1) Denver Broncos
Key contributors: SLB Von Miller, SLB Shaquil Barrett, ILB Brandon Marshall, ILB Todd Davis, WLB Shane Ray.
The Broncos had the best group of linebackers last year and it looks to be the case yet again this year. The anchor of this destructive group, of course, is Von Miller who if he isn’t the best pass rushing linebacker in the league he has to be at worst top three. I don’t think the absence os Demarcus Ware will drop this unit at all, my main concern would be losing Wade Phillips, who will be replaced by Joe Woods.
2) Carolina Panthers
Key contributors: MLB Luke Kuechly, WLB Thomas Davis, SLB Shaq Thompson.
Kuechly and Davis are two of the best linebackers in the game and control the Panthers defense from the linebacker position. Shaq Thompson is a young guy who can do it all from the linebacker position. I look for the Panthers defense to bounce back and look more like they did two years ago.
3) Kansas City Chiefs
Key contributors: OLB Justin Houston, OLB Tamba Hali, OLB Dee Ford, ILB Derrick Johnson, ILB Ramik Wilson.
Everybody in this unit is big, strong, and athletic. They control opposing teams run game at the line of scrimmage. They are also solid against the pass, this is a complete group of Linebackers.
4) Oakland Raiders
Key contributors: SLB Bruce Irvin, SLB Shilique Calhoun, MLB Cory James, WLB Jelani Jenkins, OLB Khalil Mack.
Mack is an all-pro at two positions and will only get better over the next few years. Mack of course, is the standout of this group and while nobody else really stands out they are all very solid Linebackers. I think Mack will be in contention for Defensive Player of the year for years to come.
5) San Francisco 49ers
Key contributors: OLB Ahmad Brooks, MLB NaVorro Bowman, OLB Elvis Dumervil, OLB Malcolm Smith, OLB Reuben Foster.
This group would rank at least a spot higher if Bowman wasn’t coming off an injury, This is the strength of the 49ers team and they will be a good enough group if they stay healthy to keep the Niners in most of their games.