NFL Player Running

The Best NFL Players of All Time: The Legends and History

Author: Shrabona Borthakur

The National Football League (NFL) is widely considered one of the most popular and successful professional sports leagues in the world. With its origins dating back to the early 20th century, the NFL has a rich history of iconic moments and legendary players. From quarterbacks to running backs, defensive linemen to wide receivers, the league has seen countless greats who have made an indelible impact on the game. As such, ranking the best NFL players of all time is a topic that has fascinated fans and experts alike for decades.

It serves as a way to celebrate the achievements and contributions of these players while also generating lively debate and discussion. This article will provide an in-depth look at the top NFL players of all time, including the criteria used to rank them and their impact on the game.


Criteria for Ranking the Best NFL Players

StatisticsA player's individual and team statistics can be a key factor in determining their ranking. This includes yards, touchdowns, interceptions, and completion percentage.Jerry Rice's all-time record of 22,895 receiving yards and 197 touchdowns.
AwardsAwards such as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, Pro Bowl selections, and All-Pro honors can demonstrate a player's impact and recognition among peers.Tom Brady's seven Super Bowl wins and three MVP awards.
Impact on the GameA player's impact on the game can be measured by their influence on the way the game is played or by the impact of their legacy. This includes their style of play, innovation, and off-field contributions.Walter Payton's innovative running style, which involved jumping over defenders, and his charitable work.
LongevityA player's longevity in the league can demonstrate their consistency and ability to maintain a high level of performance over an extended period. This includes the number of seasons played and games started.Brett Favre's record of 298 consecutive games started as a quarterback.
ChampionshipsChampionships, including Super Bowl victories, can be a significant factor in ranking players as they demonstrate a player's ability to perform on the biggest stage and contribute to a winning team.Joe Montana's four Super Bowl victories and three Super Bowl MVP awards.


Honourable Mentions of the NFL

American Footballer Ray Lewis jersey

While there are many exceptional players in NFL history, only a select few can make the top list of the best of all time. However, there are still numerous players who deserve recognition for their outstanding careers.

Ray Lewis

A linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, Ray Lewis was a dominant force on defense throughout his career. He was a 13-time Pro Bowler, 7-time First-Team All-Pro, and won two Defensive Player of the Year awards. Lewis was also a key contributor to the Ravens' Super Bowl victories in 2000 and 2012.

Tony Gonzalez

One of the greatest tight ends in NFL history, Tony Gonzalez, was a reliable target for quarterbacks throughout his career. He was a 14-time Pro Bowler, 6-time First-Team All-Pro, and holds numerous records for tight ends, including most career receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions.

Barry Sanders

A running back for the Detroit Lions, Barry Sanders was known for his electrifying runs and ability to make defenders miss. He was a 10-time Pro Bowler, 6-time First-Team All-Pro, and won the MVP award in 1997. Sanders retired at the peak of his career, leaving fans to wonder what he could have achieved with a longer career.


Top 10 NFL Players of All Time


Jerry Rice

Widely considered the most excellent wide receiver in NFL history, Jerry Rice holds numerous records for the position, including most career receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions. He won three Super Bowl championships with the San Francisco 49ers and was named Super Bowl MVP in 1989. Rice was a 13-time Pro Bowler and 10-time First-Team All-Pro, and he set the standard for excellence in his position.

Jim Brown

Regarded by many as the greatest running back in NFL history, Jim Brown dominated the league during his nine-year career with the Cleveland Browns. He led the league in rushing in eight of his nine seasons and was a three-time MVP. Brown retired as the NFL's all-time leading rusher and set the standard for power and speed at his position.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady, the most successful quarterback in NFL history, has won seven Super Bowl championships, including five Super Bowl MVP awards. He is a 14-time Pro Bowler and has been named First-Team All-Pro three times. Brady is known for his clutch performances in key moments, including leading the New England Patriots to a comeback victory in Super Bowl LI.

Lawrence Taylor

Widely considered the greatest defensive player in NFL history, Lawrence Taylor revolutionized the linebacker position with his speed and power. He won two Super Bowl championships with the New York Giants and was named Defensive Player of the Year three times. Taylor was known for his dominant performances, including his 3.5-sack game against the San Francisco 49ers in the 1984 playoffs.

Joe Montana

A four-time Super Bowl champion and three-time Super Bowl MVP, Joe Montana is regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. He led the San Francisco 49ers to numerous key victories, including "The Catch" in the 1981 NFC Championship game and his game-winning drive in Super Bowl XXIII.

Walter Payton

A versatile and durable running back, Walter Payton set the standard for consistency in his position. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and won the MVP award in 1977. Payton was known for his innovative running style and his leadership on and off the field.

Reggie White

A dominant defensive end, Reggie White was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and won a Super Bowl championship with the Green Bay Packers. He was known for his relentless pass rush and ability to disrupt opposing offenses.

Johnny Unitas

Widely considered one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Johnny Unitas was a three-time MVP and led the Baltimore Colts to two NFL championships. He was known for his clutch performances in key moments, including leading the Colts to a come-from-behind victory in the 1958 NFL Championship game.

Dick Butkus

A fearsome middle linebacker, Dick Butkus was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the Pro Bowl eight times. He was known for his punishing hits and his ability to control the middle of the field.

Deion Sanders

A versatile cornerback and kick returner, Deion Sanders won two Super Bowl championships and was a six-time First-Team All-Pro. He was known for his speed and agility, as well as his flamboyant personality on and off the field.


Achievements of the Top 10 NFL Players of All Time

PlayerSuper Bowl WinsSuper Bowl MVPsLeague MVPsPro BowlsFirst-Team All-ProsCareer Stats
Jerry Rice31113101,549 receptions, 22,895 receiving yards, 197 receiving TDs
Jim Brown1039812,312 rushing yards, 106 rushing TDs
Tom Brady75314379,204 passing yards, 590 passing TDs
Lawrence Taylor2031081,088 tackles, 132.5 sacks, 33 forced fumbles
Joe Montana4328340,551 passing yards, 273 passing TDs
Walter Payton1019616,726 rushing yards, 110 rushing TDs
Reggie White1021381,048 tackles, 198 sacks, 33 forced fumbles
Johnny Unitas11310540,239 passing yards, 290 passing TDs
Dick Butkus000861,020 tackles, 22 interceptions, 27 fumble recoveries
Deion Sanders2008653 interceptions, 22.3 yards per interception return



Ranking the best NFL players of all time is a difficult task due to the many exceptional athletes that have graced the game. However, by using a set of objective criteria, we can arrive at a list of the top 10 players who have had the greatest impact on the sport. These players have excelled in various aspects, from their statistics to their impact on their respective teams and the game as a whole. They have set records, won championships, and inspired generations of football players and fans alike. Their contributions to the sport cannot be overstated, and their legacies will endure for years to come. While there may be some debate about the exact order of these players, there is no doubt that they all belong in the conversation of the best NFL players of all time.



Who is considered the greatest NFL player of all time?

Opinions on the greatest NFL player of all time vary, but many consider Jerry Rice, Tom Brady, or Jim Brown to be the greatest due to their numerous accolades and impact on the game.

How were the top 10 NFL players of all time selected?

The selection of the top 10 NFL players of all time is subjective and based on a combination of factors, including statistical achievements, impact on the game, and overall legacy.

Who are some notable players that did not make the top 10 list?

Notable players who did not make the top 10 list but were still exceptional include Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Randy Moss, Ray Lewis, and Barry Sanders, among others.

How do the achievements of modern players compare to those of older players?

It can be difficult to directly compare the achievements of modern players to those of older players due to differences in the game, rules, and era in which they played. However, modern players have access to better training, technology, and resources, which may give them an advantage in certain areas.

What impact have the top 10 NFL players of all time had on the game?

The top 10 NFL players of all time have had a significant impact on the game through their exceptional talent, leadership, and innovation. They have inspired future generations of players and helped shape the way the game is played today.

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