Best Defensive Backs of All Time – Who Are Best CBs in NFL History?
Last Updated: November 8, 2023
Having some of the best defensive backs of all time on your roster, pretty much ensures you can compete for a Super Bowl championship. All it takes is one generational talent in your secondary, to create a formidable defense.
From the Steel Curtain to the Legion of Doom, this has been the case many times throughout NFL history. While offensive players like the NFL rushing leaders get more exposure since their production is easier to quantify, it is time we give the defensive guys some props.
Just like the best NFL centers ever, their work often goes unnoticed. But they play a major role in winning football games. So, who are the best defensive backs of all time? Let’s run ’em down!
Best DB of All Time
The best defensive back of all time has to be Ronnie Lott. As a part of the legendary San Francisco 49ers rosters that made Joe Montana the youngest SuperBowl-winning QB at the time, Lott anchored their secondary for well over a decade.
Lott’s playing style was defined by his exceptional football IQ, physicality, and versatility. He was renowned for his ability to read plays, anticipate routes, and deliver bone-crushing hits. His remarkable speed, agility, and ball-hawking skills made him a constant threat to quarterbacks and wide receivers alike.
Ronnie Lott – Safety/Cornerback
NFL Teams: San Francisco 49ers (1981–1990), Los Angeles Raiders (1991–1992), New York Jets (1993–1994).
Personal Stats: 1,146 tackles, 63 INTs, 16 forced fumbles
Accolades: 4× Super Bowl champion (XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV). 8× First-team All-Pro (1981, 1983, 1986–1991), 10× Pro Bowl (1981–1984, 1986–1991). 2× NFL interceptions leader (1986, 1991), NFL forced fumbles co-leader (1982).
When talking about the best defensive backs of all time, Ronnie Lott must be near the top. And he’s number 1 on our list. Positions are just a nameplate for this player, who is often hailed as the best defensive back in NFL history.
While many players specialized in either cornerback or safety positions, Lott excelled at both. His exceptional feel for the game and technique on the field were evident in the backfield. He managed to rack up All-Pro designations at corner, free safety, and strong safety throughout his illustrious career.
Born on May 8, 1959, Lott was the 8th pick by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1981 NFL Draft. At 6-foot 203 pounds, Lott had the physical tools to make an immediate impact. And the 49ers’ saw that, making him the starting left cornerback from the start of training camp.
In his rookie season in 1981, Lott recorded seven interceptions, 3 of which he returned for a touchdown. He helped the 49ers to win Super Bowl XVI, notching his first of many Pro Bowl and All Pro selections.
He also came in second in the Rookie of the Year voting, behind New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor. Not bad company, considering he would go on to become the greatest NFL linebacker of all time.
Going into the 1985 NFL season, after 2 Super Bowls as a cornerback, Lott switched to the safety position.
49’s Best Defensive Backs of All Time
Despite being one of the greatest defensive backs of all time, Lott wasn’t scared of doing the dirty work. He supported the run defense as much as he patrolled the secondary. His ability to terrorize receivers who dared to cross the middle and his knack for creating turnovers set him apart as a game-changer.
Lott’s toughness was exemplified by the remarkable decision he made after his first year as a safety. He broke his left pinky finger while tackling running back Timmy Newsome. But instead of getting a bone graft surgery that would sideline him throughout training camp and the start of the 1986 NFL season, he had the tip of his finger amputated.
Although this is nothing close to the worst NFL injuries ever, I still wouldn’t want to be tackled by that guy. Despite missing the last two games of the 1986 NFL season, he still led the league with a career-best 10 interceptions.
While recording 77 tackles, three forced fumbles, and two quarterback sacks. That’s a linebacker playing in the backfield, part of what made Kam Chancellor so great.
During his 14-season career, Lott’s achievements were nothing short of extraordinary. He earned 8 First Team All-Pro selections and was chosen for the Pro Bowl an impressive 10 times. Lott’s contributions were pivotal in securing 4 Super Bowl championships for the 49ers (1981, 1984, 1988, 1989), making him the heart of the 49ers’ defense.
In addition to his Super Bowl victories, Lott amassed several accolades and records. He intercepted 63 passes over his career, ranking him tied for 9th on the all-time interceptions list. Lott was a part of the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team and was named to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, solidifying his status as one of the greatest players in league history.
Best CBs in NFL History
02. Rod Woodson – Cornerback
NFL Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers (1987–1996), San Francisco 49ers (1997), Baltimore Ravens (1998–2001). Oakland Raiders (2002–2003)
Personal Stats: 1,148 tackles, 71 INTs, 13.5 sacks, 17 touchdowns. 20 forced fumbles.
Accolades: Super Bowl champion (XXXV), NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1993), 6× First-team All-Pro (1989, 1990, 1992–1994, 2002), 3× Second-team All-Pro (1991, 1996, 2000), 11× Pro Bowl (1989–1994, 1996, 1999–2002), 2× NFL interceptions leader (1999, 2002), NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
What can a track star and former Olympic medalist do on the gridiron? Well, in the case of Rod Woodson, it turns out a lot. If the fastest NFL player at the time wasn’t wrecking chaos on the special teams, he was disrupting passing lanes in the secondary.
Rod Woodson is widely regarded as one of the best defensive backs in NFL history, and for good reason. Born on March 10, 1965, Woodson was selected as the tenth pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 1987 NFL Draft.
Over his illustrious 17-season career, he became a trailblazer in the NFL. Epitomizing the prototype defensive back, and excelling in various defensive roles, Rod could do it all. He was Deion Sanders with a more subtle approach, a player who didn’t mind getting his hands dirty.
In terms of statistical achievements, Woodson intercepted 71 passes during his career. That’s the third-most interceptions in NFL history. He ranks second in interception return yards with 1,483 and holds the NFL record for interceptions returned for touchdowns with 12. Leading the league in interceptions twice is a surefire way to achieve legendary status.
Woodson’s impact on games was not limited to interceptions. He recorded over 1,000 tackles and forced 20 fumbles, on top of having 13.5 sacks for his career as a defensive back.
This is insane to think of, but he was that guy. His exceptional tackling abilities and adeptness as a blitzing cornerback truly set him apart. Woodson’s brilliance extended beyond his defensive prowess. His speed made him a force to be reckoned with.
Not only as a defensive back but also as a dynamic punt and kick-off returner. His transition from cornerback to safety after joining the Baltimore Ravens demonstrated his adaptability, enabling him to continue his ball-hawking abilities.
2 years later Woodson’s legacy included a Super Bowl victory with the 1999 Baltimore Ravens. His transition was an essential contribution to one of the most dominant defenses in NFL history. Steelers fans might be salty that he helped a divisional rival win the chip, but at least he gave them some good memories.
He helped the Steelers reach Super Bowl 30 in 1995 and was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1993 under their banner. All of this solidified his status as a once-in-a-generation athlete, worthy of Hall of Fame induction.
Woodson was named to the Pro Bowl 11 times, a record for his position. He was also the first player to earn trips to the Pro Bowl at cornerback, safety, and kick returner. Notching 6 All-Pro selections in multiple roles is also something to behold. His 32 fumble recoveries are a record among defensive players.
Woodson’s influence was felt not only on the field but also off it. He was a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team and the All-Decade Team of the 1990s, showcasing his enduring impact on the sport.
Woodson’s playing style was defined by his exceptional speed, agility, and intelligence on the field. He possessed remarkable coverage skills, allowing him to read quarterbacks’ eyes and shut down some of the league’s best receivers.
03. Deion Sanders – Cornerback
NFL Teams: Atlanta Falcons (1989–1993), San Francisco 49ers (1994), Dallas Cowboys (1995–1999). Washington Redskins (2000), Baltimore Ravens (2004–2005).
Personal Stats: 512 tackles, 53 INTs, 9 touchdowns, 10 forced fumbles, 1,331 interception yards.
Accolades: NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1994), 6× First-team All-Pro (1992–1994, 1996–1998). 2× Second-team All-Pro (1991, 1999), 8× Pro Bowl (1991–1994, 1996–1999). NFL kickoff return yards leader (1992), 2× NFL 1990s All-Decade Team
Water covers two-thirds of the Earth, and the rest is covered by Prime Time. That’s why Deion Sanders is often regarded as one of the most electrifying and versatile players in NFL history. If you’re only familiar with this name because of his head-coaching Cinderella story, strap in. You have a lot to learn.
Born on August 9, 1967, Sanders was the fifth pick by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1989 NFL Draft. This kicked off his legendary NFL career that spanned 14 seasons and solidified his legacy as one of the best defensive backs of all time.
Sanders’ exceptional speed and agility, allowed him to cover ground effortlessly and shut down some of the league’s best wide receivers. His ability to anticipate routes, and make acrobatic interceptions set him apart as a ballhawk. Sanders was not just a shutdown corner that most quarterbacks often attempted to avoid.
He was a game-changer in the truest sense, capable of turning a defensive play into points at the other end. If he wasn’t locking down wideouts and terrifying QBs and offensive coordinators, he was a dynamic punt and kick returner on the special teams.
Sanders’ impact extended beyond his coverage skills and return abilities. He was a master of psychological warfare, often engaging in trash talk with opponents to disrupt their focus and gain a mental edge.
His confidence and swagger on the field were palpable, making him a charismatic and captivating presence in every game he played.
Throughout his career, Sanders amassed numerous accolades and records. He was selected to the First Team All-Pro 6 times and was named a Pro Bowl eight times.
Falcons fans still had the pleasure of watching him play. Despite not having spectacular success in his 5 years with the team. He ran for a touchdown on the second punt of his first game and scored 10 touchdowns (three defensive, three kick returns, two punt returns, and two receptions) in his time there.
In 1992, he led the league in kickoff return yards with 1,067. Averaging 26.7 yards per return, and 2 return touchdowns. The following year in 1993 he caught a career-high 7 interceptions, 3 of which went the other way for a pick-six.
In his first year with the San Francisco 49ers in 1994, Sanders won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award and led them to a Super Bowl XXIX win. The following year in 1995, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made Prime Time the highest-paid defensive player in the league.
He helped Troy Aikman become one of the QBs with the most SuperBowl wins, by leading the Cowboys to a win in Super Bowl XXX. Off the field, Sanders’ larger-than-life personality and charisma made him a popular figure in the sports world.
He was not just a football player. He was a brand, known for his flashy style and memorable catchphrases. Sanders’ ability to captivate audiences and maintain a strong presence in the media further solidified his status as a sports icon.
04. Mel Blount – Cornerback
NFL Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers (1970–1983)
Personal Stats: 57 INTs, 13 fumbles recovered, 735 interceptions yards.
Accolades: 4× Super Bowl champion (IX, X, XIII, XIV), NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1975). 2× First-team All-Pro (1975, 1981), 4× Second-team All-Pro (1976–1979). 5× Pro Bowl (1975, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1981), NFL interceptions leader (1975).
Back when pass interference rules let more slide, Mel Blount’s coverage made Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain a defensive powerhouse. Standing tall at 6 feet 3 inches and weighing 210 pounds, Blount’s imposing physicality and exceptional skills as a cornerback. made him a formidable foe for every wide receiver in the league.
Born on April 10, 1948, Blount was selected in the third round of the 1970 NFL Draft by the Steelers. There he quickly established himself as the prototype cornerback of his time. His playing style, characterized by his aggressive bump-and-run technique, was so impactful that it prompted the NFL to implement a rule change in 1987.
Blount’s ability to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and maintain tight coverage downfield made him a cornerstone of the famed “Steel Curtain” defense. A unit that had some of the most dominant pass rushers at the time which propelled the Steelers to four Super Bowl championships during the 1970s.
He was one of the biggest NFL players at his position, and he wasn’t shy about using all that mass. Blount’s remarkable combination of size, speed, and intelligence redefined the cornerback position during his era and would have made him a standout player in any period of NFL history.
Pittsburgh Steelers Best Defensive Backs of All Time
Blount earned 6 All-Pro selections during his career and was selected to the Pro Bowl five times over his 14-year NFL career. His 57 interceptions are tied for 13th most all time, and he started in an impressive 200 out of 201 regular-season games. Remarkably, he recorded at least one interception in every season he played.
Blount also was used as a kickoff returner early in his career. He totaled 36 returns for 911 yards and a 25.3-yard average. He also recovered 13 opponents’ fumbles, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
During his standout season in 1975, Blount was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. In this campaign, he intercepted an impressive 11 passes and did not allow a single receiving touchdown, making the impact of a shutdown cornerback very evident.
Not only was this number a career high, but it also led the league that year. The same rang true in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XIII, where his interception paved the way for Pittsburgh’s game-winning drive.
If locking down a standout wideout such as Michael Irvin wasn’t enough, Blount also made sure Roger Staubach didn’t write any more pages in the history books. If Captain America had won that Superbowl, he would have been the oldest QB to do so.
In 1989, Blount was rightfully recognized for his exceptional career when he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. His legacy as one of the most dominant defensive backs in NFL history lives on, reminding fans and aspiring players of the impact one exceptional player can have on the game.
05. Ed Reed – Safety
NFL Teams: Baltimore Ravens (2002–2012), Houston Texans (2013), New York Jets (2013)
Personal Stats: 643 tackles, 64 INTs, 13 defensive TDs, 11 forced fumbles
Accolades: Super Bowl champion (XLVII), NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2004), 5× First-team All-Pro (2004, 2006–2008, 2010). 3× Second-team All-Pro (2003, 2009, 2011), 9× Pro Bowl (2003, 2004, 2006–2012). 3× NFL interceptions leader (2004, 2008, 2010), NFL 2000s All-Decade Team
At number 5 on our best defensive backs of all time list, we have Ed Reed. He’s one of the most exceptional performers to ever grace the NFL. Born on September 11, 1978, Reed entered the league as a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2002 NFL Draft.
Over the next decade, Ed Reed would go on to terrorize everyone on the offensive side of the ball, even the special teams. His remarkable consistency, ball-hawking instincts, and leadership on the field made Baltimore’s secondaries one of the most feared units in the league.
Filling in the shoes of Rod Woodson is no small task. But Reed’s work ethic and unique blend of athleticism, strength, and intelligence made him a worthy replacement. Nobody truly appreciates the work that goes into the film room, but with 64 career interceptions, Reed certainly proves it.
He was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times and earned First Team All-Pro honors five times. Reed was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, in which he registered a career high in interceptions, tackles and sacks.
He led the league in interceptions twice more (2008, 2010) and recorded multiple seasons with over a 100 interception yards, leading the league multiple times. Wrecking the image of QBs and wideouts, the 2 highest paid NFL players, was his hobby.
Baltimore Ravens Best Defensive Backs of All Time
Reed’s impact extended far beyond his interception count. He holds the record for the longest interception return in NFL history with a mesmerizing 107-yard touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008.
The second-best mark? Ah, it’s also Ed Reed, with a 106 yard pick six against the Cleveland Browns, the worst NFL team at the time. Yeah, Reed’s proficiency in creating offense and not just securing turnovers put him in a tier of his own.
He also holds the NFL record for most interceptions returned yards with 1,590. Now you see where the Ballhawk moniker comes from. But it doesn’t stop there. Reed also blocked four punts, returning three for touchdowns, Both of these achievements are NFL records that stand to this day.
More importantly, he’s tied for an NFL record 9 playoff interceptions. Those matter so much more than his top 10 placements for career defensive touchdowns and interceptions. Although he enjoyed little postseason success at the start of his career, that would soon change.
Under Ed Reed, the Baltimore Ravens would become a perennial contender and a defensive juggernaut. He played a pivotal role in the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII victory, contributing with key defensive stops throughout the playoffs. His ability to elevate his game on the biggest stage highlighted his clutch performances and the impact he had on his team’s success.
A fitting culmination of a career marked by excellence and determination. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2019, proving his impact exceeded his achievements on the pitch.
One of Reed’s standout qualities was his leadership, with him being a vocal presence in the locker room, earning respect from both his teammates and adversaries.
06. Darrell Green – Cornerback
NFL Teams: Washington Redskins (1983–2002)
Personal Stats: 1,159 tackles, 54 INTs. 16 forced fumbles
Accolades: 2× Super Bowl champion (XXII, XXVI), NFL Man of the Year (1996), 4× First-team All-Pro (1986, 1987, 1990, 1991). 7× Pro Bowl (1984, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1996, 1997).
In the NFL and other major sports leagues, availability is the best ability. With so much money being thrown around, we love to glorify those who take our breath. But what about the players who keep their heads down and put in the work day in and day out? Well, we like giving props to them, and that’s why Darrell Green is sixth on our list of best defensive backs of all time.
Similarly to Rod Woodson, Darrell Green was a track and field star before putting on the helmet professionally. With numerous national and conference records under his belt, Green was ready for the 1983 NFL draft.
He would go on to be selected with the last, 28th, pick in the draft, by the Washington Redskins. There he would play out the entirety of his illustrious 20-year career and become one of the best CBs in NFL history.
Green would make an immediate impact on the pitch. The first time he touched the ball in a preseason game, he returned a punt 61 yards down the other end for a touchdown. In his first regular season game, he chased down NFL rushing leader Tony Dorsett to prevent a touchdown.
The league was put on notice, as he would go on to finish his rookie campaign leading the team in solo tackles and came in second in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Washington Redskins Best Defensive Backs of All Time
Green’s playing style was defined by his exceptional speed, agility, and anticipation. His remarkable ability to cover ground swiftly allowed him to outrun anyone in the league. Coupled with his sharp football IQ, and you have the man holding the NFL record for most consecutive seasons with an interception with 19.
Throughout his 2 decade tenure with the Redskins, Green amassed a plethora of accolades and records that showed his consistency. He was named a Pro Bowler 7 times and earned First Team All-Pro honors in 1986, 1987, 1990, and 1991.
Green was also named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1996, locking down wideouts as the best DB in NFL history. His impressive 54 career interceptions undermine how good he was in coverage, as he preferred to prevent plays rather than create them.
The following year in 1987, Green won his first of two Super Bowl rings. That entire postseason run was helped by Darrell making clutch plays left and right, which often get forgotten by the wayside.
Green and the Redskins won another one in 1991, with Darrell serving as the consistent force on the defensive side that kept it all together. His consistency and excellence are evidenced by his huge collection of NFL records.
Simply put, this man showed up and got the job done. He holds records for most games played by a defensive player and DB specifically. This explains his record for the oldest player to have an interception, the oldest player to score a touchdown off an interception and he’s the oldest player to run over 80 yards to do so.
Style, technique, and swagger can be copied. But that can’t be said for endurance, consistency, and production. This makes Darrell Green one of the best defensive backs of all time.
07. Dick Lane – Cornerback
NFL Teams: Los Angeles Rams (1952–1953), Chicago Cardinals (1954–1959). Detroit Lions (1960–1965)
Personal Stats: 68 interceptions, 1,207 interception yards, 11 fumbles recovered. 7 defensive touchdowns
Accolades: 7× First-team All-Pro (1956, 1957, 1959–1963), 3× Second-team All-Pro (1954, 1958, 1963). 7× Pro Bowl (1954–1956, 1958, 1960–1962), 2× NFL interceptions leader (1952, 1954). NFL 1950s All-Decade Team
Dick “Night Train” Lane is a name that resonates with football greatness. You can laugh all you want, but offensive players being tackled by him certainly had the smug of their faces removed. Born on April 16, 1928, Lane’s illustrious career spanned 14 seasons. His unique name and playstyle cemented his legacy as one of the best defensive backs of all time.
Lane’s playing style became the foundation for textbook cornerback play, showcasing a perfect blend of coverage skills and hard-hitting ability. He possessed a rare ability to read the eyes of the quarterbacks, anticipate routes, and thus create turnovers.
Lane’s remarkable speed and agility allowed him to cover ground swiftly, disrupt passing lanes, and tackle receivers that were supposed to be open. His infamous “Night Train Necktie” tackle became legendary and was eventually banned due to its devastating impact.
Lane’s journey to the NFL was unconventional at best. While commuting to work, Richard Lane decided to walk into the Rams facility and ask for a tryout. He had been recommended by former Rams player Gabby Sims and got a chance, in which he impressed.
His rookie season in 1952 was nothing short of historic. He set an NFL record with 14 interceptions in just 12 games, a feat that remains unmatched to this day. This is even more impressive considering Lane wasn’t drafted and spent 4 years in the Army before joining the NFL.
After 2 years with the Rams, and multiple blocked free kicks. Lane continued his career with the Chicago Cardinals. There he would spend 6 highly productive years, before being traded to the Detroit Lions where he spent another 6 years.
Over the course of his career, Lane earned several accolades, including 7 Pro Bowl selections and 4 First Team All-Pro honors. His ability to create turnovers was unparalleled at the time. He recorded 68 interceptions in his career, ranking fourth in NFL history.
In his first year with the Cardinals, he would lead the NFL in interceptions and interception return yards once again, with 10 and 181 respectively. Even when injuries robbed him of his explosive athleticism, Lane was able to make an impact.
His versatility as a defensive back allowed him to excel in various defensive schemes, adapting his playing style to suit the team’s needs. Lane’s remarkable consistency was reflected in his longevity, as he played at a high level for 13 years and well into his thirties, something that was uncommon at the time.
Despite the lack of postseason success, Dick Lane will certainly be remembered as one of the best defensive backs of all time. And one of the coolest names to be honest. His ferocity set a standard to which many generations of defensive players have looked up to.
Even from a racial standpoint, he became one of the first widely embraced black NFL players, in an otherwise very tumultuous period. Instead, Lane embraced his nickname and trail blazed a path many would soon come to follow.
08. Charles Woodson – Cornerback/Safety
NFL Teams: Oakland Raiders (1998–2005), Green Bay Packers (2006–2012). Oakland Raiders (2013–2015)
Personal Stats: 1,003 tackles, 20 sacks, 65 INTs. 13 defensive TDs
Accolades: Super Bowl champion (XLV),NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2009). NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (1998), 4× First-team All-Pro (1999, 2001, 2009, 2011). 4× Second-team All-Pro (2000, 2008, 2010, 2015). 9× Pro Bowl (1998–2001, 2008–2011, 2015), 2× NFL interceptions leader (2009, 2011)
Charles Woodson was a dream for any defensive coordinator. He served as a Swiss army knife in the secondary on 2 rosters that made the Super Bowl. That was enough to make his name synonymous with defensive brilliance, carving out a legacy as one of the best defensive backs of all time.
Born on October 7, 1976, Woodson was the fourth pick in the 1998 NFL draft for the Oakland Raiders. His remarkable career spanned 18 seasons, with a 6-year stay with the Green Bay Packers sandwiched between his Raiders tenures.
His impact was immediate, becoming a Pro Bowler, earning the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, and setting the tone for a stellar career. Woodson had 64 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 1 of his 5 interceptions that year went the other way for 6 points.
He would go on to spend the first eight seasons of his career with the Raiders, becoming the face of their defense. This led to him earning numerous accolades, including 3 All-Pro selections and 3 Pro Bowl nods.
In 2006, Woodson joined the Green Bay Packers, where he further solidified his status as a defensive icon. His tenure with the Packers was marked by remarkable achievements.
Oakland Raiders Best Defensive Backs of All Time
He led the league in interceptions twice and was a key contributor to the Packers’ victory in Super Bowl XLV. Woodson’s leadership and experience were invaluable to the team, as he held together a secondary that was nowhere near elite.
Woodson had 28 interceptions in his first four years with the Packers, which was more than the 17 he had in his previous eight years with the Raiders. He also had more touchdowns (8 vs 2) and sacks (6 vs 5.5) with the Packers than he did during his time in Oakland.
All of this culminated with him winning the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. It was the first time a defensive back had won the award in over a decade. He had a career-high in sacks, interceptions, and touchdowns during that campaign. His 9 interceptions that year not only led the league, but they were also a Packers franchise record.
He added 66 solo tackles on top of that, a mark he reached for the first time since his third year with the Raiders, after which injuries and consistency troubled him. But with the Packers, Woodson was determined to live up to his potential.
Woodson’s playing style was defined by his exceptional versatility, unmatched instincts, and playmaking ability. His size and speed helped him tremendously, excelling both as a shutdown cornerback and as a ball-hawking safety.
Woodson spent his last year in Green Bay and his final 3 years with the Raiders as a safety. Throughout his career, he forced 33 fumbles and recovered 20. This was on top of his 65 career interceptions, good for fifth all time in NFL history. His 13 defensive touchdowns are also tied for an NFL record.
09. Mike Haynes – Cornerback
NFL Teams: New England Patriots (1976–1982), Los Angeles Raiders (1983–1989)
Personal Stats: 46 INTs, 688 interception yards, 5 defensive touchdowns.
Accolades: Super Bowl champion (XVIII), NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (1976). 2× First-team All-Pro (1984, 1985), 6× Second-team All-Pro (1976–1980, 1982). 9× Pro Bowl (1976–1980, 1982, 1984–1986), NFL 1980s All-Decade Team.
Before the New England Patriots had one of the greatest NFL tight ends ever in Gronk, they drafted one of the best defensive backs of all time. Mike Haynes turned out to be a key component of one of the greatest cornerback pairings in NFL history alongside fellow Hall of Famer Lester Hayes.
Haynes’ NFL journey began in 1976 when he was drafted by the New England Patriots as the fifth overall pick. Born on July 1, 1953, Haynes emerged as one of the premier cornerbacks, as his knack for anticipating routes and creating turnovers made him an instant defensive force.
His rookie season was nothing short of spectacular, as he intercepted eight passes and recovered 3 fumbles. This level of production out of the gate warranted recognition in the form of the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
On top of this, he was voted into his first of nine Pro Bowl appearances in his 13-year career. The Patriots would go on to lose in the divisional game that year, a fate that would repeat the following season. Despite grabbing another 6 interceptions, the Patriots weren’t ready to go all the way.
After getting 14 picks in his first 2 years, Haynes would record just 14 more in his next 5 years with the Patriots. Despite this, he made multiple Pro Bowl and Second Team All Pro appearances during his Patriots tenure.
Patriots Best Defensive Backs of All Time
He was traded to the Los Angeles Raiders midway through the 1983 NFL season, where he would take his career to new heights. There he joined forces with fellow Hall of Famer cornerback Lester Hayes. Together, they formed one of the most formidable cornerback duos in NFL history.
Their partnership played a vital role in the Raiders’ success, culminating in a Super Bowl victory in the same year. Haynes’ presence in the secondary struck fear into quarterbacks, as with his background as a wide receiver in high school, Hayes always knew what to look for.
Washington Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard later acknowledged that Haynes tipped the balance heavily in the Raiders’ favor during their Super Bowl run. The Raiders and Redskins had played in the regular season when Haynes was still a Patriot, and his addition gave the Raiders the luxury of having two shutdown corners.
In his first two years with the Raiders, Haynes made his only First Team All Pro appearances. He added another 3 Pro Bowls to his tally, rounding up to 9 total for his career. In 7 years with the Raiders he had 18 interceptions, bringing his career total to 46.
His playmaking skills were not limited to defense. Haynes also excelled as a punt returner, although that dimension to his game was only prevalent at the beginning of his career. His number 22 jersey was retired by the New England Patriots, a testament to his enduring legacy with the franchise.
10. Darrelle Revis – Cornerback
NFL Teams: New York Jets (2007–2012), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2013), New England Patriots (2014). New York Jets (2015–2016), Kansas City Chiefs (2017)
Personal Stats: 497 tackles, 29 INTs, 139 pass deflections.
Accolades: Super Bowl champion (XLIX), 4× First-team All-Pro (2009–2011, 2014). 7× Pro Bowl (2008–2011, 2013–2015), NFL 2010s All-Decade Team
Every autumn week for over a decade, somebody got a free trip to Revis Island. And this was not your average holiday vacation. Instead, it was a place where your pride and personal statistics would be taken away from you, by force.
Darrelle Revis, born on July 14, 1985, in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, showcased exceptional technique, football IQ, and a tremendous work ethic that defined his remarkable NFL career.
The New York Jets noticed this early on and were willing to trade up in order to acquire one of the best defensive backs of all time. Revis was selected with the 14th pick in the 2007 NFL draft. And after just 1 week of training camp practice was named the starting cornerback.
His playing style was characterized by an unmatched combination of speed, agility, and exceptional ball skills, allowing him to cover the league’s top wide receivers with ease. Revis ended his rookie season with 87 total tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, and 3 interceptions in 16 starts.
The following season, Revis would make his first of 7 Pro Bowl appearances. Revis earned the recognition on the back of his continued stellar performance as a shutdown corner. He also recorded his first sack and first defensive touchdown, after picking off 5 passes that year.
His breakout season came in 2009 when he solidified his status as one of the league’s best corners. Revis earned the nickname “Revis Island” because of his ability to isolate and neutralize opposing star receivers.
NY Jets Best Defensive Backs of All Time
During this season, he recorded six interceptions, an NFL record 31 pass deflections, and showcased his lockdown coverage skills. His outstanding performance earned him the AFC Defensive Player of the Year award.
That year, Revis put the clamps on Randy Moss of all people. He also picked off Brady in their first meeting, helping the Jets defense to be the first team since 2006 to stop the Patriots from scoring a touchdown.
Houston’s Andre Johnson and Cincinnati’s Ocho Cinco also fell victim to Revis Island. Revis helped lead the Jets to the AFC championship game against the Colts, by completely dismantling Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers.
Rivers targeted Revis 3 times, 2 of which were incomplete passes while the last one was picked off. In 2010, Revis continued his dominance, helping the Jets reach the AFC Championship game for the second consecutive year. His consistency and ability to shut down elite receivers made him an invaluable asset to the Jets’ defense. Revis’s excellence was not just limited to one-on-one coverage, as he was also proficient in zone schemes.
A season-ending knee injury in 2012 ended his tenure with the Jets. But that didn’t stop the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from making Revis the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history. A year later, due to a bad schematic fit, Revis was on the trading block and was cut, before ending up in New England.
Revis was an instrumental piece to the Patriots’ secondary in their Super Bowl 49 run. He recorded a sack and tackle against the Seahawks. That year he notched his fourth and final First Team All Pro appearance on top of his final and seventh Pro Bowl nod.