American football is an intensely physical sport. The defenders aggressively approach the offense and try to stop them from scoring. One needs to be physically well-built to be a good football player.
Being the best in the NFL is a difficult feat to achieve. It is more difficult to be the defender, especially when you are playing in the outside linebacker position. Again, there are players who were masters in it.
This article features the ten best outside linebackers of all time in NFL history.
Best Outside Linebackers of All Time
Outside linebackers cover the defensive ends to make sure that a run does not escape. They are also responsible for watching the pass and protecting from it. Outside blockers perform various things in the field. However, while making this list, players who were great in sacks, interceptions, and tackles were given priority.
Here are our ten best outside linebackers of all time:
- Bobby Bell (1963-1974)
- Jack Hamm (1971-1982)
- Junior Seau (1990-2009)
- Derrick Brooks (1995-2009)
- Ted Hendricks (1969-1983)
- Robert Brazile (1975-1984)
- Chuck Bednarik (1949-1962)
- Dave Wilcox (1964-1974)
- Dave Robinson (1963-1974)
- Chuck Howley (1958-1973)
1. Bobby Bell
|Full Name||Bobby Lee Bell Sr.|
|Date of Birth||June 17, 1940|
|Place of Birth||Shelby, North Carolina|
|Height||6 ft 4 in|
|NFL Draft||1963 (Kansas City Chiefs, Round 2, Pick: 16)|
|Teams||Kansas City Chiefs|
Super Bowl Champion: 1-time (1970)
First-Team All-Pro: 1 time (1970)
Pro Bowl: 3 times (1970, 71, 72)
NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team
Defensive Player of the Year: 1-time (1969)
Bobby Bell was a highly skilled player who could play in any position. He had the physical structure and strength along with quickness to be the perfect outside linebacker. He could do blitz and cover, along with tackles.
In his decade-long career, Bell had played 168 games and had 40 sacks along with 26 interceptions and 8 touchdowns. He did everything a linebacker can do on the field. He won the super bowl in 1970 and was a three times pro bowler.
Bell was one of the finest players of his time. He was an unmatched talent. In 1969, he has announced the best defensive player of the year. It was difficult to be the best defender playing as a linebacker, but Bell did it.
Despite being nearly 230 pounds, Bell set the record for running a 4.5 40-yard dash. Bell had an incredible combination of intelligence and athleticism. Bell made a place for himself among the 100 NFL 100 greats list, and he is certainly one of the best outside linebackers of all time.
Career stats of Bobby Bell:
2. Jack Ham
|Full Name||Jack Raphael Ham Jr.|
|Date of Birth||December 23, 1948|
|Place of Birth||Johnstown, Pennsylvania, U.S.|
|Height||6 ft 1 in|
|NFL Draft||1971 (Pittsburgh Steelers, Round 2, Pick: 34)|
Super Bowl Champion: 4 times (IX, X, XIII, XIV)
First-Team All-Pro: 6 times (1974–1979)
Pro Bowl: 8 times (1973–1980)
The eight-time pro bowler, with his four Super Bowl championships, is one of the most successful players on this list. He was drafted into the NFL in 1971 and soon became a star player. He was a left-backer and arguably the most sustainable defense.
He was the best in coverage and also good at blitz. He had defended 91 passes, along with 25.5 sacks and 32 interceptions. He played a crucial role in the Steelers’ four super bowl wins.
Career stats of Jack Ham:
3. Junior Seau
|Full Name||Tiaina Baul “Junior” Seau Jr.|
|Date of Birth||January 19, 1969|
|Place of Birth||Oceanside, California, U.S.|
|Height||6 ft 3 in|
|NFL Draft||1990 (San Diego Chargers, Round 1, Pick: 5)|
|Teams||San Diego Chargers, New England Patriots, and Miami Dolphins|
Pro Bowl: 12 times (1991–2002)
First-Team All-Pro: 6 times ((1992–1994, 96, 98, 2000)
NFL Man of the Year: 1 time (1994)
Junior Seau had played in several positions in his career, including middle backer, undershirt, and also linebacker. He had a long career in the NFL and player 268 games. He came into the limelight immediately after his debut with the San Diego Chargers.
Seau is a twelve-time pro bowler from 1991-2002, never missing a year in the middle. He is also six times all-pro. He was awarded the NFL man of the year award in 1994. Seau was good at everything from tackles to sacks and interceptions. With so many skills, he deserves to be on the list.
Career stats of Junior Seau:
4. Derrick Brooks
|Full Name||Derrick Dewan Brooks|
|Date of Birth||April 18, 1973|
|Place of Birth||Pensacola, Florida, U.S.|
|Height||6 ft 0 in|
|NFL Draft||1995 (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Round 1, Pick: 28)|
|Teams||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
Super Bowl Champion: 1 time (XXXVII)
First-team All-Pro: 5 times ( (1999, 2000, 02, 04, 05)
Pro Bowl: 11 times (1997–2006, 2008)
You can clearly see that his accolades are full of achievements. He had his NFL debut in 1995 and, since then, dominated the game. Brooks had an average of 122 tackles per year and 22 picks. He finished his career with more than seventeen hundred tackles on his name.
Brooks ranks no.100 in the NFL all-time 100 great players list. Brooks is a legend for the Buccaneers. Not just that he play well for the team, but he helped the team transform. Before Brooks’s inclusion in the team, Buccaneers had lost ten or more gamers for twelve seasons.
Brook played a key role in the turnaround of the Buccaneers. Soon the Buccaneers became one of the top teams in the league and would frequently end up in the top 10s. And finally, in 2003, he led the Buccaneers to its first-ever super bowl championship win.
He was not only a good player but a good influencer who could motivate his teammates to give their best. With his contribution to the dramatic turnaround of the Buccaneers, he stands amongst the best defensive outside linebackers of all time.
Career stats of Derrick Brooks:
5. Ted Hendrick
|Full Name||Theodore Paul Hendricks|
|Date of Birth||November 1, 1947|
|Place of Birth||Guatemala City, Guatemala|
|Height||6 ft 7 in|
|NFL Draft||1969 (Baltimore Colts, Round 2, Pick: 33)|
|Teams||Baltimore Colts, Green Bay Packers, and Los Angeles Raiders)|
Super Bowl Champion: 4 times (V, XI, XV, XVIII)
Pro Bowl: 8 times (1971–1974, 1980–1983)
First-team All-Pro: 4 times (1971, 74, 1980, 82)
4th Most career safeties
Hendricks began his career in the NFL as a defensive end in 1969 with the Colts but soon moved up to the outside linebacker position, where he showed some excellent defense in the next two seasons, which made him in the position.
Throughout the seventies, he was one of the top defenders in the league. Compared to his height, he was thin, which allowed him to run faster. But he was strong and a devastating tackler whose specialty was blocking punts. With two super bowl rings in the 70s and two in the 80s, he was included in both 70s and 80s all-decades teams.
Career stats of Ted Hendrick:
6. Robert Brazile
|Full Name||Robert Lorenzo Brazile Jr.|
|Date of Birth||February 7, 1953|
|Place of Birth||Mobile, Alabama, U.S.|
|NFL Draft||1975 (Houston Oilers, Round 1, Pick: 6)|
NFL Champion: 1 time (1975)
Pro Bowl: 7 times (1976–1982)
First-team All-Pro: 2 times (1978–1979)
The seven-time pro bowler Robert Brazile also has an NFL ring for winning the championship in 1975. Besides being a top-class defender, he was a great rusher on the field. In the late eighties, he made twice the first-team all-pro.
Brazile was drafted into the NFL in 1975, where he was the sixth pick in the first round. The same year he contributed greatly to Houston’s NFL title victory. With more than twelve hundred tackles and 48 sacks, he stands as one of the best outside linebackers of all time.
Career stats of Robert Brazile:
7. Chuck Bednarik
|Full Name||Charles Philip Bednarik|
|Date of Birth||May 1, 1925|
|Place of Birth||Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, U.S.|
|NFL Draft||1949 (Philadelphia Eagles, Round 1, Pick: 1)|
|Death||March 21, 2015|
NFL Champion: 2 times (1949, 1960)
First-team All-Pro: 10 times (1950–1957, 1960, 61)
Pro Bowl: 8 times (1950–1954, 56, 57, 1960)
NFL 50th, 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Team
Because of his defensive skills, he was also called “Concrete Charlie,” as he was like a wall in defense. Bednarik was a complete package of defense; he played as a defensive center, as well as in all three linebackers’ positions. However, he excelled as an outside linebacker.
Bednarik had an incredible year in his college career that earned him a good reputation. He was on everyone’s wishlist. Bednarik was the first pick in the draft of 1949 and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles.
In his first year with the Eagles, he lived up to expectations and contributed to the team’s NFL championship winning. In his 13-year-long career, he became an eight-times pro bowler and ten-times all-pro. It was impossible not to notice him in the field.
In his 169 game appearances, he made 20 interceptions. Bednarik was a part of the NFL’s 50th, 75th, and 100th-anniversary all-team.
Career stats of Chuck Bednarik:
8. Dave Wilcox
|Full Name||David Wilcox|
|Date of Birth||September 29, 1942|
|Place of Birth||Ontario, Oregon|
|Height||6 ft 3 in|
|NFL Draft||1964 (San Francisco 49ers, Round 3, Pick: 29)|
|Teams||San Francisco 49ers|
Pro Bowl: 7 times (1966, 1968–1973)
First-team All-Pro: 2 times (1971, 1972)
After being drafted to the San Francisco 49ers in 1964, he played for 11 seasons for the 49ers. He is considered one the most skilled player to play as a linebacker. He had impressive natural strength with a huge upper body and massive triceps.
He was a seven-time pro bowler and two-time all-pro. The 49ers used to rate each player after the end of a season. While a satisfactory rating for a linebacker was 750, Willcox scored 1306 in 1973. Willcox was aware of his fitness and dedicated to the sport too. He missed only one game in his career, and that, too, was due to an injury.
Career stats of Dave Wilcox:
9. Dave Robinson
|Full Name||Richard David Robinson|
|Date of Birth||May 3, 1941|
|Place of Birth||Mount Holly, New Jersey|
|Height||6 ft 3 in|
|NFL Draft||1963 (Green Bay Packers, Round 3, Pick: 14)|
|Teams||Green Bay Packers and Washington Commanders|
NFL Champion: 3 times (1965–1967)
Super Bowl champion: 2 times (I, II)
First-team All-Pro: 1 time (1967)
Pro Bowl: 3 times (1966, 67, 69)
Robinson is one of the most accomplished linebackers with three consecutive NFL championship victories, two consecutive super bowls, and a three-time pro bowler. He achieved a lot.
Dave Robinson was already a popular name even before joining NFL. His performance in 1961 led the Nittany Lions to a victory in the Gator Bowl following. 2 years later, he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers.
Robinson retired in 1974 after establishing his legacy among the best outside linebackers of all time. He was instated into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
Career stats of Dave Robinson:
10. Chuck Howley
|Full Name||Charles Louis Howley|
|Date of Birth||June 28, 1936|
|Place of Birth||Wheeling, West Virginia|
|Height||6 ft 3 in|
|NFL Draft||1958 (Chicago Bears, Round 1, Pick: 7)|
|Teams||Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys|
Super Bowl Champion: 1 time (VI)
Super Bowl MVP: 1 time (V)
First-team All-Pro: 5 times (1966–1970)
Pro Bowl: 6 times (1965–1969, 1971)
A six-time pro bowler with an MVP, five all-pros, and one super bow ring! Surprisingly, with so much in his accolades, he is yet to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Howley was born in West Virginia in 1936 and drafted into the NFL in 1958. However, due to a car accident, he was out of action for a year. After his recovery, he joined the Dallas Cowboys. He played a total of 15 seasons and had 26 sacks, along with 18 fumbles recovery, 25 interceptions, and two touchdowns. It’s a matter of time before he is in the Hall of Fame. Still, he is regarded amongst the best outside linebackers of all time.
Career stats of Chuck Howley:
Outside linebackers are versatile players who have different roles to play, like stopping the run from saving the team from getting behind. Their role in the defensive is one of the most important ones, and a team needs to have a skilled outside linebacker for success.
These players in the list are the prototype of outside linebackers. They displayed great skill and athleticism and became the best outside linebackers of all time.
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