We continue our position-by-position divisional rankings with a solid group of linebackers:
1. Tamba Hali, Kansas City: This is a special player. He is truly one of the best defensive players in the NFL.
2. Von Miller, Denver: Miller will only improve from a stellar rookie season. He is a gem.
3. Derrick Johnson, Kansas City: An underrated player. He is an A-player.
4. D.J. Williams, Denver: Very talented, but the red flags are piling up. He needs to stay focused on the field.
5. Justin Houston, Kansas City: I’m a big fan of this second-year player. I think he and Hali will be fun to watch rush the passer.
6. Jarret Johnson, San Diego: Free agent is a very solid pro. He will help this defense.
7. Melvin Ingram, San Diego: I’m very high on this versatile rookie. I expect big things right away.
8. Donald Butler, San Diego: A very talented player. He has a real future.
9. Rolando McClain, Oakland: McClain has to make fast improvements or his Oakland career may be on the rocks.
10. Shaun Phillips, San Diego: He can help, but he may be nearing the end.
11. Aaron Curry, Oakland: He can make some big plays, but he needs to become more consistent.
12. Takeo Spikes, San Diego: Spikes is getting way up there in age, but he isn’t the type of guy who you count out.
13. Philip Wheeler, Oakland: The Raiders will give this free-agent pickup a chance to prove he can be a better-than-average player.
14. Antwan Barnes, San Diego: He is limited but he has a real burst as a pass-rusher.
15. Jovan Belcher, Kansas City: A solid inside starting linebacker.
16. Joe Mays, Denver: Same here.
17. Wesley Woodyard, Denver: He will likely start if Williams’ six-game suspension sticks.
18. Brandon Siler, Kansas City: He was injured last year. He will help the Chiefs.
19. Larry English, San Diego: Make-or-break year for former No. 16 overall pick.
20. Travis Goethel, Oakland: If McClain gets suspended, he’ll get a chance.
21. Nate Irving, Denver: The Broncos want to see this 2011 third-round pick push Mays.
22. Miles Burris, Oakland: He likely won’t play much early, but the rookie is a player to keep an eye on.