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
+ - 1,985 537
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lawrence Taylor Linebacker

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2
+ - 1,485 482
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Reggie White Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
+ - 1,376 452
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

4
+ - 1,228 476
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Butkus Linebacker, Center

5
+ - 1,126 385
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ronnie Lott Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

6
+ - 1,049 453
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Lambert Linebacker

7
+ - 1,378 571
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Lewis Linebacker

8
+ - 890 336
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

9
+ - 867 253
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

10
+ - 792 349
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

11
+ - 771 375
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

12
+ - 1,070 391
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Deion Sanders Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

13
+ - 748 341
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Ham Linebacker

14
+ - 833 270
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Woodson Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

15
+ - 582 228
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Lane Cornerback

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16
+ - 640 272
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Thomas Linebacker

17
+ - 555 317
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Mel Blount Cornerback, Defensive back

18
+ - 651 266
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ed Reed Free Safety

19
+ - 492 277
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Randy White Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

20
+ - 516 262
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Junior Seau Linebacker

21
+ - 469 222
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Alan Page Defensive tackle, Defensive end

22
+ - 449 286
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bob Lilly Defensive tackle

23
+ - 420 331
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

24
+ - 478 236
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Nitschke Linebacker

25
+ - 389 247
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrell Green Cornerback

26
+ - 527 286
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Michael Strahan Defensive end

27
+ - 337 230
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Chuck Bednarik Linebacker, Center

28
+ - 539 298
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Brian Urlacher Linebacker

29
+ - 298 229
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
+ - 549 145
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Troy Polamalu Strong Safety

31
+ - 380 183
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
+ - 423 273
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Warren Sapp Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

34
+ - 733 171
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
J. J. Watt Defensive end

35
+ - 338 183
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrelle Revis Cornerback

36
+ - 353 189
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Steve Atwater Safety, Defensive back

37
+ - 236 205
Carl Eller is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Carl Eller Defensive end, Defensive lineman

38
+ - 322 126
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

39
+ - 349 179
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Julius Peppers Defensive end

40
+ - 365 144
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Champ Bailey Cornerback

41
+ - 284 196
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

42
+ - 192 182
Bobby Bell is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bobby Bell Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

43
+ - 148 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
+ - 196 197
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ted Hendricks Linebacker

45
+ - 182 211
Gino Marchetti is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Gino Marchetti Defensive end

46
+ - 182 197
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Paul Krause Safety, Defensive back

47
+ - 230 159
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lester Hayes Cornerback, Safety

48
+ - 227 153
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jared Allen Defensive end

49
+ - 188 106
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Haley Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

50
+ - 169 102
Bubba Smith is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bubba Smith Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Defensive lineman