Pro Football Reference Blog

List of NFL Top 100 Players of All Time Part I

Posted by Darin Hayes on May 21, 2024

The NFL is a league steeped in legendary figures whose feats of athleticism and tactical brilliance have left an indelible mark on the gridiron. But who truly stands above the rest? Who deserves to be enshrined in the pantheon of the NFL’s greatest players ever?

This article explores a portion of the prestigious NFL Top 100 list, a dynamic ranking compiled by current and former players, coaches, and media experts. We’ll dissect the criteria that separate the elite from the exceptional, exploring factors like dominance on the field, leadership qualities, and lasting impact on the game.

Prepare to embark on a journey through time, encountering iconic quarterbacks who orchestrated game-winning drives, shutdown defenders who haunted opposing offenses, and electrifying running backs who defied expectations. This list encompasses the best of the best, from the gridiron warriors of yesteryear to the modern-day superstars.

So, please sit back, relax, and join us as we delve into Part 1 of the definitive NFL’s Top 100 list of players of all time. This exploration promises to ignite debates, rekindle memories of legendary plays, and solidify your understanding of the men who have truly shaped the game we love.

A few years ago, the NFL released a list called the NFL 100. It was a media frenzy and stirred controversy and discussion as only the NFL can. For our list, we will consult the NFL’s choices but also use the power of Stathead Football and its Approximate Value and Fantasy rankings data to provide a top 100 of the NFL’s best players.

It is a complex set of choices to make when making a list of the top 100 best when there are so many qualified players deserving of the honor. Let us do it by position groups and in three different posts, and when we are finished, we will have a nice 100 to chat about.

First up in part one are the big guys in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

Offensive Linemen

The big guys in the trenches have always been the workhorses in football. Having contact with another human about your size on every scrimmage play has been described as being in a series of car crashes. In a game where the strongest and best athletes survive, here are some considerations for the NFL Top 100.


Forrest Gregg

Alvis Forrest Gregg

Position: T-G-DT

6-4249lb (193cm, 112kg)

Born: October 18, 1933 in Birthright, TX

Died: April 12, 2019 (Aged 85-176d)

College: SMU

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 96 (190th overall since 1960)

High School: Sulphur Springs (TX)

Draft: Green Bay Packers in the 2nd round (20th overall) of the 1956 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1977 (Full List)

As Coach: 11 Yrs (Full Record)

As Exec: 3 Yrs (Full Record)

SUMMARY

Career

G

193

AV

122

GS

156

Gregg made his hay blocking on the productive Green Bay Packers during the successful Lombardi era.


Mel Hein

Melvin Jack Hein

Position: C-LB

6-2225lb (188cm, 102kg)

Born: August 22, 1909 in Redding, CA

Died: January 31, 1992 (Aged 82-162d) in San Clemente, CA

College: Washington St.

High School: Burlington-Edison (WA), Fairhaven (WA)

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1963 (Full List)

As Coach: 1 Yr (Full Record)

SUMMARY

Career

G

170

AV

Int

10

Yds

78

TD

1

The legendary Center for the New York Football Giants made a difference during his time in the NFL.


Art Shell

Arthur Shell

Position: T

6-5265lb (196cm, 120kg)

Born: November 26, 1946 in Charleston, SC (Age: 77-140d)

College: MD-Eastern Shore

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 93 (234th overall since 1960)

High School: Bonds-Wilson (SC)

Draft: Oakland Raiders in the 3rd round (80th overall) of the 1968 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1989 (Full List)

As Coach: 7 Yrs (Full Record)

Relatives: Greatnephew Brandon Shell

SUMMARY

Career

G

207

AV

122

GS

169

Who can think of the Oakland Raiders teams of the 1970s and not think of big ole Art Shell hammering holes through defensive lines.


Larry Allen

Larry Christopher Allen

Position: G-T

6-3335lb (190cm, 151kg)

Born: November 27, 1971 in Los Angeles, CA (Age: 52-139d)

College: Butte JC (CA), Sonoma St.

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 101 (143rd overall since 1960)

High School: Centennial (CA), Vintage (CA)

Draft: Dallas Cowboys in the 2nd round (46th overall) of the 1994 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 2013 (Full List)

SUMMARY

Career

G

203

AV

134

GS

197

One of the largest athletes to play the game, and boy, could Larry Allen block. He was as versatile as they come, lining up at multiple positions on the line for the Cowboys.


Chuck Bednarik

Charles Philip Bednarik Jr.  (60 Minute Man or Concrete Charlie)

Position: LB-C

6-3233lb (190cm, 105kg)

Born: May 1, 1925 in Bethlehem, PA

Died: March 21, 2015 (Aged 89-324d) in Richland, PA

College: Pennsylvania  (College Stats)

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 27 (4291st overall since 1960)

High School: Liberty (PA)

Draft: Philadelphia Eagles in the 1st round (1st overall) of the 1949 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1967 (Full List)

SUMMARY

Career

G

169

AV

28

Int

20

Yds

268

TD

1

“Concrete Charlie,” was a bruising NFL legend. A two-way terror for the Eagles, he played offense as a center and defense as a linebacker – a rarity in his era. Renowned for his bone-crushing tackles and fierce determination, Bednarik helped the Eagles win two NFL championships. He’s still considered one of the toughest and most versatile players in football history.


Jonathan Ogden

Jonathan Phillip Ogden

Position: T-G

6-9345lb (206cm, 156kg)

Born: July 31, 1974 in Washington, DC (Age: 49-258d)

College: UCLA  (College Stats)

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 95 (203rd overall since 1960)

High School: St. Albans (DC)

Draft: Baltimore Ravens in the 1st round (4th overall) of the 1996 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 2013 (Full List)

SUMMARY

Career

G

177

AV

124

Rec

2

Yds

2

Y/R

1.0

TD

2

FantPt

12.2

This NFL Hall of Famer player dominated as an offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens his entire career. An 11-time Pro Bowler, he helped pave the way for his running backs and the Ravens’ Super Bowl victory in 2001.


Jim Otto

James Edwin Otto  (Double O)

Position: C

6-2255lb (188cm, 115kg)

Born: January 5, 1938 in Wausau, WI (Age: 86-100d)

College: Miami (FL)

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 112 (67th overall since 1960)

High School: Wausau (WI)

Draft: Oakland Raiders 1960 AFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1980 (Full List)

SUMMARY

Career

G

210

AV

163

GS

210

Otto, a Hall of Fame center, anchored the Oakland Raiders offensive line for 15 seasons. Renowned for his toughness and durability, he earned All-League honors ten consecutive years in the AFL and racked up Super Bowl appearances.


Anthony Munoz

Michael Anthony Munoz

Position: T

6-6278lb (198cm, 126kg)

Born: August 19, 1958 in Ontario, CA (Age: 65-239d)

College: USC

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 138 (19th overall since 1960)

High School: Chaffey (CA)

Draft: Cincinnati Bengals in the 1st round (3rd overall) of the 1980 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1998 (Full List)

SUMMARY

Career

G

185

AV

181

Rec

7

Yds

18

Y/R

2.6

TD

4

FantPt

26.4

This legendary offensive tackle dominated the NFL for 13 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. Renowned for his agility and strength, he earned numerous accolades, including enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and is considered by some to be the greatest offensive tackle.


John Hannah

John Allen Hannah

Position: G

6-2265lb (188cm, 120kg)

Born: April 4, 1951 in Canton, GA (Age: 73-010d)

College: Alabama  (College Stats)

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 112 (67th overall since 1960)

High School: Albertville (AL)

Draft: New England Patriots in the 1st round (4th overall) of the 1973 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1991 (Full List)

Twitter: @hoghannah

Relatives: Brother Charley Hannah; Father Herb Hannah

SUMMARY

Career

G

183

AV

149

GS

183

Hannah was a force to be reckoned with. This Pro Football Hall of Fame guard, playing entirely for the Patriots, dominated for 13 seasons.  He anchored an offensive line that set rushing records and earned him All-Pro honors for ten straight years.


Jim Parker

James Thomas Parker

Position: T-G

6-3273lb (190cm, 123kg)

Born: April 3, 1934 in Macon, GA

Died: July 18, 2005 (Aged 71-106d) in Columbia, MD

College: Ohio St.  (College Stats)

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 77 (499th overall since 1960)

High School: Ballard Hudson (GA), Scott (OH)

Draft: Baltimore Colts in the 1st round (8th overall) of the 1957 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1973 (Full List)

SUMMARY

Career

G

135

AV

89

GS

133

Jim Parker, a dominant offensive lineman for the Baltimore Colts (1957-1967), paved the way for QB Johnny Unitas’ success. An All-Pro nine times, he earned enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1973 for his exceptional pass protection skills.


Bruce Matthews

Bruce Rankin Matthews

Position: G-C-T

6-5305lb (196cm, 138kg)

Born: August 8, 1961 in Raleigh, NC (Age: 62-250d)

College: USC  (College Stats)

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 138 (19th overall since 1960)

High School: Arcadia (CA)

Draft: Houston Oilers in the 1st round (9th overall) of the 1983 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 2007 (Full List)

Relatives: Brother Clay Matthews; Father Clay Matthews; Nephews Casey Matthews, Clay Matthews, Troy Niklas; Sons Jake Matthews, Kevin Matthews, Mike Matthews

SUMMARY

Career

G

296

AV

215

GS

293

Matthews was an ironman offensive lineman who played a record 19 seasons for the Houston/Tennessee franchise. Renowned for his versatility, he mastered every position on the line, earning 14 Pro Bowls and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Gene Upshaw

Eugene Thurman Upshaw Jr.

Position: G

6-5255lb (196cm, 115kg)

Born: August 15, 1945 in Robstown, TX

Died: August 20, 2008 (Aged 63-005d) in Truckee, CA

College: Texas A&M-Kingsville

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 108 (86th overall since 1960)

High School: Robstown (TX)

Draft: Oakland Raiders in the 1st round (17th overall) of the 1967 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1987 (Full List)

Relatives: Brother Marvin Upshaw

SUMMARY

Career

G

217

AV

149

GS

207

Upshaw was a dominant offensive guard who anchored the Oakland Raiders for 15 years, winning two Super Bowls. He later became the NFL Players Association’s executive director, helping players and adding to his legacy of excellence.


Mike Webster

Michael Lewis Webster  (Iron Mike)

Position: C-G

6-1255lb (185cm, 115kg)

Born: March 18, 1952 in Tomahawk, WI

Died: September 24, 2002 (Aged 50-190d) in Pittsburgh, PA

College: Wisconsin

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 114 (60th overall since 1960)

High School: Rhinelander (WI)

Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers in the 5th round (125th overall) of the 1974 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1997 (Full List)

SUMMARY

Career

G

245

AV

161

GS

217

The Hall of Fame center, anchored the Steelers’ offensive line during their Super Bowl dynasty of the 70s. Renowned for his toughness and leadership, “Iron Mike” battled the best that the NFL had to offer, and generally won.


Defensive Line

Let’s now flip over to the other side of the ball and the main antagonists of the O-lineman we just unveiled the defensive line.


Reggie White

Reginald Howard White  (The Minister of Defense or Big Dawg)

Position: DE-DT

6-5291lb (196cm, 131kg)

Born: December 19, 1961 in Chattanooga, TN

Died: December 26, 2004 (Aged 43-007d) in Huntersville, NC

College: Tennessee  (College Stats)

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 160 (5th overall since 1960)

High School: Howard (TN)

Draft: Philadelphia Eagles in the 1st round (4th overall) of the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 2006 (Full List)

Relatives: Cousin Chris Matthews

SUMMARY

Career

G

232

AV

231

Sk

198.0

Solo

1048

FF

33

“The Minister of Defense,” was a dominant defensive end known for his relentless sacks and religious devotion. He terrorized quarterbacks for 15 seasons first with the Eagles, amassing a league-leading sack record (since broken) and and later a Super Bowl XXXI title with the Green Bay Packers.


Deacon Jones

David D. Jones

Position: DE

6-5272lb (196cm, 123kg)

Born: December 9, 1938 in Eatonville, FL

Died: June 3, 2013 (Aged 74-176d) in Anaheim Hills, CA

College: South Carolina St., Miss. Valley St.

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 103 (116th overall since 1960)

High School: Hungerford (FL)

Draft: Los Angeles Rams in the 14th round (186th overall) of the 1961 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1980 (Full List)

SUMMARY

Career

G

191

AV

134

Sk

173.5

Jones, a feared defensive end, terrorized quarterbacks in the 60s and 70s. Nicknamed “The Deacon,” he dominated with speed, power, and his signature head slap move (later outlawed). A Hall of Famer, he’s considered one of the NFL’s greatest pass rushers with an unofficial estimate of over 173 QB sacks.


Bruce Smith

Bruce Bernard Smith

Position: DE

6-4262lb (193cm, 118kg)

Born: June 18, 1963 in Norfolk, VA (Age: 60-301d)

College: Virginia Tech  (College Stats)

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 152 (9th overall since 1960)

High School: Booker T. Washington (VA)

Draft: Buffalo Bills in the 1st round (1st overall) of the 1985 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 2009 (Full List)

SUMMARY

Career

G

279

AV

229

Sk

200.0

Solo

1075

FF

43

Bruce Smith, a terror for quarterbacks, holds the NFL record for career sacks with 200. He spent most of his legendary career with the Buffalo Bills, anchoring their defense during their Super Bowl runs in the early 90s.


Gino Marchetti

Gino John Marchetti

Position: DE-T-DT

6-4244lb (193cm, 110kg)

Born: January 2, 1927 in Smithers, WV

Died: April 29, 2019 (Aged 92-117d) in Paoli, PA

College: Modesto JC, San Francisco

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 59 (1126th overall since 1960)

High School: Antioch (CA)

Draft: Dallas Texans in the 2nd round (14th overall) of the 1952 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1972 (Full List)

SUMMARY

Career

G

161

AV

65

Sk

56.0

Gino Marchetti, a terror for quarterbacks, was a Hall of Fame defensive end for the Baltimore Colts. He dominated the 1950s with his relentless pass rush.


Michael Strahan

Michael Anthony Strahan

Position: DE

6-5255lb (196cm, 115kg)

Born: November 21, 1971 in Houston, TX (Age: 52-145d)

College: Texas Southern

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 122 (40th overall since 1960)

High School: Westbury (TX), American School (Germany)

Draft: New York Giants in the 2nd round (40th overall) of the 1993 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 2014 (Full List)

Pronunciation: \STRAY-han\

Twitter: @michaelstrahan

SUMMARY

Career

G

216

AV

161

Sk

141.5

Solo

666

FF

24

Michael Strahan, a Hall of Fame defensive end, made life miserable for opposing quarterbacks for the NY Giants for 15 seasons. He holds the record for most sacks in a single season and was a key part of their Super Bowl XLII victory.


Willie Davis

William Delford Davis  (Dr. Feelgood)

Position: DE-DT

6-3243lb (190cm, 110kg)

Born: July 24, 1934 in Lisbon, LA

Died: April 15, 2020 (Aged 85-266d) in Santa Monica, CA

College: Grambling St.

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 103 (116th overall since 1960)

High School: Booker T. Washington (AR)

Draft: Cleveland Browns in the 15th round (181st overall) of the 1956 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1981 (Full List)

Relatives: Grandson Wyatt Davis

SUMMARY

Career

G

162

AV

125

Sk

99.5

Willie Davis, a Hall of Fame defensive end formerly of the Green Bay Packers, was a nemesis for opposing quarterbacks. He anchored their championship runs in the 1960s under Lombardi, racking up sacks and fumble recoveries with his relentless pursuit.


Lee Roy Selmon

Lee Roy Selmon

Position: DE-DT

6-3256lb (190cm, 116kg)

Born: October 20, 1954 in Eufaula, OK

Died: September 4, 2011 (Aged 56-319d) in Tampa, FL

College: Oklahoma  (College Stats)

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 78 (470th overall since 1960)

High School: Eufaula (OK)

Draft: Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1st round (1st overall) of the 1976 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1995 (Full List)

Relatives: Brother Dewey Selmon

SUMMARY

Career

G

121

AV

92

Sk

78.5

This fearsome defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominated the trenches in the 70s. Known for his relentless pass rush and punishing tackles, he helped put the young Bucs on the map and earned induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Joe Greene

Charles Edward Greene  (Mean Joe)

Position: DT

6-4275lb (193cm, 124kg)

Born: September 24, 1946 in Temple, TX (Age: 77-203d)

College: North Texas  (College Stats)

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 109 (80th overall since 1960)

High School: Dunbar (TX)

Draft: Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1st round (4th overall) of the 1969 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1987 (Full List)

SUMMARY

Career

G

181

AV

143

Sk

77.5

“Mean Joe,” the Hall of Fame defensive tackle, anchored the Steelers’ “Steel Curtain” defense in the 1970s. He was known for his fierce play and leadership, and many consider him the key cog that helped Pittsburgh win four Super Bowls.


Bob Lilly

Robert Lewis Lilly  (Tiger)

Position: DT-DE

6-5260lb (196cm, 117kg)

Born: July 26, 1939 in Olney, TX (Age: 84-263d)

College: TCU  (College Stats)

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 112 (67th overall since 1960)

High School: Throckmorton (TX), Pendleton (OR)

Draft: Dallas Cowboys in the 1st round (13th overall) of the 1961 NFL Draft., Dallas Texans in the 2nd round (14th overall) of the 1961 AFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1980 (Full List)

SUMMARY

Career

G

196

AV

153

Sk

95.5

Aptly called “Mr. Cowboy,” Bob Lilly was a defensive tackle who anchored the Dallas Cowboys’ famed “Doomsday Defense.” A first-ballot Hall of Famer, his durability and dominance helped the Cowboys win their first Super Bowl title.


Merlin Olsen

Merlin Jay Olsen

Position: DT

6-5270lb (196cm, 122kg)

Born: September 15, 1940 in Logan, UT

Died: March 11, 2010 (Aged 69-177d) in Duarte, CA

College: Utah St.  (College Stats)

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 116 (53rd overall since 1960)

High School: Logan (UT)

Draft: Denver Broncos in the 1st round (2nd overall) of the 1962 AFL Draft., Los Angeles Rams in the 1st round (3rd overall) of the 1962 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1982 (Full List)

Relatives: Brothers Orrin Olsen, Phil Olsen; Nephew Hans Olsen

SUMMARY

Career

G

208

AV

167

Sk

91.0

Olsen, a rock-solid defensive tackle, anchored the legendary “Fearsome Foursome” of the LA Rams for 15 seasons. A 14-time Pro Bowler and NFL champion, he later became a popular broadcast color commentator of NFL games.


Alan Page

Alan Cedric Page

Position: DT

6-4245lb (193cm, 111kg)

Born: August 7, 1945 in Canton, OH (Age: 78-251d)

College: Notre Dame  (College Stats)

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 144 (15th overall since 1960)

High School: Central Catholic (OH)

Draft: Minnesota Vikings in the 1st round (15th overall) of the 1967 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1988 (Full List)

SUMMARY

Career

G

218

AV

197

Sk

148.5

Alan Page, a powerhouse defensive tackle, defied expectations as a key to the “Purple People Eaters.” First defensive MVP in 1971, he anchored the Minnesota Vikings defense for over a decade, reaching four Super Bowls and earning Hall of Fame glory.


Randy White

Randy Lee White  (Manster or Captain Scab)

Position: DT-LB-DE

6-4257lb (193cm, 116kg)

Born: January 15, 1953 in Pittsburgh, PA (Age: 71-090d)

College: Maryland  (College Stats)

Weighted Career AV (100-95-…): 116 (53rd overall since 1960)

High School: Thomas McKean (DE)

Draft: Dallas Cowboys in the 1st round (2nd overall) of the 1975 NFL Draft.

Hall of Fame: Inducted as Player in 1994 (Full List)

SUMMARY

Career

G

209

AV

150

Sk

111.0

White was a menace for opposing quarterbacks. A Hall of Fame defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys, White anchored their “Doomsday Defense” for 14 seasons, racking up sacks and tackles while rarely missing a game.


Conclusion

There you have it, the offensive and defensive lineman in our top 100 of the greatest NFL players of all time. Look back soon for parts 2 and 3 of this series which will cover the other position groups and fill out the top 100 list.


Who is the number one of the top 100 NFL players for line play?

There are many good choices here and it is hard to say as it depends what you are looking for. John Hannah or Anthony Munoz might be the popular offensive choices and on the defensive side can one argue against Reggie White, Bruce Smith, or my favorite Mean Joe Greene?

How is the NFL Top 100 decided?

The official NFL Top 100, announced in 2019 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NFL, was decided by a panel of experts selected by the AP and NFL Media.

For this list, as we described at the beginning, we looked at the NFL’s Top 100 selections and compared and merged them with Pro Football Reference’s AV totals to provide a hybrid list.


Join our Sports Reference Community

Of Statheads:

Subscribe to Stathead, the most powerful research tools in sports, and find any player, team, season, game, and any play. With over 80 different search tools for baseball, basketball, football, and hockey, you’ve got infinite answers at your finger tips.

Purple Stathead sign up button. Get your first month free.

With Our Email Newsletters:

Sign up for our newsletter and get curated stats, recaps, and more from the Pro Football Reference to your inbox every morning. No commitment, unsubscribe at any time.

Green Pro Football Reference newsletter sign up button

On Social Media:

Stay connected with Pro Football Reference on social media! Bringing you stats, trivia, and more on all our channels daily.

TwitterInstagramFacebookTikTokYouTubeRedditLinkedIn

Follow the rest of the Sports Reference sites on social here.

Comments are closed.