The 2013 NFL season will mark a new era, as two of the best players in history have retired. Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher dominated the league for the past decade at inside linebacker and are without question first ballot Hall of Famers. They changed the NFL with their physicality and freak athleticism, and their indisputable talent will be missed.

But there is plenty of fresh talent at the position though. Here's a ranking of the scariest inside linebackers in the NFL today:

The NFL's Best Inside Linebackers: Life Without Ray Lewis And Brian Urlacher Slideshow


Passing the Torch

Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis set the standard for a new generation of linebackers today. The surefire Hall of Famers were unique specimens who had an uncanny ability to make their entire team better.


No. 5: James Laurinaitis

James Laurinaitis, son of former pro wrestling star "Road Warrior Animal" (aka Joe Laurinaitis), doesn't get all the hype playing for an underachieving St. Louis Rams team. But after starting every game since his rookie season, Laurinaitis has quietly become one of the best linebackers in this league. Racking up 518 total tackles in just his first four seasons, the Ohio State product has shown why he was considered the best linebacker to come out of the 2009 NFL draft.


No. 4: Jerod Mayo

When you play for the New England Patriots, often your talents are overshadowed by Tom Brady and the rest of their lightning offense. Jerod Mayo has seemed to fly under the radar a bit even after making the Pro Bowl in two of the past three seasons. The former first-round draft pick was an All-Pro selection in 2010, and continues to be among the league leaders in tackles. His leadership has earned him the title of defensive co-captain in New England, where he continues to light up anyone who comes in his way.


No. 3: Brian Cushing

When a player is referred to as a "Holy Phenom" by one of the best defensive minded coaches in football, Wade Phillips, his talent must be recognized. Brian Cushing has been a star since he stepped on to the grass at Reliant Stadium, and after winning the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2009, there was no question Cushing would follow in the footsteps of former NFL greats. Pushing aside his PED controversy, the Texan was an All-Pro in 2011 and will be for years to come.


No. 2: Navorro Bowman

Playing alongside Patrick Willis (spoiler alert!), NaVorro Bowman is a 25-year-old powerhouse who is a huge part of why the San Francisco 49ers have the best defense in the NFL. The former Penn State Nittany Lion has been a first team All-Pro selection in back-to back years. With so much success at the position, one would have never guessed he was a star running back in high school.


No. 1: Patrick Willis

Now that Patrick Willis is fully into his prime, this one was a no-brainer. Willis has been selected as an All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl every season in which he has played. Ray Lewis even said the 28 year old linebacker "reminds me of myself -- a lot, a lot, a lot." The six-time All-Pro selection is the most dominant linebacker in the league, forcing teams to change their whole offensive game plan. We don't expect No. 1 to fall from his position on this list for a long, long time.

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-- Follow Patrick Bates on Twitter @pbates13.