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The Best Player to Ever Wear Each NFL Jersey Number

Bryn SwartzSenior Writer IIIMarch 23, 2014

The Best Player to Ever Wear Each NFL Jersey Number

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    It's amazing how much fans identify with a player's jersey number. Say No. 18 in Denver and people instantly think of Peyton Manning. No. 80 in San Francisco will always be Jerry Rice. Reggie White will forever own No. 92 in Philadelphia. 

    In fact, jersey numbers are so valued that if a player is dominant enough, his team retires his number after the end of his career. That means no player who plays for that team can ever again wear the same number. That's the highest honor a player can receive. 

    There are 100 possible jersey numbers a player can wear, ranging from zero (yes, it's been worn before) to 99. The following slides will highlight the greatest player in league history to wear each number. 

    Author's note: For players who wore more than one number throughout their career, I tried to pick the number they either wore the most or made their biggest contribution in. 

Jersey Nos. 0-9

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    0: Jim Otto, Center, Oakland Raiders, 1960-1974

    Technically, Jim Otto wore No. 00, but throughout his 15-year playing career, there were zero players in the NFL tougher than him. The center for the all-time AFL team, Otto endured 28 knee operations and repeatedly dealt with life-threatening bouts of infections due to artificial joints. He was named all-AFL 10 times and led the Raiders to the conference championship six times. 

     

    1: Warren Moon, Quarterback, Houston Oilers/Minnesota Vikings/Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, 1984-2000

    Warren Moon turned to the CFL after he went undrafted by the NFL. A decade later, he was the highest-paid player in the NFL. He played 17 years in the NFL, lasting until age 44. When he retired, he held all-time professional records for career pass attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns. 

     

    2: Charley Trippi, Halfback/Quarterback, Chicago Cardinals, 1947-1955

    The top overall draft pick in the 1945 NFL draft, Charley Trippi played halfback, quarterback, defense and punter during his nine seasons in the NFL. He scored two long touchdowns in the Cardinals' 1947 championship game victory and he's the only player in the Hall of Fame with more than 1,000 career yards as a passer, runner and receiver. 

     

    3: Bronko Nagurski, Fullback, Chicago Bears, 1930-1937, 1943

    One of the biggest and best players in the NFL during the 1930s, Bronko Nagurski earned All-Pro honors at three different positions. He was named to the NFL's 75th anniversary team in 1994. 

     

    4: Brett Favre, Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons/Green Bay Packers/New York Jets/Minnesota Vikings, 1991-2010

    There was nothing Brett Favre didn't accomplish during his 20-year career. He was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player three straight years. He won a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers in 1996 and led the team back in 1997. He posted his highest career passer rating in 2009 at age 40.

    Favre holds all-time records for pass attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns and interceptions, and his 297 consecutive games played are the most by any non-kicker in league history. 

     

    5: Donovan McNabb, Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles/Washington Redskins/Minnesota Vikings, 1999-2011

    The first draft pick of the Andy Reid era, Donovan McNabb is arguably the best quarterback in Philadelphia Eagles history. Only Fran Tarkenton has more career passing and rushing yards than McNabb did. He led the Eagles to nine playoff victories and five trips to the NFC Championship Game and retired as the second-least intercepted quarterback in NFL history. 

     

    6: Rolf Benirschke, Kicker, San Diego Chargers, 1977-1986

    When Rolf Benirschke retired before the 1987 season, his .702 field-goal percentage ranked third in NFL history. He earned an All-Pro berth in 1980, a Pro Bowl selection in 1982 and the NFL's Man of the Year Award in 1983. He played through a serious case of ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that dropped his playing weight to 123 pounds in 1979.

     

    7: John Elway, Quarterback, Denver Broncos, 1983-1998

    One of the top combinations of passing and running in NFL history, John Elway retired in 1998 with 148 victories as a starting quarterback, an NFL record. He earned league MVP honors in 1987 and led the Broncos to five Super Bowls, winning in each of his final two seasons. He led 35 game-winning drives in his career, the most famous coming in the 1986 AFC championship against the Cleveland Browns. 

     

    8: Steve Young, Quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers/San Francisco 49ers, 1985-1999

    Although Steve Young didn't become a full-time starter until the age of 30, his eight-year peak might be the most dominant statistically in NFL history. He won six passing titles, including a single-season record rating of 112.8 in 1994, and retired as the NFL's record holder in passer rating and touchdown-to-interception ratio. A Super Bowl MVP in 1994, Young was probably the best dual-threat quarterback in history. 

     

    9: Drew Brees, Quarterback, San Diego Chargers/New Orleans Saints, 2001-Present

    Count Drew Brees as a dark-horse candidate to break all of Brett Favre's career passing records. He's thrown for more than 5,000 yards four times, including a then-record 5,476 in 2011. He's averaged 35 touchdown passes per season since 2006, and his 95.3 passer rating ranks seventh-best in history. Brees led the Saints to the franchise's first Super Bowl title following the 2009 season, winning game MVP honors. 

Jersey Nos. 10-19

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    10: Fran Tarkenton, Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings/New York Giants/Minnesota Vikings, 1961-1978

    No quarterback in NFL history has more passing and more rushing yards than Fran Tarkenton, who led the Vikings to three Super Bowls in 18 seasons. He earned the league's Most Valuable Player Award in 1975 and retired as the all-time record holder for quarterbacks in pass attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, rushing yards and victories. 

     

    11: Norm Van Brocklin, Quarterback/Punter, Los Angeles Rams/Philadelphia Eagles, 1949-1960

    The only quarterback in NFL history to lead two different teams to an NFL championship (1951 Rams and 1960 Eagles), Norm Van Brocklin led the NFL in yards per attempt five times and passer rating twice. He holds the single-game record for passing yards (554) and also served as a punter for 10 of his 12 seasons in the NFL. 

     

    12: Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots, 2000-Present

    Arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, there's nothing Tom Brady hasn't accomplished during his career. In his first four seasons, he led the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles, twice winning MVP honors. In his last nine seasons, he's earned two MVP Awards, one during a season where he threw 50 touchdowns and another during a year in which he posted a 36-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

    Brady has led the Patriots to at least 12 wins in eight different seasons, including a 16-0 finish in 2007, and he's tied for first with five Super Bowl appearances. 

     

    13: Dan Marino, Quarterback, Miami Dolphins, 1983-1999

    You could still make an argument for Dan Marino's 1984 season as the best by a quarterback in NFL history. Marino completed 362 out of 564 passes for 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns, good for a 108.9 passer rating. The completions, yards, touchdowns and passer rating were single-season records. During his 17 seasons, Marino threw for 61,361 yards and 420 touchdowns and led the league in lowest sack percentage 10 different times. 

     

    14: Don Hutson, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers, 1935-1945

    The first great wide receiver, Don Hutson created many of the modern routes in today's NFL. He held virtually every single receiving record upon his retirement, including catches (488), yards (7991) and touchdowns (99). He finished first in receptions, yards or touchdowns 24 times in 11 seasons (and in the top three 32 of 33 times).

    Hutson won the receiving Triple Crown five times, as many as every other receiver in NFL history combined. Twice, he was named the league's Most Valuable Player, and his 1942 season, in which he caught 74 passes for 1,211 yards and 17 touchdowns, is easily the most impressive year by any receiver ever.

    Oh, and Hutson also intercepted 30 passes as a defensive back and served as the Packers' kicker for six seasons. He's probably the second-best all-around player in NFL history, trailing just Sammy Baugh.  

     

    15: Bart Starr, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers, 1956-1971

    The only quarterback in the last 60 years to win five NFL championships, Bart Starr was a master of efficiency. He led the league in completion percentage three times, interception percentage three times, yards per attempt twice and passer rating three times. The league MVP in 1966, Starr has the highest postseason passer rating in NFL history. 

     

    16: Joe Montana, Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers/Kansas City Chiefs, 1979-1994

    No quarterback in NFL history played better in clutch situations than Joe Montana, who threw 11 touchdowns and posted a 127.8 passer rating in four Super Bowls. He was named the Most Valuable Player in three of those games and led a 92-yard game-winning drive in the final three minutes of the one game where he didn't win MVP.

    Montana was selected as the league's Most Valuable Player in 1989 and 1990, and he overcame career-threatening injuries in both 1986 and 1990. 

     

    17: Harold Carmichael, Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles/Dallas Cowboys, 1971-1984

    At 6'8'', Harold Carmichael was the tallest wide receiver in the history of the NFL. He used his massive size to reel in 79 touchdown catches with the Philadelphia Eagles. Upon retirement, he held the league record by catching a pass in 127 straight games. 

     

    18: Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts/Denver Broncos, 1998-Present

    The most dominant regular-season quarterback ever, Peyton Manning has been selected the league's Most Valuable Player five times (and he probably should have won in 2005, 2006 and 2012). He's held the record for single-season passing yards, touchdowns and passer rating.

    He started the first 208 games of his career. He's averaged 4,300 passing yards and 33 touchdowns per season since he entered the NFL in 1998. He's led the Colts and Broncos into the postseason 13 times, including three Super Bowl appearances and a victory (and MVP) in Super Bowl XLI. 

     

    19: Johnny Unitas, Quarterback, Baltimore Colts/San Diego Chargers, 1956-1973

    Johnny U led the NFL in every passing category at least once throughout his career, winning league MVP honors in 1959, 1964 and 1967. He set a record by throwing a touchdown pass in 47 straight games and led the Colts to a dramatic victory in the 1958 NFL Championship Game, widely regarded as the greatest game ever played. Sporting News named him the greatest quarterback of all-time in 2004. 

Jersey Nos. 20-29

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    20: Barry Sanders, Running Back, Detroit Lions, 1989-1998

    You could make an argument for Barry Sanders as the greatest running back in both NCAA and NFL history. The Heisman Trophy winner in 1988, Sanders was named a Pro Bowler every year of his career. He won four rushing titles and became the second member of the 2,000-yard club in 1997, his ninth season. Sanders retired at his peak, averaging more than 1,500 yards per year during his 10 seasons. 

     

    21: Deion Sanders, Cornerback, Atlanta Falcons/San Francisco 49ers/Dallas Cowboys/Washington Redskins/Baltimore Ravens, 1989-2000, 2004-2005

    The greatest cover corner in NFL history, Deion Sanders was the best defensive player on two different Super Bowl champion teams (1994 49ers and 1995 Cowboys). He intercepted 53 passes during his career and earned Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1994. He scored 19 touchdowns in 14 years: nine on interceptions, nine on returns and one on a fumble return. Sanders' versatility also helped him fill in sparingly at wide receiver during his time in Dallas.

    Oh, and he played nine seasons of professional baseball, and he's still the only athlete to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series. 

     

    22: Emmitt Smith, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys/Arizona Cardinals, 1990-2004

    No running back will ever come close to Emmitt Smith's career records for carries (4,409), yards (18,355) and touchdowns (164). He's the only player in NFL history to win a rushing title, league MVP and Super Bowl MVP during the same season. His 25 touchdowns in 1995 were a single-season record at the time. 

     

    23: Troy Vincent, Cornerback, Miami Dolphins/Philadelphia Eagles/Buffalo Bills/Washington Redskins, 1992-2006

    One of the top cover cornerbacks in the NFL for more than a decade, Troy Vincent collected 47 interceptions during his career. He earned five straight Pro Bowl selections with the Eagles and was named Man of the Year in both 2002 and 2004. 

     

    24: Champ Bailey, Cornerback, Washington Redskins/Denver Broncos, 1999-Present

    No cornerback in NFL history has earned more Pro Bowl selections than Champ Bailey (12), who collected 52 interceptions during 15 years with the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos. 

     

    25: Tommy McDonald, Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles/Dallas Cowboys/Los Angeles Rams/Atlanta Falcons/Cleveland Browns, 1957-1968

    The last player to not wear a facemask, Tommy McDonald retired with 84 touchdown catches, the second-most in NFL history. He averaged 17.0 yards per reception throughout his career, including two seasons over 20. He helped the Eagles win the 1960 NFL championship, catching three passes for 90 yards and a touchdown. 

     

    26: Rod Woodson, Cornerback/Safety, Pittsburgh Steelers/San Francisco 49ers/Baltimore Ravens/Oakland Raiders, 1987-2003

    Rod Woodson collected at least three interceptions for 15 straight seasons, retiring with 71, the third-most in NFL history. He scored 17 touchdowns during his career: 12 on interceptions (an NFL-record), two on punt returns, two on kick returns and one on a fumble return. He led three different teams to a Super Bowl appearance, winning a title with the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. 

     

    27: Ken Houston, Safety, Houston Oilers/Washington Redskins, 1967-1980

    Ken Houston scored on a record five returns in 1971: four interceptions and one fumble return. He earned 12 trips to the Pro Bowl and finished his career with 49 interceptions and 21 fumble returns. 

     

    28: Marshall Faulk, Running Back, Indianapolis Colts/St. Louis Rams, 1994-2005

    Marshall Faulk was the most important member of the short-lived Greatest Show On Turf, winning NFL Offensive Player of the Year honors from 1999 to 2001 and the league's MVP in 2000. He's the only player ever with more than 12,000 rushing yards and 6,000 receiving yards. 

     

    29: Eric Dickerson, Running Back, Los Angeles Rams/Indianapolis Colts/Los Angeles Raiders/Atlanta Falcons, 1983-1993

    It's been 29 seasons and Eric Dickerson still holds the single-season record for rushing yards (2,105 in 1984). An absolute workhorse, Dickerson won four rushing titles in his first six seasons. He finished his career with 13,259 rushing yards and 90 touchdowns. 

Jersey Nos. 30-39

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    30: Terrell Davis, Running Back, Denver Broncos, 1995-2001

    Terrell Davis' four-year peak is among the most productive by any running back in history. He rushed 392 times for 2,008 yards and 21 touchdowns in 1998, leading the Broncos to their second straight Super Bowl title. TD, as he was known, is easily the best postseason running back in NFL history. Extrapolated over a 16-game season, his totals look like this: 408 carries, 2,280 yards, 24 touchdowns. 

     

    31: Jim Taylor, Running Back, Green Bay Packers/New Orleans Saints, 1958-1967

    The only player to steal a rushing title from Jim Brown, Taylor rushed for 1,474 yards and 19 touchdowns during the 1962 season. He ended his career with 8,597 yards and 83 touchdowns. The Packers won four NFL titles during his nine years in a Green Bay uniform. 

     

    32: Jim Brown, Running Back, Cleveland Browns, 1957-1965

    There will never again be a running back as dominant as Jim Brown. In nine seasons, he led the NFL in rushing eight times, including four rushing Triple Crowns. He earned league MVP honors in 1957, 1958 and 1965. In 1963, he turned in his best season, rushing for 1,863 yards (6.4 yards per carry) in just 14 games.

    Brown retired as the all-time record holder in every rushing statistic and still holds the record for most rushing yards averaged per game (104.3). He was voted by Sporting News as the greatest football player in history in 1999. 

     

    33: Sammy Baugh, Quarterback/Defensive Back/Punter, Washington Redskins, 1937-1952

    The greatest all-around player in NFL history, Sammy Baugh held every single passing record upon his retirement, including attempts, completions, completion percentage, yards, touchdowns, interceptions and passer rating. He led the league in punting average five times, including a single-season record (51.4) in 1940, and also intercepted 31 passes as a defensive back. Baugh led the Redskins to five championship games, including two victories. 

     

    34: Walter Payton, Running Back, Chicago Bears, 1975-1987

    Arguably the greatest all-around running back in NFL history, Walter Payton retired with 16,726 yards, the most in NFL history. He won the NFL's MVP Award in 1977 and finished his career with a ridiculous 10 seasons of more than 300 carries. Payton never missed a game due to an injury during his 13 years in the NFL and displayed his versatility as a receiver, blocker and even quarterback (throwing eight career touchdown passes). 

     

    35: Pete Pihos, Offensive End, Philadelphia Eagles, 1947-1955

    The only player in NFL history to lead the league in receptions during his final three seasons, Pete Pihos walked away at the age of 32, still in his peak. He finished his career with 61 touchdown catches and earned an All-Pro berth six times, including each of his final four seasons. 

     

    36: Jerome Bettis, Running Back, Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams/Pittsburgh Steelers, 1993-2005

    A battering ram at running back, Jerome Bettis rushed for 13,662 yards, the sixth-most in NFL history. His 3,479 carries are the fourth-most ever, as the former Rams and Steelers great ended his career with a victory in Super Bowl XL. 

     

    37: Rodney Harrison, Safety, San Diego Chargers/New England Patriots, 1994-2008

    The first player in NFL history to collect more than 30 sacks and 30 interceptions, Rodney Harrison was widely regarded as the dirtiest player in the NFL during his 15-year career. He intercepted seven passes during his nine-game postseason career, including two against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. 

     

    38: Arnie Herber, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers/New York Giants, 1930-1940/1944-1945

    The first great quarterback in the NFL, Arnie Herber teamed with Don Hutson to form the most dangerous quarterback-to-wide receiver combination in the league. He led the Packers to five championship game appearances, including four victories. 

     

    39: Larry Csonka, Running Back, Miami Dolphins/New York Giants/Miami Dolphins, 1968-1974, 1976-1979

    A key member of the two-time Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins from the 1970s, Larry Csonka earned five Pro Bowl selections from 1970 to 1974. He also set career highs in carries (220) and touchdowns (12) during his final season at age 33. 

Jersey Nos. 40-49

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    40: Gale Sayers, Running Back, Chicago Bears, 1965-1971

    Literally a threat to score every time he touched the ball, Gale Sayers scored 39 touchdowns on the ground—nine through the air, six on kick returns, two on punt returns and one through the air in his injury-depleted career. His six-touchdown performance as a rookie in 1965 might be the most dominant individual performance in NFL history. He still holds records for touchdowns as a rookie (22) and average yards per kick return (30.6). 

     

    41: Keith Byars, Running Back, Philadelphia Eagles/Miami Dolphins/New England Patriots/New York Jets, 1986-1998

    Although he never lived up to his status as a top-10 overall draft pick, Keith Byars caught 610 passes for 5,661 yards and 31 touchdowns during his career. He added 3,109 rushing yards and 23 scores, spending time at running back, fullback and tight end for four teams during his 13 seasons. 

     

    42: Ronnie Lott, Cornerback/Safety, San Francisco 49ers/Los Angeles Raiders/New York Jets, 1981-1994

    Arguably the greatest defensive back in NFL history, Ronnie Lott intercepted 63 passes during his 14-year career. He established a well-deserved reputation as one of the hardest-hitting players in the NFL, earning seven first-team All-Pro selections, including at least one at three different positions: cornerback, free safety and strong safety.

    Lott was the most important defensive player on four 49ers Super Bowl champion teams, and he will always be remembered for choosing to amputate his finger before a crucial 1985 playoff game. 

     

    43: Troy Polamalu, Safety, Pittsburgh Steelers, 2003-Present

    One of the most versatile safeties in the NFL over the last decade, Troy Polamalu is as important to the Steelers defense as Ben Roethlisberger is to the team's offense. He's been named a Pro Bowler eight times and won the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2010. Polamalu has a well-earned reputation for being everywhere on the field, and he's collected 32 interceptions, 13 forced fumbles and 12 sacks over the last 11 years. 

     

    44: John Riggins, Running Back, New York Jets/Washington Redskins, 1971-1985

    In 1982, Riggins led the NFL in carries during the strike-shortened season and added a ridiculous 136 carries for 610 yards and four touchdowns in four postseason games. His 43-yard touchdown on fourth down in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XVII won the game for the Redskins.

    In 1983, including three postseason games, Riggins carried 462 times for 1,653 yards and 30 touchdowns. He followed up his MVP-caliber season by carrying 327 more times for 1,239 yards and 14 touchdowns in 1984. Those three years came at ages 33, 34 and 35, and they cemented Riggins' status as a Hall of Fame running back. 

     

    45: Emlen Tunnell, Defensive Back, New York Giants/Green Bay Packers, 1948-1961

    One of the best playmaking defensive backs in NFL history, Emlen Tunnell ranks second all time with 79 interceptions and fourth with 1,282 interception return yards. He recorded at least six interceptions in each of his first 10 seasons. 

     

    46: Chuck Muncie, Running Back, New Orleans Saints/San Diego Chargers, 1976-1984

    Chuck Muncie's best season came in 1981, when the Chargers running back carried 251 times for 1,144 yards and a league-leading 19 touchdowns. He finished his career with 6,702 rushing yards and 71 touchdowns, plus three trips to the Pro Bowl. 

     

    47: Mel Blount, Cornerback, Pittsburgh Steelers, 1970-1983

    The best defensive back on the best defensive dynasty in NFL history, Mel Blount collected 57 interceptions during his 14 years. He earned Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1975, leading the NFL with 10 interceptions and helping the Steelers win their second of four Super Bowl titles. His toughness and physicality led the NFL to enact a rule that prevented cornerbacks from bumping wide receivers more than five yards downfield. 

     

    48: Stephen Davis, Running Back, Washington Redskins/Carolina Panthers/St. Louis Rams, 1996-2006

    Stephen Davis rushed for more than 1,300 yards four times with the Redskins and Panthers, finishing his career with 8,052 yards and 65 touchdowns in 11 seasons. He was thrice selected to the Pro Bowl. 

     

    49: Bobby Mitchell, Halfback/Flanker, Cleveland Browns/Washington Redskins, 1958-1968

    One of the best running, receiving and returning combinations in NFL history, Bobby Mitchell finished his career ranked second all time in total all-purpose yards. He turned in four successful seasons as a halfback with the Browns before switching to wide receiver after a trade to the Redskins. He immediately led the league in receiving yards in each of his first two seasons. 

Jersey Nos. 50-59

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    50: Mike Singletary, Linebacker, Chicago Bears, 1981-1992

    One of the most underrated defensive players in history, Mike Singletary was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year in both 1985 and 1988. He finished first or second on the Bears in tackles in each of his final 11 seasons. He missed just two games during his career and was probably the best player for the Super Bowl champion 1985 Bears. 

     

    51: Dick Butkus, Linebacker, Chicago Bears, 1965-1973

    Probably the most physically intimidating player in NFL history, Dick Butkus dominated opposing offenses for nine seasons before bad knees forced him to retire at age 31. He was named the Newspaper Enterprise Association Defensive Player of the Year twice and six times was named a first-team All-Pro. The Sporting News named him as the ninth-greatest player in league history. 

     

    52: Ray Lewis, Linebacker, Baltimore Ravens, 1996-2012

    The face of the Baltimore Ravens for 17 seasons, Ray Lewis is probably the greatest middle linebacker in NFL history. He was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 2000 and 2003 and led the Ravens to Super Bowl titles in 2000 and 2012. Lewis wasn't just a tackling machine though. He collected 41.5 sacks, 31 interceptions and 19 forced fumbles during his career. 

     

    53: Harry Carson, Linebacker, New York Giants, 1976-1988

    Despite playing second fiddle to Lawrence Taylor on the Giants, Harry Carson earned nine selections to the Pro Bowl and a spot in the Hall of Fame in 2006. He played through at least 15 concussions during his career and led the Giants to a Super Bowl title after the 1986 season. 

     

    54: Randy White, Defensive Tackle, Dallas Cowboys, 1975-1988

    The No. 2 overall draft pick in 1975, Randy White collected 1,104 tackles and 111 sacks in 14 years. He earned Super Bowl co-MVP honors in 1977 and NFC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1978. 

     

    55: Junior Seau, Linebacker, San Diego Chargers/Miami Dolphins/New England Patriots, 1990-2009

    An explosive, tackling machine during his 20 seasons in the NFL, Junior Seau recorded 56.5 sacks and 29 forced turnovers. He earned 12 trips to the Pro Bowl and played on two different Super Bowl teams. In the 1994 AFC Championship Game, he played through a pinched nerve in his neck to collect 16 tackles and lead the Chargers to an upset victory. 

     

    56: Lawrence Taylor, Linebacker, New York Giants, 1981-1993

    The greatest defensive player in the history of the NFL, Lawrence Taylor completely revolutionized the position of linebacker. He was simply unblockable and changed offensive formations and pass-rushing schemes. He was named Defensive Player of the Year three times, including his first two seasons in the league. His 1986 season, in which he recorded 20.5 sacks, earned MVP honors and led the Giants to a Super Bowl title, is one of the best years ever by a defensive player. 

     

    57: Dwight Stephenson, Center, Miami Dolphins, 1980-1987

    One of the best pass-blocking centers in NFL history, Dwight Stephenson anchored a Miami Dolphins offense that led the league in fewest sacks allowed for six straight seasons. He was named to the NFL's All-Decade team in the 1980s and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. 

     

    58: Jack Lambert, Linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers, 1974-1984

    The prototypical middle linebacker, Jack Lambert averaged 146 tackles during his first 10 seasons. He could cover, collecting 28 interceptions, and he could rush the passer, recording 23.5 sacks. The Steelers won four Super Bowl titles during Lambert's first six seasons. He was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1976 and earned eight All-Pro berths. 

     

    59: Jack Ham, Linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers, 1971-1982

    One of the top outside linebackers in NFL history, Jack Ham collected 25 sacks, 21 fumbles recovered and 32 interceptions during his 12 years. His 53 takeaways are the most ever by a non-defensive back. He was widely regarded as one of the most intelligent linebackers in the NFL, and he was one of the crucial centerpieces on four different Super Bowl champion teams. 

Jersey Nos. 60-69

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    60: Chuck Bednarik, Center/Linebacker, Philadelphia Eagles, 1949-1962

    The NFL's last two-way player, Chuck Bednarik dominated both sides of the ball for 14 seasons, leading the Eagles to championships in 1949 and 1960. His hit of Frank Gifford in a 1960 game is widely regarded as the most memorable hit in NFL history. He also made a game-saving tackle in the final seconds of the Eagles' last championship victory, arguably the most memorable play in franchise history.

     

    61: Bill George, Linebacker, Chicago Bears/Los Angeles Rams, 1952-1966

    Although he began his pro football career as a nose guard, Bill George is widely regarded as the first great middle linebacker on a 4-3 defense. He collected 18 career interceptions and 19 fumble recoveries and was named a first-team All-Pro eight straight times. 

     

    62: Jim Langer, Center, Miami Dolphins/Minnesota Vikings, 1970-1981

    One of the top centers in NFL history, Jim Langer played in 141 consecutive games during the 1970s. He led the Dolphins to two Super Bowl titles while opening up holes for running backs Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris. 

     

    63: Gene Upshaw, Offensive Guard, Oakland Raiders, 1967-1982

    Arguably the top offensive guard in NFL history, Gene Upshaw is the only player ever to play in a Super Bowl with the same team in three different decades. He was notable for shutting down dominant defensive tackles in the postseason, particularly Alan Page in Super Bowl XI. 

     

    64: Randall McDaniel, Offensive Guard, Minnesota Vikings/Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1988-2001

    A versatile offensive guard, Randall McDaniel played in 12 straight Pro Bowls, tying an NFL record. He also started 202 consecutive games. During his time with the Vikings, he earned fame for his ability to serve as a goal-line fullback in short-yardage situations. 

     

    65: Elvin Bethea, Defensive End, Houston Oilers, 1968-1983

    An eight-time Pro Bowl selection at defensive end during the 1970s, Elvin Bethea played in 135 consecutive games before breaking his arm during a game in 1977. He recorded 105 sacks during his career, leading the Oilers in six different seasons. 

     

    66: Ray Nitschke, Linebacker, Green Bay Packers, 1958-1972

    The only linebacker to earn a spot on the NFL's 50th anniversary team and 75th anniversary team, Ray Nitschke was perhaps the most important defensive player on five different Packers champion teams. He recorded 25 interceptions during his career and earned a reputation as one of the hardest-hitting players in the game. 

     

    67: Bob Kuechenberg, Offensive Guard, Miami Dolphins, 1970-1983

    Although he retired from the Eagles as a rookie before playing a down, Bob Kuechenberg became one of the NFL's top offensive guards for 14 years with the Miami Dolphins. He helped Don Shula's power running attack earn two Super Bowl titles. Kuechenberg was named a Pro Bowler six times. 

     

    68: Will Shields, Offensive Guard, Kansas City Chiefs, 1993-2006

    A rock at offensive guard for 14 seasons, Will Shields never missed a game (231 straight starts) and played in 12 straight Pro Bowls. He opened up holes throughout his career for a number of star running backs, including Marcus Allen, Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson. 

     

    69: Jared Allen, Defensive End, Kansas City Chiefs/Minnesota Vikings, 2004-Present

    One of the more under-the-radar sack specialists over the last decade, Jared Allen has recorded 128.5 quarterback takedowns, including a ridiculous 22 during the 2011 season. He holds the NFL record by collecting a sack in 11 straight games. 

Jersey Nos. 70-79

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    70: Sam Huff, Linebacker, New York Giants/Washington Redskins, 1956-1967, 1969

    The first middle linebacker in defensive coordinator Tom Landry's new 4-3 defense, Sam Huff played in every game for his first 11 seasons. He collected 30 interceptions during his career and led the Giants to six NFL Championship Games. 

     

    71: Walter Jones, Offensive Tackle, Seattle Seahawks, 1997-2008

    During his 12 seasons in the NFL, Walter Jones allowed just 23 sacks and was penalized for holding only nine times. Seattle Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren, who had previously coached Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice and Brett Favre, called him the best offensive player he had ever coached, per Mike Sando of ESPN.

     

    72: Too Tall Jones, Defensive End, Dallas Cowboys, 1974-1989

    The No. 1 overall draft pick in the 1974 draft, Too Tall Jones was J.J. Watt four decades ago. His success at batting down passes convinced the NFL to start tracking it as an official statistic. He never missed a game during his 16 seasons and unofficially collected 106 sacks. 

     

    73: John Hannah, Offensive Guard, New England Patriots, 1973-1985

    The 1978 New England Patriots rushed for 3,165 yards, an average of 198 per game. That's easily an NFL single-season record, and it was guard John Hannah who did most of the damage in creating holes. Hannah was named the NFLPA Offensive Lineman of the Year for four straight seasons (1978 to 1981) and he was named the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history by Sports Illustrated in 1981. 

     

    74: Bob Lilly, Defensive Tackle, Dallas Cowboys, 1961-1974

    NFL Films called Bob Lilly "the unstoppable, unblockable force of the Doomsday Defense." Lilly, who played in 196 consecutive games, was frequently double- and even triple-teamed by opposing offenses. Known as "Mr. Cowboy," he was named to 11 Pro Bowls and was ranked as the best defensive lineman in NFL history by the Sporting News. 

     

    75: Deacon Jones, Defensive End, Los Angeles Rams/San Diego Chargers/Washington Redskins, 1961-1974

    All you need to know about Deacon Jones' effectiveness as a pass-rusher is that the NFL coined the term sack because of his success. He collected an unofficial 173.5 sacks during his career. Four times, he topped 20 in a season, with a ridiculous 26 in 1967. Jones' patented move was his head slap, which he used to earn Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1967 and 1968. 

     

    76: Orlando Pace, Offensive Tackle, St. Louis Rams/Chicago Bears, 1997-2009

    The best offensive tackle in the NFL for close to a decade, Orlando Pace blocked for three straight 500-point offenses (1999-2001 Rams), which included a Super Bowl champion squad in 1999. He earned seven Pro Bowl selections and was named by Sporting News as the best player in the NFL in 2001. 

     

    77: Jim Parker, Offensive Tackle/Guard, Baltimore Colts, 1957-1967

    Some have called Jim Parker the greatest offensive tackle in NFL history. Others have called him the greatest guard. Either way, it's clear that Johnny Unitas' top blocker is, at worst, a top-five offensive lineman in NFL history. 

     

    78: Anthony Munoz, Offensive Tackle, Cincinnati Bengals, 1980-1992

    Most consider Anthony Munoz to be the single best offensive lineman in the history of the NFL. He was a fixture at left tackle for the Bengals, earning NFL Offensive Lineman of the Year honors three times. Munoz played in 11 different Pro Bowls and was also a reliable short-yardage receiver, scoring four career touchdowns. 

     

    79: Roosevelt Brown, Offensive Tackle, New York Giants, 1953-1965

    320 players were drafted before Roosevelt Brown in the 1953 draft. He outperformed every single one of them during his NFL career, earning nine Pro Bowl selections and leading the Giants to six different appearances in the NFL Championship Game. 

Jersey Nos. 80-89

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    80: Jerry Rice, Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers/Oakland Raiders/Seattle Seahawks, 1985-2004

    Jerry Rice's career statistics could be cut in half and you'd still have a Hall of Fame wide receiver. In 20 seasons, he caught 1,549 passes for 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns, including then-records for single-season yards (1,848 in 1995) and touchdowns (22 in 1987). He played in 303 games, a record for non-kickers or punters, and recorded 92 catches for 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns in 2002 at age 40.

    Rice caught 33 passes for 589 yards and eight touchdowns in four different Super Bowls. All were victories, and he was named MVP in Super Bowl XXIII. 

     

    81: Night Train Lane, Cornerback, Los Angeles Rams/Chicago Cardinals/Detroit Lions, 1952-1965

    Night Train Lane's rookie season stands alone as one of the most impressive individual seasons by a defensive player in NFL history. He recorded 14 interceptions, still a single-season record, for 298 yards and two touchdowns. During his career, Lane collected 68 picks and earned a reputation as one of the hardest-hitting defensive players in the game. 

     

    82: Raymond Berry, Wide Receiver, Baltimore Colts, 1955-1967

    Johnny Unitas's top offensive weapon, Raymond Berry's 1960 season was one of the best ever by a receiver at that point in history: 74 catches for 1,298 yards and 10 touchdowns. The sure-handed receiver caught 631 balls for 9,275 yards and 68 touchdowns in 13 years, including a ridiculous 12 catches for 178 yards and a touchdown in the 1958 NFL championship game victory. 

     

    83: Ted Hendricks, Linebacker, Baltimore Colts/Green Bay Packers/Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, 1969-1983

    A master of blocking kicks (25 during his career) and deflecting passes, Ted Hendricks played for four different Super Bowl champion teams during his 15 years in the NFL. He played in every game for his first 13 seasons, finishing his career with 26 interceptions and four safeties. 

     

    84: Randy Moss, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings/Oakland Raiders/New England Patriots/Minnesota Vikings/Tennessee Titans/San Francisco 49ers, 1998-2010, 2012

    Perhaps the greatest deep threat the game has ever known, Randy Moss ranks 10th in NFL history in receptions, third in receiving yards and second in touchdown catches. He led the NFL in touchdowns five times, including a single-season record 23 in 2007. 

     

    85: Jack Youngblood, Defensive End, Los Angeles Rams, 1971-1984

    One of the most underrated defensive linemen in the NFL, Jack Youngblood collected 151.5 career sacks and played in 201 consecutive games during his career. He was one of the hardest-hitting and toughest players in the game, playing in Super Bowl XIV with a broken leg. 

     

    86: Buck Buchanan, Defensive Tackle, Kansas City Chiefs, 1963-1975

    Buck Buchanan was drafted just 265th in the 1963 NFL draft, but he was the first player selected in the AFL draft, where he became a Hall of Fame defensive tackle with the Kansas City Chiefs. In 1967, he batted down 16 passes at the line of scrimmage. He played in 166 consecutive games, his finest coming during a Super Bowl IV victory over the Vikings in which Buchanan manhandled the Vikings offensive line for 60 consecutive minutes. 

     

    87: Willie Davis, Defensive End, Cleveland Browns/Green Bay Packers, 1958-1969

    Although sacks weren't an official statistic, Willie Davis allegedly collected between 10 and 12 per season for more than a decade, including 25 in one season. He played in 162 consecutive games during his career, helping the Packers win five NFL championships. 

     

    88: Alan Page, Defensive Tackle, Minnesota Vikings/Chicago Bears, 1967-1981

    Arguably the most dominant defensive tackle in NFL history, Alan Page is the only defensive lineman to win the NFL's MVP Award (1971). He was named the best player in the NFL for three straight seasons by Pro-Football-Reference's approximate value rating. Page collected 148 sacks during his career, including 18 in 1976.

    He was the best player on the famed Purple People Eaters, leading the Vikings to four Super Bowl appearances in an eight-year span. 

     

    89: Gino Marchetti, Defensive End, Dallas Texans/Baltimore Colts, 1952-1966

    Voted by Sports Illustrated as the greatest defensive end in NFL history in 1972, Gino Marchetti famously broke his leg in the 1958 NFL championship game but refused to seek medical treatment until after the game. Marchetti was named a first-team All-Pro nine times and played for two NFL champion teams. 

Jersey Nos. 90-99

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    90: Julius Peppers, Defensive End, Carolina Panthers/Chicago Bears/Green Bay Packers, 2002-Present

    A physical freak at defensive end, Julius Peppers has amassed 119 sacks and 40 forced fumbles during his 12 years in the NFL. He's used his incredible size to block 13 kicks. He also has nine interceptions, second-most ever among defensive lineman. Peppers is now looking to revive his career as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, something he's never done before. 

     

    91: Kevin Greene, Linebacker, Los Angeles Rams/Pittsburgh Steelers/Carolina Panthers/San Francisco 49ers/Carolina Panthers, 1985-1999

    Not a lot of fans think of Kevin Greene when asked to name the best sack specialists in NFL history, and it's a shame, because the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker collected 160 sacks during his 15 seasons. He reached double digits in sacks nine times, including each of his last four seasons. 

     

    92: Reggie White, Defensive End, Philadelphia Eagles/Green Bay Packers/Carolina Panthers, 1985-1998, 2000

    The most dominant defensive end since Deacon Jones, Reggie White held the NFL record for career sacks (198) and single-season sacks (21, in just 12 games in 1987) upon his retirement. He reached double-digits in sacks 12 times and collected three during a Super Bowl victory with the Green Bay Packers in 1996. 

     

    93: John Randle, Defensive End/Tackle, Minnesota Vikings/Seattle Seahawks, 1990-2003

    One of the most consistent, durable defensive lineman during the 1990s, John Randle played in every game for his first 11 seasons. He reached double-digit sack totals nine times, leading the NFL in 1997. Randle earned six first-team All-Pro selections and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. 

     

    94: DeMarcus Ware, Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys/Denver Broncos, 2005-Present

    The NFL's best pass-rusher over the last decade, DeMarcus Ware led the league in sacks in 2008 (20) and 2010 (15.5). He's forced 32 fumbles and is already in the top 20 on the all-time sack list despite playing just nine seasons. 

     

    95: Richard Dent, Defensive End, Chicago Bears/San Francisco 49ers/Chicago Bears/Indianapolis Colts/Philadelphia Eagles, 1983-1997

    More than 200 players were drafted before Richard Dent in the 1983 draft, but it was Dent who was established himself as one of the best draft steals in history. He earned MVP honors in the Bears' Super Bowl XX victory and finished his career with 137.5 sacks. 

     

    96: Cortez Kennedy, Defensive Tackle, Seattle Seahawks, 1990-2000

    The NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 1992, when he collected 14.5 sacks, Cortez Kennedy was picked to the first-team All-Pro squad six times. He earned a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. 

     

    97: Simeon Rice, Defensive End, Arizona Cardinals/Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Denver Broncos/Indianapolis Colts, 1996-2007

    The No. 3 overall pick in 1996, Simeon Rice played well for five seasons in Arizona before turning into a star in Tampa Bay. He collected 122 sacks during his career, earned three Pro Bowls and led the Buccaneers to a victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. 

     

    98: Julian Peterson, Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers/Seattle Seahawks/Detroit Lions, 2000-2010

    Versatile and fast, Julian Peterson was named a Pro Bowler five times with the 49ers and Seahawks. He collected more than 50 sacks and 50 passes defensed during his career, as well as 21 forced fumbles. 

     

    99: Warren Sapp, Defensive Tackle, Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Oakland Raiders, 1995-2007

    Loud and outspoken, Warren Sapp was the NFL's best defensive tackle for more than a decade. He earned Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1999 and led the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title after the 2002 season. His 96.5 sacks are the second-most ever by a defensive tackle. 

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