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
+ - 2,046 566
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lawrence Taylor Linebacker

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2
+ - 1,531 506
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Reggie White Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
+ - 1,415 472
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

4
+ - 1,257 492
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Butkus Linebacker, Center

5
+ - 1,154 402
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ronnie Lott Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

6
+ - 1,429 594
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Lewis Linebacker

7
+ - 1,078 473
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Lambert Linebacker

8
+ - 899 258
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

9
+ - 915 351
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

10
+ - 826 359
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

11
+ - 788 388
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

12
+ - 1,112 398
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Deion Sanders Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

13
+ - 762 350
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Ham Linebacker

14
+ - 855 278
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Woodson Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

15
+ - 598 232
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Lane Cornerback

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16
+ - 659 279
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Thomas Linebacker

17
+ - 669 274
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ed Reed Free Safety

18
+ - 568 324
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Mel Blount Cornerback, Defensive back

19
+ - 503 283
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Randy White Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

20
+ - 520 271
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Junior Seau Linebacker

21
+ - 459 289
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bob Lilly Defensive tackle

22
+ - 478 228
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Alan Page Defensive tackle, Defensive end

23
+ - 428 334
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

24
+ - 492 242
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Nitschke Linebacker

25
+ - 396 254
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrell Green Cornerback

26
+ - 543 291
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Michael Strahan Defensive end

27
+ - 575 150
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Troy Polamalu Strong Safety

28
+ - 553 301
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Brian Urlacher Linebacker

29
+ - 345 233
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Chuck Bednarik Linebacker, Center

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30
+ - 759 174
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
J. J. Watt Defensive end

31
+ - 390 186
Derrick Brooks is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Brooks Linebacker

32
+ - 308 231
Jack Youngblood is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Youngblood Defensive end

33
+ - 260 246
Jim Marshall is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jim Marshall Defensive end

34
+ - 434 277
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Warren Sapp Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

35
+ - 329 128
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

36
+ - 344 192
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrelle Revis Cornerback

37
+ - 356 191
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Steve Atwater Safety, Defensive back

38
+ - 369 146
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Champ Bailey Cornerback

39
+ - 155 57
John Randle is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
John Randle Defensive tackle, Defensive end

40
+ - 358 183
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Julius Peppers Defensive end

41
+ - 240 206
Carl Eller is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Carl Eller Defensive end, Defensive lineman

42
+ - 288 199
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

43
+ - 192 184
Bobby Bell is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bobby Bell Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

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44
+ - 232 155
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jared Allen Defensive end

45
+ - 185 199
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Paul Krause Safety, Defensive back

46
+ - 197 200
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ted Hendricks Linebacker

47
+ - 192 108
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Haley Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

48
+ - 232 161
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lester Hayes Cornerback, Safety

49
+ - 184 212
Gino Marchetti is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Gino Marchetti Defensive end

50
+ - 276 126
James Harrison is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
James Harrison Outside Linebacker