Nov 17, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) reacts during the game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati won 41-20. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Top 10 NFL Outside Linebackers In the League


Outside linebacker vary wildly between scheme, but the stars always stand out in the NFL anyway.  Who are the very best?

#10 – Brian Orakpo – Washington Redskins

The test of many great players is to overcome injury and regain their original, dominant form.  Brian Orakpo endured that trial for the Washington Redskins in 2013 and passed.  Despite putrid coverage from his secondary he produced 10 sacks and his first career interception.

#9 – Tamba Hali – Kansas City Chiefs

Few players have given the hard luck Kansas City Chiefs fans reason to cheer the past few season.  Tamba Hali is one of the happy exceptions.  Since 2010 he has averaged double digit sacks and only missed three games in his entire career.  At age 30 he has some good seasons left.

#8 – Vontaze Burfict – Cincinnati Bengals

Finding great players sometimes takes a leap of faith.  The Cincinnati Bengals took one when they picked up Vontaze Burfict in undrafted free agency.  All he’s done since is make 298 tackles and notch four sacks in two seasons.  He led the NFL in the former last year and is getting better each week.

#7 – Terrell Suggs – Baltimore Ravens

Nobody has helped the Baltimore Ravens maintain defensive excellence more over the past decade than Terrell Suggs.  Three of the last four seasons have produced double digit sacks and his timely return in 2012 from an Achilles injury sparked their run to a Lombardi trophy.

#6 – Robert Mathis – Indianapolis Colts

It really doesn’t seem to matter if it’s defensive end or outside linebacker, Robert Mathis was born and bred to sack quarterbacks.  His 19.5 sacks last season were best in the league.  He has 111 total for his career.  With six Pro Bowls to his credit, it might not be long before the Hall of Fame talk begins.

#5 – Lavonte David – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Forget what he can do.  Is there anything Lavonte David can’t do.  The young linebacker was absolutely everywhere for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013.  For the season he posted 145 tackles, seven sacks and five interceptions.  Such versatility is hard to come by and David is only going to get better now that Lovie Smith is in charge.

#4 – Clay Matthews – Green Bay Packers

The injury concerns are becoming a problem, as are the inconsistency.  Clay Matthews is undoubtedly the best defensive playmaker the Green Bay Packers have and when healthy is a top NFL pass rusher.  Yet having missed 11 games over the past four season, he must prove he can stay on the field and produce to regain the top spot.

#3 – Justin Houston – Kansas City Chiefs

It’s amazing to think Tamba Hali isn’t even the best pass rusher on his own team.  The Kansas City Chiefs have an even better one in Justin Houston who has 21 sacks over the past two years.  This in spite of missing five games.  At age 25 his prime is approaching and there isn’t much offensive tackles can do to stop him.

#2 – Von Miller – Denver Broncos

He might be number one on the list if he had either kept out of trouble or not injured his knee.  That is how good Von Miller is.  Missing seven games hasn’t stopped him from posting a double digit sack average over his first three seasons for the Denver Broncos and overshadows how good he is against the run.

#1 – Aldon Smith – San Francisco 49ers

The major difference between #2 and #1 is the simple fact that Aldon Smith stays healthy.  He, like Miller, has off-the-field issues of his own but he’s such a beast on it for the San Francisco 49ers that he claims the top spot anyway.  With a ridiculous 42 sacks (47.5 counting the playoffs) in three years, he is the best there is at outside linebacker in the NFL.

Tags: Baltimore Ravens Cincinnati Benglas Denver Broncos Green Bay Packers Indianapolis Colts Kansas City Chiefs San Francisco 49ers Tampa Bay Buccaneers Washington Redskins

  • zack smith

    Can’t compare 3-4 and 4-3 outside LBers. 3-4 LB’s are essentially a DE.

    • Erik Lambert

      True but that’s how it works with the Pro Bowl so it should be judged in the same manner. They don’t have separate slots for 3-4 or 4-3. It’s just “outside linebacker.”

  • Nevin Paustian

    Look at Aldon Smith’s stats when Justin Smith isn’t there to occupy both the guard and offensive tackle. He all but disappears.

    • Erik Lambert

      It’s telling but it doesn’t erase the stats. All it says is the 49ers need to make sure they have a presence similar to Smith at end once he’s gone so Aldon can take advantage.

      • Nevin Paustian

        So even though he has shown an inability to beat offensive tackles, he is still the best OLB in the league? In 2012, he literally had went from getting 19.5 sacks over 13 games with justin smith to 0 in the last 3 without him. Not saying he is bad, but I think his numbers are deceiving. You put any of the other 3-4 OLB’s on this list in that defense with justin smith and they would all come up with similiar if not better numbers.

        • RegisHawk

          Agreed. Or, to put it another way, it seems more likely that any semi-capable linebacker would have been made to look good due to Justin Smith’s ability to hold 2 offensive linemen.

          • Erik Lambert

            You say that but who stepped up when Smith was out for five games last season? Corey Lemonier only had one sack. Based on this idea that nobody does anything without Justin on the field, the 49ers sure aren’t the same without Aldon. In the five games he missed, the 49ers had 9.5 sacks. In the five games following his return, they had 15. He is a difference-maker.

          • RegisHawk

            And yet, the fact remains that when Justin is out, Aldon gets nothing. So he can’t be said to be a difference-maker in his own right. He needs Justin Smith to make him so.

  • ThreeOfive Logo Ellis

    I see a alot of derrick brooks in lavonte david!

    • Erik Lambert

      Flies to the football. Definitely a spitting image.

  • Craig Gunther

    Ahmad Brooks anyone?

  • ThreeOfive Logo Ellis

    Gerald McCoy & Michael Johnson in front of David… Remember Sapp & Rice.

  • John Turner

    Clay Mathews gives inconsistent effort? Really? Are we watching the same player? The guy has the highest of motors and never takes off a play……the comment about inconsistency makes no sense…..nor does the comment about injuries becoming a concern makes no sense….he’s broken his thumb twice. second time because he probably came back to soon after the first thumb break. that’s broken bones….want to tell me what a player is supposed to do about avoiding that?????