Football The Greatest Defenders in NFL History  

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Originally by Ranker Community
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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
3,170 924
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

2
2,249 849
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
2,051 760
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle

4
1,630 704
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

5
1,764 794
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker, Center

6
2,221 908
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

7
1,502 720
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

8
1,195 549
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

9
1,705 581
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

10
1,266 571
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive back

11
1,262 446
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

12
1,094 567
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

13
1,264 444
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

14
997 516
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

15
884 369
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback

16
1,079 416
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Free Safety

17
931 428
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

18
807 459
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback, Defensive back

19
750 415
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

20
1,261 395
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

21
980 304
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Strong Safety

22
653 432
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

23
766 416
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

24
657 355
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle, Defensive end

25
670 343
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

26
600 391
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle

27
553 360
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback

28
545 442
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle

29
836 396
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

30
505 199
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added Defensive end

31
532 270
Derrick Brooks is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

32
452 299
Jack Youngblood is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

33
565 278
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Defensive end

34
556 219
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
KobeMr81 added Cornerback

35
456 318
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker, Center

36
511 259
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Safety, Defensive back

37
571 386
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

38
301 126
John Randle is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle, Defensive end

39
486 296
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Cornerback

40
339 331
Jim Marshall is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

41
375 273
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive back

42
272 160
Ed Jones is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

43
319 240
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Defensive end

44
303 168
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

45
285 253
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Safety, Defensive back

46
276 251
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

47
300 284
Carl Eller is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end, Defensive lineman

48
304 231
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Al Sobrante added Cornerback, Safety

49
252 156
Bubba Smith is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
MarkJStout added Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Defensive lineman

50
403 200
James Harrison is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added Outside Linebacker