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The National Football League (NFL) has a long history dating back to the 1920s. Over the years, we have witnessed first-hand the fierce competition of the best players on the gridiron. So, who is the best American football player of all time?

Each period with different game rules produces excellent faces in diverse positions. It would not be easy to make a single choice. We need to consider each person’s parameters, statistical titles, and influence.

Scott Fujita has compiled a list of the best football player of all time in this article. Let’s read on to discover!

Who Is The Best Football Player Of All Time NFL? 

Our list includes outstanding players from different positions and periods in football history. There will be stars from the last century and the present that you can still see on the field. Now, let’s find out who is in the first place.

#1. Tom Brady

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Tom Brady 

Position: Quarterback.

Year: 2000-Present.

Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (now), New England Patriots.


  • 14x Pro Bowler.
  • 3x First-Team All-Pro Team.
  • 2x NFL OPOY.
  • 2009 NFL Comeback POY.
  • 3x NFL MVP.
  • 7x Super Bowl Champion.
  • 5x Super Bowl MVP.
  • Pro Football HOF All-2000’s Team.
  • Pro Football HOF All-2010’s Team.
  • NFL 100 All-Time Team.
  • Most Super Bowl Victories And Appearances in NFL History (10).
  • NFL Career Leader Regular Season Wins (230), Leader Postseason Wins (36) and, Leader Passing Touchdowns (581).
  • #2 NFL Career Passing Yards (79,204).
  • #2 NFL Career Comebacks (39).
  • #3 NFL Career Game-Winning Drives (48).

At Super Bowl 53 in 2019, Tom Brady confirmed his GOAT status in NFL history by winning his sixth championship at 41. He is also the owner of four NFL MVP titles and numerous awards.

When he switched to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad, Tom Brady made history on the Super Bowl record again, winning his seventh championship. He also helped make the Buccaneers the rare team to win the title at home.

Tom Brady’s journey from draft pick 7th to legend hasn’t been smooth sailing. He had to work hard and very patiently wait for his chance to shine. We can see in Brady’s physical strength, experience, and natural leadership skills.

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#2. Jerry Rice

Position: Wide Receiver.

Years: 1985-2004.

Franchises: San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks.


  • 13x Pro Bowler.
  • 10x First-Team All-Pro.
  • 2x NFL OPOY (1987, 1993).
  • 3x Super Bowl Champion (1989, 1990, 1995).
  • Pro Football HOF All-1980’s Team.
  • Pro Football HOF All-1990’s Team.
  • 2010 Hall of Fame.
  • Nfl 100 All-Time Team.
  • NFL Career Leader in Receptions (1,549), Receiving Yards (22,895), and Receiving Touchdowns (197).

When it comes to wide receivers, it’s hard to find a player with a more dominant position than Jerry Rice. He has a huge gap compared to fellow players throughout his entire career with formidable achievements.

At a glance, these numbers may not come as a surprise to you. But compare his achievements with other players right after him in NFL history. Jerry Rice had 33 more touches and received 6961 yards more. That number is imposing.

Rice’s longevity and enduring excellence also make him far more unique. The average age of wide receivers is usually not too high because of their short stature and risk of injury. Despite this, this man still fought until the age of 41.

Sixteen years after Jerry Rice retired with 36 NFL records, no one has yet broken them.

#3. Jim Brown

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Jim Brown

Position: Running Back.

Years: 1957-1965.

Team: Cleveland Browns.


  • 1957 NFL OROY.
  • 9x Pro Bowler.
  • 8x First-Team All-Pro.
  • 3x NFL MVP (1957, 1958, 1965).
  • NFL Champion (1964).
  • Pro Football Hall Of Fame (1960’s Team).
  • NFL 100 All-Time Team.
  • #30 at Rushing Attempts (2,359).
  • #11 at Rushing Yards (12,312).
  • #6 at Rushing Touchdowns (106).
  • #1 at Rushing Yards Per Game.

When it comes to NFL legend, many people remember the only player is Jim Brown. In his nine years in the competition, he topped the All-Pro list eight times.

On average, per match of this great running back, he can run 104.3 meters. We can easily look through his achievements to know how great this Super Bowl champion is. Even when Brown entered his final season in 1965, he led the league with long shots, dashes, touchdowns, and more.

#4. Joe Montana

Position: Quarterback.

Years: 1979-1994.

Franchises: San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs.


  • Pro Football Hall of Fame (2000 Class).
  • 4x Super Bowl Champion.
  • 3x Super Bowl MVP.
  • 2x MVP.
  • 3x First-Team All-Pro.
  • 2x Second-Team All-Pro.
  • 8x Pro Bowl.

When looking back at the 1979 draft, Joe Montana’s placement is somewhat ironic as he’s only 82nd on the list. Things only changed when he won the national championship as a Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback. After that, Joe Montana kept moving forward to become one of the best QBs of his generation.

Montana is the first player in league history to be named the MVP of the Super Bowl three times. This QB’s way of playing has dramatically influenced the way people play football later.

#5. Lawrence Taylor

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Lawrence Taylor 

Position: Linebacker.

Years: 1981-1993.

Team: New York Giants.


  • 1981 NFL DROY.
  • 10x Pro Bowler.
  • 8x First-Team All-Pro.
  • 3x NFL DPOY (1981, 1982, 1986).
  • 1986 NFL MVP.
  • Pro Football HOF All-1980’s Team.
  • Hall of Fame (1999).
  • NFL 100 All-Time Team.
  • #14 NFL Career Sacks (132.5).

As one of the rare defensive players to win the MVP award, it would be a shame if Lawrence Taylor did not appear on this list. He is also a leader in his position. If Taylor’s playing life was more extended, he would probably have a higher place in this ranking.

Even so, Lawrence Taylor remains one of the hardest hitters during his 12-year career. The influence of this great defensive player on modern play is still profound to this day.

#6. Walter Payton

Position: Running Back.

Years: 1975-1987.

Franchise: Chicago Bears.


  • 1957 NFL OROY.
  • 9x Pro Bowler.
  • 8x First-Team All-Pro.
  • 3x NFL MVP (1957, 1958, 1965).
  • NFL Champion (1964).
  • Pro Football HOF All-1960’s Team.
  • NFL 100 All-Time Team.

It’s hard to think that a man with such limitless toughness would be nicknamed “Sweetness,” but it fits perfectly. Although Walter Payton can push through defenses or act as a primary line of defense, he has a polite demeanor and soft voice.

This RB’s playing career is devoted to only one team, the Chicago Bears. Tragically, he passed away in 1999 at 45 from a severe illness.

#7. Johnny Unitas

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Johnny Unitas 

Position: Quarterback.

Years: 1956-1971.

Teams: Baltimore Colts, San Diego Chargers.


  • Pro Football Hall of Fame (1979).
  • Super Bowl champion.
  • 3-time NFL Champ.

“Golden Arm” is the next face in seventh place. He is considered by many to be the forerunner of Tom Brady.

His stats might not be as brilliant as other players’ NFL records, but it’s still respectable. His NFL record of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown wasn’t broken until 2012 by Drew Brees.

#8. Dick Butkus

Position: Linebacker.

Years: 1965-1973.

Team: Chicago Bears.


  • 8x Pro Bowl selection.
  • 5x All-Pro selection.
  • 1970 Defensive Player of the Year.
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1960’s Team.
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame All-1970’s Team.
  • 1st Ballot NFL Hall of Famer (1979).
  • NFL 100 All-Time Team.

Dick Butkus has been a luminary since the first draft round. He was picked by both the Denver Broncos and the Chicago Bears but signed with the Bears.

While the AP Defensive Player of the Year award wasn’t officially awarded until 1971, Butkus was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1970 despite winning just one game. At his retirement, Butkus held the record for the most number of forced nets in NFL history.

#9. Deion Sanders

Position: Cornerback.

Years: 1989-2000, 2004-05.

Franchises: Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens.


  • Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2011.
  • 2x Super Bowl Champion (1995, ‘96).
  • 1994 AP Defensive Player of the Year.
  • First-team All-Pro (‘92, ‘93, ‘94, ‘96, ‘97, ‘98).
  • 8-time Pro Bowler.

Deion Sanders is a multi-talented player. He is one of the few players who can play football and baseball. During his career, Sanders had nine legal seasons with the MLB. He is the only athlete to have participated in both the Worlds Series and the Super Bowl.

To learn more about his talent, watch the following video.

#10. Reggie White

Position: Defensive End.

Years: 1985-2000.

Teams: Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers.


  • Hall of Fame (2006).
  • Super Bowl Champion in 1996.
  • 2x AP Defensive Player.
  • First-team All-Pro (1986, ‘87, ‘88, ‘89, ‘90, ‘91, ‘95, 98).
  • 13-time Pro Bowler.

“The Minister of Defense” is any player’s nightmare facing him. The two AP Defensive Player awards are the most evident proof of that. He also received a Super Bowl championship along with the Green Bay Packers.

On the field, Reggie White is an absolute monster. He has the excellent speed to tackle players with the ball and tremendous power to stop players from blocking.

#11. Honorable Mention: Drew Brees

Position: Quarterback.

Years: 2001-Present.

Teams: San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints.


  • Super Bowl Champion XLIV.
  • 2x NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2008, 2011).
  • First-team All-Pro (2006).
  • 12 Pro Bowls.

Final Thoughts

Who is the best NFL football player of all time? We hope that this article of ours has brought you a satisfactory answer.

Depending on their thoughts and views, each person will have their champion. The important thing is that they all competed together and gave the audience the most exciting matches.

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