Over the past three seasons, there was no question as to who was the top linebacker in the NFL, Ray Lewis. However, many would argue that Brian Urlacher has to be included in this argument.
That all changed last season, neither of these two All-Pros were the best. In fact, the best middle linebacker award belonged to a rookie.
Patrick Willis, the 6'1" 240lb middle linebacker for the San Fransisco 49ers, had 174 tackles (135 solo), 2 forced fumbles, and 4 sacks; compared to Ray Lewis' 121 tackles, and Brian Urlacher's 123. Willis was overshadowed by his team's record, but the statistics don't lie.
Willis was one of the few bright spots on a struggling 49ers team last season, and if he stays healthy, he could be in the same league as Buckus, Taylor and Singletary.