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
2,199 645
Lawrence Taylor is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Lawrence Taylor Linebacker

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2
1,653 560
Reggie White is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Reggie White Defensive tackle, Defensive end

3
1,511 518
Joe Greene is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

4
1,340 532
Dick Butkus is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Butkus Linebacker, Center

5
1,222 446
Ronnie Lott is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ronnie Lott Cornerback, Safety, Defensive back

6
1,148 513
Jack Lambert is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Lambert Linebacker

7
1,546 646
Ray Lewis is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Lewis Linebacker

8
952 286
Deacon Jones is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

9
971 392
Rod Woodson is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

10
873 391
Bruce Smith is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

11
1,209 423
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Deion Sanders Cornerback, Punt returner, Kickoff returner

12
836 421
Mike Singletary is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

13
928 304
Charles Woodson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Woodson Cornerback, Return specialist, Safety

14
805 377
Jack Ham is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Ham Linebacker

15
635 248
Dick Lane is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Dick Lane Cornerback

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16
701 300
Derrick Thomas is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Thomas Linebacker

17
730 298
Ed Reed is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ed Reed Free Safety

18
606 343
Mel Blount is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Mel Blount Cornerback, Defensive back

19
523 308
Randy White is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Randy White Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Linebacker

20
844 201
J. J. Watt is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
J. J. Watt Defensive end

21
550 304
Junior Seau is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Junior Seau Linebacker

22
638 175
Troy Polamalu is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Troy Polamalu Strong Safety

23
505 250
Alan Page is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Alan Page Defensive tackle, Defensive end

24
474 312
Bob Lilly is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bob Lilly Defensive tackle

25
580 309
Michael Strahan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Michael Strahan Defensive end

26
513 258
Ray Nitschke is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ray Nitschke Linebacker

27
443 353
Merlin Olsen is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

28
417 271
Darrell Green is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Darrell Green Cornerback

29
589 317
Brian Urlacher is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Brian Urlacher Linebacker

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30
408 198
Derrick Brooks is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Derrick Brooks Linebacker

31
351 138
Howie Long is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added Howie Long

32
361 243
Chuck Bednarik is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Chuck Bednarik Linebacker, Center

33
327 239
Jack Youngblood is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jack Youngblood Defensive end

34
452 296
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Warren Sapp Defensive tackle, Defensive end, Tackle

35
384 191
Julius Peppers is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Julius Peppers Defensive end

36
391 155
Champ Bailey is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
KobeMr81 added Champ Bailey Cornerback

37
362 207
Darrelle Revis is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Darrelle Revis Cornerback

38
374 206
Steve Atwater is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Steve Atwater Safety, Defensive back

39
265 260
Jim Marshall is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Jim Marshall Defensive end

40
167 68
John Randle is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
John Randle Defensive tackle, Defensive end

41
300 210
Dick LeBeau is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

42
246 168
Jared Allen is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
EthanWalker added Jared Allen Defensive end

43
245 219
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
237 173
Lester Hayes is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Al Sobrante added Lester Hayes Cornerback, Safety

45
204 117
Charles Haley is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Charles Haley Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

46
298 138
James Harrison is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
marcooch761 added James Harrison Outside Linebacker

47
196 194
Bobby Bell is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Bobby Bell Defensive end, Linebacker, Defensive lineman

48
184 111
Ed Jones is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History

49
198 204
Paul Krause is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Paul Krause Safety, Defensive back

50
204 211
Ted Hendricks is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Defenders in NFL History
Ted Hendricks Linebacker