Top 50 NFL Players of All-Time

Looking back at nearly 100 years of football, the NFL has produced some extreme talent across all positions. We stretch across a few eras of football where we had bruising run heavy offenses, and then we have the aerial assault game that we see now. This list features a few names that had early retirements or injuries, which shouldn’t derail them in the rankings. Running backs take over most of the first ten, and then we start to really get into some tough calls. Do note defensive stats were not really kept until the last few decades, so you see some players that likely generated a lot of sacks or tackles, but were not recorded. Someone needs to get on the film and get going. Top 50, here we go.

1. Jerry Rice

GPRECCTCH %YDSYDS/RecYDS/GTDAll-ProMVPCHAMP
3031,5490.62422,89514.875.619710x0x3x

Jerry Rice is a ten-time all-pro and won three Super Bowls. He leads just about everything you could ask for in terms of wide receiver stats. There is a reason why Rice is considered the GOAT. He was Offensive Player of the Year twice, and also went to 13 Pro Bowls.

2. Tom Brady

GPRecordATTCOMPYDSYDS/GTDINTAll-ProMVPCHAMP
269207-609,3756,00470,514262.15171713x3x6x

Tom Brady is the best quarterback of all-time, and sits with six Super Bowl rings. More could even be on the way. He has over 60,000 passing yards, and is closing in on 500 passing touchdowns. Brady will also go down as one of the best late-round picks in NFL draft history.

3. Jim Brown

GPRUSH ATTRUSH YDSRush TDsRUSH YDS/ARUSH YDS/GRECREC YDSRec. TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
1182,35912,3121065.2104.32622,499208x3x1x

Jim Brown played just nine seasons in the NFL, which is about the standard for running backs these days. But back in the late 50s and early 60s, Brown was a force. He finished with over 12,000 rushing yards, and had 106 rushing touchdowns. Brown rushed for 5.2 yards per carry.

4. Barry Sanders

GPRUSH ATTRUSH YDSRush TDsRUSH YDS/ARUSH YDS/GRECREC YDSRec. TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
1533,06215,26999599.83522,921106x1x0x

Barry Sanders retired prematurely, and would have climbed even higher on the leaderboards. He finished with over 15,000 rushing yards, and had 99 touchdowns. Sanders finished with an MVP trophy, and won Offensive Player of the Year twice.

5. Emmitt Smith

GPRUSH ATTRUSH YDSRush TDsRUSH YDS/ARUSH YDS/GRECREC YDSRec. TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
2264,40918,3551644.281.25153,224114x1x3x

Nobody is close to breaking Emmitt Smith’s all-time yardage record, and he also leads all-time in rushing touchdowns. Tough to see these records go down, as he churned out a strong career. He also had three Super Bowls, and that 1995 season was iconic with 25 touchdowns.

6. Walter Payton

GPRUSH ATTRUSH YDSRush TDsRUSH YDS/ARUSH YDS/GRECREC YDSRec. TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
1903,83816,7261104.4884924,538155x1x1x

Walter Payton was a workhorse, and had most of his career nearing the 300 rush attempt mark or over. Payton is currently fourth in rushing touchdowns, and second in rushing yards all-time. He went to nine Pro Bowls, and was an easy Hall of Famer.

7. Peyton Manning

GPRecordATTCOMPYDSYDS/GTDINTAll-ProMVPCHAMP
266186-799,3806,12571,940270.55392517x5x2x

Peyton Manning has over 500 passing touchdowns in his career, and over 70,000 passing touchdowns. His playoff potential was hindered by some better teams, but his play on the field certainly puts him inside the top ten of all-time. Another Super Bowl or two, and he would be pushing up higher on the list.

8. Joe Montana

GPRecordATTCOMPYDSYDS/GTDINTAll-ProMVPCHAMP
192117-475,3913,40940,551211.22731393x2x4x

Joe Montana has four Super Bowl titles to his name, and has over 40,000 passing yards. He went 117-47 during his time, and was undefeated in those Super Bowls. Montana was player of the year in 1989. Montana is labeled as one of the best quarterbacks to play the game, and is, despite the big numbers.

9. Lawrence Taylor

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
184N/AN/AN/A132.5N/A9N/A1128x1x2x

Lawrence Taylor goes down as one of the top defensive players to play the game. He won two Super Bowls, and also a league MVP award. This goes along with three Defensive Player of the Year awards. With over 100 sacks, Taylor was your worst nightmare as a quarterback.

10. Randy Moss

GPRECCTCH %YDSYDS/RecYDS/GTDAll-ProMVPCHAMP
2189820.56415,29215.670.11564x0x0x

Randy Moss might be the most dominate player in NFL history on the offensive side. He finished with over 15,000 yards, and over 150 touchdowns. He also had 23 touchdowns in New England, which hands down was the best QB-WR season I have seen with Brady. Moss crushed on every level.

11. Reggie White

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
2321,048635*1981*3332028x0x1x

Reggie White finished with 198 sacks, and had a career high 21 in 1987. White was one of the best pass rushers the game had seen. He also had over 1,100 tackles. White finished with eight all-pro appearances and won two Defensive Player of the Year awards.

12. Ray Lewis

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
2281,5624939941.59631192037x0x2x

I am pressed to find a better middle linebacker, as Ray Lewis played his entire career in Baltimore, and was their leader for so many years. He had over 1,500 tackles in his career, and won two Super Bowls. Lewis also took home two Defensive Player of the Year awards.

13. Dick Butkus

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
119N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A22N/A2715x0x0x

Dick Butkus was one of the most feared linebackers in football. He was an all-pro five times, and went to eight pro bowls. He had over 20 interceptions and fumble recoveries. Not a lot of defensive stats were kept during his time, but he was one of the best at the position.

14. Bruce Smith

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
2791,075*149*41*2007*2431518x0x0x

Bruce Smith played 19 seasons, and was extremely durable. He finished with 200 sacks on the dot, and had over 1,000 tackles. Smith was an 11-time Pro Bowler, and won Defensive Player of the Year twice. Smith went into the Hall of Fame back in 2009.

15. Ronnie Lott

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
1921,11333*N/A8.5N/A63161756x0x4x

Ronnie Lott is one of few secondary players on this list. He finished with over 60 interceptions in his career, and had over 1,000 tackles. Lott was named to ten Pro Bowls and was an all-pro six times. He also was a part of those San Francisco teams, going onto win four Super Bowls.

16. Dan Marino

GPRecordATTCOMPYDSYDS/GTDINTAll-ProMVPCHAMP
242147-938,3584,96761,361253.64202523x1x0x

Dan Marino put up massive numbers before the passing games really took off around the league. Marino put up over 60,000 yards in his career, and had 420 touchdowns. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, but missed out on the Super Bowl trophy that could have completed his career.

17. Brett Favre

GPRecordATTCOMPYDSYDS/GTDINTAll-ProMVPCHAMP
302186-11210,1696,30071,838237.95083363x3x1x

Brett Favre threw for over 70,000 passing yards and over 500 touchdowns. He was a gunslinger, and his only downside was the interceptions. He won the 1997 Super Bowl, which was his only title. His career is extremely decorated, and is one of the top quarterbacks to play the game.

18. LaDainian Tomlinson

GPRUSH ATTRUSH YDSRush TDsRUSH YDS/ARUSH YDS/GRECREC YDSRec. TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
1703,17413,6841454.380.56244,772173x1x0x

Ladainian Tomlinson had over 18,000 all-purpose yards in his career, and finished with over 150 all-purpose touchdowns. He was a versatile back, and we look back to 2006 when he had 30 total touchdowns and 2,000 yards. Tomlinson was one of the best to do it.

19. Marshall Faulk

GPRUSH ATTRUSH YDSRush TDsRUSH YDS/ARUSH YDS/GRECREC YDSRec. TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
1762,83612,2791004.369.87676,875363x1x1x

Marshall Faulk finished with over 12,000 rushing yards, and over 6,000 receiving yards. He also tallied over 130 touchdowns between rushing and receiving. He is top 15 in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns when looking at the all-time greats.

20. Terrell Owens

GPRECCTCH %YDSYDS/RecYDS/GTDAll-ProMVPCHAMP
2191,0780.57715,93414.872.81535x0x0x

Terrell Owens was an all-pro five times and is third all-time for receiving touchdowns and yards. He was consistent everywhere he played, but his time in Dallas was absurd. He finished with 38 touchdowns in three years.

21. John Elway

GPRecordATTCOMPYDSYDS/GTDINTAll-ProMVPCHAMP
234148-82-17,2504,12351,4752203002260x1x2x

John Elway went 148-81 in his career, and threw for exactly 300 yards and over 50,000 yards. Elway was able to nab two Super Bowl titles late in his career, which adds to his credentials. Not the most flashiest when it comes to stats, but Elway was one of the better quarterbacks in football.

22. Junior Seau

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
2681,522324*80*56.54318111816x0x0x

Going 5th overall back in 1990, Junior Seau was a San Diego legend, and one of the best linebackers in history. He had over 1,500 tackles, and was named to 12 Pro Bowls and six all-pro teams. He wasn’t named to any Defensive Player of the Year awards, but certainly deserved a few.

23. Steve Young

GPRecordATTCOMPYDSYDS/GTDINTAll-ProMVPCHAMP
16994-494,1492,66733,1241962321073x2x3x

Steve Young won 94 games as a quarterback, throwing for over 30,000 yards and 200+ touchdowns. Young was also a notable running quarterback, with over 4,000 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns. He led the 49ers to three Super Bowl wins, and was another San Francisco legend.

24. Joe Greene

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
181N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A111614x0x4x

Three Defensive Player of the Year and four Super Bowls, it is hard to top what Joe Green did. He also had ten Pro Bowl appearances, and four all-pro teams. Greene was one of the most feared lineman in NFL history, and was a big part of that historic Pittsburgh run.

25. Deacon Jones

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
191N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A201505x0x0x

Deacon Jones played in a time before all these defensive stats, but was an absolute monster off the edge. He made eight Pro Bowl teams, and was named all-pro five times. Jones went into the Hall of Fame back in 1980 after dominating for 191 games.

26. Drew Brees

GPRecordATTCOMPYDSYDS/GTDINTAll-ProMVPCHAMP
264155-1089,7836,58674,4372825202331x0x1x

Drew Brees is going to end up with every record in the book it seems. He is a Super Bowl champ, and has had a historic career leading a pass-happy Saints team. He has over 70,000 passing yards, and will hit the 500+ touchdown park very soon. Brees has over 140 wins in his career.

27. Johnny Unitas

GPRecordATTCOMPYDSYDS/GTDINTAll-ProMVPCHAMP
211118-63-45,1862,83040,239190.72902535x3x1x

Johnny Unitas doesn’t have the numbers of a modern day arm, but 290 touchdowns and 40,000+ passing yards is a big task. He also had 118 wins as a quarterback, and took home three MVP trophies. Unitas is also decorated with three NFL championships and one Super Bowl title.

28. Jack Lambert

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
146N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A28N/A1706x0x4x

A couple of defensive juggernauts for the Pittsburgh Steelers are jammed up here. Jack Lambert won four Super Bowls, and was the 1974 Defensive Rookie of the Year. He also won Defensive Player of the Year just two years later. Lambert was one of the best MLB in football.

29. Mel Blount

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
200N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A57N/A1342x0x4x

Mel Blount had over 50 interceptions in his career, and had 11 in 1975. Blount was a dominating cornerback for that Steelers run in the 1970s. He was Defensive Player of the Year in 1975, and won four Super Bowls. Blount was inducted into the Hall of Fame back in 1989.

30. Eric Dickerson

GPRUSH ATTRUSH YDSRush TDsRUSH YDS/ARUSH YDS/GRECREC YDSRec. TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
1462,99613,259904.490.82812,13765x0x0x

Eric Dickerson came into the league ready to roll with 18 touchdowns and over 1,800 yards. Dickerson ended up with 90 total rushing touchdowns, and over 13,000 rushing yards. He is top 15 in rushing touchdowns all-time, and was named all-pro five times.

31. Deion Sanders

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
188493*20*4*125*531013106x0x2x

Deion Sanders was a polarizing image, and played with a flashy way. He was an all-pro six times, and won Defensive Player of the Year in 1994. Sanders also was a two-time Super Bowl champion. Sanders also was an above average punt and kick returner, as well.

32. Earl Campbell

GPRUSH ATTRUSH YDSRush TDsRUSH YDS/ARUSH YDS/GRECREC YDSRec. TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
1152,1879,407744.381.812180603x1x0x

If Earl Campbell could have stayed healthy later in his career, and a couple seasons early on, he would be up there. When healthy, he was a menace with 45 rushing touchdowns in his first three seasons. He also rushed for over 1,400 yards in each of those. Campbell finished with three Offensive Player of the Year awards.

33. Otto Graham

GPRecordATTCOMPYDSYDS/GTDINTAll-ProMVPCHAMP
12657-13-12,6261,46423,584187.21741357x0x3x

For the era, Otto Graham was a strong quarterback. He went 57-13 as a starter, and threw for 175 touchdowns in his career. He also had a combined seven titles between the NFL and AAFC. Graham dominated his time period, and goes down as one of the best from this era.

34. Larry Fitzgerald

GPRECCTCH %YDSYDS/RecYDS/GTDAll-ProMVPCHAMP
2341,3030.60516,27912.569.61161x0x0x

Larry Fitzgerald isn’t done yet, but has over 1,200 receptions and over 100 receiving touchdowns. He continues to climb the list for receiving yards, with over 15,000. He is a future Hall of Famer who continues to be a model of consistency for the Arizona Cardinals.

35. Rod Woodson

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
2381,049*108*10*13.559*712032136x0x1x

Rod Woodson locked down 71 interceptions, and had 13 defensive touchdowns in his career. He also racked up over 1,000 tackles in his 16-year career. Woodson is a Super Bowl champion, and won Defensive Player of the Year back in 1993. He finished with 11 Pro Bowls and six all-pro teams made.

36. Fran Tarkenton

GPRecordATTCOMPYDSYDS/GTDINTAll-ProMVPCHAMP
246124-109-66,4673,68647,003191.13422661x1x0x

Fran Tarkenton had over 45,000 passing yards, and 342 passing touchdowns. Tarkenton changed the game a bit, given he had the ability to run as well. He was an All-Pro and won the 1975 Player of the Year. The only thing Tarkenton couldn’t do was win a Super Bowl, but took Minnesota to four of them.

37. Derrick Brooks

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
2241,29741368*13.5842524475x0x1x

Derrick Brooks is a bit underrated in my eyes, or at least doesn’t get talked about enough in terms of the all-time greats. He had 25 interceptions and six touchdowns as a linebacker. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 2002, and went to 11 Pro Bowls.

38. Adrian Peterson

GPRUSH ATTRUSH YDSRush TDsRUSH YDS/ARUSH YDS/GRECREC YDSRec. TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
1492,82513,3181064.789.42722,22364x1x0x

We thought Adrian Peterson was done, but he returned at age 33 to rush for over 1,000 yards. This brings his rushing yards to over 13,000. He also has over 100 rushing touchdowns. Peterson also lost a year to an ACL, then came back to rush for 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns.

39. Tony Gonzalez

GPRECCTCH %YDSYDS/RecYDS/GTDAll-ProMVPCHAMP
2701,3250.65915,12711.4561116x0x0x

Tony Gonzalez finished with over 15,000 receiving yards, which is good for sixth all-time. He also is 8th in receiving touchdowns. Gonzalez was a dominating presence, and played over 250 games which is even more impressive. Gonzalez goes down as the best TE in history.

40. Brian Urlacher

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
1821,04031413841.59022111544x0x0x

Brian Urlacher is another strong middle linebacker, but doesn’t quite come close to the guys above. He finished with over 1,000 tackles and 40 sacks in his career. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 2005, and also Rookie of the Year in 2000. He finished with eight Pro Bowls, and was just inducted into the Hall of Fame.

41. Ed Reed

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
17453111234613964111395x0x1x

If you needed a play to be made, Ed Reed was going to make it. He finished with 64 interceptions and had seven defensive touchdowns. Reed is a Super Bowl champion, and was 2004’s Defensive Player of the Year. He also tacked on nine Pro Bowls and five all-pro teams.

42. Rob Gronkowski

GPRECCTCH %YDSYDS/RecYDS/GTDAll-ProMVPCHAMP
1155210.6567,86115.168.4794x0x3x

Battling back injuries, Rob Gronkowski had an early retirement. The numbers won’t match others, but Gronk has a case for the best tight end ever. He finished with 79 touchdowns, and over 7,500 receiving yards. Gronk was a part of the New England dynasty with three Super Bowls.

43. Charles Woodson

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
2549832225420183653318133x0x1x

Charles Woodson is one of the best cornerbacks to play the game. He had 65 interceptions, and 11 touchdowns. He won 2009’s Defensive Player of the Year and also was a Rookie of the Year. Woodson also got his Super Bowl, and was named all-pro three times.

44. Calvin Johnson

GPRECCTCH %YDSYDS/RecYDS/GTDAll-ProMVPCHAMP
1357310.55711,61915.986.1833x0x0x

Retiring at the age of 30, Calvin Johnson decided to hang them up. In 135 games played, he had 83 receiving touchdowns and over 10,000 receiving yards. Johnson was on his way to being top five in yards and touchdowns. Overall he was one of the best to do it, and was a mismatch against anyone.

45. Alan Page

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
218N/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A2336x1x1x

Alan Page was a physical defensive tackle out of Notre Dame. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 1971, and also took home an NFL Championship. Page also won an MVP, and was named all-pro six times. He won’t crack a lot of top 50 lists, but he definitely should.

46. Aaron Rodgers

GPRecordATTCOMPYDSYDS/GTDINTAll-ProMVPCHAMP
165100-57-15,4923,56042,944260.3338802x2x1x

Aaron Rodgers has completed nearly 65% of his passes in his career, and has thrown for over 300 touchdowns and 40,000 yards. Rodgers has one Super Bowl, and has dominated when healthy. Two seasons were lost due to injury, but Rodgers has churned out one of the most efficient careers we have seen from a quarterback.

47. Anthony Munoz

GPRECCTCH %YDSYDS/RecYDS/GTDAll-ProMVPCHAMP
1857N/A18N/AN/A49x0x0x

There were a few offensive lineman during this time you could work into a top 50, but Anthony Munoz was the best to do it. He was named all-pro nine times, and went to 11 Pro Bowls. He played his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals.

48. Troy Polamalu

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
15858119756121073214754x0x2x

Troy Polamau was an eight-time Pro Bowler, and was also named all-pro four times. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2010. Pittsburgh had a game-changing safety for several years, and he won the Super Bowl twice.

49. Mike Singletary

GPSOLOASTTFLSACKPASS DEFINTFFFRTotal TDsAll-ProMVPCHAMP
179N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A7N/A1207x0x1x

Mike Singletary won Defensive Player of the Year twice in his career, and was also a part of that 1985 Bears team. He had ten Pro Bowl appearances and was named all-pro seven times. He was a terrific middle linebacker, dominating for 12 years.

50. Warren Moon

GPRecordATTCOMPYDSYDS/GTDINTAll-ProMVPCHAMP
208102-1016,8233,98849,325237.12912330x0x0x

Warren Moon was a game changer in Houston, and is inside the top 20 for passing yards and touchdowns in his career. He is a nine-time Pro Bowler. Moon found himself in the Hall of Fame back in 2006, and just sneaks into the top 50.

  
Jason Guilbault has been writing and podcasting in the fantasy sports world for over five years. You can find his work at Daily Fantasy Cafe. He is an avid Tottenham fan, and follows the Boston sports teams. When he isn’t diving into stats, he is enjoying the outdoors or down at the local brewery.

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