It’s no secret that NFL followers gush extra for offensive gamers, however the very best defensive gamers in NFL historical past additionally deserve a bit credit score.
In spite of everything, these are the gamers who’re tasked with stopping the good offensive gamers within the sport. Plus, there’s the entire mantra of protection wins championships, which is why the best NFL defenders are simply as vital because the league’s prime offensive playmakers.
Finest defensive gamers in NFL historical past
In fact, rating the very best NFL defenders from any technology is not any simple process. There are at all times a number of gamers who stand out, to not point out totally different positions on protection should be judged in numerous methods.
Nevertheless, we had been desirous to provide you with an inventory of the highest NFL defenders of all time. Everybody included is actually worthy of inclusion among the many best NFL defenders in league historical past. However we additionally wished to make particular point out of the very best of the very best, so right here is our rating of the top-25 finest defensive gamers in NFL historical past.
25. Jack Ham
Along with having the most effective names in NFL historical past, Jack Ham was the most effective defensive gamers ever. He was integral to the Steelers successful 4 Tremendous Bowls throughout his profession as a member of “The Metal Curtain” protection.
Whereas considerably undersized for a linebacker, Ham made the Professional Bowl in eight straight seasons and was a First-Group All-Professional in six straight years throughout the prime of his Corridor of Fame profession.
24. Leo Nomellini
Most followers gained’t acknowledge the identify, however Leo Nomellini’s resume absolutely places him among the many best defensive gamers ever. The defensive lineman was additionally a wrestling champ in school and spent his offseasons working as a professional wrestler, so it’s not a shock that he dominated the trenches throughout the 1950s.
Nomellini performed his total profession for the 49ers, going to 10 Professional Bowls and being named a First-Group All-Professional six occasions. He’s a Corridor of Famer who was an distinctive athlete, which is why he deserves to be talked about among the many best NFL defenders ever.
23. Mel Blount
It’d be debatable whether or not Mel Blount would excel in at this time’s sport due to his bodily nature. However throughout the days of “The Metal Curtain” in Pittsburgh, he was the very best cornerback the Steelers had.
Blount was a part of 4 groups that gained the Tremendous Bowl and was a five-time Professional Bowler. He had a Corridor of Fame profession and continues to be thought-about the most effective cornerbacks to ever play the sport, even successful Defensive Participant of the Yr honors in 1975, the identical season the Steelers gained their second of 4 Tremendous Bowls within the 70s.
22. Derrick Thomas
Derrick Thomas has a tragic story, as each his life and profession got here to a sudden finish following a automobile accident when he was nonetheless an energetic participant. However the 11 seasons he spent within the NFL had been greater than sufficient for him to be thought-about the most effective of all time.
He gained Defensive Rookie of the Yr honors and went to 9 straight Professional Bowls beginning along with his rookie 12 months. Thomas additionally led the league in pressured fumbles twice and nonetheless holds the NFL report for seven sacks in a single sport. He hardly ever missed a sport throughout his 11 seasons and had not less than seven sacks in every season, clearly making him one of many 25 finest defensive gamers ever.
21. Chuck Bednarik
The award for the very best defensive participant in school soccer is the Chuck Bednarik Award for a cause. After an excellent school profession at Penn, the Pennsylvania native performed 14 seasons for the Eagles and have become the most effective linebackers in NFL historical past.
Whereas he was solely a Professional Bowler eight occasions, Bednarik was a First-Group All-Professional 10 occasions. He additionally performed heart, however Bednarik is finest referred to as one of the vital hard-nosed tacklers to ever play the sport. He was robust, bodily, and every little thing you’d need from a defensive participant.
20. Mike Singletary
Simply the identify Mike Singletary has been lengthy related to nice protection. He was one of many elite linebackers throughout the 1980s and the center of the good Chicago defenses of that period. Over his 12 seasons within the league, Singletary was a Professional Bowler in all however his first two seasons.
He was named a First-Group All-Professional seven occasions and gained Defensive Participant of the Yr honors twice. Singletary might do every little thing you possibly can need in a center linebacker and extra, really standing out, even among the many better of all time.
19. Bob Lilly
Through the 1960s, there weren’t many defensive tackles like Bob Lilly. He was a dominant participant on the line of scrimmage and an enormous a part of the good Dallas defenses of that period. However Lilly wasn’t the everyday behemoth who performed on the line of scrimmage.
He was sturdy however nonetheless had spectacular velocity and agility, permitting him to run from sideline to sideline and make performs. It’s that ability set that made him stand out and make 11 Professional Bowls throughout his 14-year profession. For sure, Lilly didn’t decelerate a lot late in his profession, as his longevity can also be what makes him stand out as one of many prime defensive linemen in NFL historical past.
18. J.J. Watt
Lengthy earlier than his profession was over, we knew J.J. Watt was going to finish up being the most effective defensive gamers ever. That’s what occurs once you win Defensive Participant of the Yr thrice in a four-year span, all throughout the first 5 years of his profession.
Accidents might have slowed him down at occasions, however he’s led the league in sacks twice and had two seasons with over 20 sacks. There aren’t many gamers who can declare to have reached these feats or been extra disruptive on the line of scrimmage, placing Watt in uncommon firm.
17. Ed Reed
The time period “ball hawk” was created particularly for gamers like Ed Reed. By way of patrolling the secondary and luring quarterbacks into throwing interceptions to him, no one was higher than Reed. He led the NFL in interceptions thrice, one thing just one different participant has achieved.
Reed nonetheless has a share of the all-time report for postseason interceptions, to not point out essentially the most interception return yards in NFL historical past. His mixture of ability and instincts not solely made Reed a nine-time Professional Bowler and eight-time All-Professional but in addition a Corridor of Famer. He’s additionally one of many few safeties who’s concerned within the dialog when speaking about the very best defensive gamers in NFL historical past.
16. Darrell Inexperienced
Being a bit undersized by no means stopped Darrell Inexperienced from turning into the most effective cornerbacks to ever play the sport. Whereas he didn’t have the dimensions to match up with greater receivers, Inexperienced has the quickest 40-time in league historical past, which meant that he might sustain with anybody.
Even late in his profession, Inexperienced might nonetheless run just like the wind, which explains why he was capable of play 20 seasons within the NFL. In these 20 years, he made the Professional Bowl seven occasions and picked off 54 passes, returning them for six touchdowns. Inexperienced additionally owns a report that will by no means be damaged with 19 consecutive video games with an interception.
15. Rod Woodson
Amongst defensive backs, Rod Woodson is undoubtedly among the many finest to ever play the sport. No defensive participant in NFL historical past has recovered extra fumbles or returned extra interceptions for touchdowns. Woodson at all times discovered a technique to be in the correct place on the proper time to be part of all of these turnovers, main the league in interceptions twice.
Early in his profession, he was an elite security after which made a easy transition to security late in his profession. That’s what allowed him to play 17 seasons, making the Professional Bowl in 11 of these seasons and successful Defensive Participant of the Yr honors in 1983. These accomplishments made him a no-doubt Corridor of Famer and the most effective defensive backs to ever play the sport.
14. Gino Marchetti
Fashionable followers might not know Gino Marchetti, however simply because he performed in a distinct period doesn’t imply he’s not among the many finest defensive gamers in NFL historical past.
Earlier than defensive ends had been considered completely as move rushers, Marchetti excelled at taking part in towards each the run and the move. He was chosen to 11 straight Professional Bowls and was a First-Group All-Professional in 9 straight seasons. Whereas he comes from one other period, Marchetti was undoubtedly the very best defensive participant of that period.
13. Junior Seau
Sadly, Junior Seau had a tragic finish after his taking part in profession was over. But when we take a look at what he did on the sphere, he was the most effective defensive gamers in NFL historical past.
There are few gamers who introduced the identical energy and fervour to the linebacker place that he did. Throughout his 13 seasons with the Chargers, Seau was a Professional Bowler in all however his rookie 12 months, incomes All-Professional honors 9 occasions in his profession.
Even after he left the Chargers, Seau performed seven extra seasons, totaling 20 seasons within the NFL. Between his longevity, work ethic, and expertise, Seau was the most effective gamers of his period and in addition one of the vital revered, so he deserves to be listed among the many all-time greats.
12. Aaron Donald
Within the 21st century, there was maybe no participant extra dominant than Aaron Donald. Definitely, amongst defensive linemen, he’s been the gold customary over the past decade.
Donald was regarded as a bit undersized popping out of faculty. However he gained Rookie of the Yr in 2014 and proceeded to make the Professional Bowl in every of his first eight seasons (and counting). Through the prime of his profession, Donald gained Defensive Participant of the Yr honors thrice in 4 years. His profession isn’t even over, however he ought to nonetheless be thought-about the most effective defensive gamers in NFL historical past.
11. Merlin Olsen
Anyone who can play 15 seasons within the NFL as a defensive deal with is one thing particular. Not solely did Merlin Olsen do this however he was additionally chosen to the Professional Bowl in 14 of these seasons. Solely Tom Brady has been chosen to extra Professional Bowls than that.
Olsen was an elite participant from the primary time he stepped on the sphere. He gained Rookie of the Yr honors and put collectively a Corridor of Fame profession that put him on two separate All-Decade Groups. There’s no query he deserves to be talked about among the many best NFL defenders of all time.
10. Alan Web page
Alan Web page is a crucial determine in NFL historical past as the primary defensive participant to win MVP honors. He was one of many leaders of the “Purple Individuals Eaters” in Minnesota, serving to the Vikings get to 4 Tremendous Bowls regardless of falling quick all 4 occasions.
Over his 16 seasons, he performed in 218 straight video games, staying wholesome and productive for a very long time. There are few defensive tackles in league historical past who excelled at attending to the quarterback as a lot as Web page, making him a trailblazing determine for inside linemen.
Not solely did he win MVP in 1971 and Defensive Participant of the Yr honors twice however Web page was additionally a nine-time All-Professional and went to 9 straight Professional Bowls throughout the prime of his profession on his technique to the Corridor of Fame.
9. Ray Lewis
Amongst those that performed most of their profession within the 21st century, Ray Lewis is clearly one of many best NFL defenders. It’d be a problem to discover a higher inside linebacker in league historical past. He was the chief of two Baltimore defenses that helped the Ravens win the Tremendous Bowl and gained Tremendous Bowl MVP honors the primary time.
Lewis made the Professional Bowl 13 occasions and All-Professional honors 10 occasions whereas additionally main the NFL in tackles on three events.
His accolades go on and on, together with Defensive Participant of the Yr honors twice. However seeing as how he’s the NFL’s all-time main tackler and one of many fiercest linebackers to ever patrol the center of the sphere, it’s apparent that he belongs on an inventory with among the finest defensive gamers in NFL historical past.
8. Bruce Smith
If you wish to discover the participant with extra sacks than anybody else in NFL historical past, look no additional than Bruce Smith. Granted, he had 19 seasons to gather 200 profession sacks, however that additionally means he averaged 10.5 sacks per season over practically twenty years.
For somebody who performs within the trenches, that’s a very long time, particularly for somebody who carried out at such a excessive degree.
Smith recorded not less than 10 sacks in 13 of his 19 seasons. If he hadn’t been restricted to simply 5 video games in 1991, Smith would have had not less than 10 sacks in 12 consecutive seasons, which is nearly mind-boggling to consider. His resume additionally contains 11 Professional Bowl and 9 All-Professional Alternatives, in addition to twice successful Defensive Participant of the Yr honors.
7. Deion Sanders
Overlook simply the NFL, Deion Sanders is likely one of the finest athletes in professional sports activities historical past. He had careers in each MLB and the NFL, excelling in each sports activities and sometimes taking part in the 2 concurrently.
There may be additionally an argument to be made that he’s the very best cornerback to ever play the sport. He might stick to simply about each extensive receiver within the sport and at all times had the angle that he might cease anybody.
Through the prime of Prime Time’s profession, he was chosen to eight Professional Bowls in 9 years and was a First-Group All-Professional six occasions in seven years. He even helped two totally different groups win the Tremendous Bowl in back-to-back years, which isn’t one thing that the majority gamers can say.
6. Dick Butkus
His identify and his face alone painting Dick Butkus as the most effective defensive gamers in NFL historical past as a result of he was a fierce, hard-nosed participant. The trouble he put into each play was relentless, and his need to hit individuals as onerous as doable on each play was second-to-none.
A long time later, he’s nonetheless thought-about one of the vital feared tackles in NFL historical past. Butkus doesn’t have the longevity of another gamers, taking part in simply 9 seasons. However that was lengthy sufficient for him to make eight Professional Bowls and win Defensive Participant of the Yr honors twice. Even in simply 9 seasons, Butkus is on the NFL All-A long time Group in twenty years, which says every little thing you might want to find out about his influence on the sport.
5. Imply Joe Greene
Among the many best NFL defenders in league historical past, good luck discovering one with a greater identify than Imply Joe Greene.
He was undoubtedly the very best participant on the Pittsburgh defenses that earned the nickname of “The Metal Curtain” and dominated the NFL throughout the 1970s. The Steelers gained 4 Tremendous Bowls throughout Greene’s time in Pittsburgh, and he was an enormous cause why every time.
Regardless of his nickname, Greene was a pleasant man by all accounts. He merely performed the sport like a imply particular person, maybe as a result of he was stronger than everybody else, dominating offensive linemen within the trenches. Along with being Defensive Participant of the Yr twice, Greene made the Professional Bowl in 10 of his first 11 seasons.
4. Ronnie Lott
The entire best NFL defenders have a robust need to compete and play, giving every little thing they should the sport. That’s one thing individuals might by no means doubt in Ronnie Lott, who’s arguably the very best security in league historical past.
We all know as a result of he performed most of his profession after having the tip of his pinky amputated. He would hit onerous and sacrifice his physique for the group, however Lott would additionally break up passes and seize interceptions. He led the league in interceptions twice, accumulating as least 5 in seven of his 14 seasons. Lott was an elite defensive participant for many of these 14 years, being named a First-Group All-Professional eight occasions and a Professional Bowler 10 occasions. He was additionally a part of 4 groups with the 49ers that gained the Tremendous Bowl.
3. Reggie White
As a move rusher, Reggie White was one thing particular. How else do you make it on the NFL All-A long time Group in two totally different a long time?
Generally known as the Minister of Protection, his finest years had been early in his profession, accumulating 70 sacks in his first 4 seasons within the league. In actual fact, he began his profession with 9 straight seasons with double-digit sacks.
White ended his profession with not less than 11 sacks in 12 of his 15 seasons, together with 16 sacks in his penultimate season on the age of 36. Amongst move rushers, they don’t get a lot better than him, explaining White’s 13 consecutive Professional Bowl inclusions and his two Defensive Participant of the Yr awards 11 years aside.
2. Deacon Jones
They don’t get a lot better than the man who truly coined the time period sack. In fact, since Deacon Jones coined the time period, sacks weren’t an official stat throughout his profession. Unofficially, he led the NFL in sacks 5 occasions throughout his 14 seasons. He recorded double-digit sacks in eight of these 14 seasons, amassing over 20 thrice and accumulating not less than 15 sacks in six consecutive years from 1964 to 1969.
With a lot emphasis on sacking the quarterback in at this time’s sport, Jones was nothing wanting a revolutionary defensive finish who was forward of his time with regard to his skill to get after the quarterback. That not solely makes him the most effective defensive gamers in NFL historical past but in addition one of the vital vital and influential gamers of all time.
1. Lawrence Taylor
It’s possible that Lawrence Taylor will perpetually be essentially the most dominating and bodily imposing defensive participant in NFL historical past. The controversial components of his life and profession apart, Taylor was a behemoth on the soccer discipline. He went to the Professional Bowl within the first 10 seasons of his profession and simply gained Defensive Rookie of the Yr honors in 1981.
That was adopted by three Defensive Participant of the Yr awards and MVP honors in 1986. Bear in mind no defensive participant has gained MVP honors since Taylor did.
Oddly sufficient, he solely led the league in sacks as soon as, doing so in his MVP season when he racked up 20.5 sacks. Within the seven years from 1984 to 1990, Taylor had double-digit sacks, averaging 14 sacks per season throughout that point. However greater than the rest, he was undoubtedly essentially the most feared defensive participant within the NFL all through the 1980s and the simple choose for the very best of all time.