Football The Greatest Defenders in NFL History  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
90.8k votes 8.3k voters 125.7k views 505 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
3,086 912
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

2
2,205 835
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
2,016 748
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle

4
1,597 693
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

5
1,734 781
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker, Center

6
2,168 900
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

7
1,477 709
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

8
1,170 543
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

9
1,245 436
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

10
1,661 575
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

11
1,248 563
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive back

12
1,075 557
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

13
1,241 438
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

14
985 510
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

15
869 365
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback

16
1,054 411
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Free Safety

17
914 422
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

18
792 454
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback, Defensive back

19
737 405
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

20
1,222 386
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

21
956 295
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Strong Safety

22
638 425
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

23
752 408
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

24
648 347
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle, Defensive end

25
658 337
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

26
587 386
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle

27
546 352
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Cornerback

28
537 435
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle

29
812 393
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

30
494 195
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added Defensive end

31
523 264
Derrick Brooks is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

32
439 295
Jack Youngblood is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

33
549 273
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Defensive end

34
449 312
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker, Center

35
545 216
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
KobeMr81 added Cornerback

36
499 254
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Safety, Defensive back

37
562 380
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

38
289 122
John Randle is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive tackle, Defensive end

39
477 292
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Cornerback

40
335 327
Jim Marshall is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

41
370 267
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive back

42
264 153
Ed Jones is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end

43
316 234
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Defensive end

44
293 164
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

45
272 251
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Safety, Defensive back

46
296 279
Carl Eller is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Defensive end, Defensive lineman

47
298 225
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Al Sobrante added Cornerback, Safety

48
267 248
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Linebacker

49
247 151
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
395 195
James Harrison is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added Outside Linebacker