B/R NFL 1,000: A Scout's Guide to Grading Linebackers

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 5, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 22:  Patrick Willis #52 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts after he sacked Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants in the second half during the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park on January 22, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Whether it's an inside linebacker, an outside linebacker or a rush linebacker, the position has similar characteristics that every scout and general manager looks for in a player. 

Strength. Toughness. Burst. Agility. These are the common denominators of great players, but what separates the good athletes from the great linebackers?

What are we looking for when scouting a linebacker? Here's a breakdown of each trait. Check out the B/R NFL 1,000 to see our rankings of today's inside linebackers.



A linebacker must have the quickness and balance to change direction as a pass-rusher and tackler. We're looking at foot speed (not 40-yard dash times) and hip flexibility.


Bull rush (3-4 defense only)

A ranking that gauges how well the 3-4 outside linebacker lowers his shoulders and drives through the blocker in front of him.


Speed Rush (3-4 defense only)

A judge of how well the player moves when rushing the passer off the edge and using a speed move. Closing on the quarterback and taking the right angle to the ball.


Pass Rush (4-3 defense only)

A cumulative score of the linebacker's ability to rush the quarterback in blitz packages.


Run Defense

Put simply, how well the player attacks the run, taking on blockers and bringing down the ball-carrier.



Burst, acceleration and speed all rolled into one handy category.



A grade of the player's power and fundamental strength on the field. 




This one is simple—not how many tackles does the player produces, but how well he tackles when asked.


Read and React

How well the player diagnoses the play, and then how quickly he gets to the ball.



A player's 2011 injury status. Not only looking at actual injuries, but time missed due to injury.



The cumulative score of the 10 traits above, all wrapped up in one score. This sets the player's place in the position ranking and, ultimately, in the B/R NFL 1,000 ranking across all positions.