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Top 10 NFL Defensive Tackles of All Time Rankings

Ranking the best Defensive Tackles in the history of the NFL such as Joe Greene, Aaron Donald, and many more

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By Fan Rankings | November 12, 2021 - 01:23 PM

The defensive side of the football is built around the front seven and in most cases the front three or four interior defensive lineman. Those lineman or what we like to call them as defensive tackles are some of the biggest guys on the field and one of the most important positions on any given Sunday as well as now on Thursday and Monday Nights. 

Luckily for all defensives, the team has a few of these big bodies and athletic big men to slow down opposing run games while opening up lanes for linebackers, defensive ends and members of the secondary to shut down the run and get to the quarterback.

 

If the team is lucky, some of the greatest defenses of All-Time are built around the top defensive tackles all-time. This includes some of the big defenses that dominated the league such as the Pittsburgh Steelers of the late 60’s through the 70’s led by Joe Greene as well as teams like the Dallas Cowboys led by Bob Lilly and Randy White. 

While other great defensive tackles include the likes of Warren Sapp, Marlin Olsen and John Randle. While current star Aaron Donald continues to climb the rankings.

 

With that said, here is our list of the Top 10 Best Defensive Tackles All-Time of the National Football League.




Honorable Mention

Buck Buchanan

Team(s): Kansas City Chiefs

The former Grambling State star was selected first overall by the Kansas City Chiefs during the 1963 AFL draft. With the selection the Chiefs elected to build around Buck Buchanan while focusing on becoming one of the league’s top defenses. 

Buchanan didn’t disappoint as he was too much for opposing offensive lineman’s who had difficulty slowing down his speed and size. Buchanan who helped lead the Chiefs to two AFL championships and Super Bowl IV championship finished his career as a six time First Team All-AFL, two time Pro Bowler and six time AFL All-Star.




Haloti Ngata

Team(s): Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions & Philadelphia Eagles

One name that might get overlooked among some of the best defensive tackles all-time is the former Baltimore Ravens great Haloti Ngata. While Ngata fell to the shadows behind the likes of Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis, the former Oregon Ducks star was a force to be reckoned with as a key to the success of the Ravens defense. 

Ngata was both big and athletic to stop the run and get after the quarterback. Ngata finished his career as a five time Pro Bowler, two time First Team All-Pro and Super Bowl Champion while finishing with 32.5 career sacks to go along with seven forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and five interceptions.



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Top 10 Defensive Tackles

  1. Curly Culp

Team(s): Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Oilers & Detroit Lions

Another member of the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl IV championship team is none other than the great Curly Culp. Culp who was selected in the second round of the 1968 NFL draft by the Denver Broncos before moving over before the start of the season. Culp showcased his talent while helping to form a dynamic duo up front with Buchanan. 

Culp would go on to record 68 career unofficial sacks while forcing 14 fumbles and recovering 10 fumbles. This success helped Culp to be a six time NFL Pro Bowl, First Team All-Pro and the 1975 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.




  1. Geno Atkins

Team(s): Cincinnati Bengals

With the evolution of the game of football in today’s game, the defensive tackle became more and more difficult as offensives got bigger, stronger and faster. That said, Geno Atkins didn’t let this slow him down as he dominated the defensive tackle position from the time the Cincinnati Bengals drafted him till his final season in 2020. 

Atkins, who was drafted within the fourth round, showcased his talents while racking up 75.5 career sacks and eight forced fumbles. Atkins wrapped up his career as an eight time Pro Bowler and two time First Team All-Pro.




  1. Aaron Donald

Team(s): St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams

The only player on this list currently that is still suiting up on Sundays is the St. Louis Rams and Los Angeles Rams star defensive end Aaron Donald. Donald, who is likely to continue to move up this list by the end of his career, is as good as any defensive tackle to play the position and possibly the most athletic one to play the position. 

Donald, who entered the 2021 NFL season as a six time First Team All-Pro and seven time Pro Bowler, has recorded double digit sacks in five of his first eight seasons including 20.5 during the 2018 NFL season. Along with leading the league with 20.5 sacks, Donald won the 2014 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award and three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards. 




  1. John Randle

Team(s): Minnesota Vikings & Seattle Seahawks

When you think of great defensive tackles one name that is atop the list is the former Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks All-Pro John Randle. Randle who finished his NFL career as a six time First Team All-Pro and a seven time Pro Bowler was one of the best undrafted players to ever play in the NFL after teams thought he lacked the size to play the position. 

After a slow start as an undrafted rookie, Randle’s success took over in 1991 when finishing with 9.5 sacks. From that point on, Randle was one of the most dominant defensive tackles to play in the NFL during his time and in the history of the NFL. Randle would go on to record double digit sacks in eight straight seasons and nine of his next ten in route to 137.5 career sacks. 




  1. Cortez Kennedy

Team(s): Seattle Seahawks

Three time First Team All-Pro, eight time NFL Pro Bowler and 1992 NFL Defensive Player of the Year was just a portion of Cortez Kennedy’s resume while dominating the line of scrimmage after being selected third overall during the 1990 NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks. 

While Kennedy lacked the sack numbers of Randle, his size and speed on the line helped slow down opposing running games while forcing opposing quarterbacks to avoid the middle of the line. Kennedy would finish his career with 668 career tackles to go along with 58 sacks and three interceptions. 




  1. Randy White

Team(s): Dallas Cowboys

Depending on who you ask and what you expected from a defensive tackle, Randy White may be much higher on the list as it is hard to put an exact number on how good the former Maryland Terps legend was. 

White who the Dallas Cowboys selected with the team's second overall pick during the 1975 NFL draft, helped lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl XII championship while taking home the Super Bowl MVP award. White would go on to record 52 career sacks and one interception while taking home seven First Team All-Pro honors and being named to nine Pro Bowl teams. 




  1. Merlin Olsen

Team(s): Los Angeles Rams

The former Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle was just one of many great defensive players the Rams have produced over the years while being joined by today’s great Aaron Donald. Olsen who was selected number two overall in the 1962 AFL draft was also selected number three overall in the 1962 NFL draft elected to join the NFL. 

A move that would pay off as Olsen was named to 14 straight NFL Pro Bowl teams and was selected as an NFL First Team All-Pro in straight seasons from 1966 to 1970. 




  1. Warren Sapp

Team(s): Tampa Bay Buccaneers & Oakland Raiders

When you consider what it took to be considered as one of the best defensive tackles of All-Time, Warren Sapp fit the bill and was a force to be stopped during his playing days with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders. 

Sapp, who was drafted by the Bucks in 1995 out of the University of Miami, helped turn the Buccaneers into a powerhouse defensive team during his playing days before joining the Raiders. With Sapp in the middle the Buccaneers would go on to win Super Bowl XXXVII. Sapp would collect four First Team All-Pro honors, be named to seven Pro Bowl teams and win the 1999 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. 




  1. Bob Lilly

Team(s): Dallas Cowboys

This is where it can get difficult as both Bob Lilly and “Mean” Joe Greene are considered by most to be two of the best defensive tackles to ever play the position. Lilly, who earned the nickname “Mr. Cowboy” , spent his entire NFL career with the Cowboys while helping the team win Super Bowl VI. 

Over his career, there was nothing Lilly couldn’t do and his athletic build and size made the job extremely difficult for opposing offensive lineman to slow him down. Lilly was named to 11 Pro Bowl teams and was selected as a First Team All-Pro in seven different seasons. 




  1. “Mean” Joe Greene

Team(s): Pittsburgh Steelers

Coming in at number one is the great “Mean” Joe Green from the Pittsburgh Steelers and a key piece of the Steelers famous Steel Curtain defense. While fellow teammates and NFL opponents considered him the best player on the defensive side of the football during his playing days, Green didn’t slow down and made it his hobby to disrupt opposing offenses. 

Greene would record 78.5 career unofficial sacks, win two Defensive Player of the Year awards and the Defensive Rookie of the Year award while making 10 NFL Pro Bowl teams. Greene and his teammates would go on to win four Super Bowl titles during his playing days.



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