Over the years, the NFL has featured the greatest athletes in sports which begs the question, which players are the best ever? Is it Emmitt Smith (pictured above) who is the all-time NFL rushing leader? Or how about current New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady who has now won four Super Bowl titles? Or what about legendary stars such as Brett Favre or John Elway? Are they deserving to be in the Top 10? Agree or not, here is our list of the top 10 players ever to star in the National Football League.
10. Reggie White
Reggie White played defensive end for 15 seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and Carolina Panthers. White was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice, earned 13 Pro Bowl appearances and is in second place all-time in career sacks with 198.5 (Bruce Smith had 200). He was also named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team in the 80’s and 90’s.
9. Dan Marino
Dan Marino has held or holds dozens of NFL passing records and is recognized as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. Even though he never played for a Super Bowl winning team, Marino led the Miami Dolphins to 10 playoff appearances in his 17-year career. In his best year in 1984, Marino threw for an NFL record 48 touchdowns (which has since then surpassed) leading the Dolphins to a 14-2 record.
8. Jim Brown
Jim Brown was a hard-nosed rugged running back for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965. His greatest claim to fame occurred in 2002 when the Sporting News named him the greatest professional football player in history. Brown was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and won the league’s MVP title four times. He was the league’s leading rusher for eight seasons and won the NFL championship in 1964.
7. Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning is a five-time NFL MVP which is a league record. His career began in 1998 with the Indianapolis Colts where he played 14 seasons until 2011. Manning is still a member of the Denver Broncos and is attempting to win his second Super Bowl title (his first came back in 2007). Manning’s records are too numerous to mention. He is a 14-time Pro Bowler, seven-time first team All Pro, four-time NFL touchdown passing leader and three-time AFC champion. He holds the NFL record for most touchdown passes all time with 530 and most touchdown passes in a season with 55 (2013).
6. Tom Brady
In his 13 full seasons as a starting quarterback in the NFL, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have earned a trip to the Super Bowl six times, winning four. In three of Super Bowls, Brady won the MVP award. He has won two league MVP awards and has been selected to the Pro Bowl ten times. For his career, Brady is fifth in both career passing yards and touchdown passes. His 21 postseason victories is an NFL record (his overall record in the postseason is 21-8). And he led the Patriots to the only undefeated 16-0 regular season (2007) since the league raised the number of regular season games from 14 to 16 in 1978.
5. Lawrence Taylor
Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor, also known as “L.T.” played for the New York Giants from 1981-1993. During the peak of his career, he earned the reputation as one of the most feared linebackers in the history of the NFL. In fact, many consider him the greatest defensive player ever. Taylor, a two-time Super Bowl champion, was named AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times while being selected to the Pro Bowl 10 times.
4. Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders was named the most elusive runner in NFL history as ranked by the NFL Top 10. Sanders, who played his entire career with the Detroit Lions, averaged over 1,500 rushing yards per season and when he left the game in 1998, he was a mere 1,457 yards short of breaking the NFL’s all-time rushing record. Sanders won the rushing title four times with his best year coming in 1997 when he ran for 2,053 yards.
3. Walter Payton
Walter Payton, also known as “Sweetness” played 13 seasons for the Chicago Bears. At one point, Payton held several NFL rushing records including most career yards, touchdowns, total carries, yards from scrimmage and many more. In a little known fact, Payton holds the NFL record for most touchdown passes by a non-quarterback (eight).
2. Joe Montana
Joe Montana is best known for his days at quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers where he won four Super Bowl titles and three Super Bowl MVP awards. Montana was best known for his ability to produce results under pressure. Overall, Montana led his teams back to 31 fourth quarter come-from-behind victories. Perhaps his greatest moment came in the 1981 NFC Championship Game where he led the 49ers down the field in the waning moments to defeat the Dallas Cowboys — thus ending one dynasty and beginning a new one.
1. Jerry Rice
Jerry Rice had an amazing NFL career which spanned 20 seasons. He is considered to be the greatest wide receiver in NFL history and one of the greatest, if not the greatest player overall. In fact, the NFL Network named Rice as the greatest player in NFL History on their production of “The Top 100: NFL’s Greatest Players“. For wide receivers, Rice is the NFL leader in stats such as receptions, yards and touchdowns. He won three Super Bowl titles while with the 49ers and was selected to the Pro Bowl 13 times. For his career, Rice had 1,549 receptions for 22,895 yards and 208 touchdowns.