Projecting the Top 10 for the 2020 NFL Season: Linebackersby Brady Podloski August 26, 2020 0 comments
Every year the NFL Network does its top 100 countdown based on the previous season. However, that’s the past, and we want to look forward to the future. Four of our writers have put together a 14 part series, predicting our top 10 at each position. We’ve also included the most under and overrated at each position. Today, we continue the series with our top 10 linebackers.
10) Demario Davis, New Orleans Saints
Davis is a smart solid linebacker who is always in the right position. Davis doesn’t have the freak athleticism that others on this list have, but he’s got the intelligence and awareness to be around the ball every play. The most impressive part of Davis’ game is his positioning. He is never out of position and doesn’t fall for play-action or misdirection. As well, Davis excels when blitzing and is a reliable tackle. He had just six total missed tackles last year.
9) Deion Jones, Atlanta Falcons
One of the best coverage linebackers in the league, Jones’ range makes him one of the top linebackers. As well, his speed to get to the ball makes him a candidate to lead the league in turnovers. Jones is a playmaker with the ball skills to cause some receivers problems.
8) Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers
The NFL’s best defense wouldn’t be great without a pro bowl linebacker patrolling the second level. While Warner has an excellent front four giving him space, he generates turnovers with his freak athleticism and underrated play recognition. Like Davis, his play recognition and awareness as a young player are astounding. Warner is still improving and very well could be a top-five linebacker at the end of the year.
7) Jaylon Smith, Dallas Cowboys
Imagine letting Smith drop to the second round because of health concerns Smith is a balanced player in terms of his coverage, recognition, and tackling. He’s also an athletic freak, which allows him to recover quickly when he makes a mistake.
6) Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys
Game to game Vander Esch has preformed, making himself a household name for Cowboy fans last year. His play recognition and awareness as a young player are rare, as he’s getting better every year. Vander Esch can get out of position at times, but his length and athletism make up for it. With more experience in the NFL, Vander Esch will continue to get better and crack the top five.
5) Devin Bush, Pittsburgh Steelers
There is nothing Bush can’t do. He’s a great pass rusher with a bevy of moves to get to the passer. He’s a reliable tackler, but it is his explosiveness that makes him elite. His coverage skills got progressively better as the year went on; additionally, the Steelers ask their interior linebackers to take on a lot of responsibility.
4) Eric Kendricks, Minnesota Vikings
The best coverage linebacker in the league, and a passing league it is significant. While I think there are some better tacklers and pass rushers, Kendricks generates turnovers and can stay lined up on one on one with running backs and tight ends with confidence.
3) Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Perennially underrated due to being on a team that doesn’t get much hype. David is elite at everything. His unique quality is his play recognition. One of the Buccaneers prime time games, watch David diagnose the play and be at the ball before anyone. Davis is also one of the best to generate turnovers.
2) Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts
When an athletic freak starts to gain an understanding of play revelation, he becomes a good ballplayer. Leonard is more than that, his reaction skills are elite, and with his speed, the sky is the limit. Also impressive is Leonard range, which allows the Colts defense to draw up exotic blitzes. In essence, Leonard’s play makes others around him better with his speed.
1) Bobby Wagner, Seattle Seahawks
Fans are lucky, we are watching a first-ballot Hall of Famer play. Wagner is the Seattle defense, without him, it would be significantly different. Every part of his game is significant. Wagner is a freak athletically, but who diagnoses plays faster than any other linebacker in the league.
Most Underrated – Myles Jack, Jacksonville Jaguars
Jack has elite talent, but there are some consistency concerns. He was playing out of position in 2019, where he played a more downhill role. With the signing of Joe Schubert, Jack moves back to his natural position and will be able to go sideline to sideline. Overall, look for him to be great on a bad Jacksonville defense.
Most Overrated – C.J. Mosley, New York Jets
Mosley was the highest-paid linebacker in 2019, due to his play with the Ravens defense. While the linebackers are asked to do more in Baltimore, there were better players around him. The level of play isn’t on par in New York, meaning he may not look as good as in Baltimore. Overall, Mosley has talent, but without help, he’ll be asked to do more and inevitably be put in poor positions. After opting out this season, Mosley has a lot to prove in 2021.
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