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The Best Football Players Ever

Updated April 9, 2020 1.0m votes 73.8k voters 993.1k views1.3k items

List RulesOnly pro football players. Please vote for the players based on his career accomplishments.

One of the hot topics of debate not only among NFL fans but pundits as well is who is the best football player of all time. Fans will also enjoy the best NFL coaches of all time and the best NFL quarterbacks currently in the league. It's a very difficult question to answer and one that can't be answered very easily. Would you rank a quarterback above an offensive lineman or a defensive end versus a wide receiver? Many of the players on this list have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, so this is a list of the best of the best NFL players.

All time greats like Jim Brown and Jerry Rice and legends like Joe Montana and Lawrence Taylor deserve to be on this list. These players were famous stars in the league when they played, causing chaos on the field, terrorizing opponents, and breaking their fans' hearts. Fans of American football can agree that regardless of position, the players on this list should be considered among the best football players ever. These players' stats and overall influence on the way the game was played factor into why they're considered the 100 best ever.

Vote for the football player you consider to be the greatest of all time. It's not an easy choice and you pretty much can't go wrong with any of these superstar NFL players. There's a reason why they're considered the best football players ever and this your chance to choose who is the best of the best.

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  • 1
    Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    16,591
    6,475

    Lawrence Taylor

    Linebacker

    BirthplaceWilliamsburg, Virginia, United States of America

    Age61

    TeamsNorth Carolina Tar Heels football, New York Giants

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    #1 of 432 The Greatest Defenders in NFL History#15 of 80 The Best NFL Player Nicknames

  • 2
    Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    12,277
    5,255

    Deion Sanders

    Cornerback, Punt returner

    BirthplaceFort Myers, Florida, USA

    Age53

    TeamsFlorida State Seminoles baseball, Washington Redskins, San Francisco Giants, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons

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    #127 of 149 The Greatest New York Yankees Of All Time#29 of 106 The Best Atlanta Braves Of All Time

  • 3
    Drew Brees is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    7,518
    3,106

    Drew Brees

    Quarterback

    BirthplaceAustin, Texas, United States of America

    Age41

    TeamsNew Orleans Saints

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    #2 of 252 The Best Quarterbacks Of All Time#18 of 119 The Greatest College Football Quarterbacks of All Time

  • 4
    Randy Moss is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    11,458
    5,696

    Randy Moss

    Wide receiver

    BirthplaceRand, West Virginia

    Age43

    TeamsOakland Raiders, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings

  • 5
    Bo Jackson is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    9,911
    4,491

    Bo Jackson

    Running back

    BirthplaceBessemer, Alabama, United States of America

    Age57

    TeamsKansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, Oakland Raiders, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    #229 of 582 The Greatest Baseball Players Of All Time#62 of 104 The Greatest Throwing Arms of All Time

  • 6
    Larry Fitzgerald is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    5,678
    2,689

    Larry Fitzgerald

    Wide receiver

    BirthplaceMinneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America

    Age37

    TeamsArizona Cardinals

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    #30 of 41 The 41 Hottest Men in the NFL#1 of 53 The Most Likable Active NFL Players

  • 7
    Tom Brady is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    25,072
    13,177

    Tom Brady

    Quarterback

    BirthplaceSan Mateo, California, United States of America

    Age43

    TeamsNew England Patriots

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  • 8
    Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    9,855
    5,047

    Ray Lewis

    Linebacker

    BirthplaceBartow, Florida, United States of America

    Age45

    TeamsBaltimore Ravens

  • 9
    Emmitt Smith is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    9,031
    4,804

    Emmitt Smith

    Running back

    BirthplacePensacola, Florida, United States of America

    Age51

    TeamsFlorida Gators football, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys

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    #450 of 580 The Greatest Entertainers of All Time#961 of 1,816 The Best Athletes Of All Time

  • 10
    Jerry Rice is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    22,327
    12,431

    Jerry Rice

    Wide receiver

    BirthplaceCrawford, Mississippi, United States of America

    Age57

    TeamsMississippi Valley State Delta Devils football, Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers

  • 11
    Gale Sayers is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    3,927
    1,924

    Gale Sayers

    Running back, Return specialist

    BirthplaceWichita, Kansas, United States of America

    Age72

    TeamsChicago Bears, Kansas Jayhawks football

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  • 12
    Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    8,754
    4,729

    Joe Greene

    Defensive Tackle

    BirthplaceElgin, Texas, United States of America

    Age74

    TeamsPittsburgh Steelers, North Texas Mean Green football

  • 13
    Tony Gonzalez is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    4,772
    2,418

    Tony Gonzalez

    Tight end

    BirthplaceUSA, California, Torrance

    Age44

    TeamsCalifornia Golden Bears football, Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs

    More Tony Gonzalez 

    #1 of 57 The Best College Football Tight Ends of All Time#5 of 87 The Greatest Tight Ends Of All Time

  • 14
    Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    4,223
    2,144

    Charles Woodson

    Cornerback, Return specialist

    BirthplaceSebring, Ohio, United States of America

    Age43

    TeamsMichigan Wolverines football, Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers

  • 15
    Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    4,277
    2,189

    Ed Reed

    Free Safety

    BirthplaceSt. Rose, Louisiana

    Age42

    TeamsHouston Texans, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets

  • 16
    Barry Sanders is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    18,680
    10,461

    Barry Sanders

    Running back

    BirthplaceWichita, Kansas, United States of America

    Age52

    TeamsOklahoma State Cowboys football, Detroit Lions

  • 17
    Calvin Johnson is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    6,100
    3,156

    Calvin Johnson

    Wide receiver

    BirthplaceNewnan, Georgia

    Age34

    TeamsDetroit Lions

    More Calvin Johnson 

    #22 of 322 People Who Should Be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame#4 of 214 The Best Wide Receivers of All Time

  • 18
    Anthony Muñoz is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    2,343
    1,156

    Anthony Muñoz

    Offensive tackle

    BirthplaceOntario, California

    Age62

    TeamsUSC Trojans football, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals

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    #3 of 104 The Best USC Trojans Players of All Time#17 of 28 The Best NFL Players With The Most Pro Bowl Appearances

  • 19
    Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    8,174
    4,532

    Dick Butkus

    Linebacker, Center

    BirthplaceChicago, Illinois, USA

    Age73

    TeamsChicago Bears

  • 20
    Jim Thorpe is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    3,468
    1,795

    Jim Thorpe

    Running back, Punter

    BirthplaceOklahoma, United States of America

    AgeDied at 65 (1888-1953)

    TeamsCleveland Indians, Oorang Indians, Canton Bulldogs, Arizona Cardinals, Rock Island Independents

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    The Life And Legacy Of Jim Thorpe#464 of 753 People We Wish Were Still Alive

  • 21
    Jim Brown is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    14,882
    8,420

    Jim Brown

    Running back, Fullback

    BirthplaceSt. Simons, Georgia, United States of America

    Age84

    TeamsCleveland Browns, Syracuse Orange football

    More Jim Brown 

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  • 22
    Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    3,945
    2,079

    Troy Polamalu

    Strong Safety

    BirthplaceGarden Grove, California, United States of America

    Age39

    TeamsPittsburgh Steelers

  • 23
    Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    4,381
    2,418

    Jack Lambert

    Linebacker

    BirthplaceMantua, Ohio

    Age68

    TeamsPittsburgh Steelers, Kent State Golden Flashes football

    More Jack Lambert 

    #3 of 154 The Greatest Linebackers of All Time#53 of 77 The Best Athletes Who Have Used Performance Enhancing Drugs

  • 24
    Earl Campbell is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    4,847
    2,699

    Earl Campbell

    Running back

    BirthplaceTyler, Texas, United States of America

    Age65

    TeamsNew Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers, Texas Longhorns football

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    #4 of 83 The Best Heisman Trophy Winners of All Time#3 of 53 The Best No. 1 Overall NFL Draft Picks Of All Time, Ranked

  • 25
    Walter Payton is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Football Players Ever
    18,510
    10,681

    Walter Payton

    Running back

    BirthplaceColumbia, Mississippi, United States of America

    AgeDied at 45 (1954-1999)

    TeamsChicago Bears

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