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Top 10 Outside Linebackers of All Time

One could argue that the outside linebacker position is the most important position on an NFL defense. The ability of these players to not only excel in pass coverage but also rush the quarterback makes them a critical piece on any team. Throughout the years we have seen many great outside linebackers wow us with their combination of speed, strength and athleticism. With that said, the 10 players below have cemented their legacy as the best outside linebackers of all time.

10. Von Miller

Von Miller is the only active NFL player to make this list. Miller is a 2x Super Bowl champion, 3x All-Pro, Super Bowl MVP and 8x Pro Bowler. He is a nightmare for opposing offenses with his ability to quickly shed would-be blockers and attack the quarterback. At age 34, Miller is showing no signs of slowing down as he finished the 2022 season with 8 sacks.

*Career Stats:

123.5 sacks

431 solo tackles

27 forced fumbles

9. James Harrison

James Harrison‘s journey to becoming an elite outside linebacker is a testament to his perseverance. Undrafted and underestimated, Harrison’s work ethic and desire to win propelled him to become a 2x Super Bowl champion. He also had one of the most iconic plays in NFL history, his 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII.

Career Stats:

84.5 sacks

583 solo tackles

34 forced fumbles

8. Rickey Jackson

Rickey Jackson may not have sought the spotlight, but his on-field performance spoke volumes. Jackson was a crucial part of the New Orleans Saints famed “Dome Patrol” linebacking corps. His ability to disrupt plays and create turnovers helped pave the way for the Saints defensive success. He is a 1x Super Bowl champ and Hall of Famer.

Career Stats:

136 sacks

1173 solo tackles

40 forced fumbles

7. Kevin Greene

Kevin Greene‘s relentless pursuit of quarterbacks made him one of the most feared pass rushers in NFL history. The former Pittsburgh Steeler had 160 sacks over his 15-year career. Greene’s explosive first step and tenacious spirit earned him the 1996 Defensive Player of the Year award. His ability to disrupt plays and force turnovers remains legendary.

Career Stats:

160 sacks

669 solo tackles

23 forced fumbles

6. DeMarcus Ware

DeMarcus Ware‘s combination of speed and power made him a nightmare for offensive linemen. His proficiency in both rushing the passer and defending against the run solidified his reputation as one of the best to ever do it. With nine seasons of double-digit sacks, Ware’s impact on the Dallas Cowboys and later the Denver Broncos was indisputable.

Career Stats:

138.5 sacks

505 solo tackles

35 forced fumbles

5. Ted Hendricks

At 6’7″, Ted Hendricks was a mountain of a man at the outside linebacker position. His exceptional wingspan allowed him to swat down passes and disrupt opposing offenses in ways no other linebacker could. A Hall of Famer and a key figure in the dominant Raiders defenses of the 70s. Hendricks was a 4x Super Bowl champ and 4x All-Pro.

Career Stats:

61 sacks

4. Junior Seau

The late great Junior Seau‘s passion for the game was unmatched. His boundless energy and tenacity made him a tackling machine at the outside linebacker position. With an uncanny ability to diagnose plays and a knack for delivering bone-crushing hits, Seau earned 12 Pro Bowl selections and remains an NFL icon.

Career Stats:

56.5 sacks

1522 solo tackles

11 forced fumbles

3. Jack Ham

Jack Ham was a key component of the Pittsburgh Steelers Steel Curtain defense. Ham’s intelligence on the field allowed him to read plays, intercept passes, and neutralize tight ends with ease. Ham was no doubt one of the best coverage outside linebackers we have seen in the NFL. He was a 4x Super Bowl champ and 6x All-Pro.

Career Stats:

25.5 sacks

32 interceptions

2. Derrick Thomas

Derrick Thomas was a force to be reckoned with. Armed with an unparalleled ability to sack quarterbacks, he holds the record for the most sacks in a single game at 7. His speed off the edge and his uncanny knack for creating turnovers made him a nightmare for opposing offenses and a cornerstone of the Kansas City Chiefs defense.

Career Stats:

126.5 sacks

599 solo tackles

41 forced fumbles

1. Lawrence Taylor

Regarded by many as the prototypical outside linebacker, Lawrence Taylor‘s impact on the NFL is immeasurable. With lightning-fast speed and a ferocious playing style, Taylor redefined the position by becoming a dual threat against both the run and the pass. His ability to disrupt quarterbacks and change the course of a game earned him 3 Defensive Player of the Year awards. Taylor was 8x All-Pro and 2x Super Bowl champion.

Career Stats:

126.5 sacks

599 solo tackles

41 forced fumbles

* = Active NFL player

Written by
Justin Fuhr

Justin is the Owner of Pro Football Mania. He is an NFL and fantasy football fanatic who enjoys analyzing data and analytics in sports.

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