What is a linebacker? Who are the top NFL linebackers of 2023?
Linebackers are the main tacklers and run defenders on the team. Moreover, they are tasked with a hybrid role and can play either a defensive lineman or a defensive back.
The linebacker position has suffered the most due to efficient and accomplished offensive gameplay evolution. While they have had slight chances of success, some have stood out to become the very best.
So, without delay, let’s look at the Top 12 NFL Linebackers of 2023.
Top 12 NFL Linebackers of 2023
The following list is compiled from trusted sources such as NFL.com and PFF.
Before we dive in deep, let’s first overview the top 12 NFL linebackers of 2023.
|12. Jayon Brown||Tennessee Titans|
|11. Matt Milano||Buffalo Bills|
|10. Alexander Johnson||Denver Broncos|
|9. Dont’a Hightower||New England Patriots|
|8. Roquan Smith||Chicago Bears|
|7. Deion Jones||Atlanta Falcons|
|6. Darius Leonard||Indianapolis Colts|
|5. Demario Davis||New Orleans Saints|
|4. Lavonte David||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|3. Eric Kendricks||Minnesota Vikings|
|2. Fred Warner||San Francisco 49ers|
|1. Bobby Wagner||Seattle Seahawks|
12. Jayon Brown
Starting off our list, Jayon Lee Brown is an American linebacker who plays for the Tennessee Titans.
Before his NFL days, Brown played for UCLA in his collegiate football career. As we step back, the California-born athlete represented the Long Beach Polytechnic High School.
The 28-year-old has emerged as a vital player for the Titans. Over the past couple of seasons, Brown has significantly outplayed Rashaan Evans – the former first-round selection for the Titans.
After signing for the Titans in 2017, Brown got his first NFL start a year later. He instantly made his mark with ten combined tackles and one sack against the Philadelphia Eagles.
With impressive performances down the years, the world of the NFL started taking notice of the strong linebacker. Furthermore, he lived up to his billing with top-notch performances in the previous season.
Not to mention, Brown ranked first among all linebackers in 2020, with an impressive forced incompletion rate of 11.3%.
11. Matt Milano
Matthew Vincent Milano, or Matt Milano, is an American football linebacker who plays for the Buffalo Bills. Milano signed for the Bills on a four-year contract on May 11, 2017.
Before his professional career, Milano represented Boston College in his collegiate career. Unfortunately, no records suggest Matt’s football indulgence during his high school days.
Milano has consistently shown his class and brute strength on the field. Furthermore, his impeccable 2018 and 2019 seasons earned him a 77.3 and 81.9 PFF coverage grade, respectively.
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After performing incredibly for two straight seasons, Milano was raring to showcase his usual best in 2020. But unfortunately, he was sidelined in week 4 with a pectoral injury.
On March 11, 2021, Milano’s signed a four-year extension worth $44 million. Moreover, the Bills hope to bank on their star defensive man for the 2021 season.
10. Alexander Johnson
Born in Gainesville, Georgia, Alexander James Johnson is an American linebacker playing for the Denver Broncos.
Before entering the NFL, Johnson played for the University of Tennessee during his collegiate career. Before that, he attended and played for Gainesville High School.
After being undrafted in 2018, it seemed like Johnson would have to wait a long time before getting picked. However, he remained focused and waited to pounce on an opportunity if it came.
And it did, as Johnson made his first career start in Week 5 of the 2019 season. He hit the ground running, cementing himself as a force to be reckoned with.
The following year in 2, wasn’t as lively as his breakthrough year. Despite that, the 31-year-old still managed to record 58 defensive stops, which is the third-most in the NFL.
9. Dont’a Hightower
Qualin Dont’a Hightower is an American inside linebacker representing the New England Patriots. Widely known for his versatility, Hightower is one of the top NFL linebackers heading into 2023.
Before stepping foot in the NFL, Hightower played for the University of Alabama for his collegiate career, where he collected various accolades during his time at the University of Alabama.
But his love for football began at Marshall County Tigers High School.
In 2012, Hightower made his professional debut. He has not looked back since, winning three super bowls in his nine-year NFL career.
Citing COVID-19 concerns, the 33-year old elected not to play in 2020. The Patriots felt his absence in 2020 but hope his return will ignite their push for [current year].
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8. Roquan Smith
Moving up the list, Roquan Daevon Smith is an American linebacker who plays for the Chicago Bears.
Smith was a star in his collegiate career, showcasing immense talent. The talented linebacker played for the University of Georgia and was named MVP of the 2017 SEC Championship Game.
On the professional front, Smith made his NFL debut in 2018 against the Green Bay Packers. While the then-prodigy was slow off the blocks in NFL, he made his presence felt in the 2020 season.
He earned an 84.0 PFF coverage grade last season. Furthermore, he allowed a mere 75.8 passer rating into his coverage.
On that account, the Bears will be banking on their sturdy linebacker to perform at his best for the 2023 season as well.
7. Deion Jones
Born on November 4, 1994, Deion Jones is an American linebacker representing the Atlanta Falcons.
Before beginning his NFL journey, Jones played for Lousiana State University in his collegiate career. Going back, Deion attended and played for Jesuit High School in New Orleans, Louisana.
In 2016, Jones made his professional debut for the Falcons in the season-opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Jones is one of the most established names in the league, possessing an elite coverage skills in his arsenal. He posted a 91.7 PFF coverage grade in 2017 and scored above 80.0 again in 2019.
While 2020 has been a rough year for Jones, he hopes to regain his form and be the rock his team expects him to be.
6. Darius Leonard
Darius Shaquille Leonard is an American outside linebacker who plays for the Indianapolis Colts.
Informally nicknamed the “maniac,” Leonard played for the South Carolina State Bulldogs in his collegiate career. He attended and played for Lake View High School during his schooling years.
Meanwhile, Jones made his professional regular-season debut in 2018 for the Colts in the season-opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.
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Since his arrival, Darius has not recorded a bad PFF grade in any facet of play. Along with that, he is sincerely consistent in a position that is regularly exploited by modern offenses.
Moreover, Leonard has recorded ten forced fumbles which is the most of any linebacker since his introduction to the league.
5. Demario Davis
Stepping into the top 5, Demario Davis is an American linebacker currently representing the New Orleans Saints.
Going back to his collegiate career, Davis played for Arkansas State University. But, surprisingly, Demario played as a wide receiver for Brandon High School in his schooling days.
On the other hand, Davis made his NFL debut with the New York Jets in the season-opener against Buffalo Bills.
While the 34-year-old had a sub-par 2020, he recorded impressive numbers the year before.
Davis had a stellar 2019, which earned him a better-than-average PFF grade in every facet of play. Furthermore, he has missed just 16 tackles on 263 attempts over the past two years.
4. Lavonte David
Lavonte David is an American linebacker who plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. David has been one of the best linebackers for the better part of 9 years.
Before his NFL days, Lavonte initially played for Ford Scott Community College. Subsequently, he transferred to Nebraska in 2010 and played for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Meanwhile, the Miami-born athlete made his NFL debut in 2012 after signing a four-year $3.47 million contract. Furthermore, he made his first career start in the season-opener against the Carolina Panthers.
The 33-year-old is determined not to let his age deter his performance. Instead, David hopes to regain his mojo for the 2023 season and show why he is still considered one of the best linebackers in the game.
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3. Eric Kendricks
Moving into the top 3, Eric-Nathan M. Kendricks, or Eric Kendricks, is an American middle linebacker who plays for the Minnesota Vikings.
Before bursting into the scene in NFL, Kendricks attended and played for the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in his collegiate career. Moreover, Eric won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top collegiate linebacker and received All-American honors.
A prodigy from the get-go, Kendricks has been a thorn for the opposition attackers. While he played a more conventional role in his collegiate career, he has been a superstar linebacker in coverage over the past couple of years.
2. Fred Warner
Federico Anthony Warner is an American linebacker who plays for the San Francisco 49ers. He is considered a serious contender for the Wagner’s crown, awarded to the best linebacker in the game.
Before the NFL, Warner attended and played for Brigham Young University (BYU). He played a hybrid role as the overhang and slot/linebacker while at BYU.
Warner made his professional debut in the 2018 season opener against the Minnesota Vikings. He has not looked back ever since.
The 26-year-old has posted a 90.0+ PFF overage grade over the past two seasons.
1. Bobby Wagner
Bobby Joseph Wagner, an American linebacker representing the Seattle Seahawks, is topping our list.
Before rubberstamping his credentials in the NFL, Wagner played for Utah State University from 2008 to 2011. From the start, Wagner was a prodigy, the 2011 WAC Defensive Player of the Year.
The 32-year-old is in a class of his own in the linebacker position. Moreover, Wagner took over the mantle in the Seahawks lineup after Luke Kuechly‘s retirement.
On the other hand, he has been asked to play a more significant part in the Seahawks’ pass-rush strategy. Living up to his billing, Wagner notched 23 quarterback pressures.
What’s more, he has been flying regarding the PFF grades. He came off a fifth-straight season with an 80.0-plus PFF pass-rushing grade on the blitz in 2020.
The linebacker position is arguably the most challenging position to play. Moreover, defensive solidity resides in the linebackers’ ability to perform their given task.
But despite the struggles and challenges, the players mentioned above have been the best of the best in the league.
And with that, we round out our coverage of the Top 12 NFL Linebackers of 2023.