This previous NFL season was a great year for a number of linebackers that wanted to take that next step in proving their worthiness as viable long term options for their franchises, including some rookies. Whether it is Kiko Alonso (Defensive Rookie of the Year) of the Buffalo Bills or Junior Galette, the 4th year man from New Orleans, many of these young talents still have something to prove. Here are five linebackers on the rise in 2014.
1. Kiko Alonso MLB, Buffalo Bills
Watching the way he moves and controls the field is something amazing. The former Oregon Duck definitely has the athleticism and the brains to be that franchise linebacker in upstate New York. The NFL Defensive Rookie of the year truly had a ridiculous season totaling 87 tackles (159 combined), 4 interceptions, 2 sacks and a forced fumble. Pretty impressive numbers for a first year man. Look for Kiko Alonso to only get better. Look out Luke Kuechly.
2. Junior Galette OLB, New Orleans Saints
While he didn’t total nearly as many tackles as Alonso, he did bring the heat. Can we say Dome Patrol 2? That may seem a little farfetched, but Rob Ryan’s defense (with the help of Junior Galette) got to the quarterback 49 times last season. The undrafted, 4th year man out of Stillman College piled up 28 tackles (40 combined), 12 quarterback sacks and a forced fumble. A huge step from his previous 3 seasons, Junior Galette is on the rise.
3. Alec Ogletree OLB, St. Louis Rams
The rookie out of Georgia had a great first season. He fell down the draft board due to some off field trouble, but still ended up going 30th overall. I’m sure the Rams were happy about that. His time at Georgia paid off quite well. The hard-hitting Ogletree compiled 94 tackles (117 combined), 1 interception, a sack and a half, 6 forced fumbles and a defensive touchdown. Those are some rookie of the year numbers as well. Look for Alec Ogletree to have another outstanding season in 2014.
4. Danny Trevathan OLB, Denver Broncos
This guy had a great college career at Kentucky. In 2010, he was named an All-American and to the First-team All-SEC. The following season he was Second-team All-SEC. When the 2012 6th round pick got the nod to start for Denver last season, he totaled 88 tackles (129 combined), 3 interceptions, 2 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles. Numbers like this are one of the reasons the Broncos reached the Super Bowl. Of course, Peyton Manning was the number one guy. Danny Trevathan took that extra leap and proved that he is capable of posting numbers like he did in college.
5. Mychal Kendricks ILB, Philadelphia Eagles
The second-year man out of the University of California stepped it up big, really helping out that struggling Philly defense. As a senior at Cal in 2011, Kendricks was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. In 2013 for the Eagles, the speedy inside guy accumulated 81 total tackles (106 combined), 3 interceptions, 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Numbers don’t lie. Looking at his professional performance thus far, only makes me think he will get better.
These players’ futures look bright. Very bright. I’d like to point out that Luke Kuechly is not on this list, simply because he has already made that next step. There is a reason he won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 and Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He has already proven himself elite in my book.
How about some honorable mentions?
Jon Bostic (Chicago Bears), Barkevius Mingo (Cleveland Browns), Jerry Hughes (Buffalo Bills), Jason Worilds (Pittsburgh Steelers), Jerrell Freeman (Indianapolis Colts), Paul Worrilow (Atlanta Falcons), Joplo Bartu (Atlanta Falcons), Sio Moore (Oakland Raiders), Bobby Wagner (Seattle Seahawks), DeMario Davis (New York Jets), Zach Brown (Tennessee Titans), Craig Robertson (Cleveland Browns).