The folks over at Pro Football Focus have been putting together breakdowns of the best at each position across the field. This week has been a look at linebackers, including outside, inside, and middle, and broken up by 3-4 and 4-3. Yesterday they broke down the best inside and middle linebackers and our 49ers ranked quite high. Based on 3-4 inside linebackers, PFF ranked Patrick Willis the number one inside linebacker and Takeo Spikes the number three inside linebacker. Not too shabby.
While I sometimes question some of their rating methods, I'll still take the high ratings. It seems like there is some manner of subjectivity but we all know Bamm Bamm and TKO are awesome. We don't need no stinking ratings!
It's no surprise to see Willis at the type of their ILB rankings. He can do just about everything there is to be done and he's looking for ways to improve. At one point he was doing work to learn basic receiver routes so he could better anticipate what offenses were bringing on a given play. It's impressive how good he is, but it's downright scary how great he wants to be.
Takeo Spikes showed up third in the PFF ratings, which is a nice bit of publicity for an effective linebacker who might be a bit underrated at times outside of San Francisco. He came to the Bay Area after some injury issues ended his time in Philadelphia prematurely. In San Francisco he's been quite the revelation providing sound tackling and helping Willis learn what it's like to be a leader.
Spikes is a free agent this year and has indicated an interest in returning. The 49ers are likely looking to eventually let loose NaVorro Bowman as the Ted linebacker of the future. For now though, they might as well stick with a guy who PFF claims led all linebackers in most attempted tackles per miss. Their numbers indicate TKO missed FOUR TACKLES over the last three seasons. If that number is correct, that's just plain filthy.