football 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
2,364 686
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lawrence Taylor Linebacker

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2
1,746 604
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Reggie White Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
1,612 550
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

4
1,294 483
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ronnie Lott Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

5
1,407 574
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Butkus Linebacker, Center

6
1,671 680
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Lewis Linebacker

7
1,197 545
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Lambert Linebacker

8
1,012 417
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

9
994 313
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

10
920 409
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

11
1,280 440
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Deion Sanders Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

12
867 435
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

13
982 317
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Woodson Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

14
827 395
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Ham Linebacker

15
670 266
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Lane Cornerback

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16
785 310
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ed Reed Free Safety

17
738 312
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Thomas Linebacker

18
636 353
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Mel Blount Cornerback, Defensive back

19
905 228
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
J. J. Watt Defensive end

20
537 323
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Randy White Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

21
699 189
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Troy Polamalu Strong Safety

22
581 314
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Junior Seau Linebacker

23
524 260
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Alan Page Defensive tackle, Defensive end

24
603 320
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Michael Strahan Defensive end

25
530 268
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Nitschke Linebacker

26
439 277
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrell Green Cornerback

27
483 323
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bob Lilly Defensive tackle

28
449 364
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

29
616 326
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Brian Urlacher Linebacker

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30
426 203
Derrick Brooks is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Brooks Linebacker

31
371 147
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added Howie Long

32
408 201
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Julius Peppers Defensive end

33
466 306
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Warren Sapp Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

34
372 253
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Chuck Bednarik Linebacker, Center

35
342 247
Jack Youngblood is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Youngblood Defensive end

36
417 160
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
KobeMr81 added Champ Bailey Cornerback

37
395 210
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Steve Atwater Safety, Defensive back

38
381 220
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Darrelle Revis Cornerback

39
272 268
Jim Marshall is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jim Marshall Defensive end

40
184 72
John Randle is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
John Randle Defensive tackle, Defensive end

41
309 217
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

42
257 177
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Jared Allen Defensive end

43
190 117
Ed Jones is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

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44
249 226
Carl Eller is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Carl Eller Defensive end, Defensive lineman

45
247 180
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Al Sobrante added Lester Hayes Cornerback, Safety

46
214 122
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Haley Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

47
313 145
James Harrison is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added James Harrison Outside Linebacker

48
208 206
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Paul Krause Safety, Defensive back

49
201 199
Bobby Bell is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bobby Bell Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

50
213 215
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ted Hendricks Linebacker