Football The Greatest Defenders in NFL History  

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Originally by Ranker Community
84.6k votes 7.7k voters 120k views 508 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

1
2,838 851
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lawrence Taylor Linebacker

2
2,061 767
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Reggie White Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
1,913 691
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Joe Greene Defensive tackle

4
1,503 640
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ronnie Lott Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

5
1,632 725
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Butkus Linebacker, Center

6
2,022 845
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Lewis Linebacker

7
1,411 662
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Lambert Linebacker

8
1,100 506
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bruce Smith Defensive end

9
1,183 404
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Deacon Jones Defensive end

10
1,182 530
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Rod Woodson Defensive back

11
1,561 538
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Deion Sanders Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

12
1,011 531
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Mike Singletary Linebacker

13
1,173 408
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Woodson Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

14
949 475
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Ham Linebacker

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15
826 337
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Lane Cornerback

16
982 386
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ed Reed Free Safety

17
862 393
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Thomas Linebacker

18
753 425
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Mel Blount Cornerback, Defensive back

19
1,116 338
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
J. J. Watt Defensive end

20
885 266
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Troy Polamalu Strong Safety

21
685 388
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Junior Seau Linebacker

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22
614 391
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Randy White Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

23
631 318
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Nitschke Linebacker

24
607 324
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Alan Page Defensive tackle, Defensive end

25
699 389
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Michael Strahan Defensive end

26
516 332
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrell Green Cornerback

27
558 368
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bob Lilly Defensive tackle

28
514 412
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Merlin Olsen Defensive tackle

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29
739 381
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Brian Urlacher Linebacker

30
453 184
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added Howie Long Defensive end

31
495 249
Derrick Brooks is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Brooks Linebacker

32
417 278
Jack Youngblood is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Youngblood Defensive end

33
506 259
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Julius Peppers Defensive end

34
429 295
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Chuck Bednarik Linebacker, Center

35
525 364
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Warren Sapp Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

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36
500 204
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
KobeMr81 added Champ Bailey Cornerback

37
465 243
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Steve Atwater Safety, Defensive back

38
452 275
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Darrelle Revis Cornerback

39
315 309
Jim Marshall is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jim Marshall Defensive end

40
252 106
John Randle is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
John Randle Defensive tackle, Defensive end

41
350 253
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick LeBeau Defensive back

42
299 214
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Jared Allen Defensive end

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43
243 139
Ed Jones is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ed Jones Defensive end

44
284 263
Carl Eller is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Carl Eller Defensive end, Defensive lineman

45
257 156
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Haley Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

46
280 210
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Al Sobrante added Lester Hayes Cornerback, Safety

47
255 237
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Paul Krause Safety, Defensive back

48
252 235
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ted Hendricks Linebacker

49
231 140
Bubba Smith is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
MarkJStout added Bubba Smith Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Defensive lineman

50
364 187
James Harrison is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added James Harrison Outside Linebacker