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
2,438 716
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lawrence Taylor Linebacker

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2
1,792 627
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Reggie White Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
1,661 568
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

4
1,330 510
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ronnie Lott Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

5
1,435 597
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Butkus Linebacker, Center

6
1,734 713
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Lewis Linebacker

7
1,231 560
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Lambert Linebacker

8
1,037 433
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

9
943 418
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

10
1,011 328
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

11
1,315 456
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Deion Sanders Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

12
885 445
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

13
1,006 324
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Woodson Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

14
848 405
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Ham Linebacker

15
686 279
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Lane Cornerback

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16
817 320
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ed Reed Free Safety

17
763 322
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Thomas Linebacker

18
658 365
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Mel Blount Cornerback, Defensive back

19
933 242
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
J. J. Watt Defensive end

20
731 202
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Troy Polamalu Strong Safety

21
594 324
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Junior Seau Linebacker

22
544 337
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Randy White Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

23
537 271
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Alan Page Defensive tackle, Defensive end

24
621 330
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Michael Strahan Defensive end

25
544 276
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Nitschke Linebacker

26
452 286
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrell Green Cornerback

27
489 333
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bob Lilly Defensive tackle

28
455 373
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

29
632 335
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Brian Urlacher Linebacker

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30
441 211
Derrick Brooks is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Brooks Linebacker

31
382 154
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added Howie Long

32
423 212
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Julius Peppers Defensive end

33
350 253
Jack Youngblood is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Youngblood Defensive end

34
378 264
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Chuck Bednarik Linebacker, Center

35
473 322
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Warren Sapp Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

36
429 170
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
KobeMr81 added Champ Bailey Cornerback

37
407 216
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Steve Atwater Safety, Defensive back

38
388 229
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Darrelle Revis Cornerback

39
277 274
Jim Marshall is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jim Marshall Defensive end

40
191 78
John Randle is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
John Randle Defensive tackle, Defensive end

41
314 223
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

42
264 182
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Jared Allen Defensive end

43
193 123
Ed Jones is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

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44
252 233
Carl Eller is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Carl Eller Defensive end, Defensive lineman

45
220 130
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Haley Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

46
322 150
James Harrison is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added James Harrison Outside Linebacker

47
247 186
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Al Sobrante added Lester Hayes Cornerback, Safety

48
211 212
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Paul Krause Safety, Defensive back

49
202 205
Bobby Bell is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bobby Bell Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

50
215 220
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ted Hendricks Linebacker