Defensive tackle is one of the most attractive positions in American football. They play an important role in stopping the opposing offense. It is difficult to measure their contribution through stats only.
Defensive tackles also record sacks, tackles, and sometimes even interceptions, but their most important duties are stopping the offense and creating opportunities for their teammates.
Despite playing a vital role in the team, their contribution often gets overlooked by the fans. However, there were some defensive tackles who were so good on the field, and what they did, it was impossible not to notice them. They are considered the best defensive tackles of all time.
Best Defensive Tackles of All Time
Defensive tackles take a position in the middle of the defense line. They rush to the passer and stop players from heading toward the center line. A defensive tackle needs to have aggression, strength, vision, and anticipation in order to time the snap. Here is a list of the ten best defensive tackles of all time who were masters in these things:
- Alan Page (1967-81)
- “Mean Joe” Greene (1969-1981)
- Bob Lilly (1961-1974)
- John Randle (1990-2003)
- Merlin Olsen (1962-76)
- Cortez Kennedy (1990-2000)
- Randy White (1975-88)
- Warren Sapp (1995-2007)
- Buck Buchanan (1963-75)
- Casey Hampton (2012)
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Let’s see in brief why these players are considered the best.
1. Alan Page
|Full Name||Alan Cedric Page|
|Date of Birth||August 7, 1945|
|Place of Birth||Canton, Ohio, U.S.|
|Height||6 ft 4|
|NFL Draft||1967 (Minnesota Vikings, Round 1, Pick: 17)|
|Teams||Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears|
NFL Champion: 1 Time (1969)
NFL MVP: 1 Time (1971)
Defensive Player of the Year: 2 times (1971, 1973)
First-team All-Pro: 6 Times (1969–1971, 1973–1975)
Pro Bowl: 9 times (1968–1976)
As we said earlier, it was impossible not to notice these players despite their playing in the defensive tackles position, and you can see why. Alan Page was a GOAT in defensive tackles. He is a two-time defensive player of the year. In one sentence, he was a game changer.
Earlier, the role of a defensive tackle was limited, but after Page made his mark in the NFL, the position became more important and packed with responsibilities. In 1971, he was so disruptive for the offense that the Associated Press had no choice but to name him the NFL’s MVP. Page achieved this honor as the first-ever defensive tackle.
Page was a powerhouse and workhorse. He never missed a game in his 15-year-long career. He retired in 1981 as the best of the best defensive tackles of all time in the history of the NFL.
Career stats of Alan Page:
2. “Mean Joe” Greene
|Full Name||Charles Edward Greene|
|Date of Birth||September 24, 1946|
|Place of Birth||Temple, Texas, U.S.|
|Height||6 ft 4 in|
|NFL Draft||1969 (Pittsburgh Steelers, Round 1, Pick: 1)|
Super Bowl champion: 4 times (IX, X, XIII, XIV)
First-team All-Pro: 5 times (1972–1974, 77, 79)
Pro Bowl: 10 times (1969–1976, 78, 79)
Defensive Player of the Year: 2 times (1972, 1974)
Round 1, Pick 1! It signifies the talent he possessed from the beginning of his pro career. Greene had an incredible college run that many teams were interested in, but it was the Pittsburgh Steelers who caught the big fish and never let it go.
After his debut in 1969, he immediately proved that he deserved it. In his debut year, he was named a pro bowler. Greene played a vital role in the Steelers’ winning the Super Bowl championship in 1972, and as for recognition, he was named the defensive player of the year. He achieved the feat once more in 1974.
Greene did justice to his nickname. He was aggressive towards the opponents and would destroy their game plan. By the time Greene retired in 1981, he had four super bowl rings, 5-time all-pro, and ten-time pro bowler honors. With so much success, Greene is indeed a well-deserved player to be on the list.
Career stats of “Mean Joe” Greene:
3. Bob Lilly
|Full Name||Robert Lewis Lilly|
|Date of Birth||July 26, 1939|
|Place of Birth||Olney, Texas, U.S|
|Height||6 ft 5 in|
|NFL Draft||1961 (Dallas Cowboys, Round 1, Pick:1)|
Super Bowl Champion: 1 Time (VI)
First-Team All-Pro: 7 times (1964–1969, 1971)
Pro Bowl: 11 Times (1962, 1964–1973)
Though people believe offense is more important in football, the Dallas Cowboys might have a different point of view, at least in 1961, as they drafted a defender in their first pick.
The 11-time pro bowler was nicknamed “Mr. Cowboy,” an honor that even legendary players like Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Emmitt Smith did not receive. You can guess his dominance and influence in the franchise from this.
Lily was great in disrupting both the running game and the passing game. Lily showed an unrealistic performance in Super Bowl V against the Baltimore Colts when virtually no one from the Colts could block him.
The 7-time all-pro retired in 1974 after dominating the game for over a decade. In his 196 games, Lilly recorded 95.5 sacks. His dominance in the game will always be remembered.
Career stats of Bob Lilly:
4. John Randle
|Full Name||John Anthony Randle|
|Date of Birth||December 12, 1967|
|Place of Birth||Mumford, Texas, U.S.|
|Height||6 ft 1 in|
|Teams||Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks|
First-team All-Pro: 6 Times (1993–1998)
Pro Bowl: 7 Times (1993–1998, 2001)
NFL Sacks Leader: 1 Time (1997)
Randle recorded 137.5 sacks and was the sack leader in 1997. Yes, we are speaking of defensive tackles, but he was so good at recording sacks that it is hard to believe. Despite being an interior defense, he recorded ten or more sacks for eight seasons straight.
It is quite inspiring how a player who was initially undrafted ended up being one of the best defensive tackles of all time! Randle had the determination and hunger to prove himself, and he did exactly that.
Career stats of John Randle:
5. Merlin Olsen
|Full Name||Merlin Jay Olsen|
|Date of Birth||September 15, 1940|
|Place of Birth||Logan, Utah, U.S.|
|Height||6 ft 5 in|
|NFL Draft||1962 (Los Angeles Rams, Round 1, Pick: 3)|
|Teams||Los Angeles Rams|
|Death||March 11, 2010|
NFL 1962 Rookie of the Year
First-team All-Pro: 6 Times (1964, 1966–1970)
Pro Bowl: 14 Times (1962–1975)
Merlin Olsen was drafted to the Los Angeles Rams in the 1962 draft. He showed great potential in the college league, and the Rams had high hopes for him, and he was able to take the pressure. In his debut year in the league, he was quite impressive and was named the rookie of the year.
Olsen had the size, speed, and intelligence that made blocking him next to impossible. Olsen has been a pro bowler in every season he played except for his final season. With 91 sacks from 208 games, he had an impressive career in the NFL that ended in 1975.
Career stats of:
6. Cortez Kennedy
|Full Name||Cortez Kennedy|
|Date of Birth||August 23, 1968|
|Place of Birth||Osceola, Arkansas|
|Height||6 ft 3 in|
|NFL Draft||1990(Seattle Seahawks, Round 1, Pick: 30|
|Death||May 23, 2017|
First-Team All-Pro: 3 Times (1992–1994)
Pro Bowl: 8 Times (1991–1996, 98, 99)
Defensive Player of the Year: 1 time (1992)
Cortez Kennedy, a player with no Super Bowl or NFL championship, is on this list. Football is a team game. Therefore, no matter how good you are, you cannot win games without the collaboration of the whole team. Kennedy’s career is a prime example of that.
The eight times pro bowler and three times all-pro had no championship wins in his decade-long career. Though he was one of the most talented and skilled defensive tackles of his time, his time with the Seattle Seahawks failed to win any championship.
The 6 ft 3 inches tall Kennedy weighed more than 300 pounds. He used his weight as a benefit in stopping the opponents. But his biggest strengths were his agility and speed, which helped him crush opposing linemen for years.
With 668 tackles and 58 sacks, he stands with the class of best defensive tackles of all time despite not winning any championship.
Career Stats of:
7. Randy White
|Full Name||Randall Lee White|
|Date of Birth||January 15, 1953|
|Place of Birth||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.|
|Height||6 ft 4 in|
|NFL Draft||1975 (Dallas Cowboys, Round 1, Pick: 2)|
Super Bowl Champion: 1 time (XII)
Super Bowl (co)MVP: 1 time (XII)
First-Team All-Pro: 7 Times (1978, 79, 1981–1985)
Pro Bowl: 9 Times (1977–1985)
There is only one defensive tackle ever to win the super bowl MVP award, and he is Randy White. Of course, that is not the only achievement of his illustrated career. He recorded 111 sacks in 209 games.
White was the second overall selection in the 1975 draft. Initially, he was experimented in the linebacker position but soon was moved to the defensive tackle position, where he excelled quickly and became a pro bowler.
Career stats of:
8. Warren Sapp
|Full Name||Warren Carlos Sapp|
|Date of Birth||December 19, 1972|
|Place of Birth||Plymouth, Florida, U.S.|
|Height||6 ft 2 in|
|NFL Draft||Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Round 1, Pick: 12)|
|Teams||Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders|
Super Bowl Champion: 1 time (XXXVII)First-team All-Pro: 4 times (1999–2002)
Pro Bowl: 7 times (1997–2003)Defensive Player of the Year: 1 time (1999)
Warren Sapp showed classic talent as a traditional defensive tackle. He was good at opening up lanes for the linebackers and muddying up the middle of the offensive line.
He was also a good rusher and recorded 10 or more sacks in a season four times. His career total of 96.5 sacks is the second most by an interior defensive lineman.
Warren was exceptionally good in 1999 and became a first all-pro, seven times pro bowler, and also the defensive player of the year. Before retiring in 2007, he cemented his position as one of the best defensive tackles of all time.
Career stats of:
9. Buck Buchanan
|Full Name||Junious “Buck” Buchanan|
|Date of Birth||September 10, 1940|
|Place of Birth||July 16, 1992|
|Height||6 ft 7 in|
|NFL Draft||1963 (Kansas City Chiefs, Round 19, Pick: 265)|
|Teams||Kansas City Chiefs|
|Death||July 16, 1992|
Super Bowl Champion: 1 time (IV)
Pro Bowl: 2 Times (1970, 71)
Buck Buchanan was incredibly fast and could snap speed off the snap to get in a position where offensive linemen had little chance to stop Buchanan. His massive 6′ 7″ and 270lb body fame made it more impossible for the opponents to stop him.
As a rookie, he started his NFL career at defending end position, but soon he was moved to defensive right tackle, where he became a permanent face. He played 182 matches in his career and recorded 70.5 sacks, along with one safety.
Career stats of:
10. Casey Hampton
|Full Name||Casey Hampton Jr.|
|Date of Birth||September 3, 1977|
|Place of Birth||Galveston, Texas, U.S.|
|Height||6 ft 1 in|
|NFL Draft||2001 (Pittsburgh Steelers, Round 1, Pick: 19)|
Super Bowl Champion: 2 Times (XL, XLIII)
Pro Bowl: 5 times (2003, 2005–2007, 09)
Casey Hampton was born in 1977 in Texas. The 6′ 1″ tall Hampton was drafted into the NFL in 2001 and is our only player on the list who belongs to the twenty-first century. He was good at forcing fumbles, recording sacks, and also in tackling. He was a complete defensive tackle package.
He is a five times pro bowler and a two times super bowl champion. He created many opportunities for his fellow rushers. Hampton retired in 2012 and was announced in the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team and Pittsburgh Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Career stats of:
|Games||AV||Tackles||Sacks||Forced Fumbles||Fumble Recoveries|
Defensive tackles play a vital role in teams winning, but their stats may not seem that rich, but their contribution was great. They are the prototypes of defensive tackles. They are and always will remain role models for all the upcoming defensive tackles. Fans will always remember them as the best defensive tackles of all time in the NFL.
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