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James Harrison And LaMarr Woodley Both Crack Top Ten In ESPN's Linebacker Power Rankings

Each week this offseason, the NFL writers at ESPN have put together a Power Rankings for various positions in the league. Last week they voted on the top 10 NFL head coaches, with Mike Tomlin receiving the second most votes behind New Enland's Bill Belichick. This week, John Clayton & Co. tally up their votes on who they collectively feel are the league's best linebackers. Here were the top five in their minds.

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1. Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers (73 votes)
2. James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers (65)
3. DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys (64)
4. Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers (54)
5. Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens (42)

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As you can see, there's both 3-4 linebackers in the bunch like Clay Matthews and James Harrison, and 4-3 backers like Patrick Willis. That proved to be troublesome for some members of the panel:

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AFC East blogger Tim Graham ranked Ware first among pass-rushers three weeks ago, but only ninth among linebackers.

"Patrick Willis, Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis would be great linebackers in a 3-4 or a 4-3," Graham explained. "DeMarcus Ware and Cameron Wake might not even be linebackers if they played in Indianapolis, Tennessee or Minnesota. At some point, I had to value elite pass-rushing abilities on my list even though those players aren't universal-type linebackers."

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Also cracking the top ten was LaMarr Woodley, Harrison's coutnerpart at outside linebacker who was designated as the Steelers' franchise player earlier this offsaeason. Woodley was ranked as high as sixth by Clayton and Mike Sando, but was left out of the top ten by three of the eight panelists. He finished with the eighth most votes, seven by Brian Urlacher for seventh place.

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Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.