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
2,156 636
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lawrence Taylor Linebacker

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2
1,630 547
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Reggie White Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
1,479 508
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

4
1,203 436
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ronnie Lott Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

5
1,319 523
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Butkus Linebacker, Center

6
1,126 502
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Lambert Linebacker

7
1,516 632
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Lewis Linebacker

8
939 276
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

9
955 381
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

10
865 379
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

11
1,187 415
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Deion Sanders Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

12
822 410
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

13
906 298
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Woodson Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

14
790 369
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Ham Linebacker

15
621 243
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Lane Cornerback

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16
687 295
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Thomas Linebacker

17
715 291
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ed Reed Free Safety

18
590 340
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Mel Blount Cornerback, Defensive back

19
516 300
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Randy White Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

20
822 193
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
J. J. Watt Defensive end

21
541 295
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Junior Seau Linebacker

22
615 169
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Troy Polamalu Strong Safety

23
496 244
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Alan Page Defensive tackle, Defensive end

24
470 306
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bob Lilly Defensive tackle

25
570 304
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Michael Strahan Defensive end

26
507 253
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Nitschke Linebacker

27
439 348
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

28
412 268
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrell Green Cornerback

29
579 311
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Brian Urlacher Linebacker

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30
401 196
Derrick Brooks is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Brooks Linebacker

31
348 136
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added Howie Long

32
355 242
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Chuck Bednarik Linebacker, Center

33
322 237
Jack Youngblood is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Youngblood Defensive end

34
448 290
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Warren Sapp Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

35
377 190
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Julius Peppers Defensive end

36
387 153
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
KobeMr81 added Champ Bailey Cornerback

37
359 203
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Darrelle Revis Cornerback

38
369 203
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Steve Atwater Safety, Defensive back

39
262 259
Jim Marshall is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jim Marshall Defensive end

40
162 65
John Randle is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
John Randle Defensive tackle, Defensive end

41
294 209
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

42
244 164
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Jared Allen Defensive end

43
242 218
Carl Eller is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Carl Eller Defensive end, Defensive lineman

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44
236 171
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Al Sobrante added Lester Hayes Cornerback, Safety

45
202 115
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Haley Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

46
293 134
James Harrison is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added James Harrison Outside Linebacker

47
182 107
Ed Jones is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

48
195 191
Bobby Bell is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bobby Bell Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

49
201 209
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ted Hendricks Linebacker

50
193 204
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Paul Krause Safety, Defensive back