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Top 10 NFL Best Middle Linebackers of All Time Rankings

Ranking the best Middle Linebackers of All Time in the NFL such as Ray Lewis, Mike Singletary, and many more


By admin | October 23, 2021

Before we get into the Best Middle Linebackers of All Time Rankings let’s getting into the position. The quarterback position is long known to be the field general on the offensive side of the ball and the one position that handles the play calling duties. However, it is often looked past how important the middle linebacker position is to the defensive side of the ball with many teams using this position to help command the defense. With this responsibility and how important the game has evolved, the MLB position has produced many great players over the years. 

From the likes of Mike Singletary to Nick Bouniconti to Chuck Bednarik to Ray Lewis, the middle linebacker position is loaded with talent making the top choice a difficult selection. With that said, here is our list of the Top 10 Best Middle Linebackers of All-Time

Honorable Mention

Willie Lanier

Team(s): Kansas City Chiefs

After being selected during the 1967 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs out of Morgan State, Willie Lanier helped solidify the Kansas City Chiefs defense. This is in route to becoming one of the best middle linebackers to play the position.

During his playing days he helped lead the Chiefs to win Super Bowl IV 23-7 over the Minnesota Vikings. That is a game that many gave the Chiefs zero chance of winning. Over his career, Lanier made a name for himself for his aggressive tackling abilities earning him the nickname “Contact”. 

Bill George

Team(s): Chicago Bears & Los Angeles Rams

The Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams middle linebacker, Bill George is the one single man that is known for creating the middle linebacker position. George was known for his ability to play the defensive line. Not only that but as well as dropping back disrupting the passing lanes of opposing quarterbacks.

George racked up 18 career interceptions over his career while helping lead the Bears to the 1963 NFL Championship. Over his career, George was an eight time Pro Bowler and eight time First Team All-Pro.

Top 10 Best Middle Linebackers of All-Time

10. Patrick Willis

Team(s): San Francisco 49ers

A name that may have been slotted inside of the top five on the list of middle linebackers if his career was longer is the former San Francisco 49ers great Patrick Willis. Willis, who the 49ers selected during the 2007 NFL draft was as good as any middle linebacker to play the position. He was gifted with all the athletic abilities to stop the run. Also to cover running backs and tight ends in passing situations and one that could get to the quarterback.

Willis’ career was cut short due to injuries but his legacy on the field is known. Over his career Willis racked up 865 tackles to go with 20.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles and eight interceptions.

In addition, Willis was the 2007 Defensive Rookie of the Year. He led the NFL in tackles in two different seasons, was a seven time Pro Bowler and a five time First Team All-Pro.

9. Nick Buoniconti

Team(s): Boston Patriots & Miami Dolphins

After being considered by most teams too small, the Boston Patriots selected Nick Buoniconti with the team’s 13th round selection. Once drafted, Buoniconti became one of the team’s best defensive players despite his lack of size.

Buoniconti would go on to register 32 interceptions over his career between the AFL and NFL. During his AFL career, Buoniconti earned six AFL All-Star honors and five First Team All-AFL.

His production continued in the NFL where he was a two time Pro Bowler and two time Super Bowl Champion. This is both with the Miami Dolphins while earning the Dolphins team MVP award in three different seasons.

8. Brian Urlacher

Team(s): Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears middle linebacker is just one of many great middle linebackers that have played in the NFL and for the team.

Urlacher was the leader of the Bears defense from 2000 to 2012. This is while winning the 2000 Defensive Rookie of the Year award and the 2005 Defensive Player of the Year award.

Over his career, Urlacher was an eight time Pro Bowler and four time First Team All-Pro. This is while racking up 1,086 tackles, 41.5 sacks and 22 interceptions. Urlacher recorded at least 100 tackles nine times over his career including a career high 153 during the 2002 NFL season.

7. Junior Seau

Team(s): San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins & New England Patriots

Junior Seau was one of the best players of his generation. He was also one of the best middle linebackers to ever play the game. His play on the field was filled with passion and talent that helped him become one of the best.

Seau recorded 1,849 career tackles over his career to go along with 56.5 sacks, 11 forced fumbles and 18 interceptions. His production on the field helped earn Seau a Defensive Player of the Year award. He was selected to the Pro Bowl team in 12 straight seasons.

In addition, Seau was named First Team All-Pro in six different seasons including three straight from 1992 to 1994.

6. Chuck Bednarik

Team(s): Philadelphia Eagles

On the football field Chuck Bednarik was one of the toughest players to play the game and possibly the best tackler to set forth on a football field.

Bednarik, who the Philadelphia Eagles selected with the first overall pick in the 1949 NFL Draft, helped build the Eagles into a defensive power house.

Over his career, Bednarick helped guide the Eagles to two NFL Championships. This is while being named to eight Pro Bowl teams and selected eight times as a First Team All-Pro.

5. Dick Butkus

Team(s): Chicago Bears

When considering great middle linebackers it is hard to look past another Chicago Bear All-Pro who racked up a pretty solid NFL career.

After being selected with the third overall pick, Butkus would go on to make eight Pro Bowl teams during his nine year career. On the field, Butkus recorded 22 career interceptions to go along with 27 fumble recoveries.

In addition, his play at the position earned him five selections as a First Team All-Pro and helped him win the 1969 and 1970 Defensive Player of the Year awards.

4. Jack Lambert

Team(s): Pittsburgh Steelers

It is hard to look past Jack Lambert as one of the Top 10 Middle Linebackers All-Time based on his career resume and his play on the football field.

Lambert, who the Pittsburgh Steelers selected with the 46th pick during the 1974 NFL draft, showcased his abilities during his rookie season in route to helping solidify the Steelers defense and winning Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

In addition, his production would not slow as he helped from the Steelers “Steel Curtain” defense and helped lead the Steelers to four Super Bowl Championships. Over his career, Lambert recorded 1,479 career tackles with 28 interceptions and 23.5 career sacks. 

3. Ray Nitschke

Team(s): Green Bay Packers

The former Green Bay Packers middle linebacker was a key member of the team and the leader on the defensive side of the football that helped the Packers win five NFL Championships and Super Bowl I and II Championships.

The Packers were an unstoppable force on both sides of the ball with the defensive playing a key role in the team’s success. Over his career Nitschke would rack up 25 career interceptions while being named First Team All-Pro in 11 different seasons.

2. Mike Singletary

Team(s): Chicago Bears

When it comes to which linebacker should be at the top of the Top 10 Middle Linebackers All-Time, Mike Singletary is well worth consideration for the slot.

The Chicago Bears great was as good of a run stopper as defender against the pass and one player that could play sideline to sideline. Singletary recorded 1,488 career tackles to go along with seven interceptions and 19 sacks over his career.

During his career, Singletary won two Defensive Player of the Year awards, was named to 10 Pro Bowl teams and was selected as a First Team All-Pro in seven different seasons.

1. Ray Lewis

Team(s): Baltimore Ravens

It is hard not to put Ray Lewis at the top of this list as the top Middle Linebacker All-Time. Lewis, who was selected by the Baltimore Ravens with the team’s second first round selection during the 1996 NFL Draft would go on to put together one of the greatest careers of any defensive player to play the game.

The former Miami Hurricanes star was known for his ability to read defenses and his off the field preparation including studying game film to learn about his opponents. Over his career, Lewis helped lead the Ravens to two Super Bowl championships while being named Super Bowl XXXV MVP.

In addition, Lewis was a two time Defensive Player of the Year, seven time First Team All-Pro and a 13 time Pro Bowler. Lewis recorded 2,059 career tackles, 41.5 sacks, 31 interceptions and forced 17 fumbles. 

How would you rank the best Middle Linebackers of All Time in the NFL? Rank below to be added in the NFL Power Rankings.

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Players Count 10
  1. Nick Buoniconti

    MLB All-Time
  2. Patrick Willis

    MLB All-Time
  3. Bill George

    MLB All-Time
  4. Willie Lanier

    MLB All-Time
  5. Brian Urlacher

    MLB All-Time
  6. Ray Lewis

    MLB All-Time
  7. Mike Singletary

    MLB All-Time
  8. Ray Nitschke

    MLB All-Time
  9. Jack Lambert

    MLB All-Time
  10. Dick Butkus

    MLB All-Time
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