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
2,372 691
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lawrence Taylor Linebacker

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2
1,753 610
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Reggie White Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
1,621 553
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

4
1,297 491
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ronnie Lott Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

5
1,412 580
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Butkus Linebacker, Center

6
1,676 688
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Lewis Linebacker

7
1,206 548
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Lambert Linebacker

8
1,018 422
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

9
998 315
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

10
927 410
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

11
1,285 444
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Deion Sanders Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

12
871 436
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

13
986 319
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Woodson Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

14
833 397
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Ham Linebacker

15
675 268
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Lane Cornerback

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16
789 312
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ed Reed Free Safety

17
743 313
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Thomas Linebacker

18
642 354
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Mel Blount Cornerback, Defensive back

19
907 231
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
J. J. Watt Defensive end

20
705 193
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Troy Polamalu Strong Safety

21
584 316
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Junior Seau Linebacker

22
537 327
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Randy White Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

23
530 262
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Alan Page Defensive tackle, Defensive end

24
609 322
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Michael Strahan Defensive end

25
534 269
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Nitschke Linebacker

26
443 278
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrell Green Cornerback

27
484 324
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bob Lilly Defensive tackle

28
450 365
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

29
620 328
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Brian Urlacher Linebacker

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30
429 205
Derrick Brooks is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Brooks Linebacker

31
373 147
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added Howie Long

32
411 202
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Julius Peppers Defensive end

33
372 255
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Chuck Bednarik Linebacker, Center

34
467 308
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Warren Sapp Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

35
345 247
Jack Youngblood is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Youngblood Defensive end

36
419 162
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
KobeMr81 added Champ Bailey Cornerback

37
398 211
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Steve Atwater Safety, Defensive back

38
382 222
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Darrelle Revis Cornerback

39
275 268
Jim Marshall is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jim Marshall Defensive end

40
188 72
John Randle is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
John Randle Defensive tackle, Defensive end

41
313 217
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

42
258 178
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Jared Allen Defensive end

43
190 118
Ed Jones is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

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44
250 227
Carl Eller is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Carl Eller Defensive end, Defensive lineman

45
215 123
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Haley Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

46
247 181
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Al Sobrante added Lester Hayes Cornerback, Safety

47
315 145
James Harrison is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added James Harrison Outside Linebacker

48
210 207
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Paul Krause Safety, Defensive back

49
202 200
Bobby Bell is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bobby Bell Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

50
214 216
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ted Hendricks Linebacker