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Friday, April 8, 2011
LB Power Rankings coming Tuesday

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

We’ll continue our Power Rankings series Tuesday with the linebackers.

I filled out my ballot last night and can tell you Carolina’s Jon Beason, New Orleans’ Jonathan Vilma and Atlanta’s Curtis Lofton all got strong consideration. I even gave some thought to Tampa Bay’s Barrett Ruud, but I’ll go ahead and reveal now that he didn’t make my final ballot.

This might have been the toughest vote of the Power Rankings series so far. That’s because linebacker is such a broad position in the NFL these days. I think of guys like Beason, Vilma and Lofton as traditional linebackers because they all play in the middle of 4-3 defenses.

But look around the league and you see guys like DeMarcus Ware, Tamba Hali and Terrell Suggs. They’re pass-rushers. But they’re also linebackers, so those three and some others were very much in the mix on my ballot.

I talked to several of the other voters and we’re in agreement that we have to be creative with the parameters on this vote. It’s hard to compare someone like Beason to someone like Ware because they don’t really play the same position.

In the end, my ballot included apples and oranges. I kept that in mind and just tried to look at how all the different types of linebackers impact their teams. Should be interesting to see the results once all the ballots are in.