The Top 25 NFL Defensive Players of All Time

Mark HauserCorrespondent IIMarch 5, 2009

With the exception of a couple of players, my lists for all time top running backs, receivers, quarterbacks, and players were all players that played since 1965 because that is when I started watching football.

I continued with that theme here although this time I made no exceptions since defensive players have few statistics. 

Hence, I will state that I am aware that players, by reputation, such as Gino Marchetti, Dick ("Night Train) Lane, Emlen Tunnell, Chuck Bednarik, and maybe even Jim Thorpe, may all belong on this list. 

Thorpe, while more known by his running, was a two-way player, the best player and athlete on the field, and supposedly a great tackler. I find that easily believable.

I wrote about Deion in my article about the greatest players of all-time, so I will skip him here.  Which, of course, brings us to the great Lawrence Taylor—a perfect combination of speed and strength.

Taylor was, perhaps, the first player in NFL history that made offenses change their game plan in order to avoid his side of the field.  Gosh, after that, do I have to say anything else about him? 

Butkus was the first dominate defensive player I can remember watching play.  Not only was he a brutal player—he somehow managed to cover the entire field without have Taylor's speed.  Ray Nitschke was similar to Butkus and the heart of the great Packers defenses of the '60s.

Like Taylor, offenses avoided sack-machine Reggie White's side of the field. 

Ray Lewis is the most dominate defensive player in recent memory because of his ability to cover the entire field with the help of his speed and intensity.  With the exception of Sanders, I think I witnessed more great/big plays by Lewis than any defensive player since 1965. 

Jack Youngblood, who seemed to be all over the field whenever I watched him play, gets my award as the most underrated defensive player in the NFL since 1965 (he was not on the NFL's 75 Anniversary Team or Sporting News' Greatest 100 Players).

Anyways, here is my guess for the Top 25 NFL Defensive Players since 1965:

1. Deion Sanders

2. Lawrence Taylor

3. Dick Butkus

4. Ray Nitschke

5. Reggie White

6. Ray Lewis

7. Junior Seau

8. Bruce Smith

9. Bob Lilly

10. David Deacon Jones

11. Jack Youngblood

12. Ronnie Lott

13. Ken Houston

14. Jack Lambert

15. Mel Blount

16. Merlin Olson

17. Alan Page

18. Herb Adderley

19. Willie Davis

20. Willie Lanier

21. Jack Ham

22. Rod Woodson

23. Mike Singletary

24. "Mean" Joe Greene 

25. Paul Krause