2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (2024)

The ranking season rolls on at FTN Fantasy, as we get closer to the start of the 2024 NFL season. Teams are working through OTAs, trying to figure out their starting lineups and 53-man rosters heading into the season.

This week, our focus will shift to the linebacker position. Like the defensive line, each team will run a different configuration of linebackers depending on their base defense. That means some teams will have excellent edge rushing players while others will utilize off-ball linebackers to primarily clean up in the run game and provide coverage over the middle of the field. Check out the top linebacker groups heading into the 2024 season below.

Track our whole position group rankings series: Offensive Line | Pass-Catcher | Defensive Line | Backfield | more to come!

Sign Up Today!

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (Base: 3-4)

OLB: T.J. Watt, ILB: Patrick Queen, ILB: Elandon Roberts, OLB: Alex Highsmith

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (1)

Pittsburgh comes into the 2024 season with the top linebacking groups thanks to a blend of their edge rushing talent along with a key offseason acquisition on the second level. The tandem of T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith finished 2023 with a PFF grade above 90.0, a pass rush grade above 86.0 and a run defense grade above 79.0. They combined to generate 155 pressures and 26.0 sacks (19.0 by Watt).

However, it was a free-agent move that pushed them to the top of this list. Inside linebacker Patrick Queen brings some much-needed speed and playmaking ability to this defense as a true three-down linebacker. Queen had 133 total tackles, 46 stops and 3.5 sacks in 2023. He also added a 74.8 PFF grade in coverage. He will join either Elandon Roberts (72.5 PFF grade and 101 tackles) or Cole Holcomb (54 tackles) from the 2023 unit.

The Steelers also have a wild card at interior linebacker in 2024 third-round pick Payton Wilson. Wilson is a first-round talent with several red flags in his medical profile. He finished 2023 with career-highs in total tackles (138), tackles for loss (17.5), sacks (6.0) and interceptions (3). He may not have the same longevity as other players in the class, but he can make an immediate impact on this defense.

Regardless of who earns the final starting job, the Steelers have an above-average player at three of their four linebacker positions with depth to ensure against injuries. This unit should dominate the NFL once again in 2024 assuming they are healthy.

2. Minnesota Vikings (3-4)

OLB: Jonathan Greenard, ILB: Blake Cashman, ILB: Ivan Pace Jr., OLB: Dallas Turner

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (2)

The Vikings chose to overhaul their defense heading into 2024, letting veteran talents like Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum go in the offseason. Instead, they injected their linebacking corps with a bit more youth while also maintaining some veteran experience.

Minnesota attacked the outside linebacker position hard in free agency, signing Jonathan Greenard from Houston and Andrew Van Ginkel from Miami. Greenard is coming off his best professional season, racking up 12.5 sacks and a 78.2 PFF grade. He’s a well-rounded defender who can play both the pass and run and should be the team’s strong-side edge rusher. Van Ginkel has been a rotational player for most of his career but got an extended run with Miami last year due to injury. He has at least 4.0 sacks in three of his last four seasons with a career-high (6.0) last season.

Arguably the biggest addition to the team was an unexpected one when Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner fell to the 17th pick of the 2024 NFL Draft. Turner had an 89.3 PFF grade in his final season thanks to 11.0 sacks and 33 hurries in his final season in Tuscaloosa. He was arguably the most explosive edge rusher in this class and will immediately add punch to this defense.

On the interior, Minnesota will combine the exceptional play of rookie UDFA linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (102 tackles, 15 pressures and 2.5 sacks as a rookie) with the steady veteran ability of Blake Cashman. Cashman had his best season with the Texans in 2023, racking up 106 tackles and finishing with a career-best 83.7 PFF grade. He’s also added 5.0 sacks over his last two seasons.

Since transitioning to a 3-4 defense, the Vikings have placed an onus on their linebacking group. That is once again the case in 2024 as this is arguably the deepest group in the NFL. They can easily claim the top spot if Greenard and Pace can build off their strong 2023 seasons with Dallas Turner making an immediate impact in his first season.

3. Los Angeles Chargers (3-4)

OLB: Joey Bosa, ILB: Denzel Perryman, ILB: Junior Colson, OLB: Khalil Mack

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (3)

The Chargers have a strong linebacking group driven by their talented edges Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack. Ultimately, this team needs that duo to stay as healthy as possible to remain in the top three of this ranking.

Last year, the injury bug bit Joey Bosa. He was limited to just 320 snaps in 2023 due to a foot injury. However, when he was on the field, he still showed he was an elite pass rusher, racking up 6.5 sacks and 24 pressures on just 208 pass rush snaps. In his absence, Khalil Mack showed that he should still be regarded as one of the best edge players in the NFL. Mack finished 2023 with a 91.8 PFF grade thanks to 17.0 sacks and 88 pressures generated. He also racked up 74 tackles (an absurd number for an edge rusher) and recorded 52 stops. The Chargers also identified a diamond in the rough in Tuli Tuipulotu, who finished his first season with 4.5 sacks and 51 pressures playing in relief of Bosa.

The Chargers elected to replace their entire off-ball linebacking group with an established veteran and a rookie familiar with Jim Harbaugh. First, the team added Denzel Perryman in free agency after a solid season. The veteran linebacker has lost a step in recent years but still finished 2023 with 76 total tackles on the Houston Texans. He’s an experienced veteran who can still fill well in the run game, even if he is a liability in the passing game at this point. The Chargers also dipped into the linebacker pool in the draft, selecting former Harbaugh recruit Junior Colson from Michigan. The rookie had back-to-back seasons with PFF grades above 75.0 and 60-plus tackles.

4. New York Jets (4-3)

WLB: Quincy Williams, MLB: C.J. Mosley, SLB: Jamien Sherwood*

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (4)

The stellar play of the Jets’ off-ball linebacking duo puts them in lofty status, jumping over several teams that feature premier edge rushers. New York primarily plays two off-ball linebackers, with Quincy Williams and C.J. Mosley patrolling the middle of the field. That duo finished 2023 with PFF grades above 81.0 and a combined 291 tackles, 140 stops and 2.5 sacks. Additionally, each player had a PFF coverage grade above 88.0. The Jets don’t need to rely on their linebackers as blitzers given their stable of pass rushers on the defensive line, which allows Williams and Mosley to play free and fast on the second level.

If either player were to get hurt, Jamien Sherwood would be able to step in and play well. The veteran linebacker finished 2023 with 46 tackles and 10 stops while recording a PFF grade of 76.1. He doesn’t get many chances to show his skill given the health of Williams and Mosley, but when he is on the field he’s able to make an impact.

It is hard to find a more impactful off-ball linebacker group than this one coming into the 2024 season, especially with the talent this team also has along their defensive line. It will be difficult for the Jets to climb much higher in this ranking as a 4-3 defense, but this ranking shows the respect their linebackers deserve.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4)

OLB: Josh Allen, ILB: Devin Lloyd, ILB: Foyesade Oluokun, OLB: Travon Walker

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (5)

The Jaguars come in strong on this list thanks to their ability to retain veteran edge rusher Josh Allen this offseason. Allen was justifiably rewarded coming off a career-best season that saw him rack up 90 pressures and 17.5 sacks. Allen also posted the most tackles for loss (17) in a season in his career. Jacksonville also got a better second season from 2022 first-round pick Travon Walker. The second-year edge posted 10.0 sacks and 59 pressures working across from Josh Allen.

The unsung hero of this defense is veteran interior linebacker Foyesade Oluokun. Oluokun doesn’t get much recognition around the NFL, but he’s arguably the best-tackling linebacker in football at this time. 2023 was his third consecutive season with at least 173 tackles, 100 solo tackles, 2.0 sacks and 5 passes defensed. His strong play on the interior has also helped Devin Lloyd develop into a strong linebacker. Lloyd improved massively in 2023, increasing his PFF grade from 48.1 to 78.1 while logging 127 total tackles. Lloyd still has room to grow and could take another step as he continues to learn how to harness his considerable athleticism at the NFL level.

If Lloyd and Walker can take another step in 2024, then this could become the best linebacker group in the NFL given their ability to generate pressure on the edges and the athleticism and tackling they feature on the interior.

6. Kansas City Chiefs (4-3)

WLB: Drue Tranquill, MLB: Nick Bolton, SLB: Leo Chenal*

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (6)

The Chiefs’ linebacking group was a highlight of this team in 2023. Drue Tranquill was acquired to be a pass-down specialist but ended up earning a major role on the defense. He started 8 games for Kansas City, posting 78 tackles and 4.5 sacks in a coverage-heavy role. Kansas City also got an excellent season from second-year linebacker Leo Chenal in an expanded role.

Chenal’s playing time jumped from a 23% snap share in 2022 to a 41% snap share in 2023. He responded with 65 tackles, 3.0 sacks and 8.0 tackles for loss while starting 10 games. Chenal will likely be off the field in nickel packages (two linebackers and five defensive backs), but he should continue to see his role grow in year three.

Kansas City also returns a solid veteran middle linebacker in veteran Nick Bolton. Bolton finished 2023 with a 76.7-run defense grade and had 60 tackles in the middle of the defense. He doesn’t offer much in coverage (60.2 coverage grade) but is a downhill tackler who coordinates the defense.

This will once again be a good group that can be great assuming Chenal continues his upward trajectory as a complete linebacker. It is hard to see them climbing higher on this list unless the group can generate more turnovers or pressure in the passing attack.

7. New York Giants (3-4)

OLB: Kayvon Thibodeaux, ILB: Bobby Okereke, ILB: Micah McFadden, OLB: Brian Burns

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (7)

The Giants return three of four starters from last year’s solid linebacker group. However, it was their big offseason acquisition, former Carolina Panther Brian Burns, who pushed this group into the top 10.

Burns (8.0 sacks and 40 pressures in 2023) forms an excellent tandem with third-year edge Kayvon Thibodeaux for the Giants. The former Panther had a down year compared to seasons past in terms of pressures and sacks, but that is to be expected when you’re one of the only players to gameplan against on defense. Burns will benefit from teams having to stop Thibodeaux (11.5 sacks and 43 pressures in 2023), which should result in more one-on-one matchups in 2024.

The Giants also have discovered a solid interior linebacking pairing going forward. Bobby Okereke continued his excellent level of play (149 tackles and 2.5 sacks) as an all-around linebacker who specializes in pass coverage (82.5 coverage grade). But second-year interior backer Micah McFadden took a major step in 2023. The former Indiana Hoosier saw massive leaps in his PFF grade (65.6) and tackle totals (101) in his second season. He doesn’t offer much in coverage, but he’s an excellent complement to Okereke’s strengths.

New York also features depth across the linebacker position. Azeez Ojulari hasn’t been able to stay healthy since being a second-round pick in 2021 but has shown the ability to generate pressures (86 on 840 career pass-rushing snaps) when healthy. The team also has depth at inside linebacker with Swiss army knife defender Isaiah Simmons. Simmons played just 378 snaps as a rotational player last season but posted career-highs in PFF grade (68.9) and coverage (82.7) in his first season with the team.

If Burns can get back to his double-digit sack form and Thibodeaux can shore up issues as a run defender (52.3 PFF grade in 2023), then there is no reason why this group can’t ascend into the top three.

8. Baltimore Ravens (3-4)

OLB: Odafe Oweh, ILB: Roquan Smith, ILB: Trenton Simpson, OLB: Kyle Van Noy

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (8)

The Ravens continued to find excellent production out of their linebacker group in 2023, but this unit will be missing some key contributors in 2024. Given how well Baltimore can identify defensive talent, that probably won’t be a big deal.

First, Baltimore will need the combination of Odafe Oweh and Kyle Van Noy to translate their partial roles in 2023 into more production after letting Jadeveon Clowney walk in free agency. Odafe and Van Noy did well last season, combining for 99 pressures and 14.0 sacks. There isn’t as much depth behind them next season (unless 2023 second-round pick David Ojabo is finally healthy), which makes their growth and consistency essential.

The Ravens also return Roquan Smith (158 tackles and one interception) in the middle of the defense, but they let long-time veteran Patrick Queen walk. That means that 2023 third-round pick Trenton Simpson will need to be ready to produce after essentially taking a redshirt year in 2023. Simpson logged just 46 snaps, finishing with 13 tackles and a 76.1 PFF grade.

The starters for this defense were very talented in limited roles last year, so their ability to develop will be crucial to a Ravens team that is known for having a fearsome defense. Baltimore has far less depth than they are accustomed to on defense, so their health will also be the deciding factor in just how high they can climb (or fall) on this list.

Learn More

9. Seattle Seahawks (3-4)

OLB: Boye Mafe, ILB: Tyrel Dodson, ILB: Jerome Baker, OLB: Uchenna Nwosu

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (9)

The Seahawks invested heavily in off-ball linebackers this season, bringing Tyrel Dodson and Jerome Baker into the fold during free agency. Dodson started a career-high 10 games in 2023 due to injuries in Buffalo and had a stellar season, finishing with an 89.5 PFF grade while recording career highs in tackles (74) and sacks (2.5). Seattle will get to see if that production is repeatable in 2024. Additionally, former Miami Dolphin Jerome Baker had just 78 tackles in 13 games before suffering a knee injury. He’s one of the better coverage linebackers in today’s NFL, posting a 74.4 coverage grade in 2023.

Seattle will hope to get a fully healthy season from their edge tandem of Boye Mafe and Uchenna Nwosu in 2024. Mafe held up his end of the bargain in 2023, finishing with 9.0 sacks and 52 tackles while posting career-highs in PFF grade (73.9) and pass rush grade (77.8). Unfortunately, the team didn’t get much from Uchenna Nwosu before he suffered a torn pectoral muscle. The veteran had 2.0 sacks and 14 pressures on 163 pass rush snaps before the injury.

The Seahawks will once again be relying on the health of this group after not investing in depth during the draft. If Mafe and Nwosu can stay healthy, this could be a top-five unit. However, any injuries could be catastrophic once again in 2024.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)

OLB: Bryce Huff, ILB: Nakobe Dean, ILB: Devin White, OLB: Josh Sweat

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (10)

The Eagles remain one of the deepest and most talented linebacker groups in the NFL despite making several moves this offseason. The Eagles traded away Haason Reddick this offseason, opting to get younger in free agency with Bryce Huff. Huff was at his best in the Jets’ deep rotation last season (67 pressures and 10.0 sacks) but has never played more than 481 snaps in a season. He will pair up with Josh Sweat (68 pressures and 6.5 sacks in 2023) to form the new pass-rushing duo for Philadelphia.

Things are far less settled on the interior. 2022 third-round pick Nakobe Dean continued to struggle with injuries in his second season, playing just 130 snaps before suffering a Lisfranc injury. He was highly effective (30 tackles on 182 snaps) and showed his range, but he’s now had his growth stymied by injuries for two straight years. The Eagles will also hope they can resurrect the career of veteran linebacker Devin White. White has struggled with consistency over the years (46.0 PFF grade in 2023) but still puts up strong counting stats (83 tackles in 2023) thanks to his superior athleticism.

The Eagles also have great depth on the edge, returning veterans Brandon Graham (30 pressures on 248 pass-rushing snaps) and 2023 first-round pick Nolan Smith (nine pressures and two sacks on 96 pass-rushing snaps). Both players can be relied on to provide explosiveness off the edge, keeping Huff and Sweat fresh throughout games.

The Eagles are slightly handicapped by their interior linebackers, but if that group can gel (and stay on the field) in 2024 then they can easily push into the top-5 groups in the NFL.

11. Miami Dolphins (3-4)

OLB: Jaelan Phillips, ILB: David Long Jr., ILB: Jordyn Brooks, OLB: Bradley Chubb

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (11)

Having the Dolphins this high on this list is a nod to the talent they have on their roster, not necessarily the talent they will have available in 2024. Both “starting” edge rushers listed above suffered major injuries during 2023 that could impact their availability in 2024. Jaelan Phillips played just 366 snaps before suffering a torn Achilles but still produced 43 tackles, 6.5 sacks and 27 pressures in that limited time. Bradley Chubb was on his way to a career year, racking up 11.0 sacks and 79 pressures (and an 88.8 PFF grade) before suffering a torn ACL in Week 18.

Miami deserves credit for using the offseason to try and mitigate those losses, signing Shaquil Barrett and drafting Chop Robinson in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft. Barrett has lost a step but can still be productive as evidenced by his 52 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2023. Robinson, the Penn State edge rusher, didn’t have a big statistical output but lit the combine on fire with his size and freakish athleticism. He posted a 92.3 pass-rush grade in his final college season but generated just 3.0 sacks. He will need time to develop but will likely be thrown in the fire to start the season.

Miami also dipped into the free agent market to sign Jordyn Brooks as their primary lead interior linebacker. Brooks didn’t miss any time last season after suffering a torn ACL in 2022 and wound up having another impactful season, racking up 111 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He should be even better another year removed from his knee injury. He will form a nice tandem with David Long (113 tackles in 2023), who is an excellent downhill thumper and limited in coverage.

If Phillips and Chubb can make a quick return to their 2023 form, then this unit has all of the potential in the world and arguably the best edge depth in the NFL. However, that outcome seems unlikely, which makes them a fringe top-10 unit this year.

12. San Francisco 49ers (4-3)

WLB: De’Vondre Campbell*, MLB: Fred Warner, SLB: Dre Greenlaw

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (12)

The 49ers would probably be the top 4-3 defense in terms of talent had Dre Greenlaw not torn his Achilles during the Super Bowl. Greenlaw just put together his second consecutive season with 120-plus tackles and a PFF grade above 73.0. Greenlaw is a well-rounded off-ball linebacker, and his time out recovering from the injury will have a significant impact on the defense.

Even without Greenlaw, this will be a very good linebacker unit. Fred Warner (90.2 PFF grade) racked up 132 tackles with 2.5 sacks while functioning as arguably the league’s best coverage linebacker. Warner has four straight seasons with at least an 80.0 PFF grade and a 79.0 coverage grade. San Francisco also brought experienced linebacker De’Vondre Campbell in to try and offset the loss of Greenlaw. Campbell is still solid (65.3 PFF grade), but he lacks the range of Greenlaw. He struggled with injuries over the last two seasons but can still be productive when he’s on the field.

If Greenlaw can return quickly and with little drop-off in play, this unit will climb the ranks. However, that seems like a big ask for an Achilles injury during the Super Bowl.

13. Washington Commanders (4-3)

WLB: Jamin Davis*, MLB: Bobby Wagner, SLB: Frankie Luvu

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (13)

The Commanders outsourced their linebacking corps this offseason for Dan Quinn’s first year with the team. Given the importance of the position in his defense, it is a decision that makes a lot of sense.

Washington targeted Bobby Wagner to man the middle of their defense in 2024. Wagner was as good as ever in his age-33 season, racking up a career-high 183 tackles in his return to Seattle. The veteran has lost a step in coverage (60.0 PFF grade) but is a true three-down linebacker with the intelligence to continue to be productive. He will pair with former Carolina Panther Frankie Luvu on the second level. Luvu has the athleticism to thrive in coverage and grew immensely in his second season as a starter, racking up 125 tackles and 5.5 sacks. The veteran can play in coverage and is in the conversation for the best pass-rushing off-ball linebacker in the NFL.

The Commanders also return former first-round pick Jamin Davis. Davis has struggled to live up to his status as a first-rounder, but he’s still been productive throughout his career. He has consecutive seasons with 89 tackles and 3.0 sacks. He will likely come off the field in passing situations due to his struggles in coverage, but he also provides solid depth on the second level.

There aren’t many paths to Washington climbing into the top eight units in 2024, but this is an experienced unit of productive veterans with complementary play styles.

14. Las Vegas Raiders (4-2-5)

WLB: Robert Spillane, MLB: Divine Deablo

The Raiders play a 4-2-5 defense, relying strictly on two off-ball linebackers to play on all three downs. Thankfully, the Raiders have two of the better off-ball linebackers to roam the middle of their defense.

Both Robert Spillane (77.0 PFF grade) and Divine Deablo (60.6 PFF grade) are excellent in the run game and as coverage linebackers. The duo combined for 154 tackles, 4.5 sacks, three interceptions (all by Spillane) and six passes defensed. They are as reliable as they come on the second level of the defense.

The Raiders have solid depth behind their starters in Luke Masterson (50 career tackles on 526 career snaps) and 2024 fifth-round pick Tommy Eichenberg. The three-year starter at Ohio State had at least 57 tackles in each of the last two seasons.

The Raiders probably don’t have the talent to jump into the top 10 of this list, but they are a unit that should be in the upper half of the NFL for most of the season.

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)

OLB: Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, ILB: K.J. Britt, ILB: Lavonte David, OLB: Yaya Diaby

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (14)

The Buccaneers moved on from edge rusher Shaquil Barrett this offseason, which means it is time for their highly drafted edge rushing talent to take a step forward. That begins with 2022 first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka.

Tryon-Shoyinka has hardly been bad, posting at least 4.0 sacks in each of his first three seasons. However, his explosiveness has not translated into the production expected of a former first-round pick. Thankfully, 2023 third-round pick Yaya Diaby was able to pick up the slack last season. Diaby thrived as a situational edge rusher, leading the team in sacks (7.5) and finishing fourth in pressures (30) despite playing just 590 snaps. He will need to remain productive in an expanded role in 2024. Tampa Bay also drafted less heralded Alabama edge rusher Chris Braswell in the 2024 second round. He posted 13.0 sacks and finished with an 87.9 pass-rush grade across from Dallas Turner in 2023.

Tampa Bay let Devin White leave in free agency, leaving Lavonte David as the leader of this unit. David has seven straight seasons with a PFF grade above 72.0. The veteran also has over 100 tackles in 10 of his last 12 seasons while forcing at least one fumble in 11 straight years. He will be joined by K.J. Britt on the interior, a veteran who was limited by back and calf injuries in 2023. Britt played just 160 snaps but finished with a 79.3 PFF grade thanks to a 77.0 coverage grade.

Tampa Bay is a unit where every outcome is on the table. If Tryon-Shoyinka, Diaby and Braswell can form a strong pass-rushing trio, this group could rise considerably. However, if that group stagnates as players, then this group can drop into the bottom half of this list.

16. Green Bay Packers (4-2-5)

WLB: Quay Walker, MLB: Edgerrin Cooper

Green Bay’s shift to a 4-2-5 defense has a big impact on this team’s ranking at the linebacker position, since off-ball linebacker hasn’t been a position of strength for Green Bay despite the high draft capital the team has poured into the group.

2022 first-round pick Quay Walker has been fine as a run stuffer, generating 239 tackles over his first two seasons. However, he’s yet to record a PFF grade above 59.0 due to his limitations in coverage which is disappointing given his athleticism. The Packers will hope they got it right this year after using a 2024 second-round pick on Edgerrin Cooper. Cooper was billed as the top linebacker in this class given his prototypical size (6-foot-3 and 230 pounds) and athleticism. He had an 85.0-plus grade as a run defender, pass rusher and in coverage last season. He also had over 50 tackles in each of his last two seasons at Texas A&M.

Green Bay also has solid depth despite letting veteran De’Vondre Campbell leave in free agency. Isaiah McDuffie proved in 2023 that he can provide starter-level snaps after registering 86 tackles on a career-high 551 snaps last season.

Cooper may be a transformative talent in the middle of this defense which would allow Quay Walker the freedom to play in a more attacking role. It won’t take long for the Packers to climb this list if those two can complement each other well.

Sign Up Today!

17. Chicago Bears (4-3)

WLB: T.J. Edwards, MLB: Tremaine Edmunds, SLB: Jack Sanborn*

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (15)

Chicago invested heavily in the linebacking group before the 2023 season and received mixed results. T.J. Edwards showed that his first season in Philadelphia as a full-time linebacker was not an aberration, posting his second straight season with at least 1,000 snaps played and PFF run defense, pass rush and coverage grades above 71.0. In each of those seasons, he produced at least 155 tackles and 2.0 sacks. Edwards has been excellent in coverage throughout his career and was rewarded with three interceptions during his first year with the Bears.

Unfortunately, the Bears did not get the same results from Tremaine Edmunds. Edmunds dropped to a 56.6 PFF grade in 2023 after a career-high 81.9 in 2022. The veteran linebacker did have his most tackles since 2021 (113) as the middle linebacker and tied for the team lead in interceptions (4) but needs to be more consistent. He has the size and speed to thrive as the Tampa 2 middle linebacker in Matt Eberflus’ defense.

Chicago also has a solid contributor as the strongside linebacker in former Wisconsin UDFA Jack Sanborn. Sanborn has played just 742 snaps over two career seasons but is solid as a tackler and is decent in coverage. He’s earned a 67.3 or higher PFF grade in each of the last two years.

If Tremaine Edmunds can return to his 2022 form next season, this unit could jump up considerably. However, if 2023 is what he is, then it will be difficult for this group to keep a foothold inside the top 15 linebacker units.

18. Cleveland Browns (4-3)

WLB: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, MLB: Jordan Hicks, SLB: Devin Bush*

Cleveland has gotten solid play from homegrown talents like Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Sione Takitaki and Anthony Walker over the last few seasons. In 2024, the team will hopefully utilize talented free-agent acquisitions to take the linebacker group to the next level.

The Browns are hoping that the signing of veteran Jordan Hicks will allow Cleveland to continue using Owusu-Koramoah as a versatile movement piece on defense. Hicks just completed his ninth season in the NFL with very little dropoff in production. In 2023, he completed his fifth straight season with at least 107 tackles. He’s also recorded at least 1.0 sacks and one interception in four of the last five years. While he’s lost a step, he’s still an effective three-down linebacker. The team also signed Devin Bush after he saw minimal playing time due to Jordyn Brooks’ quick recovery from a 2022 ACL injury. Bush is still chasing his excellent rookie season (109 tackles and two interceptions) and will likely be a depth piece on defense.

The best piece of this group is the versatile skillset of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who has seemingly found a home as the team’s weakside linebacker. 589 of Owusu-Koramoah’s 756 snaps came as an off-ball linebacker, which freed him up to record a career-high in tackles (101) while posting the second-best PFF grade of his career (75.3). The team also used him as an edge rusher for 104 snaps, which is where he got the bulk of his pressures (16) and sacks (2.5). He also had two interceptions in coverage.

Cleveland will hope that having a reliable veteran in the middle of the defense will allow them to fully unlock Owusu-Koramoah’s versatility on defense. If that happens, this is a top-15 group going forward.

19. Buffalo Bills (4-2-5)

WLB: Matt Milano, MLB: Terrell Bernard

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (16)

Buffalo realized just how crucial Matt Milano is to their linebacking group in 2023 after he suffered a season-ending injury just five games into 2023. Milano was mostly a coverage player early in his career but has blossomed into a true three-down linebacker. He should be ready to start the 2024 season on the field, but there is some risk of missed time after suffering a broken leg.

The Bills were able to mitigate his loss thanks to a big season from long-time reserve Tyrel Dodson, who posted a 90.2 PFF grade on 589 snaps. Unfortunately, the team was forced to let him walk in free agency due to their cap situation.

The good news for the Bills is that Terrell Bernard made a huge leap in his second year after playing just 111 snaps as a rookie. Bernard finished his second year with a 65.9 PFF grade, recording 143 tackles and 6.5 sacks while replacing Tremaine Edmunds in the middle of the defense.

The Bills do have insurance policies if Milano struggles to get back to full health. Veteran linebacker Nicholas Morrow had a solid season with the Eagles in 2023, finishing with 95 tackles. Buffalo will also hope that Dorian Williams can figure out the coverage issues that kept him off the field in his first season. Despite the loss of Morrow, Williams played just 238 snaps and finished with a 52.9 PFF grade.

This grade hinges on the health of Milano to start the season. A healthy return likely fortifies this unit and allows the team to enter 2024 with excellent depth. It is hard to argue they belong in the top 15 today, but there is a path they can get there if everything goes their way.

20. New England Patriots (3-4)

OLB: Matthew Judon, ILB: Ja’Whaun Bentley, ILB: Jahlani Tavai, OLB: Josh Uche

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (17)

New England has decided to return the core pieces from a 2023 unit that fell short due to injuries and a lack of development.

The Patriots got just 184 snaps from Matthew Judon before a torn bicep tendon ended his season. Judon was on his way to a career year, recording 15 tackles, 4.0 sacks and 16 pressures on just 94 pass-rush snaps through his first four games. His loss had a ripple effect on the entire defensive unit.

Judon’s injury forced the Patriots to rotate three different players to make up production. The combination of Anfernee Jennings, Josh Uche and Deatrich Wise Jr. combined to generate 94 pressures and 9.0 sacks, but only one player (Jennings) had a PFF grade above 58.0. Only Uche had a pass rush grade above 60.0.

New England is in far better shape with their interior linebacker group. Both Ja’Whaun Bentley (65.8 PFF grade) and Jahlani Tavai (86.6 PFF grade) had strong 2023 seasons, combining for 224 tackles and 10 tackles for loss. Tavai also finished tied for first on the team in interceptions (2) while Bentley finished tied for second in sacks (4.5). The Patriots also have an interesting backup in 2023 third-round pick Marte Mapu, a converted safety with the size and speed to develop into a game-changing linebacker. He struggled to make the leap from the Division 1AA level in 2023 (50.0 PFF grade on 204 snaps) but could factor into this unit now that he has a year of experience under his belt.

New England’s defense hinges on the health of Matthew Judon. If he’s able to play the entire season, then this unit should be very good. However, a continued (or different) stretch of missed games will put more pressure on the rest of this group, which will lead to struggles again in 2024.

21. Denver Broncos (3-4)

OLB: Baron Browning, ILB: Cody Barton, ILB: Alex Singleton, OLB: Jonathon Cooper

Denver’s linebacking group has the highest growth potential of any team in this area of the list in 2024.

The projected starting tandem of Baron Browning (74.5 PFF grade) and Jonathon Cooper (65.2) were excellent at rushing the quarterback in 2023. The duo combined for 90 pressures and 13.0 sacks while also totaling 97 tackles. Denver also has another toolsy edge rusher, 2022 second-round pick Nik Bonitto, waiting in the wings in case of injury or ineffectiveness. Bonitto was a situational rusher in 2023 (524 snaps) but finished second on the team in sacks (8.0) on just 276 pass-rushing snaps. He needs work as a run defender, but his ability to get after the quarterback cannot be ignored.

The Broncos feature two steady veterans at the inside linebacker position to round out the group. Alex Singleton had a career-high 177 tackles in 2023, his fourth straight season with 120-plus tackles. He doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher or in coverage, but he makes the plays that he’s asked to make. Denver also added Cody Barton to the team to work alongside Singleton in 2024. Barton has been a starter in Seattle and Washington the last two seasons, accruing 257 tackles, 2.0 sacks and three interceptions during that time. He should be able to mitigate some of Singleton’s issues in the passing attack.

Denver was certainly hoping that second-year interior linebacker Drew Sanders would play a bigger role, but an offseason Achilles injury certainly made an impact. Still, this is a team that features a rotation of young pass rushers and solid interior linebackers. If those edge players can make a leap this season, then the top 15 isn’t out of the question for this unit.

22. Los Angeles Rams (3-4)

OLB: Jared Verse, ILB: Christian Rozeboom, ILB: Ernest Jones IV, OLB: Byron Young

The Rams found a gem in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft in Tennessee’s Byron Young. Young finished his rookie season with the second most pressures (50) and sacks (8.0). He was also top five on the team in tackles (61) and tackles for loss (8). His development will be crucial for a team looking for consistent pressure without Aaron Donald.

Los Angeles also used the draft in 2024 to fortify their edge-rushing talent, selecting Florida State’s Jared Verse in the first round. Verse had three straight seasons with a PFF grade above 82.0, including a 2023 season that saw him post career highs in sacks (11.0) and hurries (36). He also had a 90.8 pass-rush grade in his final collegiate season and will have an opportunity to see immediate playing time with the Rams. Veteran edge rusher Michael Hoecht (39 pressures and 6.0 sacks in 2023) can provide some stability if Verse needs time to acclimate.

Interior linebacker Ernest Jones IV took a major step in his third season, generating 145 tackles and 4.5 sacks while setting career-highs in PFF grade (82.1), run defense grade (90.0) and pass rush grade (78.2). He will be joined by Christian Rozeboom, a below-average starter who had a 49.0 PFF grade in 2023 despite having 79 tackles and an interception.

Ultimately, this group’s ranking hinges on how well Verse can play across from Young. If he struggles to adjust to the NFL level, then it could be a very long first season without Aaron Donald for the Rams.

23. New Orleans Saints (4-3)

WLB: Pete Werner, MLB: Demario Davis, SLB: Willie Gay

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (18)

Demario Davis should be in the conversation for being the best off-ball linebacker in the NFL. Davis just finished his 12th NFL season with arguably the best performance of his career. In 2023, Davis logged 121 total tackles and 6.5 sacks while posting a PFF grade, run defense grade, pass defense-grade, tackling grade, and coverage grade above 73.0 for the second time in his career. The veteran now has seven consecutive seasons with 105 or more tackles and 3.0 or more sacks.

Unfortunately for New Orleans, Pete Werner was unable to make the same impact in 2023 as he did in 2022 in an expanded role. Werner set a career high in snaps played (919) but regressed in defensive grade (57.5) and in coverage (47.6) in a bigger role. Werner did increase his tackles to 93, but that isn’t very impressive considering he played almost 400 more snaps last season than he did in 2022.

The Saints also added Willie Gay, a solid veteran with marginal athletic skills, as their third linebacker. Gay was limited by injuries in 2023 but never did much to stand out during his tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs. He had just two seasons with 50-plus tackles despite playing over 1,900 career snaps. He does have 5.0 career sacks and four career interceptions, which gives him some application on passing downs.

This ranking is almost solely fueled by the excellence of Demario Davis. However, this team can be in trouble if he starts to show his age without improvements from Werner and Gay surrounding him.

24. Dallas Cowboys (4-2-5)

WLB: Damone Clark, MLB: Eric Kendricks

The Cowboys defense utilizes just two off-ball linebackers on the field. Unfortunately for them, the options on the roster haven’t been very good at the NFL level.

Last year, Dallas’ starting linebackers were decimated by injury. Projected starter Damone Clark was able to play in all 17 games but logged just 782 snaps out of a potential 1,014 snaps on defense. That was a massive improvement over his injury-riddled 2022 rookie season (398 snaps played), but far from perfect. The second-year linebacker has 156 career tackles on 1,180 snaps played but doesn’t have much impact outside of filling run lanes.

Dallas also signed Eric Kendricks in free agency. Kendricks has his injury risks but is coming off his best season since 2020 in his lone season with the Chargers. Kendricks posted his best PFF grade (72.3) since 2020 and set career highs in tackling grade (83.4) and pass rush (82.5). He’s lost a bit of speed after nine seasons, but he’s still adequate in coverage.

The Cowboys also will hope that 2023 third-round pick DeMarvion Overshown can bounce back from a preseason knee injury that cost him his rookie season. Overshown was a twitchy athlete who was likely going to be a key part of the linebacker group in 2023 before going down.

This group needs a lot of growth to climb the linebacker rankings but has interesting young pieces that can be difference-makers if they can take a developmental step.

Check Out Our Dynasty Offerings

25. Carolina Panthers (3-4)

OLB: Jadeveon Clowney, ILB: Shaq Thompson, ILB: Josey Jewell, OLB: D.J. Wonnum

The Panthers will enter 2024 with a major hole in their defense after trading away Brian Burns this offseason. Weirdly, their offseason moves suggest that this unit could be better despite losing arguably the best player on the team.

The only returner from 2023 is inside linebacker Shaq Thompson, who was limited to just 68 plays in 2023 thanks to a broken fibula. Thompson was coming off two straight seasons with a 72-plus PFF grade and has made great improvements as a run defender. Hopefully, he will return at full strength and ready to stabilize this defense.

Everybody else in the linebacking corps will be new to Carolina in 2024. Carolina targeted inside linebacker Josey Jewell in free agency to replace do-it-all linebacker Frankie Luvu. Jewell has a history of injury struggles but has shown that he can be a consistent presence in the run game when he’s on the field. He has over 108 tackles and 2.0 sacks in three of his last four seasons when healthy.

Carolina will also hope that the veteran combination of Jadeveon Clowney and D.J. Wonnum can combine to replace what the team lost in Burns. Clowney has never developed into a game-changing defensive end, but he’s been as consistent as anyone throughout his 10-year career. He finished 2023 as Baltimore’s highest-graded defender (85.7 PFF grade) and has 20.5 sacks over his last three seasons. The team will also hope that 26-year-old D.J. Wonnum can build upon his career year with Minnesota in 2023. Wonnum tied his career-high in sacks (8.0) and set a new career-high in tackles (62) playing across from Danielle Hunter last season. He has been inconsistent throughout this career but is an upgrade over Yetur Gross-Matos.

The Panthers are hoping that a trio of veteran free agents can elevate the floor of their defense. However, this unit lacks a sizable ceiling now that Brian Burns and Frankie Luvu have moved on. At best, this should be a good, not great, unit in 2024.

26. Indianapolis Colts (4-3)

WLB: E.J. Speed, MLB: Zaire Franklin, SLB: Ronnie Harrison Jr.*

Based on counting stats, this will seem like a low rating for the Colts. The starting combination of E.J. Speed and Zaire Franklin combined for 281 tackles in 2023 (179 by Franklin). However, neither player has much of an impact aside from cleaning up tackles.

The duo combined for just 2.5 sacks and 10 passes defended in 2023. Neither player had a PFF grade above 65.0 thanks to poor tackling grades. Both Speed (15.7% missed tackle rate) and Franklin (12.9% missed tackle rate) struggled with consistency last season. Additionally, both players are just gap-filling run defenders with little application in coverage or as pass rushers.

The Colts also have converted safety, Ronnie Harrison Jr., for sub packages, but he played just over 350 snaps just twice in his six-year career. He is far from dependable, but he is at least able to offset the limitations of Speed and Franklin in coverage.

Ultimately, this is a linebacker group that is good at tackling thanks to the volume of opportunities but offers little else to bolster the defense around them.

27. Tennessee Titans (3-4)

OLB: Harold Landry III, ILB: Jack Gibbens, ILB: Kenneth Murray, OLB: Arden Key

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (19)

The Titans enter 2024 with just one trustworthy piece on this defense: edge rusher Harold Landry III.

Landry missed the entire 2022 season due to a torn ACL but showed little rust in his return to football in 2023. Landry posted his second consecutive season with at least 70 tackles and 10.5 sacks while finishing second on the Titans in pressures (47) in 2023. He has never had a season with a PFF grade below 63.0 in his career and has developed into a well-rounded edge defender. The Titans will hope that they have uncovered a solid complement to him in Arden Key. Key has bounced around as a rotational player for the last four seasons, playing with the Raiders, 49ers, Jaguars and Titans. However, he had his best collective season in 2023, suggesting that he may have finally found a home. Key tied a career-high in tackles (30) and had his second most sacks (6.0) in his first season in Tennessee while playing the most snaps in his career (727). He also had his third straight season with at least a 69.0 PFF grade and a 73.0 pass rush grade.

The Titans are hoping that they can cobble together the interior linebacker position. 2022 UDFA Jack Gibbens got an extended look in 2023 and played well in his 628 snaps. He finished with a 71.0 or higher in PFF grade, run defense, tackling grade and pass rush and finished second on the team in tackles with 95. Tennessee let leading tackler Azeez Al-Shaair walk and is hoping that free agent acquisition Kenneth Murray can fill the void. Murray has been inconsistent to start his career, never finishing with a PFF grade above 53.0 in his four professional seasons. He’s a below-average run defender with solid speed and athleticism. He tied his career high in tackles in 2023 (107) while setting career highs in sacks (3.0) and passes defensed (4).

It is hard to see a way for this unit to push its way into the top 20 given the talent they have on paper unless Arden Key can finally translate his tools into production.

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (20)

28. Arizona Cardinals (3-4)

OLB: Zaven Collins, ILB: Kyzir White, ILB: Krys Barnes, OLB: BJ Ojulari

The Cardinals desperately need their highly drafted talent to translate into better production in 2024.

2021 first-round pick Zaven Collins entered the NFL as a size/speed specimen without a true positional home. After struggling as an off-ball linebacker to start his career, Collins was transitioned to play as an edge rusher in Jonathan Gannon’s system. The results were promising. Collins had a career-high PFF grade (72.1) while generating 30 pressures and 3.5 sacks. The team also got a solid season from rookie edge rusher B.J. Ojulari. Ojulari lacked refinement coming into the NFL but had professional-level traits. He played just 409 snaps as a rookie but finished fifth on the team in pressures (20) and second in sacks (4.0). If either player struggles, then Dennis Gardeck (6.0 sacks and 42 pressures on 242 pass-rushing snaps) and Victor Dimukeje (24 pressures and 4.0 sacks) can provide solid play.

Arizona will be returning two solid veterans at inside linebacker, Kyzir White and Krys Barnes. Both White and Barnes missed significant stretches of the season with injuries in 2023 but still found a way to finish top-five in tackles on the team (90 for White and 55 for Barnes). Neither player should be considered an impact player, but both are solid contributors when they’re on the field.

The Cardinals don’t have much-proven talent in this unit but have an interesting blend of experience and high-upside youth that can be extremely boom or bust. It wouldn’t be shocking to see this team get close to the top 15 if everything goes their way, but it also wouldn’t be surprising to see them drop to the bottom with another year of injuries or stagnation.

29. Cincinnati Bengals (4-2-5)

WLB: Germaine Pratt, MLB: Logan Wilson

The Bengals linebacking duo of Germaine Pratt and Logan Wilson aren’t getting any younger and were unable to keep up the pace from their strong 2022 seasons. Both players finished with PFF grades below 64.0 in 2023 by regressing in every PFF category (run defense, tackling, pass rush and coverage). The duo was still solid in terms of counting stats (253 tackles, 3.0 sacks and 6 interceptions).

Both Pratt and Wilson can be categorized as above-average starters who fill their role in the defense well, but neither player should be considered a game-changing talent. This is just a solid group that lacks a ceiling, which works well given the talent Cincinnati has in the trenches in front of them.

30. Detroit Lions (4-3)

WLB: Alex Anzalone, MLB: Jack Campbell, SLB: Derrick Barnes*

For the Lions to make this ranking look foolish, 2023 first-round pick Jack Campbell needs to become the dynamic linebacker he was billed as coming out of the University of Iowa. Campbell was on the field inconsistently in his first season, playing just 637 snaps. He had a solid tackle total (95), but did little else to impact the game, especially in passing situations. He has all the physical gifts and tools to grow into a true three-down linebacker, but it needs to happen in Year 2.

Thankfully, the Lions continue to get excellent production from weakside linebacker Alex Anzalone. Over his last two seasons with Detroit, Anzalone has impacted games in a variety of ways. He’s racked up 154 tackles and 4.5 sacks over the last two seasons while accruing 12 passes defensed. He also has 14 tackles for loss during that span while generating 46 pressures. Anzalone took a big step in 2023, finishing with PFF grades above 65.0 in run defense, pass rush, coverage and overall grade.

The team also has Derrick Barnes as a third linebacker/depth piece. Barnes finally had a mostly healthy season (704 snaps) and showed that he is a solid run defender (69.0 run defense grade) with limitations in the passing game.

If Campbell can harness his physical tools in a meaningful way during his second season, then Detroit can easily jump into the top 20 this season. However, if his first season was just what we can expect from him at the NFL level, this team doesn’t have the impact players at the linebacker position to move much higher than this.

31. Atlanta Falcons (3-4)

OLB: Arnold Ebiketie, ILB: Kaden Elliss, ILB: Troy Anderson, OLB: Lorenzo Carter

Atlanta chose to bypass all of the top edge rushers in this class with their top-10 pick, which leaves them returning a unit that wasn’t especially good in 2023 as their starters in 2024.

First, the positive. Kaden Elliss got his first taste of being a full-time starter in Atlanta after playing well in spurts as a reserve with the New Orleans Saints. Elliss finished the season with a 75.4 PFF grade, showing his skill as a run defender (79.0 grade) and his acumen as a tackler (79.3 grade). He finished second on the team in tackles (122) and also fourth in sacks (4.0) as an off-ball linebacker. Another positive was the improvements as a pass rusher by 2022 second-round pick Arnold Ebiketie. Ebiketie was used as a situational pass rusher in 2023, finishing with 28 pressures and 6.0 sacks. He will need that production can grow with his role on the edge.

Atlanta will ultimately be decided between Troy Anderson and Nate Landman for their other interior linebacker role. Anderson’s 2023 season was cut short due to injury (139 snaps), but he’s shown the ability to rack up tackles when he’s on the field (58 tackles on 620 career snaps). Landman, a 2022 UDFA, played well in his absence (72.0 PFF grade), racking up 110 tackles. He’s able to put up solid stats in the run game but is limited in coverage.

The Falcons don’t have much juice when it comes to their other edge rusher. Lorenzo Carter is a solid player but has just 157 pressures and 21.5 sacks on 1,683 career pass-rushing snaps. He’s a good strong-side edge who can play the run, but he needs to be more versatile. 2024 third-round pick Bralen Trice is a powerful disruptor as a power rusher. He was productive in college (17.0 sacks over the last two seasons), but he’s a limited athlete with an excellent motor who needs to work to get to the quarterback. That prototype doesn’t always play at the NFL level.

Ultimately, Atlanta let their two most productive edge players in 2023 walk in free agency without making a meaningful move to replace them. That puts far more pressure on unproven players to elevate their game. That is a dangerous bet to make.

32. Houston Texans (4-3)

WLB: Henry To’oTo’o, MLB: Azeez Al-Shaair, SLB: Christian Harris*

Houston enters the season as the worst linebacker group in the NFL after letting tackling machine Blake Cashman walk in free agency and replacing him with a downgrade at the position.

The Texans return two contributors from their 2023-unit, Henry To’oTo’o and Christian Harris. That duo combined to produce 162 tackles and 2.0 sacks (both by Harris). Neither player finished the 2023 season with a PFF grade above 60.0 and each had a missed tackle rate above 16.0%.

New acquisition Azeez Al-Shaair was mostly a role player for the 49ers before joining the Titans in 2023. He’s proven to be a solid player (four straight seasons with a PFF grade between 61.0 and 68.0) but struggled to earn consistent playing time. He did well with the Titans in 2023, leading the team in tackles (163) while registering 2.0 sacks. However, he isn’t as good of a player as Cashman and will need to be to overcome the lack of talent surrounding him.

It is hard to imagine a way that this group finds its way into the top 25 units of the NFL in 2024 unless To’oTo’o or Harris transforms into a completely different player.

2024 Linebacker Unit Rankings (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Reed Wilderman

Last Updated:

Views: 5816

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (72 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Reed Wilderman

Birthday: 1992-06-14

Address: 998 Estell Village, Lake Oscarberg, SD 48713-6877

Phone: +21813267449721

Job: Technology Engineer

Hobby: Swimming, Do it yourself, Beekeeping, Lapidary, Cosplaying, Hiking, Graffiti

Introduction: My name is Reed Wilderman, I am a faithful, bright, lucky, adventurous, lively, rich, vast person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.