football teams (american) The Greatest Defenders in NFL History  

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List Rules Defensive players based on their on-field achievements

This list of the greatest defenders in NFL history is here to decide definitively who is the best defender in NFL history. These are beasts of men who played for some of the best sports franchises ever and were (or are) among the best NFL players of all time. These NFL legends are all here, in one place, so you can vote on the best NFL defender to ever play football.

Some of these exceptional NFL players include the legendary Dick Butkus, "Mean" Joe Greene, and hard hitter-turned-coach Mike Singletary. Whatever it is that you factor into the skills of the best NFL defenders (speed, aggression, determination, stamina), these NFL players are the best at what they do from a defensive player standpoint.

What makes a great NFL defender? Who are the best NFL defenders of all time? Who is the top NFL defender in history? You decide! Vote for the NFL players you think make the biggest impact as defensive players and vote them up to the top of this list of the greatest defenders in NFL history. If you don't see your favorite NFL defender on this top NFL defenders list, make sure to add him so others can revel in his athletic glory. So who are the best defensive players in NFL history? Vote!

Check out more lists like the best NFL players in history, the top quarterbacks, and the greatest linebackers of all time
list ordered by

1
2,109 615
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lawrence Taylor Linebacker

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2
1,594 530
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Reggie White Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
1,453 492
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

4
1,182 415
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ronnie Lott Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

5
1,292 510
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Butkus Linebacker, Center

6
1,479 614
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Lewis Linebacker

7
1,106 489
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Lambert Linebacker

8
919 269
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

9
940 369
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

10
850 373
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

11
1,154 410
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Deion Sanders Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

12
811 401
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

13
782 363
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Ham Linebacker

14
886 293
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Woodson Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

15
616 240
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Lane Cornerback

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16
673 293
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Thomas Linebacker

17
695 285
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ed Reed Free Safety

18
585 336
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Mel Blount Cornerback, Defensive back

19
511 296
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Randy White Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

20
534 288
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Junior Seau Linebacker

21
490 242
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Alan Page Defensive tackle, Defensive end

22
600 167
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Troy Polamalu Strong Safety

23
466 303
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bob Lilly Defensive tackle

24
798 187
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
J. J. Watt Defensive end

25
501 251
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Nitschke Linebacker

26
437 346
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

27
561 301
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Michael Strahan Defensive end

28
406 266
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrell Green Cornerback

29
572 310
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Brian Urlacher Linebacker

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30
394 196
Derrick Brooks is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Brooks Linebacker

31
352 242
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Chuck Bednarik Linebacker, Center

32
338 136
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added Howie Long

33
319 237
Jack Youngblood is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Youngblood Defensive end

34
442 287
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Warren Sapp Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

35
362 201
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Steve Atwater Safety, Defensive back

36
351 201
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Darrelle Revis Cornerback

37
381 151
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
KobeMr81 added Champ Bailey Cornerback

38
370 189
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Julius Peppers Defensive end

39
262 257
Jim Marshall is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jim Marshall Defensive end

40
161 64
John Randle is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
John Randle Defensive tackle, Defensive end

41
293 208
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

42
242 163
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Jared Allen Defensive end

43
242 217
Carl Eller is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Carl Eller Defensive end, Defensive lineman

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44
236 171
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Al Sobrante added Lester Hayes Cornerback, Safety

45
199 115
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Haley Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

46
193 191
Bobby Bell is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bobby Bell Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

47
192 204
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Paul Krause Safety, Defensive back

48
200 208
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ted Hendricks Linebacker

49
288 134
James Harrison is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added James Harrison Outside Linebacker

50
180 107
Ed Jones is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History