Who is the top 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL?
We took on that question as the next chapter of our NFL 1,000 series, taking a look at those teams running a 4-3 defense and breaking down their outside linebackers to bring you the top 35 players at the position.
Why the difference between 4-3 and 3-4 outside linebackers? To be simple, because they do different things. An outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense must be more well-rounded, while a 3-4 outside linebacker is primarily a pass-rusher. Because of the different demands of the two schemes, we've broken them up into two different position groups.
As with all the positions in this year's position-by-position rankings, we are scoring criteria at different weights but always adding up to a maximum of 100. Players in this case can receive up to 20 points for run defense, 20 for pass rush, 20 for pass coverage and 40 for tackling.
Our scouting team reviewed film from the 2012 season of more than 50 linebackers to come up with the top 35. The rankings are based on the linebackers’ 2012 performance, with no credit received for career achievements or potential.
Players who played fewer than 150 snaps at outside linebacker didn't qualify for the rankings. And remember, these are only 4-3 outside linebackers. That means no Aldon Smith or DeMarcus Ware.
In the case of a tie, we broke it based on which linebacker we'd rather have on our team right now.
All stats from Pro Football Focus.