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
2,267 655
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lawrence Taylor Linebacker

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2
1,691 575
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Reggie White Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
1,556 529
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

4
1,251 458
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ronnie Lott Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

5
1,361 553
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Butkus Linebacker, Center

6
1,602 660
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Lewis Linebacker

7
1,168 530
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Lambert Linebacker

8
970 299
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

9
988 404
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

10
892 399
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

11
1,244 426
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Deion Sanders Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

12
849 427
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

13
953 308
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Woodson Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

14
813 384
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Ham Linebacker

15
654 251
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Lane Cornerback

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16
714 303
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Thomas Linebacker

17
750 302
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ed Reed Free Safety

18
619 346
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Mel Blount Cornerback, Defensive back

19
869 211
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
J. J. Watt Defensive end

20
529 313
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Randy White Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

21
565 306
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Junior Seau Linebacker

22
658 180
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Troy Polamalu Strong Safety

23
514 253
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Alan Page Defensive tackle, Defensive end

24
589 311
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Michael Strahan Defensive end

25
517 262
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Nitschke Linebacker

26
428 273
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrell Green Cornerback

27
479 318
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bob Lilly Defensive tackle

28
445 359
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

29
601 321
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Brian Urlacher Linebacker

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30
419 199
Derrick Brooks is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Brooks Linebacker

31
357 144
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added Howie Long

32
397 195
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Julius Peppers Defensive end

33
460 299
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Warren Sapp Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

34
365 249
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Chuck Bednarik Linebacker, Center

35
332 242
Jack Youngblood is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Youngblood Defensive end

36
402 156
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
KobeMr81 added Champ Bailey Cornerback

37
370 211
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Darrelle Revis Cornerback

38
380 207
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Steve Atwater Safety, Defensive back

39
269 262
Jim Marshall is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jim Marshall Defensive end

40
172 69
John Randle is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
John Randle Defensive tackle, Defensive end

41
304 212
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

42
251 171
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Jared Allen Defensive end

43
186 113
Ed Jones is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

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44
247 223
Carl Eller is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Carl Eller Defensive end, Defensive lineman

45
241 175
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Al Sobrante added Lester Hayes Cornerback, Safety

46
209 119
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Haley Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

47
306 138
James Harrison is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added James Harrison Outside Linebacker

48
199 196
Bobby Bell is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bobby Bell Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

49
205 204
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Paul Krause Safety, Defensive back

50
209 213
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ted Hendricks Linebacker