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

1
+ - 1,977 534
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lawrence Taylor Linebacker

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2
+ - 1,480 480
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Reggie White Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
+ - 1,372 450
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

4
+ - 1,121 380
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ronnie Lott Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

5
+ - 1,223 474
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Butkus Linebacker, Center

6
+ - 1,047 448
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Lambert Linebacker

7
+ - 1,370 568
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Lewis Linebacker

8
+ - 886 334
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

9
+ - 862 253
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

10
+ - 788 348
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

11
+ - 770 374
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

12
+ - 1,064 389
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Deion Sanders Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

13
+ - 746 339
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Ham Linebacker

14
+ - 829 269
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Woodson Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

15
+ - 579 228
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Lane Cornerback

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16
+ - 638 272
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Thomas Linebacker

17
+ - 552 316
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Mel Blount Cornerback, Defensive back

18
+ - 647 265
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ed Reed Free Safety

19
+ - 515 261
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Junior Seau Linebacker

20
+ - 489 276
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Randy White Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

21
+ - 468 220
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Alan Page Defensive tackle, Defensive end

22
+ - 419 330
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

23
+ - 446 286
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bob Lilly Defensive tackle

24
+ - 474 235
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Nitschke Linebacker

25
+ - 386 247
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrell Green Cornerback

26
+ - 526 285
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Michael Strahan Defensive end

27
+ - 335 230
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Chuck Bednarik Linebacker, Center

28
+ - 539 296
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Brian Urlacher Linebacker

29
+ - 296 229
Jack Youngblood is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Youngblood Defensive end

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30
+ - 545 145
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Troy Polamalu Strong Safety

31
+ - 378 183
Derrick Brooks is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Brooks Linebacker

32
+ - 256 242
Jim Marshall is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jim Marshall Defensive end

33
+ - 422 270
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Warren Sapp Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

34
+ - 729 170
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
J. J. Watt Defensive end

35
+ - 336 182
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrelle Revis Cornerback

36
+ - 353 187
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Steve Atwater Safety, Defensive back

37
+ - 236 203
Carl Eller is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Carl Eller Defensive end, Defensive lineman

38
+ - 321 124
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

39
+ - 348 177
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Julius Peppers Defensive end

40
+ - 363 143
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Champ Bailey Cornerback

41
+ - 282 195
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

42
+ - 191 181
Bobby Bell is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bobby Bell Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

43
+ - 146 56
John Randle is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
John Randle Defensive tackle, Defensive end

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44
+ - 195 196
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ted Hendricks Linebacker

45
+ - 180 211
Gino Marchetti is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Gino Marchetti Defensive end

46
+ - 182 195
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Paul Krause Safety, Defensive back

47
+ - 230 157
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lester Hayes Cornerback, Safety

48
+ - 227 151
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jared Allen Defensive end

49
+ - 186 105
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Haley Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

50
+ - 168 100
Bubba Smith is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bubba Smith Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Defensive lineman