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
+ - 2,075 600
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lawrence Taylor Linebacker

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2
+ - 1,572 520
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Reggie White Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
+ - 1,433 484
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

4
+ - 1,279 503
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Butkus Linebacker, Center

5
+ - 1,170 409
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ronnie Lott Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

6
+ - 1,455 608
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Lewis Linebacker

7
+ - 1,090 484
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Lambert Linebacker

8
+ - 910 265
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

9
+ - 931 362
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

10
+ - 844 366
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

11
+ - 1,133 406
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Deion Sanders Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

12
+ - 804 397
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

13
+ - 773 359
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Ham Linebacker

14
+ - 875 286
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Woodson Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

15
+ - 608 237
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Lane Cornerback

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16
+ - 667 289
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Thomas Linebacker

17
+ - 681 281
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ed Reed Free Safety

18
+ - 574 332
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Mel Blount Cornerback, Defensive back

19
+ - 506 292
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Randy White Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

20
+ - 528 281
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Junior Seau Linebacker

21
+ - 486 238
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Alan Page Defensive tackle, Defensive end

22
+ - 465 299
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bob Lilly Defensive tackle

23
+ - 433 343
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

24
+ - 499 247
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Nitschke Linebacker

25
+ - 587 161
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Troy Polamalu Strong Safety

26
+ - 402 261
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrell Green Cornerback

27
+ - 551 297
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Michael Strahan Defensive end

28
+ - 777 181
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
J. J. Watt Defensive end

29
+ - 566 305
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Brian Urlacher Linebacker

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30
+ - 349 238
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Chuck Bednarik Linebacker, Center

31
+ - 392 192
Derrick Brooks is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Brooks Linebacker

32
+ - 314 234
Jack Youngblood is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Youngblood Defensive end

33
+ - 336 132
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

34
+ - 440 283
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Warren Sapp Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

35
+ - 262 252
Jim Marshall is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jim Marshall Defensive end

36
+ - 361 195
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Steve Atwater Safety, Defensive back

37
+ - 348 196
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrelle Revis Cornerback

38
+ - 376 148
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Champ Bailey Cornerback

39
+ - 160 60
John Randle is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
John Randle Defensive tackle, Defensive end

40
+ - 366 186
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Julius Peppers Defensive end

41
+ - 291 204
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

42
+ - 241 212
Carl Eller is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Carl Eller Defensive end, Defensive lineman

43
+ - 237 159
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jared Allen Defensive end

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44
+ - 193 189
Bobby Bell is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bobby Bell Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

45
+ - 198 111
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Haley Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

46
+ - 190 201
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Paul Krause Safety, Defensive back

47
+ - 236 166
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lester Hayes Cornerback, Safety

48
+ - 200 205
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ted Hendricks Linebacker

49
+ - 280 132
James Harrison is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
James Harrison Outside Linebacker

50
+ - 186 218
Gino Marchetti is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Gino Marchetti Defensive end