Welcome to the Pro Football Focus Page of Fame for 4-3 outside linebackers, where only the best overall regular season performances during our time grading (2008 to Present) are mentioned.
If this is your first visit to a “PFF PoF” then the rules are pretty simple. The highest grades from the regular season make the list, and at the end of every year we update.
Anything over a +15.0 grade for this position will get the recognition it deserves!
Disclaimer: After some thought it was decided that players like Von Miller and Kamerion Wimbley would better fit into an edge rusher (4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB) category given how different their role is to that of the traditional 4-3 outside linebacker and thus how they benefit from the extra pass rushing they do.
1. Daryl Smith, JAX, 2009: +27.6
Pass Rush: +4.0, Coverage: +8.5, Run Defense: +14.0, Penalties: +1.0
2009 was an interesting year for the Jaguars Smith. He was asked to play inside and outside in a 3-4 and then his more conventional outside linebacker spot in a 4-3. The one consistent? His excellent performance. We’ve normalized his season at just the 4-3 outside linebacker position to get this ranking and the results show just how impressive he was, finishing with a fantastic 55 defensive stops and 27 quarterback disruptions.
2. Bart Scott, BAL, 2008: +26.5
Pass Rush: +1.6, Coverage: +5.8, Run Defense: +19.5, Penalties: -0.4
To a lot of people Scott was just a guy. Why? Well they like their linebackers to make tackling machines. Well Scott was never that guy and never will be. Instead he was a demolition man, for whom the joy of the game came in blowing up a lead blocker whether it was a fullback head on or a linemen pulling to the second level. He stretched out runs and redirected runners to make life a lot easier for his teammates, and that’s why he led our 2008 4-3 outside linebacker rankings.
3. Daryl Smith, JAX, 2011: +24.9
Pass Rush: +4.3, Coverage: +12.2, Run Defense: +7.7, Penalties: +0.7
The ever excellent Smith had a career year even as the Jags struggled in 2011. Capable of pretty much doing it all, he graded positively in every area with his work in coverage being particularly impressive. Not many linebackers break up eight passes in a season, while his 10.6 Run Stop Percentage was the third highest of the outside linebackers. If he played in a bigger market you’d have heard a lot more about him.
4. Erin Henderson, MIN, 2011: +19.6
Pass Rush: +0.1, Coverage: +4.2, Run Defense: +14.2, Penalties: +1.1
The younger of the Henderson boys in Minnesota, Erin was somewhat protected by not being asked to perform an every down role that may have left him exposed in coverage. It meant though we got a real focused look at is work in the run game and the results (leading linebackers with an 11.6 Run Stop Percentage) were impossible to ignore. A real breakout season here.
5. Lance Briggs, CHI, 2008: +19.0
Pass Rush: +1.5, Coverage: +12.1, Run Defense: +3.2, Penalties: +2.2
The Bears weakside linebacker is a little different compared to a lot of the guys on the list. While they do their best work coming forward, the former third round pick proved as good as it got in 2008 with his coverage work. He led all his peers in defensive stops this year with a stunning 23 of them coming in the coverage game as he epitomized the kind of defender needed to make the Bears Tampa-2 scheme work.
6. Sean Weatherspoon, ATL, 2011: +17.9
Pass Rush: +4.5, Coverage: +4.1, Run Defense: +12.6, Penalties: -3.3
After a lackluster rookie year, the Falcons got a big year from a player they needed to take a big step up. An athletic playmaker with a nose for the football, Weatherspoon ended third overall in our Run Stop Percentage Signature Stat and top of the Pass Rushing Productivity rating. This was the year where he emerged as a guy worthy of being selected first overall.
7. Jerod Mayo, NE, 2012: +17.0
Pass Rush: +5.0, Coverage: +5.1, Run Defense: +9.6, Penalties: -2.6
When Mayo came into the league Patriots fans expected probably a little bit more than he’d gone onto deliver. Or at least that was the case until a fantastic 2012 where he really backed up what he brings with his intangibles with some stellar performances that saw him finish second overall in our 4-3 outside linebacker rankings for 2012.
8. Jarret Johnson, BAL, 2008: +17.0
Pass Rush: -2.1, Coverage: +8.7, Run Defense: +10.8, Penalties: -0.4
When you think of Jarret Johnson, the words “edge setter” comes to mind. As good as it got in this regard he was, in some respects, a little out of place in Baltimore given how much they asked him to rush the passer. However in 2008 his work in the run game was stellar, even if he was hardly a guy known for making defensive stops. Instead he was a nuisance whenever teams tried to run off tackle, with his ability to stand up blockers second to none.
9. Brian Cushing, HOU, 2009: +16.3
Pass Rush: +6.5, Coverage: +9.8, Run Defense: +3.2, Penalties: -3.2
The debut season of Cushing will forever be remembered for the ending of it that saw some asterisks applied to his season awards, but on the field he had an immediate impact. A tremendous athlete, he took to the NFL like a duck to water, and proved to be a true playmaker with his four interceptions and six sacks.
10. Chad Greenway, MIN, 2008: +16.3
Pass Rush: +2.9, Coverage: -2.0, Run Defense: +13.8, Penalties: +1.6
At his best, as he was in 2008, Greenway has a nose for the ball carrier like few others. Here he wound up with 50 defensive stops (second highest of all 4-3 outside linebackers) as he earned the second highest run grade of all his peers. A playmaker in coverage (with six pass defenses), he’d be higher but for allowing 84.2% of the passes into his coverage complete at 9.5 yards per attempt.
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