The Greatest Linebackers of All Time

Over 20.6K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Greatest Linebackers of All Time
Voting Rules
Only include linebackers based on their on-field accomplishments

The greatest linebackers of all time are not only the best NFL players to ever play the linebacker position but also some of the most respected and most feared football players of all time. These all-time greats have electrified crowds with their energy and leadership and delivered on the field as some of the NFL's best defensive players ever.

It's hard to claim that anyone other than the great Lawrence Taylor is the best linebacker ever. He made an immeasurable impact on the game, changing it for decades to follow and becoming the star of the league which at that time was dominated by quarterbacks. His explosiveness and raw power was in most cases simply unstoppable and easily qualifies him as one of the top 10 NFL linebackers of all time.

That said, there are plenty of other great linebackers who each had stellar careers of their own. The likes of Dick Butkus, who terrorized offenses during his nine years with the Chicago Bears, Ray Lewis, who served as a perfect combination of talent and heart during his memorable time with the Baltimore Ravens, and Junior Seau, who recorded over 100 tackles for six seasons straight and earned 12 Pro Bowl selections, are all firmly among the best NFL linebackers of all time.

While they don't always get the same level of attention that other positions do, famous linebackers are some of the toughest, smartest, and most hard working players on any NFL team. Have an NFL linebacker that you adore? Vote for your favorite NFL linebackers below, re-rank this list your way, or add any not listed. Then, head over and vote for the greatest tight ends of all time and the greatest NFL punters of all time too!
Most divisive: Tedy Bruschi
Ranked by
  • Lawrence Taylor
    10,465 votes
    North Carolina Tar Heels football, New York Giants

    Lawrence Taylor revolutionized the linebacker position with his unmatched combination of speed, power, and sheer determination to terrorize opposing quarterbacks. As the cornerstone of the New York Giants' defense, he played an instrumental role in bringing home two Super Bowl titles and left an indelible mark on the sport. Taylor's relentless pursuit of greatness helped redefine the expectations of what a linebacker can accomplish on the gridiron, inspiring countless players who followed in his footsteps.

  • Ray Lewis
    10,830 votes
    Baltimore Ravens

    Ray Lewis embodied the heart and soul of the Baltimore Ravens for seventeen remarkable seasons, asserting himself as one of the most dominant and intimidating defenders in NFL history. His passionate leadership was a driving force behind two Super Bowl championships, and his uncanny ability to diagnose offensive schemes before the snap became the stuff of legend. Lewis's relentless work ethic and unparalleled intensity will forever be remembered as the gold standard by which all future linebackers will be measured.

  • Dick Butkus
    8,922 votes
    Chicago Bears

    Few players in NFL history have struck fear into the hearts of opponents quite like Dick Butkus, whose ferocious and punishing style of play became the benchmark for linebackers. His unyielding commitment to excellence helped to elevate the Chicago Bears' defense to new heights throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Butkus's toughness and sheer physicality set a precedent that has influenced generations of players, ensuring his legacy as one of the greatest linebackers to ever step onto the field.

  • Jack Lambert
    6,975 votes
    Pittsburgh Steelers, Kent State Golden Flashes football

    Jack Lambert's fierce tenacity and relentless drive earned him a reputation as the enforcer of the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers "Steel Curtain" defense. With his signature toothless snarl and unmatched instincts, Lambert was a key figure in securing four Super Bowl titles during the team's storied run in the 1970s. His impact on the sport transcends statistics, as he became the prototype for the modern middle linebacker through his unyielding pursuit of excellence on and off the field.

  • Mike Singletary
    6,399 votes
    Baylor Bears football, Chicago Bears

    Mike Singletary's iconic stare and unmatched intensity made him the anchor of the fearsome Chicago Bears' defense during the 1980s. Known for his cerebral approach to the game, Singletary's ability to efficiently dissect opposing offenses was nothing short of extraordinary. His unwavering dedication to the sport and his teammates set a standard of excellence that is still revered by aspiring linebackers today.

  • Derrick Thomas
    5,170 votes
    Alabama Crimson Tide Football, Kansas City Chiefs

    Derrick Thomas brought speed and athleticism to the linebacker position, using his lightning-quick reflexes and explosive power to disrupt offensive game plans. As a key contributor to the dominant Kansas City Chiefs' defense, Thomas was a nightmare for quarterbacks and offensive coordinators alike. He left an indelible mark on the sport, as his relentless energy and passion for the game made him one of the most exciting defenders to ever take the field.