missed just 2.9% of his tackles, and ranked in the top 7 in impact tackle rate (30.43%), target rate (9.06%), ball hawk rate (10.42%), and pressures (20). He played at a high level in the run game, rushing the passer, and playing in coverage. If you aren't convinced yet, he was one of only two LBs to register a 75+ grade in run defense, coverage, and pass rushing - TJ Edwards was the other. Bobby rediscovered his stride this season, and was the best LB in the game.
Photo: Kyusung Gong/Associated Press
Some guys who missed the cut were Germaine Pratt, Frankie Luvu, Bobby Okereke, and Ja'Whuan Bentley. All were great in one or two phases, but didn't outperform those who made the list. I also wanna shoutout Jahlani Tavai, who missed 0 tackles on 570 snaps, and had an impact tackle rate of 35.09%, the highest mark among all LBs.
Tune in next time as we cover the top 12 running backs from 2022!