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NFC North Rankings: Linebacker

We’ve looked into the defensive line and now we turn to ranking the linebackers. It is tough to rank them between 4-3 and 3-4 teams but we’ll do so based on coverage and run defense skills. We already looked at 3-4 OLB pass rush skills.

1 Chicago
The Bears are still stacked at LB. Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevthan are top 10 ILBs and Freeman was graded the best in the league last year. Willie Young, Pernell McPhee, Leonard Floyd and Lamar Houston are more pass rushers but can be solid in run defense and coverage. McPhee was solid in both and Floyd covered well but was terrible in run defense. Willie Young was solid in both but Houston was terrible in run defense before his injury. Nick Kwiatkoski is ILB depth as 4th round pick from 2016. He had a poor grade as a rookie in 458 snaps but has some talent. Christian Jones has experience at ILB as the 4th ILB but grades poorly.

The Bears have very good starting LBs with good OLB depth. ILB depth has some experience but must play better when called upon if Trevathan or Freeman miss some games this season.

2 Detroit
The Lions revamped their LB core this offseason. Jarrad Davis was drafted in Round 1 at ILB with good run defense and cover skills. Tahir Whitehead was solid at OLB in 2015 but struggled at ILB in 2016. Whitehead moves outside full time with Davis in the mix. Antwione Williams showed flashes as a rookie 5th round pick at SAM LB.

Jaleen Reeves-Mabin is another athletic LB drafted in Round 4 this offseason. Paul Worrilow is a very experienced backup ILB and OLB. Worrilow had an average grade in 2016 as a backup for the Falcons. Nick Bellore adds special team ability and got some starting experience at LB with the 49ers last year. The Lions are solid and deep at LB with much better cover skills than 2016.

3 Minnesota
The Vikings have a very good ILB in Erik Kendricks. The 2015 2nd round pick has excelled in two seasons for Minnesota. He can cover, play the run and blitz. Anthony Barr is a strong blitzer from the SAM spot. Barr had a poor grade against the run and coverage but has been solid there in the past. The 2014 first round pick can be a playmaker for Minnesota though in pass rush.

Emmanuel Lemur is a good special team player but grades poorly as a weak side linebacker. Kentrell Brothers was a 5th round pick from 2016 but only played one snap in 2016. Ben Gedeon was drafted in Round 4 of the 2017 draft to play ILB and Elijah Lee was drafted in Round 7. The Vikings lack a proven starting Will and have some young developmental depth only but not much experience. Kendricks is a good player though and Barr can be good with lots of talent.

4 Green Bay
Nick Perry has improved his run defense but Matthews has regressed in run defense alot Matthews was slightly below average in coverage (32 snaps only) and terrible in run defense in2016. Nick Perry had a poor coverage grade as well.

Kyle Fackrell and Vince Biegel have potential a third and fourth round picks from 2016 and 2017 respectively; but need some work in run defense and coverage. Kyle Fackrell graded poorly in run defense and coverage in limited snaps. Peppers and Jones logged a lot of snaps but were both slightly below average in run defense and coverage in 2016 for Green Bay. Fackrell and Biegel have a decent low bar for 2017, though they lack the experience.

Inside linebacker Jake Ryan was average in his second year for the Packers as a 4th round pick from 2015 in both coverage and run defense. Blake Martinez and Joe Thomas had terrible grades in 2016 but Martinez was a 4th round rookie last year that showed some flashes. Thomas does have some covers skills. Josh Jones could slide to ILB and play some coverage. He is a safety but could be a hybrid in the Packers defense.

Green Bay could be solid at LB but they lack proven depth at both OLB and ILB and the Packers LB crew graded mostly poorly in 2016 in run defense and coverage. Perry needs to play strong and Matthews must somehow stay healthy and return to form which he hasn’t seen since 2014.

Summary
The Bears have good starters and good OLB depth with experienced ILB depth. The Lions are solid at LB (Davis, Whitehead, Williams) with good depth in Worrilow, Bellore and Reeves-Mabin. The Lions also had Zach Orr in for a visit after he led the Ravens in tackles last year.

Minnesota has two good LBs but lack a starting Will LB or experienced good depth. Green Bay could be solid but the Green Bay linebackers graded out poorly in run defense and coverage for the most part. The Packers OLB lack experienced depth and Joe Thomas isn’t much of an ILB backup. Josh Jones could save them as hybrid cover LB/safety but Jones is an unknown too with talent.