Movie Quote of the Day:
“Check out my name tag. You’re in my world now, Grandma.”
– Hal, Happy Gilmore (1996)
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 list involves 3-4 outside linebackers. A 3-4 outside linebacker has almost the exact same responsibilities as a 4-3 defensive end. Their job is to rush the quarterback and get sacks. Both positions are edge rushers, and can be used interchangeably in those defenses, in my opinion. Here’s my list:
Rising Star: Aaron Lynch, San Francisco 49ers
2014 stats: 23 total tackles and six sacks
Lynch was only a rookie and was an instant contributor to the 49ers defense. When Aldon Smith missed over half of the season due to suspension, Lynch was expected to help with the depth at outside linebacker. He only started three games last season, but he made his presence known when he was on the field. For a backup, I’d say his stats last year were pretty good.
Honorable Mention: Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers
2014 stats: 15 total tackles and two sacks
This might raise some eyebrows for some people. Like I said above, Smith did miss over half of the season due to suspension. He didn’t really make the impact last season like he did in his previous three seasons. Smith made the Pro Bowl in 2012 and was named First-team All-Pro in the same season. The Pro Football Writers of America also named him Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011. Smith has 152 total tackles, 44 sacks, five forced fumbles, and one interception in his career. I expect Smith to have a good bounce back season this year, I used to consider him the best 3-4 outside linebacker before last season.
Top 5 3-4 Outside Linebackers:
5. Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins
2014 stats: 64 total tackles, 13.5 sacks, and five forced fumbles
I don’t know how Kerrigan didn’t make the Pro Bowl last year, but he did receive votes for All-Pro honors. He had his best year so far in his career and was seventh in the league in sacks. Kerrigan hasn’t received many honors except making the Pro Bowl in 2012. He’s had 247 total tackles, 38 sacks, 16 pass deflections, 15 forced fumbles, and two interceptions in his career. Washington used a fifth option to keep Kerrigan with them, they better be hoping to extend his contract before he becomes a free agent next year.
4. Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens
2014 stats: 61 total tackles and 12 sacks
Suggs has had a great career so far, but the reason he’s not higher on this list is because he’s about to turn 33 in October. Suggs is a 6x Pro Bowler (2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2013), First-team All-Pro (2011), and Second-team All-Pro (2008). Both the Associated Press and the Pro Football Writers of America named him Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. Suggs has had 728 total tackles, 106.5 sacks, 27 forced fumbles, and seven interceptions in his career.
3. Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers
2014 stats: 61 total tackles, 11 sacks, two forced fumbles, and one interception
It kills me to not have Matthews at number one on this list because he’s my favorite player in the NFL. However, I’m going to try to remain unbiased. Matthews is a 5x Pro Bowler (2009-2012, and 2014), First-team All-Pro (2010), and Second-team All-Pro (2012). He has 306 total tackles, 61 sacks, and 12 forced fumbles in his six seasons in the NFL. Matthews started to play inside linebacker last season to help with the Packers run defense. After that move, he had more sacks at that position than he did as an edge rusher. It looks like Matthews is going to play another season at inside linebacker for 2015. So, I expect his numbers to decrease this year. Even though he was great at inside linebacker, that’s not his natural position.
2. Von Miller, Denver Broncos
2014 stats: 59 total tackles, 14 sacks, and one forced fumble
Miller had a great bounce back season after tearing being suspended for six games and later tore his ACL in 2013. Miller is a 3x Pro Bowler (2011, 2012, and 2014), First-team All-Pro (2012), and 2x Second-team All-Pro (2011 and 2014). He was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011. Miller has 225 total tackles, 49 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, and one interception in his four NFL seasons. Denver is switching back to a 3-4 defense. Which will put Miller back as an edge rusher, where he belongs.
1. Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs
2014 stats: 69 total tackles, 22 sacks, and four forced fumbles
Houston was just one sack away from breaking the NFL single-season sack record last year. Making him the NFL sack leader last season, obviously. Personally, I had never heard of Houston before last season. Houston just signed a 6-year/$101 million contract extension with Kansas City, making him the highest paid linebacker in NFL history.
Houston has 234 total tackles, 48.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and one interception in only four NFL seasons. He’s a 3x Pro Bowler (2012-2014) and was First-team All-Pro last season. With Tamba Hali getting up there in age, it’s a good thing that Kansas City locked up Houston for the future.
All stats from: http://www.nfl.com/stats/player
Tomorrow: 4-3 Middle Linebackers
Thanks for reading
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