Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Lance Briggs falls short in top 10 LBs

By Kevin Seifert

From an NFC North perspective, ESPN.com's linebacker Power Rankings were notable mostly for the exclusion of the Chicago Bears' Lance Briggs -- who I would suggest has been the best linebacker in this division for the past three years.

The voting got snagged on a legitimate complication: Separating the statistics and disparate assignments of 4-3 linebackers and those who play in the 3-4, especially on the outside. If he played in Chicago, for example, Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware would probably be a defensive end. Briggs, meanwhile, might be an inside linebacker in Dallas.

Briggs has been named to six consecutive Pro Bowl teams and was an All-Pro as recently as 2009. But I can only assume that his miniscule sack numbers as an outside linebacker -- he's never had as many as three in a season -- did him in for the purposes of this exercise.

Here in the NFC North, we know that the Bears' defense places pass rush priority on the defensive line. From his position, Briggs is asked to be a sideline-to-sideline playmaker. As a result, I was the only one to put him in my top 10, placing him placed him No. 6 -- one spot below Green Bay's Clay Matthews and two above Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Overall, Matthews finished fourth and Urlacher sixth. And before anyone starts with the "What about Chad Greenway?" refrain, I'll just say I couldn't bring myself to include a player who hasn't been to at least one Pro Bowl in his first five seasons. He's a good player, and the Minnesota Vikings have made him their franchise player, but he hasn't been recognized to this point as not one of the top 10 linebackers in the NFL.

For the record, here is the way I voted:
  1. Patrick Willis
  2. James Harrison
  3. Ray Lewis
  4. DeMarcus Ware
  5. Clay Matthews
  6. Lance Briggs
  7. LaMarr Woodley
  8. Brian Urlacher
  9. Jon Beason
  10. Jerod Mayo