Maaaaaannnnn is it good to be back on the NFL GOAT series. The Offensive Player, TE, WR, RB, and QB lists are some of the most successful articles I've written, but, more importantly, they were right.
All kidding aside, the offense got the love last year, but last time I checked, defense wins chanpionships, so this year is the year of defense. With the defenseive side of the ball, we're going start with the big boys in the middle, the Defensive Tackles (DTs).
Wikipedia literally defines defensive tackle as typically the largest and strongest of the defensive players in American football. Some of the most feared players in the history of the game played this position, so it's fitting that we start October with the "most feared" position in football. So let's get started.
10. Aaron Donald
Awards: 4× Pro Bowler, 3× First-team All-Pro, AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and PFWA All-Rookie Team
Despite only being in his fifth season as a pro, Aaron Donald is on pace to go down as the greatest defensive tackle of all-time. I mentioned in the intro that defensive tackles are one of the most feared positions, and Aaron Donald might be the most feared player in the NFL right now, as his ranking in the NFL top 100 shows. Donald's at the beginning of his prime, so he could start skyrocketing up lists like these soon, but for now, he just makes the top 10.
9. Buck Buchanan
Awards: 2× Pro Bowler, Second-team All-Pro, 6× AFL All-Star, 6× First-team All-AFL, Pro Football Hall of Famer, and American Football League All-Time Team
Championships: Super Bowl champion (IV) and 2× AFL champion
James "Buck" Buchanan was so great at the defensive tackle position that he the first black number one draft choice in Professional Football. At the time he was drafted, he was the most athletic defensive tackle of all-time. Obviously, times have changed since 1963, but Buck's legacy lives on as one of the greatest defensive tackles ever.
8. John Randle
Awards: 7× Pro Bowler, 6× All-Pro, 1997 NFL sacks leader, Pro Football Hall of Famer, and NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
Randle was a sack master for the Vikings at the defensive tackle position, and he became the worst nightmare of fellow Hall of Famer Brett Farve. Their rivalry was a large part of the Vikings-Packers rivalry during the 90's, and that rivalry was fueled by Randle's legendary trash-talking ability. Randle finished his career with the second most sacks all-time for a defensive tackle.
7. Warren Sapp
Awards: 7× Pro Bowler, 4× First-team All-Pro, 2× Second-team All-Pro, NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Pro Football Hall of Famer, NFL 1990s All-Decade Team, and NFL 2000s All-Decade Team
Championships: Super Bowl champion (XXXVII) and 1x NFC Champion
Was Sapp a product of the Tampa 2 system? Maybe, but he was one of the greatest products of the Tampa 2 system ever, and the Tampa 2 system is one of the greatest defenses ever. Sapp was just bigger, faster, and stronger than everyone at his position during the late-90s and early-2000's, and that led to him being a first ballot Hall of Famer and number seven on this list.
6. Cortez Kennedy
Awards: 8× Pro Bowler, 3× First-team All-Pro, 2× Second-team All-Pro, NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Pro Football Hall of Famer, NFL 1990s All-Decade Team, and Seattle Seahawks Ring of Honor
Championships: None at the professional level
Cortez Kennedy played with a kind of power that has only been seen in a handful of players in the history of football. The defensive tackle position inherently requires players to be big and powerful to clog up the middle of the field, and Kennedy was one of the best ever at clogging the middle of the field. During his prime, Kennedy was a force in the middle that changed the defense in Seattle and earned him his defensive player of the year award.
5. Randy White
Awards: Super Bowl Co-MVP (XII), 9× Pro Bowler, 9× First-team All-Pro, Pro Football Hall of Famer, NFL 1980s All-Decade Team, and Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor
Championships: Super Bowl champion (XII) and Three NFC Championships.
Filling the shoes of a legend is never easy, but Randy White stepped into the shoes of "Mr. Cowboy" and became one of the greatest defensive tackles of all-time. A former linebacker, White played the defensive tackle position the same way a great linebacker plays their position, reading and reacting to the offense and filling the gaps that the running backs are trying to go through. Randy White is a Cowboys' legend, but the top four on this list didn't just fill shoes, they made the shoes.
4. Merlin Olsen
Awards: 14× Pro Bowler, 6× First-team All-Pro, 3× Second-team All-Pro, Bert Bell Award, NFL Rookie of the Year, Pro Football Hall of Famer, NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, and NFL 1960s All-Decade Team
A member of the Los Angeles Rams Fearsome Foursome of the 1960s, Merlin Olsen anchored two different versions of the Foursome en route to reaching an NFL record 14 Pro Bowls. The Fearsome Foursome(s) is regarded by some as the greatest defensive line in NFL history, as they turned the Rams from the worst team in football to a contender for almost two decades. The problem with being a great player in a great system is, much like Warren Sapp, it's hard to judge how much of Olsen's success came from pure talent and how much came from being a cog in the machine in L.A., whereas the next three names on this list were unstoppable on good and bad teams.
3. Bob Lilly
Awards: 11× Pro Bowler, 7× First-team All-Pro, 2× Second-team All-Pro, Pro Football Hall of Famer, NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, NFL 1960s All-Decade Team, and Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor
Championships: Super Bowl champion (VI) and Two NFC Championships
I mentioned how Randy White had to fill the shoes of "Mr. Cowboy," well here is Mr. Cowboy, Bob Lilly. While Olsen was a member of the Rams Fearsome Foursome, Lilly led the Cowboys' "Doomsday Defense" to not one, but two Super Bowl appearances and a dominant win in Super Bowl VI. That Super Bowl VI win also included one of Bob Lilly's legendary plays, a Super Bowl record 29-yard sack on the Bob Griese.
2. "Mean" Joe Greene
Awards: 10× Pro Bowler, 5× First-team All-Pro, 2× Second-team All-Pro, NFL Man of the Year, 2× NFL Defensive Player of the Year, NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Pro Football Hall of Famer, NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, NFL 1970s All-Decade Team
Championships: Four Super Bowl championships (IX, X, XIII, XIV) and Four AFC championships
The most iconic defensive tackle of all-time, "Mean" Joe was definitely mean to the opposing offenses throughout his career. Greene was the foundation of the "Steel Curtain" that dominated the league during their four Super Bowl runs, and he helped lead the Steelers from the worst team in the league to the most dominant. When it came to merely inspiring fear, no one was quite like Mean Joe Greene.
1. Alan Page
Awards: 9× Pro Bowler, 6× First-team All-Pro, 3× Second-team All-Pro, NFL MVP, 2× NFL Defensive Player of the Year, NFC Player of the Year, 2× NFC Defensive Player of the Year, Pro Football Hall of Famer, NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, and Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor
Championships: One NFL Championship and Three NFC Championships
Some guys are great because they are physically better than everyone else, some guys are great because they are smarter than everyone else, but Alan Page was that rare combination of athleticism and intelligence. Page is only one of two defensive players to win the NFL MVP award, and much like the other winner Lawerence Taylor, Page revolutionized the game of football. The Purple People Eaters put the Vikings on the map, but Alan Page was the star of the show in Minnesota for his entire career there because he was the Greatest Defensive Tackle of All-Time.