The Greatest NFL Players of All-Time By Position

(Last Updated On: September 29, 2022)

Composing a list of the best football players of all time would be silly if you didn’t do it by position.

Otherwise, positions like offensive linemen and kickers aren’t going to get any love.

For this list, we will be giving the greatest football player at each position along with with the runner-up and honorable mention.

Let’s get started.

 

The Greatest NFL Players of All-Time By Position

Here is the breakdown of the best players to play in the NFL at every position, even punter.

Quarterback – Tom Brady

greatest nfl quarterback

This is easy; even the biggest Tom Brady haters have to admit he is the greatest quarterback of all time.

He has played in 10 Super Bowls, winning seven of them.

He has also been named the Super Bowl MVP four times.

The only other quarterback with more than one Super Bowl MVP is Eli Manning.

Tom Brady is also the oldest player to ever win a Super Bowl at 41 years old.

There really is no argument here. Tom Brady is the there has ever been at QB.

Runner-up – Otto Graham

Otto Graham is a bit of a forgotten man when it comes to the greatest quarterbacks of all time, but he was actually quite revolutionary.

He was the first quarterback to win back-to-back NFL championships, and he did it three times.

He was also the first quarterback to make it to five consecutive championship games.

In his 10-year career, he only had one losing season.

He was also a five-time First-Team All-Pro and a three-time NFL MVP.

Honorable mentions – Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Drew Brees




 

Offensive Guard – Larry Allen

Larry Allen

Larry Allen is widely considered to be the best offensive lineman of all time.

He was a First-Team All-Pro an astounding 10 times in his 14-year career.

He was also a member of the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team and the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

At 6’3″ and 323 pounds, he was an absolute monster and had legendary strength in the weight room.

He was so good that he even made the Pro Bowl as a guard and a tackle.

https://youtu.be/aX-YuvQkSRE

Runner-up – John Hannah

John Hannah was a mainstay on the New England Patriots’ offensive line for 13 years.

He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and a six-time First-Team All-Pro.

He was also named to the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team and the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Hannah was known for his quickness and agility for a man his size.

He was also considered one of the best pass blockers of all time.

Honorable mentions – Randall McDaniel, Bruce Matthews, Gene Upshaw

 

Related: The 50 Greatest Basketball Players of All Time

 

Offensive Tackle – Anthony Munoz

greatest offensive lineman

Anthony Munoz is widely considered to be the greatest offensive tackle of all time.

He was a First-Team All-Pro nine times in his 13-year career.

He was also named to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team and the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Munoz was known for his quickness, strength, and agility.

He was also considered to be one of the best run blockers of all time.

Runner-up – Jackie Slater

Jackie Slater played 20 seasons for the Los Angeles Rams, which is an NFL record for an offensive lineman.

He was a seven-time Pro Bowler and a three-time First-Team All-Pro.

He was also named to the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team.

Slater was known for his quickness, strength, and agility.

He was also considered to be one of the best run blockers of all time.

Honorable mentions – Ron Yary, Forrest Gregg, Jonathan Ogden




 

Center – Mike Webster

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Mike Webster is considered by many to be the best center to ever play the game.

He played 17 seasons in the NFL and was a nine-time Pro Bowler.

He was also a five-time First-Team All-Pro.

Webster was known for his quickness, strength, and agility.

He was also considered to be one of the best run blockers of all time.

His life’s end was tragic but will always be remembered as the best center ever.

Runner-up – Dwight Stephenson

Dwight Stephenson played just nine seasons in the NFL, but he is widely considered to be one of the greatest centers of all time.

He was a five-time Pro Bowler and a four-time First-Team All-Pro.

He was also named to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team.

Stephenson was known for his quickness, strength, and agility.

He was also considered to be one of the best run blockers of all time.

Honorable mentions – Mel Hein, Jim Otto, Dermontti Dawson, Orlando Pace

 

Tight End – Tony Gonzalez

Anthony Gonzalez

Tight end is a tough one to call because there have been so many great ones over the years, but we have to give the nod to Tony Gonzalez.

He played for 17 seasons and racked up 1,325 receptions for 15,127 yards and 111 touchdowns.

He was a 14-time Pro Bowler and a six-time First-Team All-Pro.

He was also named to the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team.

Gonzalez was the first tight end to ever have over 1,000 receptions and 15,000 receiving yards.

He is genuinely the best tight end of all time.

Runner-up – Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates is a close second to Tony Gonzalez in the greatest tight end of all time discussion.

He played for 16 seasons and racked up 955 receptions for 11,841 yards and 116 touchdowns.

He was an eight-time Pro Bowler and a four-time First-Team All-Pro.

He is the only tight end in league history with over 100 touchdown receptions.

Gates was known for his incredible size and catch radius.

He was also an excellent blocker.

Honorable mentions – Kellen Winslow, Jason Witten, Shannon Sharpe




 

Wide Receiver – Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice

There is no discussion to be had here. Jerry Rice is the greatest wide receiver ever to play the game.

He played for 20 seasons and racked up 1,549 receptions for 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns.

He was a 13-time Pro Bowler and a 10-time First-Team All-Pro.

He was also named to the NFL’s 1980s and 1990s All-Decade Teams and has 3 Super Bowl Rings with the 49ers.

Rice is the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown catches.

He is truly a legend of the game.

Runner-up – Randy Moss

Runner is for the best wide receiver is a bit more difficult, but we ultimately have to go with Randy Moss.

He played for 14 seasons and racked up 954 receptions for 15,292 yards and 156 touchdowns.

He was a six-time Pro Bowler and a five-time First-Team All-Pro.

Moss is also the only receiver other than Jerry Rice to notch 10 seasons of 1,000-plus yards.

Moss was known for his incredible speed, size, and catch radius.

He was also an excellent deep threat.

Honorable mentions – Terrell Owens, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald

 

Running Back – Barry Sanders

best football players

Barry Sanders is considered by some to be the greatest running back of all time, although Jim Brown is also up there.

He played for 10 seasons and racked up 15,269 rushing yards and 99 touchdowns.

He was a 10-time Pro Bowler and a five-time First-Team All-Pro.

Sanders was also named to the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team.

Barry sanders was quicker than greased lightning and was as illusive of a runner as there has ever been.

Sanders is the NFL’s all-time leader in rushing yards per game.

Runner-up – Jim Brown

In his day, Jim Brown was a dominant force, a man amongst boys. He played for nine seasons and racked up 12,312 rushing yards and 106 touchdowns. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler and a five-time First-Team All-Pro.

Brown was also named to the NFL’s 1950s All-Decade Team. Brown was a bruising runner with incredible strength and power. He was also an excellent receiver out of the backfield.

Honorable mentions – Bo Jackson, Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson

 

Kicker – Adam Vinatieri

Gotta go with Vinattieri on this one; this guy was money.

He played for 24 seasons and racked up 2,378 points.

He was a four-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First-Team All-Pro.

Vinatieri is the NFL’s all-time leader in field goals made and points scored.

He is also the only player in NFL history with over 200 field goals made and 1,000 points scored.

Vinatieri is best known for his clutch kicking, especially in the playoffs.

He has made some of the most iconic kicks in NFL history, including two game-winning field goals in the Super Bowl.

Runner-up – Morten Andersen

Morten Andersen, he isn’t just that old dude you see on ESPN. The guy actually played and was good!

He ranks second in field goals (565) and points scored (2,544). He is the Saints’ all-time leading scorer at 1,318 points. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler and a five-time First-Team All-Pro. Andersen also holds the NFL record for most games played with 382.

Honorable mentions – Jason Elam, Gary Anderson, Stephen Gostkowski

 

Punter – Shane Lechler

Here is one people don’t think about very much, the greatest punter of all time.

Shane Lechler played for 18 seasons and racked up 49,328 yards.

He was a seven-time Pro Bowler and a six-time First-Team All-Pro.

Lechler is the NFL’s all-time leader in yards per punt.

He is also the only punter in NFL history to average over 50 yards per punt in a season.

Lechler was known for his incredible leg strength and accuracy.

He was also a very good directional punter.

Side Note: NFL punter has to be the greatest job on the planet. You get paid a ton and are under way less pressure than a field goal kicker. Plus, there is very little wear and tear on the body and you can play for a long time.

Runner-up – Ray Guy

Ray Guy is also considered to be one of the best punters of all time. He played for 14 seasons and racked up 36,593 yards. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler and a six-time First-Team All-Pro. Guy is the only punter in NFL history to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was known for his incredible leg strength and accuracy. He was also a very good directional punter.

Honorable mentions – Sam Koch, Thomas Morstead, Andy Lee

 

Return Specialist – Devin Hester

 

Who can forget the days of Devin Hester? The guy was a punt-returning machine. He played for 11 seasons and racked up 11,664 return yards and 20 touchdowns. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and a three-time First-Team All-Pro. Hester is the NFL’s all-time leader in punt return yards and punt return touchdowns. He was also named to the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team. Hester was an electric returner with the ability to score anytime he touched the ball.

Runner-up – Brian Mitchell

Don’t tell me you have never heard of Brian Mitchell??? He played for 14 seasons and racked up 23,330 return yards and 13 touchdowns. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First-Team All-Pro. Mitchell is the NFL’s all-time leader in kickoff return yards and combined return yards. He was also named to the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team. Mitchell was an excellent returner with great vision and elusiveness.

Honorable mentions – Deion Sanders, Jacoby Jones, Tyrone Hughes

 

Special Teamer – Steve Tasker

 

This one is a no-brainer. Steve Tasker was the best special teams player of all time. He played for 14 seasons and was selected to seven Pro Bowls. He was also named First-Team All-Pro four times and Second-Team All-Pro once. Tasker was a key player on special teams for the Buffalo Bills during their run of four straight Super Bowl appearances in the 1990s. He was known for his great speed, strength, and tackling ability.

Runner-up – Bill Bates

Bill Bates, who the heck is Bill Bates!?! ? He played for 15 seasons and was selected to three Pro Bowls. Bates was a member of the Dallas Cowboys’ “Doomsday Defense” that won three Super Bowls in the 1990s. He was also known for his great speed, strength, and tackling ability.

Honorable mentions – Larry Izzo, Gary Reasons, Todd Lindsey




 

Defensive End – Reggie White

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The Preacher was an absolute beast on Sundays, on the field, I mean, not in church. He played for 15 seasons and racked up 198 sacks. He was a 13-time Pro Bowler, a 10-time First-Team All-Pro, and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro.

White was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1987 and 1998. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006. White was a great pass rusher with great size, strength, and speed. He was also an excellent run defender.

Runner-up – Bruce Smith

Who could forget Bruce Smith on the Buffalo Bills teams that made so many Super Bowls but didn’t win. He played for 19 seasons and racked up 200 sacks. He was an 11-time Pro Bowler, a nine-time First-Team All-Pro, and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro. Smith was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1987 and 1996.

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. Smith was an exceptional pass rusher with great size, strength, and speed. He was also a very good run defender.

Honorable mentions – Chris Doleman, Kevin Greene, Julius Peppers

 

Defensive Tackle – Randy White

randy white

Going old school with this one. Randy White played for 14 seasons and racked up 129 sacks. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, a seven-time First-Team All-Pro, and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro. White was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1978. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994. White was an exceptional pass rusher for a defensive tackle. He was also a very good run defender.

Runner-up – John Randle

John Randle was another great pass rushing defensive tackle. He played for 14 seasons and racked up 137.5 sacks. He was a six-time Pro Bowler, a five-time First-Team All-Pro, and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro. Randle was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1997. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. Randle was an incredible pass rusher with great quickness and agility.

Honorable Mention: Warran Sapp

 

Nose tackle – Mean Joe Greene

Is this even a position anymore? Not really, so we are going old school again with Mean Joe Greene.

Mean Joe Greene played for 13 seasons and racked up 23.5 sacks. He was a 10-time Pro Bowler, a nine-time First-Team All-Pro, and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro. Greene was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1972. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987. Greene was an incredible pass rusher for a nose tackle. He was also a very good run defender.

Runner Up – Bob Lilly

Bob Lilly was another great pass rushing nose tackle. He played for 14 seasons and racked up 26 sacks. He was an 11-time Pro Bowler, a six-time First-Team All-Pro, and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro. Lilly was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1971

Honerable Mention – Casey Hampton, Vince Wilfork




 

Middle Linebacker – Ray Lewis

ray lewis

Love him or hate him, Ray Lewis is the best middle linebacker of all time. Lewis played for 17 seasons and racked up 41.5 sacks. He was a 13-time Pro Bowler, a 10-time First-Team All-Pro, and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro. Lewis was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2000 and 2003. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018. Lewis was an incredible playmaker. He was a great tackler with great speed and strength. He was also a very good coverage linebacker.

Runner up – Dick Buthus

Butkus was a frighteningly good middle linebacker. He played for 12 seasons and racked up 22 interceptions. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler, a six-time First-Team All-Pro, and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro. Butkus was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1969. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979. Butkus was an incredible tackler with great size and strength. He was also a very good coverage linebacker.

Honorable mentions – Brian Urlacher, Jack Ham, Mike Singletary

 

Outside Linebacker – Lawrence Taylor

You know LT has to be at the top of this list for outside linebacker. Lawrence Taylor is possibly the greatest defensive player of all time. Period. He changed the way the game was played. Taylor played for 13 seasons and racked up 132.5 sacks. He was a 10-time Pro Bowler, an eight-time First-Team All-Pro, and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro. Taylor was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1981, 1982, and 1986. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.

He had his issues off the field, but on the field, he was incredible.

Runner-up – Derrick Thomas

Derrick Thomas was another great pass rushing outside linebacker. He played for 11 seasons and racked up 126.5 sacks. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, a five-time First-Team All-Pro, and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro. Thomas was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1990. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. Thomas was an incredible pass rusher with great speed and strength. Unfortunately, he was killed in a car accident following the 1999 season.

Honorable mentions – DeMarcus Ware, Junior Seau, Khalil Mack




 

Cornerback – Deion Sanders

Deion “Prime Time” Sanders can be a bit obnoxious, but there is no denying his talent on the field. Sanders played for 14 seasons and racked up 53 interceptions. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler, a six-time First-Team All-Pro, and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro. Sanders was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1994. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011. Sanders was an incredible athlete with great speed and quickness. Easily the greatest cover corner ever, not the greatest tackler.

Runner-up – Darelle Revis

Darelle Revis was another great cover corner. He played for 11 seasons and racked up 29 interceptions. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler, a four-time First-Team All-Pro, and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro.

Honorable mentions – Aeneas Williams, Mel Blount, Darrell Green

 

Safety – Ronnie Lott

Ronnie Lott was an animal in the 80s. All you need to know about his toughness is that he amputated part of his own pinky to avoid missing games. Lott played for 14 seasons and racked up 63 interceptions. He was a 10-time Pro Bowler, an eight-time First-Team All-Pro, and a four-time Second-Team All-Pro. Lott was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1986. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000. On top of all that, he also has four Super Bowl rings with the 49ers. Lott was a great tackler with great size and strength and was one of the hardest hitters ever to play Safety. He was also a very good coverage safety.

Runner-up – Ed Reed

Ed Reed was another great safety and an interception machine. He played for 12 seasons and racked up 64 interceptions. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, a seven-time First-Team All-Pro, and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro. Reed was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019.

Reed was an incredible ballhawk with great speed and quickness. He was also a very good tackler.

Honorable mentions – Ken Houston, Steve Atwater, Troy Polamalu

 

Related: 25 Most Jacked Players in the NFL

Related: The 50 Greatest Athletes of All Time

 

Final Word

It’s hard to determine who is the best NFL player of all time. There are so many great players that it’s tough to compare them all. However, these lists provide a good starting point for discussion about the greatest NFL players of all time. What do you think? Who is your favorite NFL player of all time?

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