Top 10 in 2014: The best inside linebackers in the NFL today

Credit: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports

Typically speaking, sports fans tend to worry about two things – the past and the future. They’ll debate who was the greatest player of all-time, while also spending hours discussing whether or not a rookie is going to be develop into an All-Pro.

Both are fun exercises, things that keep fans engaged and the beer flowing at the local tavern. But they miss out on what is most important – the present.

Forget about yesterday. Never mind tomorrow. Let’s talk about today.

Who are the best players in the NFL right now? Who can help a team win the Super Bowl this season? Who is writing a legacy with each passing week?

Those are the questions the editors at cover32 seek to answer in this series, “Top 10 in 2014.” In the coming weeks, every position – as well as head coach, general manager and other off-field areas – will be graded, evaluated and ranked.

The series continues with a position that has become less important today than it was 15 or 20 years ago – inside linebacker. At one point in NFL history, when stopping the run was the No. 1 objective of every defense, the men who played this position were stars. Names like Dick Butkus, Ray Nitschke and Jack Lambert were synonymous with toughness on the football field. But now, they’ve been overshadowed by pass rushers and cornerbacks. But as the “quarterback of the defense,” they still play a role in the game. Having a good one certainly doesn’t hurt.

Let the debate begin!


10. A.J. Hawk

Green Bay Packers v Baltimore Ravens
Hawk has been steady in the middle for the Packers

In his eight seasons since coming out of Ohio State, Hawk has been steady – but not great – in the middle of the Packers defense. Never earning a trip to the Pro Bowl, let alone garnering All-NFL honors, certainly isn’t what anyone had in mind for the No. 5 overall pick in 2006. But what Hawk lacks in sizzle, he makes up for in consistency; he’s on the field game in and game out in Green Bay.

9. Karlos Dansby

Arizona hated to see Dansby leave for Cleveland

There’s a reason why the Cardinals hated to see Dansby leave during the offseason via free agency, as he’s been a central figure in their success in recent years. When he left for a three-year stint in Miami, Arizona’s fortunes took a nosedive; and when he returned in 2013, they suddenly were a team on the rise. But ultimately, the Cards couldn’t keep this playmaking middle linebacker in town, losing him to Cleveland.


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  • Joel

    I get it. It’s just a list, but not one Seahawk in the top 10 for any position in the front seven? Doesn’t pass the sniff test.

  • Me

    Patrick Willis went to Ole Miss…where are guys like Bobby Wagner, Derrick Johnson, Lawrence Timmons, heck even David Harris could have a case made for him. Freeman had one good season and Jackson has been oft-injured his whole career, and A.J. Hawk?? This is one list I really don’t understand.

  • Seahawksfan99

    The credibility of this list is shot in many ways. I don’t care who you are, Luke Kueckly is the best ILB in the game. Hands down no discussion. Bowman & Willis are too 10 but they also benefit from playing together. Is Wagner a top 10? No! Does he fit where he’s at? Absolutely! I will take that over some dudes opinion on who the top 10 are. You can have your lists. The Seahawks are in very good position for a Super Bowl Re-Pete.


    Trying to figure out why Lawerence Timmons is not on this list……AJ HAWK are you kidding me????????

  • Football Fan

    I am scared for whoever wrote this because I think they might lose their job. Where is the NFL tackle leader Vontaze Burfict on this list? Also what about Lawrence Timmons? I suggest watching NFL football before you make a list of their players.

  • Joseph

    Donald Butler has to be top 10

  • Dan

    Probably the most disappointing of your lists. AJ Hawk is on here but Sean Lee isn’t? You even say Hawk has been “steady – but not great”. Steady makes this list? Glad to see Posluszny get some recognition but Bobby Wagner should also be here if I had to throw another name out.