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Top 10 NFL Outside Linebackers of All Time Rankings

Ranking the best Outside Linebackers in the history of the NFL such as Lawrence Taylor, DeMarcus Ware, and many more

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By Fan Rankings | October 20, 2021 - 09:07 PM

The defensive side of the football is built with a surrounding cast with the goal of slowing down opposing offenses. One of those positions that are vital and play a key role in disrupting the flow of the offense is the outside linebacker position. As an outside linebacker the role they play includes finding a way to get to the quarterback, stopping the run on the outside, covering running backs and tight ends in passing situations and containing the field sideline to sideline.

This demand however came easily for some of the Greatest Outside Linebackers All-Time including the likes of Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Brooks, Jack Ham, Terrell Suggs, Derrick Thomas and DeMarcus Ware. With that said, here is our list of the Top 10 Outside Linebackers All-Time. 




Honorable Mention

Rickey Jackson

Team(s): New Orleans Saints & San Francisco 49ers

The longtime New Orleans Saints star put together a brilliant NFL career after being selected in the second round of the 1981 NFL Draft. Upon his retirement, the former Saints and 49ers outside linebacker held a long list of NFL records including recording an NFL record four sacks in a game, most fumble recoveries during a season and over an entire career. Jackson recorded 1,173 career tackles to go with 128 sacks, eight interceptions and 40 forced fumbles. 



Cornelius Bennett

Team(s): Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons & Indianapolis Colts

Cornelius Bennett just missed out on the Top 10 Outside Linebackers All-Time and was once a key member of the group until some of the players of the last 10-15 years came along. Bennett, who was drafted number two overall during the 1987 NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts was traded to the Buffalo Bills before the start of the season. Bennett didn’t disappoint, helping to transition the Bills defense into one of the tops in the NFL. Bennett recorded 1,190 tackles, 71.5 career sacks and 31 forced fumbles over his career while winning the AFC Defensive Player of the Year award in 1988.




Top 10 Outside Linebackers 

  1. Ted Hendricks

Team(s): Baltimore Colts, Green Bay Packers & Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

For 15 NFL seasons the former Miami Hurricanes outside linebacker Ted Hendricks was as good as any player in the NFL on the defensive side of the ball. Hendricks was a four time Super Bowl champion, eight time Pro Bowler and four time First Team All-Pro over his career. During his playing days Hendricks recorded 60.5 sacks to go along with 26 interceptions and forcing four safeties.




  1. Von Miller

Team(s): Denver Broncos

The only current player on the list of the Top 10 Outside Linebackers of All-Time is the current Denver Broncos All-Pro Von Miller. Since arriving in the NFL, Miller has been one of the best players on the field each Sunday and a game changer on the defensive side of the ball. After a stellar rookie season, Miller was selected as the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after posting 11.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Through the 2020 NFL Season, Miller has recorded 106 career sacks including a season high 18.5 during the 2012 NFL season as well as 25 forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns.

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  1. Terrell Suggs

Team(s): Baltimore Ravens & Arizona Cardinals

One of the most disruptive players at the outside linebacker position over the past 10-20 years was Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens. Suggs was a key member of a Ravens defense that ranked near the top in each defensive category over the past 20 NFL seasons. Over his career Suggs was a two time Super Bowl Champion, NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year. In addition, Suggs was a First Team All-Pro and seven time Pro Bowler who racked up 139 career sacks, seven interceptions, forced 39 fumbles and scored three defensive touchdowns.




  1. DeMarcus Ware

Team(s): Dallas Cowboys & Denver Broncos

Another defensive star of the 2000’s through 2016 was the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos pass rush specialist DeMarcus Ware. Ware, who was a key member of the Broncos team that won Super Bowl 50, was nearly unstoppable by just one offensive blocker. Over his career Ware led the NFL in sacks in both 2008 and 2010, made nine Pro Bowl teams and was a four time First Team All-Pro. Ware recorded 138.5 sacks over his NFL career while forcing 35 fumbles and intercepting three passes. 

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  1. Kevin Greene

Team(s): Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers & San Francisco 49ers

Kevin Green often gets overlooked at the outside linebacker position despite a resume that is filled with great defensive statistics including ranking third All-Time in career sacks with 160 total. While the former Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers star comes in at number six, it can be debated whether he is well worthy of a higher ranking. Greene led the NFL in sacks in both 1994 and 1996 while racking up 160 career sacks over his NFL career. In addition to the statistics, Greene’s accolades include being named the Defensive Player of the Year in 1996, making five Pro Bowl teams and being selected as a First Team All-Pro in three seasons.




  1. Bobby Bell

Team(s): Kansas City Chiefs

The former second round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, Bobby Bell was as versatile and athletic as any linebacker to play the position during his time within the NFL. His play on the field showcased his talents including his ability to find the end zone on the defensive side of the ball. Over his career Bell recorded nine defensive touchdowns including two on fumble recoveries, six interception returns and one onside kick return. Bell was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1969, a Super Bowl Champion, three time Pro Bowler and a First Team All-Pro as well as a five time First Team All-AFL. 




  1. Derrick Thomas

Team(s): Kansas City Chiefs

What can you say about D.T. and his play on the field for the Kansas City Chiefs. The former Alabama Crimson Tide star, Derrick Thomas became the face of the Chiefs defense after being selected fourth overall during the 1989 NFL draft. Thomas wouldn’t disappoint as a rookie posting 10 sacks and forcing three fumbles en route to winning the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Thomas would go on to play 11 NFL seasons before his career and life was cut short after an automobile accident. Considered one of the greatest pass rush threats of All-Time, Thomas racked up 126.5 sacks to go with 41 forced fumbles earning him nine Pro Bowl selections and three First Team All-Pro honors. 




  1. Jack Ham

Team(s): Pittsburgh Steelers

When you think of the outside linebacker position, it is hard to look past the long time Pittsburgh Steelers great Jack Ham. Ham, who played 12 NFL seasons all with the Steelers recorded 32 career interceptions to go along with two defensive touchdowns while helping the Steelers to win four Super Bowls over his career. Ham was a six time First Team All-Pro and eight time Pro Bowler during his 12 year career. Ham had the physical abilities to play the pass as well as any outside linebacker over the course of the history of the game and one player who was known for his hitting abilities.




  1. Derrick Brooks

Team(s): Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Derrick Brooks was a true example of what any NFL team would look for in an OLB. A player with speed, agility and the knack to play on the defensive side of the football. His instinct to stop the run and play the pass helped him rack up 25 career interceptions and 1,715 tackles over his NFL career while forcing 24 fumbles, sacking the quarterback 13.5 times and returning seven defensive plays for touchdowns. Brooks was the 2002 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, 11 time Pro Bowler and a five time First Team All-Pro during his playing days with the Bucs.




  1. Lawrence Taylor

Team(s): New York Giants

There is no debating who is the Top 10 Outside Linebacker All-Time. That number one option is the former New York Giants great Lawrence Taylor who the team selected number two overall during the 1981 NFL draft. Thomas was a force to be stopped by any opposing offense and one player who forced opposing teams to change their game plans for how they rushed and passed the ball. Thomas recorded 132.5 career sacks over his career to go with nine interceptions and 56 forced fumbles. Thomas was a three time Defensive Player of the Year and is one of only two players to ever win the league MVP during the 1986 season. In addition, Taylors other accolades include eight First Team All-Pro honors, 10 Pro Bowl selections and the 1981 Defensive Rookie of the Year. 



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