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
3,042 906
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

2
2,182 825
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
1,999 740
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle

4
1,579 683
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

5
1,715 774
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker, Center

6
2,147 894
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

7
1,471 702
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

8
1,161 540
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

9
1,239 433
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

10
1,646 568
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

11
1,240 559
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive back

12
1,065 555
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

13
1,230 436
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

14
981 506
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

15
864 361
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback

16
1,045 409
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Free Safety

17
904 419
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

18
787 451
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback, Defensive back

19
1,203 379
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

20
726 404
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

21
946 289
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Strong Safety

22
635 420
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

23
644 344
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle, Defensive end

24
743 405
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

25
654 335
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

26
544 348
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback

27
583 384
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle

28
533 432
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle

29
802 391
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

30
486 194
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added Defensive end

31
519 262
Derrick Brooks is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

32
435 293
Jack Youngblood is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

33
539 273
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Defensive end

34
447 309
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker, Center

35
494 252
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Safety, Defensive back

36
536 215
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
KobeMr81 added Cornerback

37
555 378
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

38
284 119
John Randle is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle, Defensive end

39
474 287
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Cornerback

40
332 325
Jim Marshall is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

41
366 265
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive back

42
261 152
Ed Jones is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

43
314 231
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Defensive end

44
289 162
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

45
295 277
Carl Eller is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end, Defensive lineman

46
296 223
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Al Sobrante added Cornerback, Safety

47
268 250
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Safety, Defensive back

48
265 247
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

49
245 150
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
392 194
James Harrison is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added Outside Linebacker