NFL LB Rankings 2024: Fred Warner, Roquan Smith, Matt Milano Lead the Way

    Who are the best linebackers in the NFL? PFN's NFL LB rankings stack the top 32 linebackers heading into the 2024 campaign.

    Who are the best linebackers in the NFL? In this exercise, we’ll rank the top 32 off-ball linebackers in the league. As such, we won’t include players like Micah Parsons or T.J. Watt, who primarily rush opposing passers and are considered edge defenders.

    Here are Pro Football Network’s NFL LB rankings, beginning with a player who’s been the league’s best second-level defender for multiple seasons.

    Offense: QBRB | WR | TE
    Defense: DT | EDGE | CB | S

    Who Is the Best Linebacker in the NFL?

    Note: None of the linebackers selected in the 2024 NFL Draft made this list, as there isn’t enough data. However, we’ve added a section highlighting some of the more notable rookies at the end.

    1) Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers

    A three-time All-Pro and the leader of one of the league’s best defenses, Fred Warner is the best linebacker in the NFL heading into 2024.

    Warner was a Day 1 starter for the 49ers after entering the league as a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He’s the perfect modern linebacker thanks to his ability to cover any type of receiver, take on blockers against the run, and blitz from the second level.

    In addition, Warner is always available. He’s taken nearly every snap for San Francisco during the past six years, missing just one game.

    NFL LB Rankings | 2-15

    2) Roquan Smith, Baltimore Ravens

    Roquan Smith was always an elite linebacker with the Chicago Bears, but he took his game to another level after being traded to the Ravens in 2022. Smith became a first-team All-Pro upon his arrival in Baltimore, while the Ravens’ defense vaulted into the conversation for the best unit in the league.

    Smith, the No. 8 overall pick in 2018, can do just about everything. He’s physical in the run game and can shed blockers as well as any linebacker. Smith is also a savant at reading route combinations and disrupting passing lanes, thanks to his outstanding football intelligence.

    There’s a reason he’s the highest-paid off-ball LB in the sport.

    3) Matt Milano, Buffalo Bills

    Matt Milano is the NFL’s poster child for safety-to-linebacker converts. While it took some time for Milano to become consistent in the box, his production has become undeniable.

    Milano has always been a solid coverage defender because of his defensive back history. He possesses excellent reactionary athleticism to mirror tight ends and running backs in man coverage while sacrificing little against the run.

    The Bills LB earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2022 after posting 99 tackles, three interceptions, and 11 pass breakups.

    Milano should be ready to return in Week 1 after suffering a season-ending leg fracture last October.

    4) Demario Davis, New Orleans Saints

    A late bloomer in the NFL, Demario Davis has become a genuine force since signing with the Saints in 2019. While he’s entering his age-35 campaign, Davis is still among the most productive linebackers in the league.

    He’s received a first- or second-team All-Pro nod in five consecutive seasons and has been named a Pro Bowler the last two. Few linebackers have a quicker trigger in middle-field coverage than Davis, but he’s also an excellent blitzer. His 6.5 sacks in 2023 ranked second among off-ball linebackers.

    5) Quincy Williams, New York Jets

    No one thought much of the Jets’ decision to claim Quincy Williams off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars in September of 2021. But the former third-round pick has become one of the league’s most productive second-level defenders since joining Gang Green.

    In 2023, Williams led the NFL with 80 defensive stops — tackles that resulted in negative EPA for the offense — according to PFF. But he wasn’t a pure run-stopping linebacker. Williams also finished second among LBs in pass breakups (10) and played the third-most LB snaps from the slot.

    6) C.J. Mosley, New York Jets

    C.J. Mosley and Williams are almost interchangeable in our LB rankings. The Jets, who have the best CB duo in the league, also boast the NFL’s top linebacker tandem.

    Mosley’s career turnaround didn’t always seem inevitable. A groin injury cost him most of his New York debut campaign in 2019, and he opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Mosley struggled upon his return in 2021 but returned to form in 2022 and 2023. He may no longer be the athlete he was with the Ravens, but Mosley is still an outstanding linebacker as he enters his age-32 season.

    7) Frankie Luvu, Washington Commanders

    The only linebacker in our top 10 to change teams this offseason, Frankie Luvu joined the Commanders after starting his career with the Panthers.

    Luvu’s prowess as a blitzer made him one of the best scheme-talent fits of free agency, and we can’t wait to see how he’s deployed in Dan Quinn’s defense.

    Washington also needs locker-room leadership after years of turmoil. Luvu is a former undrafted free agent who spent the first four years of his NFL career as a backup. He’s now earned two NFL extensions.

    8) Dre Greenlaw, San Francisco 49ers

    Williams and Mosley might be the NFL’s best linebacker pairing, but no LB combo has more range than Warner and Greenlaw. Another converted safety, Greenlaw has helped Warner patrol the middle of the field in San Francisco.

    Greenlaw’s only concern is injuries. He missed all but three games in 2021 after suffering a groin injury. Greenlaw tore his Achilles in February’s Super Bowl, putting his status for Week 1 of the 2024 season in doubt.

    9) Bobby Okereke, New York Giants

    The Giants were desperate for linebacker help when they signed Bobby Okereke to a four-year deal in 2023, and the former Indianapolis Colt was everything Big Blue could have hoped for.

    Okereke stabilized the second level of New York’s defense, setting career highs in snaps (1,128), pass deflections (10), forced fumbles (four), and sacks (2.5).

    10) T.J. Edwards, Chicago Bears

    T.J. Edwards wasn’t drafted in 2019. He’s certainly not an elite athlete. And yet, he’s become a highly productive linebacker for both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Bears.

    Edwards has been more impressive than fellow 2023 Chicago free agent addition Tremaine Edmunds, who failed to make our top 15.

    11) Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    While Lavonte David is already 34, he’s shown few signs of slowing down. The three-time All-Pro has racked up 100+ tackles in six of his past seven seasons, demonstrating his seemingly never-ending capabilities as a read-and-react linebacker.

    David’s uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time probably means he will always be a solid coverage defender.

    12) Ernest Jones, Los Angeles Rams

    The Rams have become wizards at drafting and developing mid-round defenders, and Ernest Jones is Exhibit A.

    The former third-round pick posted the best season of his career in 2023, posting more pressures (37) than any other LB in the NFL. Jones also improved in coverage, breaking up four passes and allowing zero TDs on 52 targets in 2023.

    13) Nick Bolton, Kansas City Chiefs

    Nick Bolton got unlucky with injuries in 2023, missing three games due to a sprained ankle and four because of a dislocated wrist. He returned for the playoffs and made a game-high 13 tackles in Super Bowl LVIII.

    When healthy, he’s one of the Chiefs’ best defensive players. Bolton is a natural-born playmaker against the run, but he also provides value in the passing game because of his coverage intelligence.

    14) Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns

    While Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah’s stature (6’2″, 221 pounds) might get him pigeonholed as a coverage-only LB, he improved as a run defender and pass rusher in 2023. His 20 tackles for loss ranked first among linebackers, as did his 12.9% run-stop rate.

    Owusu-Koramoah also set a career-high with 3.5 sacks while making his first Pro Bowl last season.

    15) Patrick Queen, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Patrick Queen didn’t come close to fulfilling his first-round draft billing until the Ravens acquired Roquan Smith in 2022, which allowed Queen to thrive while playing downhill. Can he keep it up now that he’s playing for the division-rival Steelers?

    Queen’s availability might be one of his best skills. He’s never missed a game during his NFL career. In 2023, Queen played more snaps (1,246) than any ‘backer in the league.

    NFL LB Rankings | 16-32

    16) Drue Tranquill, Kansas City Chiefs
    17) Bobby Wagner, Washington Commanders
    18) Tremaine Edmunds, Chicago Bears
    19) Blake Cashman, Minnesota Vikings
    20) Alex Anzalone, Detroit Lions
    21) Ivan Pace Jr., Minnesota Vikings
    22) Azeez Al-Shaair, Houston Texans
    23) Foyesade Oluokun, Jacksonville Jaguars
    24) Logan Wilson, Cincinnati Bengals
    24) Kyzir White, Arizona Cardinals
    25) Jordan Hicks, Cleveland Browns
    26) Eric Kendricks, Dallas Cowboys
    27) Ja’Whaun Bentley, New England Patriots
    28) Kaden Elliss, Atlanta Falcons
    29) David Long Jr., Miami Dolphins
    30) Robert Spillane, Las Vegas Raiders
    31) Shaq Thompson, Carolina Panthers
    32) Devin Lloyd, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Unranked Rookie Safeties

    • Edgerrin Cooper, Green Bay Packers
      The Packers needed so much LB help after cutting De’Vondre Campbell that they used a second-round pick on Edgerrin Cooper before double-dipping with Missouri linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper in Round 4. Cooper should have the upper hand to start alongside Quay Walker.
    • Junior Colson, Los Angeles Chargers
      Of course Jim Harbaugh drafted Junior Colson, who was his former pupil at Michigan. The Chargers have Denzel Perryman and Daiyan Henley ahead of Colson, but the third-round choice could quickly emerge as a Week 1 starter for a talent-deprived Bolts defense.
    • Payton Wilson, Pittsburgh Steelers
      While a few other LBs were chosen ahead of Payton Wilson, the NC State product has a clear path to starting duties for the Steelers. Cole Holcomb is recovering from a severe knee injury, while Elandon Roberts is a career backup. Wilson should become a starter alongside Patrick Queen in due time.

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