Football The Greatest Defenders in NFL History  

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Originally by Ranker Community
84.3k votes 7.6k voters 119.7k views 508 items

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
2,820 848
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lawrence Taylor Linebacker

2
2,051 761
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Reggie White Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
1,906 685
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Joe Greene Defensive tackle

4
1,498 635
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ronnie Lott Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

5
1,627 721
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Butkus Linebacker, Center

6
2,011 838
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Lewis Linebacker

7
1,406 660
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Lambert Linebacker

8
1,096 503
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bruce Smith Defensive end

9
1,179 402
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Deacon Jones Defensive end

10
1,552 533
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Deion Sanders Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

11
1,177 528
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Rod Woodson Defensive back

12
1,008 530
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Mike Singletary Linebacker

13
1,164 406
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Woodson Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

14
947 472
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Ham Linebacker

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15
822 336
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Lane Cornerback

16
974 384
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ed Reed Free Safety

17
858 389
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Thomas Linebacker

18
752 421
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Mel Blount Cornerback, Defensive back

19
1,110 332
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
J. J. Watt Defensive end

20
882 263
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Troy Polamalu Strong Safety

21
682 384
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Junior Seau Linebacker

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22
611 387
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Randy White Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

23
628 314
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Nitschke Linebacker

24
604 323
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Alan Page Defensive tackle, Defensive end

25
696 387
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Michael Strahan Defensive end

26
555 366
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bob Lilly Defensive tackle

27
514 332
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrell Green Cornerback

28
511 411
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Merlin Olsen Defensive tackle

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29
738 380
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Brian Urlacher Linebacker

30
449 184
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added Howie Long Defensive end

31
492 249
Derrick Brooks is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Brooks Linebacker

32
415 278
Jack Youngblood is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Youngblood Defensive end

33
505 259
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Julius Peppers Defensive end

34
429 294
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Chuck Bednarik Linebacker, Center

35
523 364
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Warren Sapp Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

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36
463 243
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Steve Atwater Safety, Defensive back

37
497 204
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
KobeMr81 added Champ Bailey Cornerback

38
449 274
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Darrelle Revis Cornerback

39
313 308
Jim Marshall is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jim Marshall Defensive end

40
249 106
John Randle is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
John Randle Defensive tackle, Defensive end

41
349 252
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick LeBeau Defensive back

42
299 213
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Jared Allen Defensive end

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43
242 138
Ed Jones is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ed Jones Defensive end

44
282 262
Carl Eller is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Carl Eller Defensive end, Defensive lineman

45
280 210
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Al Sobrante added Lester Hayes Cornerback, Safety

46
256 156
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Haley Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

47
254 237
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Paul Krause Safety, Defensive back

48
252 235
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ted Hendricks Linebacker

49
230 140
Bubba Smith is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
MarkJStout added Bubba Smith Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Defensive lineman

50
363 186
James Harrison is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added James Harrison Outside Linebacker