2024 NFL linebacker unit rankings: Jets and 49ers take the top spots

2WAG7N0 New York Jets linebacker Quincy Williams (56) reacts after an interception against the Washington Commanders during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

• The Jets' defensive dominance continues to linebacker units: New York also placed first in PFF's defensive line rankings.

• Dre Greenlaw's injury pushes the 49ers to No. 2: San Francisco would have a case for the No. 1 spot if not for Dre Greenlaw’s injury in the Super Bowl, making his availability to start the 2024 season a question mark.

• Get a head start on fantasy football: Use PFF's fantasy football mock draft simulator to create real live mock draft simulations to get ready for your live draft!

Estimated Reading Time: 12 minutes

Linebacker is one of the toughest positions to play in the NFL. More coverage skills are needed than ever before, and dynamic athletes at quarterback abound.

With the important caveat that we are looking only at off-ball linebackers here, not outside linebackers who are edge defenders, here are our 2024 rankings for every linebacker group in the NFL.

Single-Player Position Rankings:

QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | C | G | DI | EDGE | LB | CB | S

Other Unit Rankings:

RB | WR | DL


The Jets rostered two of the 10 highest-graded linebackers in the NFL last season. C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams were at their best in coverage, where they ranked first and second in PFF grade at the position, respectively.


Fred Warner, arguably the best linebacker in the NFL right now, has earned PFF grades above 80.0 in each of the past four seasons. The 49ers would have a case for the No. 1 spot if not for Dre Greenlaw’s injury in the Super Bowl, making his availability to start the 2024 season a question mark. But in signing De’Vondre Campbell, who has earned PFF grades above 65.0 in each of the past three seasons, they have given themselves a cushion.

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T.J. Edwards first season in Chicago was a success. He earned 75.0-plus PFF run-defense and coverage grades while contributing 13 quarterback pressures as a blitzer. Tremaine Edmunds had a tougher time, posting just a 56.6 PFF grade, but we’re only a year removed from his fantastic final season in Buffalo in which he earned a 90.0 PFF coverage grade.


Jahlani Tavai’s third season with the Patriots was the best of his career. He posted an 82.7 PFF coverage grade and allowed just one touchdown in coverage. Ja’Whaun Bentley has earned a PFF grade above 65.0 in all but one of his six NFL seasons.

New England's signing of Sione Takitaki is also a nice fit, with the former third-round draft pick out of BYU coming off a career-high 70.7 PFF grade with the Cleveland Browns.


The Giants are solid at their starting linebacker spots. Bobby Okereke’s 78.9 PFF grade ranked 13th at the position in 2023, and Micah McFadden came in at No. 46 in his second season in the league. They also have Isaiah Simmons, who hasn’t lived up to his billing as a top-10 draft pick but was a useful depth player for the team last year, earning an 82.7 PFF coverage grade on 203 snaps.


This is a challenging ranking. On one hand, Roquan Smith can rival Fred Warner to be the best linebacker in the league, coming off a season in which he earned an 83.2 PFF coverage grade. On the other hand, the untested Trenton Simpson is set to man the second linebacker spot. He flashed against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 18 but has just 49 NFL snaps to his name.


Devin Lloyd’s improvement from his first season to his second seemed to slip under the radar, but the 27th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft was the fourth-highest-graded linebacker in the NFL in run defense last year (90.0). Next to him, Foyesade Oluokun ranked 22nd in the NFL with a 75.2 PFF grade and was solid against the run and in coverage.


Despite being undersized, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has excelled since entering the NFL, earning PFF coverage grades above 70.0 in each of the past two seasons. The Browns added Jordan Hicks in free agency, and the 31-year-old recorded a 74.6 PFF grade in 2023 — his highest since 2018 with the Philadelphia Eagles.


Demario Davis, 35, will eventually start to decline, but not yet. He has now put together six straight seasons of earning a 75.0-plus PFF grade. Willie Gay joined the Saints in free agency, and while he endured his lowest-graded season in the NFL last year, he has proven himself to be a solid player in the past.


Undrafted free agent Ivan Pace Jr. was one of the best stories of the 2023 season after winning a starting role in the Vikings' defense and earning a 77.7 PFF coverage grade. They are pairing him with Blake Cashman this season, with the former fifth-round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft coming off a career year in 2023 (82.1 PFF grade).

Click here to see Ivan Pace Jr.'s PFF Premium Stats profile.


Assuming Matt Milano can play at the level he was at before going down with a season-ending injury in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2023, the Bills will be in a good spot at linebacker again.

Milano was one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL in 2022, earning an 83.2 PFF coverage grade. Next to him, Terrel Bernard proved himself to be a solid starter in his second NFL season, producing a 65.9 PFF grade on 1,031 snaps.


The Chiefs lost Willie Gay in free agency but still have an impressive linebacking unit overall. Nick Bolton earned the lowest season grade of his NFL career in 2023, but he dealt with injuries and earned a PFF grade above 70.0 in each of his first two years.

Leo Chenal could see his role expand after impressing against the run in his second season, earning a 90.6 PFF run-defense grade that ranked third at the position. Drue Tranquill enjoyed a decent first season in Kansas City, capping it off with a career-high 68.4 PFF grade.


The Steelers made a splash at the linebacker position this offseason by bringing in Patrick Queen from the division-rival Baltimore Ravens. Queen has improved every season since entering the league and is coming off a career-high 73.0 PFF grade. He has yet to turn 25 years old, so it’s reasonable to expect that he will continue to get better. Alongside him, Elandon Roberts posted a career-high 72.2 PFF grade on 622 snaps in 2023.


Germaine Pratt and Logan Wilson were disappointing in 2023 by their standards, earning 63.3 and 62.6 PFF grades, respectively. Both were better in 2022, though, with Pratt earning a 78.4 PFF grade and Wilson a 74.6, so if they can get back to that level, then the Bengals will move into the top 10 here.


Robert Spillane thrived for the Raiders in his first full season as a starter, earning a 77.1 PFF grade on 1,100 snaps to rank tied for 17th in the league. Divine Deablo is a good tackler, having missed just 6.0% of his career attempts.

Rookie Tommy Eichenberg could prove to be a steal. The fifth-round draft pick earned an 86.8 PFF grade at Ohio State in 2022 before having a down year in his final season in college in 2023.


New head coach Mike Macdonald has rebuilt Seattle's linebacker room with two free-agent signings in Tyrel Dodson and Jerome Baker.

Baker is coming off the best season of his career in coverage, earning a 74.4 PFF grade, while Dodson is one of the most intriguing signings of the offseason. The 2019 undrafted free agent earned a 90.2 PFF grade to lead all linebackers in 2023, but he did so on just 589 snaps as the replacement for the injured Matt Milano in Buffalo. If he can replicate that form over a full season, the Seahawks could have a special pairing.


The Commanders made splash signings at linebacker in free agency, adding Bobby Wagner and Frankie Luvu. Despite his advancing years, Wagner posted an 82.4 PFF overall grade and a 91.5 run-defense grade. His 60.0 coverage grade left something to be desired, though.

Luvu can make an impact against the run and in coverage but also offers the ability to make plays as a blitzer, registering 20 quarterback pressures on 104 pass-rushing snaps last season.

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Josey Jewell joins the Panthers after earning PFF grades above 65.0 in all three of the seasons where he has played more than 500 snaps.

Assuming Shaq Thompson can get back to his 2022 level of play, the Panthers should be fine against the run, but neither player earned a PFF coverage grade above 65.0 in their most recent full seasons.


There is a wide range of outcomes for the Cowboys’ linebackers in 2024.

Eric Kendricks joined as a free agent, coming off a season in which he earned a 73.6 PFF run-defense grade but just a 62.1 coverage grade. Damone Clark has been solid, missing just 5.4% of his tackle attempts in his two-year career, but has yet to prove himself as a difference-maker. Second-year player DeMarvion Overshown and rookie Marist Liufau are untested.


David Long shined against the run in his first season in Miami, finishing the year with a position-leading 92.6 PFF run-defense grade. However, he struggled in coverage, having the lowest-graded season of his career in that regard.

New addition Jordyn Brooks has also never been a standout coverage defender, with his poor 59.9 PFF coverage grade in 2023 marking a career high.


Christian Harris‘ continued development would give the Texans a big boost at linebacker. The 2022 third-round draft pick massively improved his coverage grade in 2023, ranking 23rd at the position (72.2). Houston brought in Azeez Al-Shaair, who had the best year of his career under DeMeco Ryans with the San Francisco 49ers in 2022, earning a 74.4 PFF grade on just 383 snaps. The Texans will be hoping he can replicate that in a full-time role this season.


The rookie learning curve for linebackers is tough, so Jack Campbell’s first-year struggles shouldn’t be much of a cause for concern. It’s just a matter of how quickly he can improve in his second season after earning a 75.8 PFF run-defense grade and a 35.3 coverage grade.

Slotting in next to Campbell, Alex Anzalone is coming off the highest-graded season of his career (69.8) in his seventh NFL campaign.


Lavonte David’s play finally started to decline in 2023, with the 34-year-old having his lowest-graded season in coverage since 2015. While he’ll still be good enough, he might not be the difference-maker he once was.

K.J. Britt is relatively untested, having played just 328 career snaps, though he did earn a 72.0 PFF run-defense grade in his third NFL season.


Kaden Elliss is somewhat limited in coverage, but he has proven himself to be a solid run defender and a useful blitzer. A positive step forward from third-year linebacker Troy Andersen would be significant for this unit, with the 2022 second-round draft pick out of Montana State earning just a 40.2 PFF overall grade as a rookie before missing all but two games in 2023.


Ernest Jones garnered an impressive 86.2 PFF run-defense grade in 2023 to rank tied for seventh at the position, but he didn't earn a 60.0-plus PFF coverage grade in either of the past two seasons.

Christian Rozeboom looks set to start next to him, coming off a season that earned him just a 47.9 PFF overall grade on 579 snaps.

Click here to see Ernest Jones' PFF Premium Stats profile.


Both Zaire Franklin and E.J. Speed are better in run defense than coverage. Franklin earned a 66.1 PFF run-defense grade in 2023 compared to a 56.4 coverage grade, while Speed was at 78.8 and 56.1. respectively. While Franklin led all linebackers with 132 solo tackles last season, he was also tied for the third-most missed tackles at the position in the regular season (25).


A 2022 undrafted free agent, Jack Gibbens stood out in his second NFL season against the run, earning a 72.9 grade. He also showed flashes in coverage despite finishing the season with a 61.3 coverage grade.

The Titans are gambling on Kenneth Murray Jr. getting much better in his fifth year in the league. The 2020 first-round draft pick, whom the team signed in free agency, has yet to earn a PFF overall grade above 55.0 in a season.


Alex Singleton couldn’t match his impressive 2022 campaign in 2023, with his PFF coverage grade dropping from 73.0 to 42.9. He does remain a decent run defender.

Cody Barton could start next to him, but through five NFL seasons, he has yet to post a 60.0-plus PFF overall grade. The wild card here is second-year player Drew Sanders. He struggled in limited work as a rookie but earned a 79.2 PFF grade in his final season at Arkansas in 2022.


Two seasons into his NFL career, Quay Walker has yet to record a season-long 60.0 PFF grade. He displayed some positive signs in 2023, though, with his missed tackle percentage dropping from 10.1% as a rookie to 7.6%.

Second-round draft pick Edgerrin Cooper looks set to start next to him, but as we know, playing linebacker in today’s NFL as a rookie comes with a learning curve.


The Eagles haven’t spent significant draft capital at linebacker for more than a decade, with 2012 being the most recent draft where they used a first- or second-round pick on the position. As such, it isn't a surprise to find them ranked No. 30 here; it’s just not a position they prioritize.

Philadelphia will hope 2022 draft steal Nakobe Dean can start to live up to his hype, but if not, most of the snaps will go to Devin White and Zack Baun. White just has one season with a PFF grade above 50.0, while Baun has just 684 snaps to his name through four NFL seasons.


The Chargers look set to start the returning Denzel Perryman, who enjoyed the highest-graded season of his career with the team in 2020 but is coming off the lowest-graded season of his career (56.4) with the Houston Texans in 2023.

Los Angeles will be inexperienced next to Perryman. Either rookie Junior Colson or second-year player Daiyan Henley, who played just 54 snaps as a rookie, will be slated to start.


Kyzir White’s 58.9 PFF overall grade in his first season with the Cardinals was a career-low mark. Next to him, Krys Barnes is coming off the highest-graded season of his four-year career, but that career-high PFF grade was just 60.1 on 408 snaps.

Considering that, Mack Wilson Sr. could very well earn a starting role, coming off a 2023 season in which he earned an 81.5 PFF overall grade on 305 snaps.


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