Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner is best linebacker in NFL. Period.

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 15: Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner
SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 15: Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner /

Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks is the greatest middle linebacker in football. Here’s why.

There are many types of linebackers in professional football. The Von Miller-types are guys who get to the quarterback. Players like Christian Kirksey are excellent playing the run but not so great in pass coverage. There are few players who can do everything nearly as well as the Seahawks’ Wagner.

Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers gets a lot of buzz about being the best. Kuechly is a lot like Wagner. Both have speed and power. Each player is smart. Kuechly may be better in coverage than Wagner. Not much better, but a little. But Wagner is better against the run. We also learned last year that when Seattle wants to unleash Wagner more in pass rush he is able to do that exceptionally too. Better than Kuechly.

The other argument for best linebacker is Miller. Let’s be honest, Miller is really a defensive end. Different defensive schemes use players in different ways, of course. Denver does an excellent job of using Miller’s skills to their benefit. That does not make him the best linebacker in the league, though. Just makes him exciting.

Pro Football Focus rated Wagner as the third best linebacker in the league in 2016 with a grade of 90.8. Ahead of him were Jerrell Freeman of the Chicago Bears (93.9) and Kuechly (93.1). Freeman was the highest rated player of his position because he was far above the second highest ranked player in terms of pass coverage, 94.0 to Jordan A. Hicks’ 90.7. Freeman ranked 23rd in pass rush. He was 11th in run defense.

Kuechly played limited downs due to injury. He was second to Wagner in run defense. He was fourth to Wagner’s second in pass rush. What ranked Kuechly higher than Wagner was pass coverage. Wagner was far lower in this area.

And this is where the eye test comes in. We 12s know the importance of Bobby Wagner. Wagner, in fact, has received an NFL MVP vote. In 2014 Wagner missed five games with a turf toe injury. In the five games after he returned the Seahawks’ defense was two touchdowns better per game than the games he missed, 20.4 to 6.5. Besides Earl Thomas, Wagner may be the singularly most important player on Seattle’s defense. In fact, the argument could be made he is even more important than Thomas.

Wagner’s importance

This is in no way meant to dismiss Kuechly (or Thomas). Kuechly is a great player. But in two of the three main categories for PFF, Wagner was better last year. Wagner makes everyone on the Seahawks defense better because he allows other players to take chances. K.J. Wright is great because he plays alongside Wagner. Kam Chancellor makes exciting tackles because he has the freedom to play loose because Wagner is there to patrol the middle.

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For 12s, we saw how much worse Seattle was when Thomas missed the last part of the year in 2016. 12s do not want to see how bad it could be should Wagner miss time. Wagner makes the Seahawks better. He would improve any team. He is the best linebacker in the game.