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Greatest NFL players of all time

Kansas City Chiefs v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kansas City Chiefs v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Walter Sharp

During the 2019 NFL Season, the National Football League announced their top 100 NFL players of all-time. This list consists of players from all generations. The list is full of Hall-of-Famers and future Hall-of-Famers.

These NFL Players have made a huge impact on the game of football and are worthy of their place on the top 100 NFL Greatest of All-Time team. The list is broken down into position groups. The NFL took the top players from each division and named them to the NFL 100 team.

When thinking about the NFL 100 greatest players of all-time, many think about how many Super Bowls have each won. In other sports, being great comes with the amount of championships that individual won. In the NFL, being the greatest of all-time doesn't get graded on the Super Bowls.

Another thing that separates the NFL from professional sports like baseball, hockey, and basketball is that it is rare to have more than three great players on one team. Players do not sign with teams just to chase championships. An NFL season cannot be predicted before it starts.

In the NFL each player puts their well-being on the line each week they strap up their helmet and shoulder pads. The average NFL career lasts about 3.3 years which is the shortest out of all major professional sports. Winning a championship is not guaranteed.

Before an NFL Season starts, fans cannot predict what the Super Bowl will be. If they do its usually one team not both teams. In the NBA, fans could predict that the Cleveland Cavaliers would be in the NBA Finals when LeBron James played there. For three years NBA fans predicted that the Cavaliers and Warriors would play each other in the NBA Finals.

This does not happen in the NFL. Fans may be able to say that Tom Brady and the Patriots would make it to the playoffs and Super Bowl but it didn't happen every year. There is always that one team that surprises fans every year to make things interesting.

One thing that is for certain in an NFL Season is that anything can happen on any given Sunday. This is why being named to the NFL 100 is one of the greatest accomplishments by any player or coach. Lets take a look at each position group of the NFL 100 Greatest Players of All-Time.

Top 3 Greatest NFL Running Backs of All-Time

Walter Payton was one of the best running backs to ever play the game of football
Walter Payton was one of the best running backs to ever play the game of football

Emmitt Smith, RB, Dallas Cowboys (1990-2002) and Arizona Cardinals (2003-2004)

The Dallas Cowboys would draft running back Emmitt Smith out of the University of Florida with their 17th pick in the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft. Emmitt Smith would go down as the best running back in the history of the Dallas Cowboys franchise. Smith would end his career with the Arizona Cardinals.

Emmitt Smith Career Stats:

  • Rushing Yards: 18,355
  • Receiving Yards: 3,224
  • Rush TD: 164

Emmitt Smith Career Accomplishments:

  • 1993 NFL MVP
  • Selected to the NFL All Pro team 4 times
  • Made it to the Pro Bowl 8 times
  • Won 3 Super Bowl Championships
  • Won rushing crown in 1991,1992,1993,1995, and led the NFL in rushing TD's 3 times
  • Inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2010

Barry Sanders, RB, Detroit Lions (1989-1998)

The Detroit Lions would draft running back Barry Sanders out of Oklahoma State University with their 3rd overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. Barry Sanders would go down as the best running back to ever play for the Detroit Lions. Sanders rushed for 1,000 yards in his first 10 seasons with Detroit.

Barry Sanders Career Stats:

  • Rush Yards: 15,269
  • Receiving Yards: 2,921
  • Rushing TD: 99

Barry Sanders Career Accomplishments:

  • Sanders would be selected to the NFL All Pro Team 6 times
  • He would play in the Pro Bowl 10 times
  • Barry Sanders won the 1997 NFL MVP Award
  • He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2004

Walter Payton, RB, Chicago Bears (1975-1987)

The Chicago Bears would draft running back Walter Payton with their 4th overall pick in the first round of the 1975 NFL Draft. Payton has engraved his name as one of the best running backs to wear a Chicago Bears uniform. Walter Payton single handedly changed the NFL rushing game throughout his career.

Walter Payton Career Stats:

  • Rushing Yards: 16,726
  • Receiving Yards: 4,538
  • Rush TD: 110

Walter Payton Career Accomplishments:

  • Walter Payton would be selected to 5 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in the Pro Bowl 9 times
  • Payton would win 1 Super Bowl with the Bears
  • Walter Payton was the 1977 NFL MVP
  • He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 1993
  • Walter Payton would record 21,803 combined scrimmage yards throughout his NFL Career

Top 3 Greatest of All-Time NFL Linebackers

Ray Lewis would put together an NFL Career that will be forever remembered by the Baltimore Ravens
Ray Lewis would put together an NFL Career that will be forever remembered by the Baltimore Ravens

Lawrence Taylor, LB, New York Giants (1981-1993)

The New York Giants would select linebacker Lawrence Taylor with their 2nd overall pick in the first round of the 1981 NFL Draft. Taylor would become one of the most dominant outside linebackers to ever play the game of football. Lawrence Taylor is one of the best linebackers to ever play for the New York Giants.

Lawrence Taylor Career Stats:

  • Sacks: 132.5
  • Interceptions: 9
  • Interception Return Yards: 134
  • Fumbles Recovered: 11

Lawrence Taylor Career Accomplishments:

  • Lawrence Taylor would be named to 8 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 10 Pro Bowl games
  • Taylor would win 2 Super Bowl Championships with the Giants
  • He would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 1999
  • Named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1980's
  • Lawrence Taylor is only the second NFL player to win the NFL MVP award as a defensive player.
  • Taylor won the NFL MVP Award in 1986

Derrick Brooks, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1995-2008)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers would select linebacker Derrick Brooks with their 28th pick in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft. Derrick Brooks would be a key contributor to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers turn around. He would not miss one game in his entire NFL career with the Buccaneers.

Derrick Brooks Career Stats:

  • Tackles: 1,710
  • Sacks: 13.5
  • Interceptions: 25
  • Interception Return Yards: 530
  • Fumble Recoveries: 4

Derrick Brooks Career Accomplishments:

  • Derrick Brooks would be selected to 5 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 11 Pro Bowl games
  • Brooks would win 1 Super Bowl
  • Derrick Brooks was inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2014
  • Brooks would win the NFL Defensive Player of Year award in 2002
  • He was selected to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000's
  • Derrick Brooks would start 221 out of 224 NFL games in his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore Ravens (1996-2012)

The Baltimore Ravens would select linebacker Ray Lewis with their 26th pick in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft. Ray Lewis would cement his name as the best middle linebacker to ever play for the Baltimore Ravens franchise. He would also be one of the key contributors to the Baltimore Ravens success over the years on the defensive side of the ball.

Ray Lewis Career Stats:

  • Tackles: 2,055
  • Sacks: 41.5
  • Interceptions: 31
  • Interception Return Yards: 503
  • Fumble Recoveries: 20

Ray Lewis Career Accomplishments:

  • Ray Lewis was selected to 7 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 13 Pro Bowls
  • Lewis would win 2 Super Bowls with the Baltimore Ravens
  • Inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2018
  • Ray Lewis is the only player in NFL history with 40 sacks and 30 interceptions in a NFL career.
  • Lewis was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2000's

Top 3 Greatest of All-Time NFL Defensive Lineman

John Randle has cemented his name as one of the best defensive lineman to play in the NFL
John Randle has cemented his name as one of the best defensive lineman to play in the NFL

Bruce Smith, DL, Buffalo Bills (1985-1999) and Washington Redskins (2000-2003)

The Buffalo Bills would draft defensive end Bruce Smith with their 1st overall pick in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft. Bruce Smith will go down in history as the best defensive end to ever wear a Buffalo Bills uniform. Smith would finish the last three years of his career with the Washington Redskins.

Bruce Smith Career Stats:

  • Tackles: 1,224
  • Sacks: 200
  • Interceptions: 2
  • Fumble Recoveries: 15

Bruce Smith Career Accomplishments:

  • Bruce Smith would be selected to 8 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 11 Pro Bowl games
  • Smith was inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2009
  • Bruce Smith was selected to the 1980's and 1990's NFL All-Decade Teams
  • He would help the Buffalo Bills reach 4 straight Super Bowls but failed to win one

John Randle, DT, Minnesota Vikings (1990-2000) and Seattle Seahawks (2001-2003)

The Minnesota Vikings would sign undrafted free agent John Randle in the 1990 NFL off-season. John Randle came into the NFL undersized for a defensive tackle, Randle weighed in at 250 pounds heading into the NFL Draft. Randle took that 250 pounds and made it to 290 pounds and played with a chip on his shoulder throughout his NFL career. He would end his NFL career as a member of the Seattle Seahawks.

John Randle Career Stats:

  • Tackles: 555
  • Sacks: 137.5
  • Interceptions: 1
  • Fumble Recoveries: 11

John Randle Career Accomplishments:

  • John Randle would be selected to 6 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 7 Pro Bowls
  • Randle was inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2010
  • John Randle would record 8 consecutive seasons with 10 sacks in each season
  • He would lead the NFL in sacks with 15.5 in 1997 for the Minnesota Vikings

Reggie White, DL, Philadelphia Eagles (1985-1992), Green Bay Packers (1993-1998), and Carolina Panthers (2000)

The Philadelphia Eagles would select defensive end Reggie White with their 4th overall pick in the NFL Supplemental Draft. White would be a key contributor to the Eagles and Packers defensive success. Reggie White would end his NFL career with the Carolina Panthers in the 2000 NFL Season.

Reggie White Career Stats:

  • Tackles: 1,111
  • Sacks: 198
  • Interceptions: 3
  • Fumble Recoveries: 20

Reggie White Career Accomplishments:

  • Reggie White was selected to 8 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 13 Pro Bowls
  • Reggie White would win 1 Super Bowl in his NFL career
  • White was inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2006
  • Reggie White would win the Defensive Play of the Year award in 1987 and 1998
  • He was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1980's and 1990's

Top 3 Greatest of All-Time NFL Defensive Backs

Ed Reed was a staple to the Baltimore Ravens defense throughout his NFL career
Ed Reed was a staple to the Baltimore Ravens defense throughout his NFL career

Ronnie Lott, DB, San Francisco 49ers (1981-1990), Los Angeles Raiders (1991-1992), and New York Jets (1993-1994)

The San Francisco 49ers would select safety Ronnie Lott with their 8th pick of the first round in the 1981 NFL Draft. Ronnie Lott came into the NFL and cemented his name early and often. He is known as one of the hardest hitting safeties to ever play the game of football. He would end his NFL career with the New York Jets in the 1993-1994 NFL Season.

Ronnie Lott Career Stats:

  • Tackles: 1,146
  • Sacks: 8.5
  • Interceptions: 63
  • Interception Return Yards: 730
  • Fumble Recoveries: 17

Ronnie Lott Career Accomplishments:

  • Ronnie Lott would be selected to 6 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 10 Pro Bowls in his NFL career
  • Lott would win 4 Super Bowls throughout his time in the NFL
  • Ronnie Lott was inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2000
  • Lott was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1980's
  • He is also a Member of the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team

Ed Reed, DB, Baltimore Ravens (2002-2012), Houston Texans (2013), and New York Jets (2013)

The Baltimore Ravens would select safety Ed Reed with their 24th pick in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft. Ed Reed would make a name for himself on the Baltimore Ravens defense. Reed would be classified as one of the best playmaking safeties in NFL history. Ed Reed would adopt the nickname as a ball hawking safety throughout his career. He would end his NFL career with the Houston Texans and New York Jets in the 2013 NFL Season.

Ed Reed Career Stats:

  • Tackles: 640
  • Sacks: 6
  • Interceptions: 64
  • Interception Return Yards: 1,590
  • Fumble Recoveries: 13

Ed Reed Career Accomplishments:

  • ED Reed would be selected to 5 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 9 Pro Bowl games throughout his career
  • Reed would win 1 Super Bowl Championship with the Baltimore Ravens
  • ED Reed was selected to the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2019
  • Reed would score 7 touchdowns off of interceptions during his career
  • He would score a total of 9 defensive touchdowns
  • ED Reed would be named Defensive Player of the Year in 2004
  • Reed would record 9 interceptions in the NFL playoffs and would lead the NFL in interceptions in 2004, 2008, and 2010

Deion Sanders, DB, Atlanta Falcons (1989-1993), San Francisco 49ers (1994), Dallas Cowboys (1995-1999), Washington Redskins (2000), and Baltimore Ravens (2004-2005)

The Atlanta Falcons would draft cornerback Deion Sanders with their 5th pick in the first round of the 1989 NFL Draft. Deion Sanders would make an immediate impact on the NFL when he entered the league. Sanders would become one of the best lock down corners to ever play in the NFL. He would end his NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens.

Deion Sanders Career Stats:

  • Tackles: 513
  • Sacks: 1
  • Interceptions: 53
  • Interception Return Yards: 1331
  • Fumble Recoveries: 13

Deion Sanders Career Accomplishments:

  • Deion Sanders would be selected to 6 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 8 Pro Bowl games throughout his NFL career
  • Sanders would win 2 Super Bowl Championships in his career
  • He would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2011
  • Deion Sanders has 9 defensive touchdowns
  • He was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1990's
  • Deion Sanders is only the second player to score touchdowns by punt return, kickoff return, fumble return, receiving, and rushing in his NFL career

Top 3 Greatest of All-Time NFL Tight Ends

Tony Gonzalez changed the NFL tight end position throughout his NFL career
Tony Gonzalez changed the NFL tight end position throughout his NFL career

Kellen Winslow, TE, San Diego Chargers (1979-1987)

The San Diego Chargers would select tight end Kellen Winslow with their 13th pick of the first round in the 1979 NFL Draft. During his career in San Diego, Kellen Winslow would become the premiere tight end of the NFL. Winslow would put together a Hall-of-Fame career in his 8 years with the San Diego Chargers.

Kellen Winslow Career Stats:

  • Receiving Yards: 6,741
  • Receiving TD: 45

Kellen Winslow Career Accomplishments:

  • Kellen Winslow would be selected to 3 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 5 Pro Bowl games throughout his NFL career
  • Winslow was inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 1995
  • Kellen Winslow would record three seasons with 1,000 receiving yards
  • He would be named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1980's
  • Kellen Winslow was also named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots (2010-2018) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2020)

The New England Patriots would draft tight end Rob Gronkowski with their 42nd pick in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Gronkowski would become a key contributor to all of the success that the New England Patriots accomplished in the 2000's. Rob Gronkowski retired from football in 2018 before returning to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.

Rob Gronkowski Career Stats:

  • Receiving Yards: 7,861
  • Receiving TD: 79

Rob Gronkowski Career Accomplishments:

  • Rob Gronkowski would be selected to 4 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 5 Pro Bowl games throughout his NFL Career
  • Gronkowski would win 3 Super Bowl Championships with the New England Patriots
  • Rob Gronkowski has 12 receiving touchdowns in the playoffs only trailing Jerry Rice
  • He would record 4 seasons where he went over 1,000 yards receiving which is tied for the most by all tight ends
  • Gronkowski leads the NFL record for the most seasons with 10+ receiving touchdowns by a tight end

Tony Gonzalez, TE, Kansas City Chiefs (1997-2008) and Atlanta Falcons (2009-2013)

The Kansas City Chiefs would select tight end Tony Gonzalez with their 13th pick of the first round in the 1997 NFL Draft. Tony Gonzalez would change how the tight end position was played during his NFL career. Tony Gonzalez would end his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons in the 2012-2013 NFL season.

Tony Gonzalez Career Stats:

  • Receiving Yards: 15,127
  • Receiving TD: 111

Tony Gonzalez Career Accomplishments:

  • Tony Gonzalez would be selected to 6 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 14 Pro Bowls throughout his NFL career
  • Gonzalez was inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2019
  • Tony Gonzalez holds the NFL record for the most receptions by a tight end with 1,325
  • Gonzalez was selected to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2000's

Top 3 Greatest of All-Time NFL Wide Receivers

Jerry Rice is the best wide receiver to ever play in the NFL
Jerry Rice is the best wide receiver to ever play in the NFL

Marvin Harrison, WR, Indianapolis Colts (1996-2008)

The Indianapolis Colts would draft wide receiver Marvin Harrison with their 19th pick in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft. Harrison would be the main target for quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning and Harrison have gone down as one of the best quarterback/wide receiver duos in NFL history.

Marvin Harrison Career Stats:

  • Receptions: 1,102
  • Receiving Yards: 14,580
  • Receiving TD: 128

Marvin Harrison Career Accomplishments

  • Marvin Harrison would be selected to 3 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 8 Pro Bowls games throughout his NFL career
  • Harrison would win 1 Super Bowl Championship with the Indianapolis Colts
  • Marvin Harrison was inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2016
  • He owns the NFL record with 8 straight seasons with 1,000 or more receiving yards and holds the NFL record with 143 receptions in a single NFL Season
  • Marvin Harrison was selected to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000's

Randy Moss, WR, Minnesota Vikings (1998-2004, 2010), Oakland Raiders (2005-2006), New England Patriots (2007-2010), and San Francisco 49ers (2012)

The Minnesota Vikings would select wide receiver Randy Moss with their 21st pick in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft. Randy Moss came out of college as an explosive deep threat wide receiver. Moss would continue that deep threat success in the NFL. Randy Moss would play for four different NFL teams in his career with his last stop being in San Francisco in 2012 when he would retire.

Randy Moss Career Stats:

  • Receptions: 982
  • Receiving Yards: 15,292
  • Touchdowns: 156

Randy Moss Career Accomplishments:

  • Randy Moss would be selected to 4 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 6 Pro Bowl Games in his NFL career
  • Randy Moss was inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2018
  • Moss would win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in 1998
  • He would be selected to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2000's

Jerry Rice, WR, San Francisco 49ers (1985-2000), Oakland Raiders (2001-2004), and Seattle Seahawks (2004)

The San Francisco 49ers would select wide receiver Jerry Rice with their 16th pick of the first round in the 1985 NFL Draft. Jerry Rice would build his NFL Hall-of-Fame career while playing with the 49ers. Some people may argue that Jerry Rice is not just the best wide receiver to play in the NFL, but the best player to play in the NFL. Rice would end his career with the Seattle Seahawks in 2004.

Jerry Rice Career Stats:

  • Receptions: 1,549
  • Receiving Yards: 22,895
  • Receiving TD: 197

Jerry Rice Career Accomplishments:

  • Jerry Rice would be named to 10 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 13 Pro Bowl games in his NFL career
  • Rice would win 3 Super Bowl Championships with the 49ers
  • Jerry Rice would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2010
  • Rice would be selected to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1980's and 1990's
  • He would also be selected as a Member of the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team
  • Jerry Rice leads the NFL in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns

Top 3 Greatest of All-Time NFL Quarterbacks

When its all said and done Tom Brady will be the greatest quarterback of all time
When its all said and done Tom Brady will be the greatest quarterback of all time

Brett Favre, QB, Atlanta Falcons (1991), Green Bay Packers (1992-2007), New York Jets (2008), and Minnesota Vikings (2009-2010)

The Atlanta Falcons would select quarterback Brett Favre with their 33rd pick in the first round of the 1991 NFL Draft. Majority of Brett Favre's success came with the Green Bay Packers. Favre would play with four different NFL teams throughout his career before making his last stop with the Minnesota Vikings in 2010.

Brett Favre Career Stats:

  • Completion Precentage: 62%
  • Passing Yards: 71,838
  • Passing Touchdowns: 508

Brett Favre Career Accomplishments:

  • Brett Favre would be selected to 3 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 11 Pro Bowl games during the course of his career
  • Favre would win 2 Super Bowl Championships with the Green Bay Packers
  • Brett Favre would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2016
  • He would also win the NFL MVP Award in 1995, 1996, and 1997
  • Favre would be selected to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1990's

Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts (1998-2011) and Denver Broncos (2012-2015)

The Indianapolis Colts would select quarterback Peyton Manning with the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. Manning would become to the face of the Colts franchise during his time with the team. Peyton Manning would be labeled as the sheriff on the football field. He was one of the best pocket passers to every play in the NFL.

Peyton Manning Career Stats:

  • Completion Percentage: 65.3%
  • Passing Yards: 71,940
  • Passing Touchdowns: 539

Peyton Manning Career Accomplishments:

  • Peyton Manning would be selected to 7 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He would play in 14 Pro Bowl games in his NFL career
  • Peyton Manning would win 2 Super Bowl Championships in his NFL Career
  • He would be the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams
  • Manning would be named Super Bowl XLI MVP
  • Peyton Manning won the NFL MVP Award in 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, and 2013
  • He won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award 2 times
  • He was also named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000's

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots (2000-2019) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2020- Present)

The New England Patriots would select quarterback Tom Brady in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL Draft. Brady would be a steal for the Patriots and would have a successful career. In the 2019 NFL off-season, Tom Brady would leave New England and sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tom Brady Career Stats:

  • Completion Percentage: 63.8%
  • Passing Yards: 74,079
  • Passing TD: 538

Tom Brady Career Accomplishments:

  • Tom Brady has been named to 3 NFL All Pro Teams
  • He has played in 14 Pro Bowls throughout his NFL career
  • Brady won 6 Super Bowl Championships with the New England Patriots
  • Tom Brady has won the Super Bowl MVP Award 4 times
  • He has won the NFL MVP Award in 2007, 2010, and 2017
  • He has 16 Division Titles
  • Tom Brady was selected to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000's
Edited by Amaar Burton

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