AFC North Positional Rankings: Linebacker

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Nov 30, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley (57) gets introduced prior to the game against the San Diego Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

1. Baltimore Ravens

OLB: Terrell Suggs

ILB: C.J. Mosley

ILB: Daryl Smith

SLB: Courtney Upshaw

Other notable linebackers: Elvis Dumervil, Arthur Brown, Za’Darius Smith

The Baltimore Ravens have the best linebacking corps in the AFC North and it’s not even close. With four quality starters and two difference-making rotational players, Baltimore has a linebacking corps that could be the best in the entire NFL.

Aug 13, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) stands on the sidelines during the third quarter against the New Orleans Saints in a preseason NFL football game at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Terrell Suggs, like James Harrison, has been a generational player for his franchise. The difference between Harrison and Suggs, however, is that Suggs can still play. Harrison is a good situational pass-rusher, but Suggs can play both the pass and the run (although he’s much better against the pass). Suggs notched 61 tackles, 12 sacks, a safety and a pass defense in 2014. He’s a solid player who hasn’t shown any signs of aging. And if Suggs ends up slowing down, Arthur Brown can step in so that Suggs can fit in as a situational pass-rusher. Suggs has a legitimate chance of making the Hall of Fame, with 728 career tackles, 46 pass defenses, seven interceptions, two touchdowns and a ridiculous 106.5 sacks.

The Steelers selected linebacker Ryan Shazier in the first round of the 2014 draft and still don’t know whether he’s going to be a success or a disappointment. However, Baltimore’s first-round selection (which came after Pittsburgh’s) in the same draft is already an NFL superstar. His name: C.J. Mosley.

C.J. Mosley earned a Pro Bowl nod and was a second team All-Pro in his rookie season; he totaled 133 tackles, three sacks, eight pass defenses, two interceptions and a forced fumble in 2014. Those numbers are crazy for any player, especially a rookie! Mosley is solid against both the run and the pass; he could be one of the NFL’s top five linebackers in the upcoming season if he is able to replicate his 2014 success.

Opposite Mosley at inside linebacker is Daryl Smith, a consistently productive who spent the majority of his career on the Jacksonville Jaguars before signing with the Ravens in 2013. Smith has recorded 251 tackles, six sacks, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and a touchdown in his two seasons with Baltimore. He’s the perfect compliment to C.J. Mosley and a great mentor for the young linebacker.

Finally, Courtney Upshaw rounds out Baltimore’s linebacking corps. Upshaw has started 27 games in the past two seasons and has proven to be a force in the run game. And with Elvis Dumervil able to come in as a pass-rusher, Upshaw doesn’t have to be anything more than just a run-stopper to succeed in Baltimore’s defense.

Baltimore’s linebacking corps is what it is because of its fifth linebacker, Elvis Dumervil. The Ravens somehow ended up with Dumervil after an event I like to call FaxGate, and since acquiring Dumervil, Baltimore’s linebacking corps has become one of the NFL’s best. Dumervil has 90 sacks in just eight seasons, and he aims to not just break 100 this season, but also to break the NFL’s single-season sack record. While the second task may be difficult, Dumervil will likely break 100 sacks this season, bar injury.

Baltimore’s linebacking corps makes Bengals fans like myself envious; every player in the position unit fits a specific role and the position group doesn’t seem to have a single weakness. With quality starters across the board, depth that can’t be matched by other teams and a pass-rushing duo that could be the league’s best in 2015, the Baltimore Ravens’ linebacking unit is far and away the best unit in the AFC North.

Next: AFC North Positional Rankings: Defensive Line

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