“That’s thirty minutes away. I’ll be there in ten.”
– The Wolf, Pulp Fiction (1994)
NFL analysts, experts, players, etc. have been releasing their own rankings for the top players in the NFL. The NFL Network just released their Top 100 that is voted on by the players. Also, Mike Miller at Bleacher Report has been coming out with his own rankings of the Top 1,000 players in the NFL.
I decided to create my own version of this, but I’m going to put it together by position (except punters and fullbacks because nobody cares about them) and it’ll only be 100 players. I’m not even sure I can name 1,000 people that I know in the real world let alone the NFL. I’m also going to add honorable mentions and what I like to call the “Rising Star” of each position. Another thing I added when creating these lists is that the players have to currently be on a team. No free agents.
Today’s post involves 4-3 outside linebackers. A 4-3 outside linebacker is found in a 4-3 defense, obviously. Their main job is to stop the run. They’re not the edge rushers of a 4-3 defense, so they’re not known for racking up numbers in the sack category. Even though they’re not edge rushers they still add a decent amount of pressure on the quarterback. Here’s my list of the top 4-3 outside linebackers:
Rising Star: Devon Kennard, New York Giants
2014 stats: 43 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles
Kennard was only a rookie last season. The former fifth round draft pick played in 12 total games for the Giants. His playing time increased later in the season, starting six of the final seven games. It took Kennard some time to develop, but he looks like he’s going to be a pretty good player for New York.
Honorable Mention: Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys
2014 stats: N/A
Lee suffered a torn ACL last season that caused him to miss the entire season. After Rolando McClain filled Lee’s middle linebacker position well last season, Dallas has recently moved Lee to outside linebacker. This should help Lee because his natural position is a 3-4 inside linebacker, which is pretty much the same position as a 4-3 outside linebacker. I probably have Lee too high on this list since he’s coming off a major injury, but I’ve always been a fan of Lee as a player. Lee has a total of 294 career tackles and 7.5 sacks. He’s also good in coverage as he has 11 interceptions in his five seasons.
Top 5 4-3 Outside Linebackers:
5. Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati Bengals
2014 stats: 29 total tackles
Burfict only played in seven games last year before suffering a knee injury that placed him on the Injured Reserve list, ending his 2014 season early. In the previous two seasons, Burfict played in all 32 games, recorded 298 total tackles, and 4 sacks. Burfict was a Pro Bowler and was named First-team All-Pro in 2013. He has his issues off the field, but I’ve found him to be a good player. If he has a great bounce back season this year then he’ll be higher on this list next year.
4. DeAndre Levy, Detroit Lions
2014 stats: 151 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one interception
Levy has been a great player for the Lions since getting drafted in 2009. In his six seasons, Levy has 618 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 12 interceptions. He’s hit his stride the last two seasons, starting every game. Levy is also great in coverage. In 2013, Levy had 15 passes deflected and six interceptions. Levy helped lead that Detroit Lions defense to be one of the best in the NFL last season. He was named Second-team All-Pro last year.
3. Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers
2014 stats: 100 total tackles and 2.5 sacks
Davis has an incredible story about how he was raised and what it took for him to be in the NFL. Davis has had three straight seasons with 100+ tackles. Pro Football Focus named Davis Second-team All-Pro last season. He has a career 728 total tackles and 17.5 sacks. He was also named Walter Payton Man of the Year last year. Davis is getting up there in age, 32, but he’s still playing at the top of his game.
2. Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders
2014 stats: 76 total tackles, 4 sacks, and one forced fumble
A lot of people are ready to say Mack is the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL. I’m not ready to say that yet. Mack had a great season, but he was just a rookie. I’ve never thought Mack fit the profile of a 4-3 outside linebacker, but that’s the defense that Oakland runs. He’s an edge rusher and should be in a 3-4 defense. I’m not ready to give him the top spot yet. I have to see more. The top spot will go to Mack eventually because he’s an absolute stud, but not this year.
1. Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2014 stats: 146 total tackles, one sack, and four forced fumbles
This pick might surprise some people, but I think David is one of the best-kept secrets in the NFL. Real football fans know that David is a star player, but most probably don’t know who he is. Familiarize yourself with him, he’s a baller.
David has made an instant impact in the NFL since getting drafted in 2012. The former second round pick has started a total of 46 games for Tampa while also having over 100 total tackles in every season he’s been in the NFL. David has a career 425 total tackles, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles, and six interceptions. David was also named First-team All-Pro in 2013.
All stats from: http://www.nfl.com/stats/player
Tomorrow: Top 5 Left Tackles
Thanks for reading
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