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The Greatest Defenders in NFL History 

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
Updated May 22, 2020 142k votes 11.7k voters 149.4k views 542 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
list ordered by
1
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker from USA, Virginia, Williamsburg
2
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
3
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle and Defensive end from Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States of America
4
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback and Punt returner from Fort Myers, Florida, United States of America
5
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker from Bartow, Florida, United States of America
6
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
7
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker and Center from Chicago, Illinois, USA
8
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback and Safety from Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America
9
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Free Safety from St. Rose, Louisiana
10
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker from Mantua, Ohio
11
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
12
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback and Return specialist from Sebring, Ohio, United States of America
13
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end from Waukesha, Wisconsin
14
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
15
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
16
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback from Austin, Texas
17
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Strong Safety from Garden Grove, California, United States of America
18
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker from Miami, Florida
19
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker from Pasco, Tri-Cities, Washington, United States of America
20
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker from Johnstown, Pennsylvania
21
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker from Elmwood Park, Illinois, United States of America
22
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback and Defensive back from Vidalia, Georgia
23
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle and Defensive end from Canton, Ohio, United States of America
24
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added
25
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end from Houston, Texas, United States of America