Continuing our presentation of the NFL Network's "Best in the Biz" series. Solomon Wilcots presents his view of the best linebackers in the business. Like the other series I'll post his list, then we'll look at stats and my view of the best.
5. Lofa Tatupu
4. DeMeco Ryans
3. Jon Beason
2. Patrick Willis
1. Ray Lewis
Here are each of these player's with their 2009 stats
Ray Lewis--134 tackles, 3 sacks, 7 PD, 0 INTs, 2 FF
Patrick Willis--152 tackles, 4 sacks, 8 PD, 3 INTs, 3 FF
Jon Beason--141 tackles, 3 sacks, 7 PD, 3 INTs, 1 FF
Demeco Ryans--123 tackles, 1 sack, 2 PD, 1 FF
Lofa Tatupu--32 tackles, 1 sack, 2 PD, (he was hurt most of the season) His last full season was 2007 and he had 109 tackles, 1 sack, 9 PD, 4 INTs, and 3 FF that season
I have real issues with this list. I have problems putting Ray Lewis #1 overall when two linebackers had better seasons last year. The last time Ray Lewis led the league in tackles was back in 2001, almost 10 years ago. I realize that being a middle linebacker is more than pure tackles but I don't see how this listing is anything more than a lifetime achievement award.
I also have real problems with listing a linebacker who hasn't been healthy the past two seasons. Yeah he's a terror on the field when he's playing but he has a tough time staying on the field and you can't be the best in the business if you're not in the business.
Here's my list:
1. Patrick Willis. Three seasons, three Pro-Bowls. Hard to beat that.
2. Jon Beason. Another young star who's been incredibly consistent.
3. Ray Lewis. He had a bit of a resurgence last year and is still a force to be reckoned with. His skill and experience are worth a great deal.
4. Barret Ruud. This choice will probably surprise a bunch of people. Ruud has always been a strong inside linebacker but the last two years he's simply exploded. 137 tackles in 2008, 142 in 2009.
5. London Fletcher. Dude is old but he's still playing at a high level and is actually still getting better. 142 tackles last year, 133 the year before.