The Top 5 NFL Players of All Time
The NFL celebrated its 100th season in 2019, and that has prompted plenty of discussion among football fans and pundits alike concerning who the best players in the game’s history are. While this is certainly no easy task, given the number of transcendent talents that have played in the league over the last century, we have attempted to narrow it down to just five players who we think can best determine who is the greatest ever. Have anyone else to add? Please leave it in the comments below!
As far as dominance at one’s position is concerned, Jerry Rice is considered by many to be the greatest pound-for-pound NFL player of all time. His incredible statistics speak for themselves, and his staggering numbers such as his all-time records of 22,895 receiving yards, 1,549 receptions, and 197 receiving touchdowns were accumulated not just over a long period of time (21 seasons), but sustained during an incredibly-consistent peak from his second year in the league in 1986 through 1996.
Despite 1997’s interrupted season after a torn ACL in Week 2, he picked right back up as a valuable receiver from 1998 through the end of his career in 2004. He’ll always be remembered as a San Francisco 49er, where he played his prime years over 16 seasons from 1985 through 2000, but he also deserves a lot of credit for being highly productive right across the Bay in Oakland during his time as a Raider from 2001 through 2003, where he was a key contributor during the Raiders’ 2002 Super Bowl run.
Tom Brady has forced his way into consideration as the GOAT (greatest of all time) on the heels of his NFL-record six Super Bowl championships as a starting quarterback, including a record four (4) Super Bowl MVP awards and three (3) NFL MVP awards. He ranks second all-time in career passing yards, passing touchdowns, and completed passes, and is the heart and soul behind an offensive unit in New England that always ranks at or near the top of the league since being inserted as the starter back in 2001.
Perhaps the greatest statistic that aids the argument for Brady as the game’s best ever is his record 249 regular season wins as the starting quarterback of the New England Patriots, which is the most in league history. This, in addition to his six Super Bowls, just furthers the argument that the player at the position most responsible for his team winning football games has done it better than any player ever.
Lawrence Taylor, or LT for short, is perhaps the most dominating defensive player and biggest game-wrecking presence on that side of the ball in the league’s history. The New York Giants‘ eight-time First-Team All-Pro was voted to this team during each of his first six seasons in the league, as he was immediately a major impact as the outside linebacker for Bill Parcells’ teams that won two Super Bowls with LT as its best defensive player.
There was no amount of game-planning against a threat like Taylor that could contain him while he was in his prime. See the highlight reel below for evidence of how freakishly athletic the man was during his heyday.
As peerless an offensive player that’s ever played the game, the Syracuse product stepped onto the field for the Cleveland Browns during his rookie season in 1957 and never looked back as the game’s premiere offensive weapon. Brown was voted a first-team All-Pro in eight of the nine seasons of his abbreviated career, and was named a Pro Bowler in the other season.
Brown’s desire to begin his acting career led him to retire after just nine seasons in the league, which included three MVP awards and leading Cleveland to the NFL Championship back in 1964, which remains the city’s last professional football title. Despite his “early” retirement, he wound up as the NFL’s All-Time leading rusher with 12,312 yards, which was a record that stood until being broken by the next man on this list in 1984. Brown averaged an astonishing 104.3 rushing yards per game over the course of his career, which is certainly good enough to warrant being called the greatest player in NFL history.
Walter Payton, otherwise known by his nickname “Sweetness,” to which he was referred by fans and media alike, was one of the NFL’s all-time great running backs who enjoyed a lengthy and incredibly productive career with the Chicago Bears, including being a key member of the dominant 1985 team that won the Super Bowl and is considered by many to be among the greatest teams ever.
Payton retired in 1987 as the game’s all-time leading rusher, with 16,726 yards to his credit. He was the true definition of a workhorse back, who led the league in carries for a stretch of four straight seasons from 1976 through 1979, and blended his remarkable athleticism with power, all while remaining incredibly consistent and generally healthy throughout his career.