London Fletcher won’t be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but why shouldn’t he?

As a follow-up to my NFC Overrated-Underrated list, I wanted to take a minute to compare two fantastic players: Ray Lewis and London Fletcher.  Clearly, Ray Lewis was (and remains) one of the best defensive players of the past 15 years in the NFL.  Some might argue he’s been the best defensive player over the last decade and a half.  I don’t think anyone could call that a crazy argument.  He’s been a tackling machine, he makes plays, and his intangibles and leadership qualities are immeasurable.

I don’t think anyone would ever consider London Fletcher to be on Ray Lewis’ level, but statistically at least, the two players really aren’t that far apart.

Ray Lewis’ numbers:

Ray Lewis Team Starts Tackles Sacks FF INT
1996 Ravens 14 110 2.5 0 1
1997 Ravens 16 183 4 1 1
1998 Ravens 14 118 3 1 2
1999 Ravens 16 167 3.5 0 3
2000 Ravens 16 136 3 0 2
2001 Ravens 16 161 3.5 1 3
2002 Ravens 5 57 0 1 2
2003 Ravens 16 161 1.5 2 6
2004 Ravens 15 146 1 1 0
2005 Ravens 6 46 1 0 1
2006 Ravens 14 103 5 1 2
2007 Ravens 14 120 2 2 2
2008 Ravens 16 117 3.5 2 3
2009 Ravens 16 134 3 2 0
2010 Ravens 16 139 2 2 2
TOTALS 210 1898 38.5 16 30
Per game 9 0.18 0.08 0.14

Obviously, Ray Lewis will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  But what about London Fletcher?  Here are his career numbers, minus his rookie season, when he wasn’t a starter:

(Cont after the jump)…

London Fletcher Team Starts Tackles Sacks FF INT
1999 Rams 16 90 3 0 0
2000 Rams 16 132 5.5 1 4
2001 Rams 16 116 4.5 4 2
2002 Bills 16 147 3 2 0
2003 Bills 16 133 2 0 0
2004 Bills 16 142 3.5 2 0
2005 Bills 16 157 4 1 1
2006 Bills 16 146 2 0 4
2007 Redskins 16 128 0 0 3
2008 Redskins 16 133 0.5 1 0
2009 Redskins 16 142 2 1 1
2010 Redskins 16 136 2.5 3 1
TOTALS 192 1602 32.5 15 16
Per game 8.3 0.17 0.08 0.08

The first thing that impresses me about Fletcher is that he has never missed a game in the NFL, which is almost impossible for such a violent player playing such a violent position.  Fletcher has clearly been a more durable player than Lewis.  Lewis averaged 0.7 more tackles per game, and has been more of a playmaker in the passing game, intercepting 14 more passes than Fletcher in their careers, but the other numbers are almost identical.

Yet, compare the individual accolades between the two players:

Ray Lewis:

  • 12× Pro Bowl selection; (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
  • 7× AP First Team All-Pro selection (1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009)
  • 3× AP Second Team All-Pro selection (1997, 1998, 2010)
  • 2× AP NFL Defensive Player of Year (2000, 2003)
  • 3× AFC Defensive Player Of The Year (2000, 2001, 2003)
  • 2× NFL Alumni Linebacker Of The Year (1999, 2003)
  • Record 12 Pro Bowls for an Inside/Middle Linebacker
  • Record 10 All-Pro selections for Inside/Middle Linebacker
  • Record 10 All-Pro selections for a Linebacker (tied with Lawrence Taylor)

London Fletcher:

  • 2× Pro Bowl selection (2009, 2010)

Think London Fletcher is sniffing Canton in his first shot at Canton when he retires?  I’d give him less than a 1% shot.  But maybe he should.

11 Comments

  1. [...] of the NFC East called Blogging the bEast.  Jimmy just put up a post that really fascinated me.  He compared the numbers of MLBs London Fletcher and Ray Lewis.  They are remarkably similar.  I don’t think anyone would dispute that Ray is the better [...]

  2. [...] London Fletcher – Such a great player, but no long term deals are likely to happen here.  It’s probably all up to whether or not [...]

  3. Faris Toosy says:

    I’m not saying he is on Ray Lewis’ level, however if you switched Lewis and Fletcher in the 2000 season are you really taking much of a step down?

    I think Fletcher is a lot closer to the Ray Lewis level than people think, and is a better than anyone else this decade!

    The key thing with Fletcher, more so than his great tackling ability or speed to cover some of the best pass-catching RB’s, is the fact that he has NEVER missed a game through injury! That is such a critical thing for any team, if you have a player the level of Fletcher and you can account for him to play in every game!!!

  4. Oli says:

    The offense carried those early teams, thats probably why he didn’t get recognized. And the Ravens have had a much better defense over the decade than Fletcher’s teams, not to mention far more success.

    Fletcher has been consistent his whole career, but Lewis had a much higher peak. Fletcher has never had a 160-tackle season, while Lewis has 4, even though he has had some injury-shortened seasons. Fletcher probably deserves more recognition than he’s received, but he is not on Ray Lewis’ level.

  5. Oli says:

    Ray Lewis got Defensive MVP in 2000 because he was the leader of the best defense ever, not just his stat line…

    1. Faris Toosy says:

      And Fletcher played as the middle linebacker on a very mean defense as a first year pro who went undrafted in all of the games from week 1 to a superbowl victory, and then again the season after the Ravens won the superbowl, the Rams went back to the superbowl!
      Fletcher, while with the Bills, and lead them to one of the NFL’s top D’s! Then captained the Redskins to one of the NFL’s top D’s (excluding this year)! And only made the pro-bowl as an ALTERNATE twice in the last 2 years and never been voted as a starter to the pro-bowl EVER!

      I’m not saying he should’ve been defensive MVP, but he clearly should’ve been a perrenial pro-bowler, what is your opinion on the statistics between Lewis and Fletcher over the last 10 years?

  6. Faris Toosy says:

    For the last decade (2000-2010) London Fletcher has been the undisputed second best Inside Linebacker in the league, with Ray Lewis the obvious number 1! However Ray Lewis’ flashy nature (all the dancing pre-game etc.) has attracted the media towards him, where London just quietly goes about doing his job! The most obvious example of that is the 2000 NFL season, where Ray Lewis had 136 tackles, 3 sacks, 0 FF and 2 INT’s and went to the pro-bowl, fair enough! However London Fletcher that same season had 132 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 1 FF and 4 INT’s and STILL wasn’t voted into the Pro-Bowl! I mean that is just criminal!!!

    1. Faris Toosy says:

      Sorry, forgot that Ray Lewis won the freaking Defensive MVP that year, Fletcher got nothing!!!!!!!!

      1. Faris Toosy says:

        Sorry for another post, I just wanted to show the comparisons between Ray Lewis and London Fletcher from 2000 – 2010;
        Ray Lewis -
        150 starts, 1320 tackles, 25.5 sacks, 14 FF and 23 INT’s – Defensive MVP x2, Pro-Bowl x9 and NFL all decade team!
        London Fletcher –
        176 starts, 1512 tackles, 29.5 sacks, 15 FF and 16 INT’s – Pro-Bowl alternate x2!

        So even though in this decade, Fletcher has started more games, has more tackles, more sacks and more forced fumbles than Ray Lewis, Fletcher doesn’t even get to be in the NFL all-decade team, let alone a bloody Pro-bowl starting berth?

        I’m starting to think that Fletcher is quite possibly the most under-rated player of all time (or is Lewis over-rated?)!

  7. CarverM says:

    Undrafted small-college player vs. a 1st rounder from “The U.”

    Maybe London should’ve murdered someone earlier in his career to help his name-recognition.

  8. Imp says:

    London Fletcher: So good, he’s a Redskins free agent signing that didn’t suck.

    But yeah. He’s not going to sniff the HOF. The Fame is a class that requires a lot of press to get into at some point, and Fletcher receives zero press. Mostly because he has been stuck on craptatular teams for 9 years.

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