Fred Warner is in the same spot as he was to start the season — the clear-cut choice as the top off-ball linebacker in the NFL.
The fiery leader of the San Francisco 49ers defense was voted the unanimous choice as the top linebacker in the league by The Associated Press. He was also the unanimous pick as top linebacker before the season.
A panel of nine AP Pro Football Writers ranked the top five players at linebacker, making their selections based on current status midway through the 2023 season. First-place votes were worth 10 points. Second through fifth-place votes were worth 5, 3, 2 and 1 points.
Warner was the only player named on all nine ballots. Roquan Smith was named on eight ballots with five second-place votes and came in second. Demario Davis got two second-place votes and came in third. Lavonte David was fourth and Bobby Wagner was fifth.
Zaire Franklin, Matt Milano, Quincy Williams, C.J. Mosley, Foyesade Oluokun, Terrel Bernard, Patrick Queen, Jordan Hicks, Azeez Al-Shaair, T.J. Edwards and Shaquille Leonard also got votes.
Perhaps no linebacker is as adept at staying with receivers deep downfield and being a force against the run the way Warner is for the 49ers. He has already matched his career best with two interceptions this season to go along with two sacks, two forced fumbles and five passes defensed.
Acquired before the trade deadline last year, Smith has been the key to the Ravens defense. He has five games with double-digit tackles already this season with three tackles for loss, three QB hits and five passes defensed.
The 34-year-old Davis has shown few signs of slowing down and is still one of the top linebackers in the game. He is on his way to an 11th straight season with at least 90 tackles and has multiple sacks in 10 straight seasons.
The 33-year-old David has been one of the game’s top linebackers for more than a decade. David hasn’t generated any takeaways this season but has at least 12 tackles in four games and is strong both against the run and pass.
The 33-year-old Wagner was the only new entrant into the top five compared to the preseason after a successful return to Seattle. Wagner has been a first- or second-team All-Pro nine times in his career and is still playing at a high level with 76 tackles and two sacks so far this season.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL