NFL's top 10 linebackers in 2016

Luke Kuechly, Bobby Wagner among LBs who should be thriving

Originally Published: June 25, 2013
By Field Yates | ESPN Insider

Luke KuechlyAP Photo/Rainier EhrhardtCarolina's Luke Kuechly led the NFL in tackles as a rookie with 164 on the season.

The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, but not just on offense; every defense needs a quarterback of its own as well. In some cases, that quarterback aligns in the secondary as a safety, but more often, the defensive signal caller patrols the middle of the field as a linebacker.

Being a quality linebacker entails more than just what shows up in the box score. A top flight 'backer must be a leader, both through his words and his play. Offenses have become so multiple and operate at such a fast tempo that a linebacker must be able to get his unit lined up and in the right defense on the fly.

That type of player is who we're looking for in our top 10 linebacker rankings for 2016. (Note: Pass-rushing linebackers are excluded from this list. They are included on our top pass-rushers for 2016 list).

Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.