NFL's best linebackers of 2012

Patrick Willis was dominant in 2012 for the San Francisco 49ers. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Last year at Pro Football Focus, we graded some spectacular performances. So to give you a glimpse of what really stood out, we're highlighting the top 10 players at several positions, giving a little explanation on why they were ranked and what to expect going forward.

Up next are the linebackers, which involves us grouping together all 4-3 middle and outside linebackers with interior LBs in 3-4 sets. The positions aren't completely identical in our grading system so we've created a common ground to cross-compare the players. And if you're looking for a 3-4 OLB like Clay Matthews, you'll find him in our edge rusher grouping.

Note: You can find out more about the grading system and process here.


1. Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers
2012 Grade: +27.3

Analysis: It should almost go without saying that Willis is the game's top linebacker. To say anything else is merely for the sake of being contrary. He topped our inside linebacker rankings (again) after another fantastic display that proved him a linebacker capable of doing everything. Willis gave up just 0.7 yards per snap in coverage (fifth-lowest) and missed just one tackle in every 23 he attempted (third-best).

Trending: At 28 years old, the only thing that will stop Willis from continuing to dominate is a fractured right hand that required surgery. Even then, as a betting man you wouldn't think that will slow him down.