10 Best Defensive Tackles of All Time in NFL History

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

Alan Page
Full NameAlan Cedric Page
Date of BirthAugust 7, 1945
Place of BirthCanton, Ohio, U.S.
Height6 ft 4
Weight245 lb
NFL Draft1967 (Minnesota Vikings, Round 1, Pick: 17)
TeamsMinnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears 

Career Highlights:

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

"Mean Joe" Greene
Full NameCharles Edward Greene
Date of BirthSeptember 24, 1946
Place of BirthTemple, Texas, U.S.
Height6 ft 4 in
Weight275 lb
NFL Draft1969 (Pittsburgh Steelers, Round 1, Pick: 1)
Teams Pittsburgh Steelers

Career Highlights:

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:

GamesAVTackles:SacksInterceptionsFumble recoveries

3. Bob Lilly

Bob Lilly
Full NameRobert Lewis Lilly
Date of BirthJuly 26, 1939
Place of BirthOlney, Texas, U.S
Height6 ft 5 in
Weight60 lb
NFL Draft1961 (Dallas Cowboys, Round 1, Pick:1)
Teams Dallas Cowboys

Career Highlights:

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

John Randle
Full NameJohn Anthony Randle
Date of BirthDecember 12, 1967
Place of BirthMumford, Texas, U.S.
Height6 ft 1 in
Weight287 lb 
NFL DraftUndrafted
Teams Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks 

Career Highlights:

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:

GamesAVTacklesSacksForced fumbles

5. Merlin Olsen

Merlin Olsen
Full NameMerlin Jay Olsen
Date of BirthSeptember 15, 1940
Place of BirthLogan, Utah, U.S.
Height6 ft 5 in 
Weight270 lb 
NFL Draft1962 (Los Angeles Rams, Round 1, Pick: 3)
TeamsLos Angeles Rams
DeathMarch 11, 2010

Career Highlights:

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

Cortez Kennedy
Full NameCortez Kennedy
Date of BirthAugust 23, 1968
Place of BirthOsceola, Arkansas
Height6 ft 3 in
Weight306 lb
NFL Draft1990(Seattle Seahawks, Round 1, Pick: 30
TeamsSeattle Seahawks 
DeathMay 23, 2017

Career Highlights:

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:

GamesAVTacklesSacksInterceptionsForced fumbles

7. Randy White

Randy White
Full NameRandall Lee White
Date of BirthJanuary 15, 1953
Place of BirthPittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Height6 ft 4 in
Weight257 lb
NFL Draft1975 (Dallas Cowboys, Round 1, Pick: 2)
TeamsDallas Cowboys

Career Highlights:

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

Warren Sapp
Full NameWarren Carlos Sapp
Date of BirthDecember 19, 1972
Place of BirthPlymouth, Florida, U.S.
Height6 ft 2 in
Weight300 lb
NFL DraftTampa Bay Buccaneers (Round 1, Pick: 12)
Teams Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders

Career Highlights:

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:

GamesAVTacklesSacksInterceptionsForced fumblesTouchdowns

9. Buck Buchanan

Buck Buchanan
Full NameJunious “Buck” Buchanan
Date of BirthSeptember 10, 1940
Place of BirthJuly 16, 1992
Height6 ft 7 in
Weight270 lb
NFL Draft1963 (Kansas City Chiefs, Round 19, Pick: 265)
TeamsKansas City Chiefs
DeathJuly 16, 1992

Career Highlights:

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:

GamesAVSacksInterceptionsForced RecoveriesSafeties

10. Casey Hampton

Casey Hampton
Full NameCasey Hampton Jr.
Date of BirthSeptember 3, 1977
Place of BirthGalveston, Texas, U.S.
Height6 ft 1 in
Weight325 lb
NFL Draft2001 (Pittsburgh Steelers, Round 1, Pick: 19)
TeamsPittsburgh Steelers

Career Highlights:

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:

GamesAVTacklesSacksForced FumblesFumble 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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A.H. Mostofa Zaman is the chief editor of The News Titan. He is a professional journalist who focuses on reporting on the American Football news from the world of entertainment. He is determined in his quest to provide you with the most recent information and coverage available from all across the world.


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