The NFL has been around for over a century, and in that time, it has produced some of the most talented and influential athletes in sports history. From legendary quarterbacks to dominant defenders, the NFL has seen a variety of players who have excelled at their positions and left their mark on the game. But who are the best of the best? Who are the players who have transcended their era and become icons of the sport? This is a question that has been debated by fans, analysts, and experts for decades, and there is no definitive answer. However, based on their achievements, accolades, and impact, here are some of the candidates for the NFL best players of all time.
When it comes to wide receivers, there is no doubt that Jerry Rice is the greatest of all time. Rice holds the NFL records for most career receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, and he is widely regarded as the most complete and consistent receiver ever. Rice played for 20 seasons, mostly with the San Francisco 49ers, and won three Super Bowls, one Super Bowl MVP, and one NFL MVP. He was also a 13-time Pro Bowler, a 10-time First-team All-Pro, and a member of the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team¹.
Tom Brady is the most accomplished quarterback in NFL history, and arguably the greatest player of all time. Brady has won seven Super Bowls, more than any other player or franchise, and has been named Super Bowl MVP five times, also a record. He has also won three NFL MVP awards, 14 Pro Bowl selections, and three First-team All-Pro honors. Brady has played for 21 seasons, 20 with the New England Patriots and one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and has led his teams to 10 Super Bowl appearances and 17 division titles. He holds the NFL records for most career wins, passing touchdowns, and passing yards, among others².
Lawrence Taylor revolutionized the linebacker position and changed the way defenses played in the NFL. Taylor was a fearsome pass rusher and a relentless tackler, who terrorized quarterbacks and running backs alike. He played for 13 seasons, all with the New York Giants, and won two Super Bowls, one NFL MVP, and three Defensive Player of the Year awards. He was also an 11-time Pro Bowler, a 10-time First-team All-Pro, and a member of the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team³.
Jim Brown is widely considered the greatest running back of all time, and one of the most dominant players in any sport. Brown played for nine seasons, all with the Cleveland Browns, and led the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in eight of them. He won three NFL MVP awards, four rushing titles, and one NFL championship. He was also a nine-time Pro Bowler, an eight-time First-team All-Pro, and a member of the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. He retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and still holds the record for highest career rushing average⁴.
Walter Payton was a versatile and durable running back, who could run, catch, block, and even throw. Payton played for 13 seasons, all with the Chicago Bears, and won one Super Bowl, one NFL MVP, and one Offensive Player of the Year award. He was also a nine-time Pro Bowler, a five-time First-team All-Pro, and a member of the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. He broke Jim Brown’s record for most career rushing yards and held it until Emmitt Smith surpassed him in 2002. He also holds the record for most career all-purpose yards.
Other Notable Players
There are many other players who deserve to be mentioned in the discussion of the NFL best players of all time, such as:
- Joe Montana, the four-time Super Bowl champion and three-time Super Bowl MVP, who led the 49ers to one of the most successful dynasties in NFL history.
- Reggie White, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year and one-time Super Bowl champion, who is the second-most prolific sack artist in NFL history and one of the most dominant defensive linemen ever.
- Barry Sanders, the 10-time Pro Bowler and one-time MVP, who dazzled fans with his elusive and explosive running style and retired as the third-most productive rusher in NFL history.
- Randy Moss, the six-time Pro Bowler and one-time Offensive Player of the Year, who is the second-most prolific receiver in NFL history and one of the most gifted and athletic players ever.
- Peyton Manning, the five-time MVP and two-time Super Bowl champion, who is one of the most intelligent and accurate quarterbacks ever and holds several NFL records, including most passing touchdowns in a season.
The NFL has been blessed with many great players who have made the game more exciting, competitive, and entertaining. The players mentioned above are some of the best examples of excellence, achievement, and influence in the sport. However, there is no definitive way to rank them or compare them, as they played in different eras, positions, and systems. Ultimately, the NFL best players of all time are a matter of personal preference, opinion, and debate. What do you think? Who are your NFL best players of all time? Let us know in the comments below..
(1) NFL 100: Our full list of greatest players of all time – USA TODAY. https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl-100/2019/10/01/nfl-100-best-players-all-time/3785514002/
(2) Updating and Ranking The 50 Greatest NFL Players of all time – ClutchPoints. https://clutchpoints.com/updating-and-ranking-the-50-greatest-nfl-players-of-all-time
(3) The 30 Best NFL Players of All-Time – ONE37pm. https://www.one37pm.com/sports/best-nfl-players-of-all-time
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