Ranking The 25 Best NFL Pass Rushers Of All-Time

25. Leslie O’Neal, DE (1986-1999)

An NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year winner, O’Neal enjoyed a solid pro career, mostly with the San Diego Chargers. Eight times, O’Neal recorded at least 10 sacks during a season, highlighted by his career-best 17 in 1992. The six-time Pro Bowler ended up with 132 1/2 sacks before he called it quits.

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24. Merlin Olsen, DT (1962-1976)

Part of the Los Angeles Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line, Olsen didn’t rack up huge sack totals. Regarded as one of the best interior rushers in NFL history, the Hall of Famer used his 6-foot-5, 270-pound frame to bulldoze through opposing offensive lines and into the backfield where he would usually meet either a vulnerable running back or frightened quarterback.

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23. DeMarcus Ware, OLB/DE (2005-2016)

A nine-time Pro Bowler, Ware led the NFL in sacks in 2008 (20) and 2010 (15 ½). The versatile pass rusher registered at least 11 sacks over seven consecutive seasons (2006-2012). Ware won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos, but also retired as the Dallas Cowboys’ all-time sack leader with 117 of his 138 ½ total.

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22. Warren Sapp, DT (1995-2007)

Sapp has had his issues since retiring, mostly in recent years, but what he did on the field – at times controversial – earned him a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was credited with a career-high 16 ½ sacks in 2000 — one year after being named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year – and had 96 ½ overall.

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21. Chuck Bednarik, LB/C (1949-1962)

Perhaps the last great two-way player, Bednarik is considered one of the hardest-hitting defenders in pro football history. His hit on Frank Gifford in 1960 is as memorable as they come, and forced the New York Giants star to miss the entire next season. The Hall of Famer also found time to rush the passer, which was hardly common for a linebacker back in the day.

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20. Alan Page, DT (1967-1981)

The most well-known member of Minnesota’s famed “Purple People Eaters,” Page was the first defensive player to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award in 1971. He reportedly had more than 140 unofficial sacks during his career and was one of the most feared interior pass rushers in the game. Following his Hall of Fame career, Page ventured into law and served on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

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19. Charles Haley, DE (1986-1999)

A five-time Super Bowl champion with San Francisco and Dallas, Haley recorded 100 ½ sacks for his career. He notched 16 for the 49ers in 1990. A 2015 inductee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Haley was a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro.

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18. Jared Allen, DE (2004-2015)

Allen’s sack celebration was as special as he was a pass rusher. Nobody roped an imaginary calf post-sack better than the former Kansas City and Minnesota end. Allen led the NFL in sacks (22) in 2011 with the Vikings and finished his career after the 2015 season with 136 – good for 11th on the league’s career sack list.

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17. Willie Davis, DE (1958-1969)

Davis began his career with Cleveland, but his fame came with Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers. He won five NFL Championships and two Super Bowls with the Packers, and legend has it that Davis recorded more than 100 sacks – which were not officially kept by the NFL until 1982 – during his tenure in Green Bay. He also recovered 22 fumbles, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.

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16. Julius Peppers, DE (2002-present)

At age 38, Peppers is still at it. He ranks fourth on the league’s career sacks list and could be sitting third by the time the 2018 season ends. Though most of his great years came with Carolina, where he returned last season, the 6-foot-7 Peppers also shined with Chicago and Green Bay during a career that doesn’t want to end.

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15. Mark Gastineau, DE (1979-1988)

The most popular member of the Jets “New York Sack Exchange,” the chiseled Gastineau was the NFL sack leader in 1983 (19) and ‘84 (22). He used his tremendous quickness off the ball and speed on the edge to disrupt quarterbacks for a good part of the early 1980s. Gastineau made five Pro Bowls and was also a five-time All-Pro.

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14. Chris Doleman, DE (1985-1999)

Playing for the Minnesota Vikings, Doleman posted an NFL-leading 21 sacks in 1989 — tied for the fifth-best single-season total in league history. He also ranks fifth all-time on the NFL sacks list with 150 1/2. While Doleman is best known for his days with the Vikings, he collected 38 sacks over three seasons with San Francisco from 1996-98.

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13. Jason Taylor, DE/OLB (1997-2011)

One of the more recent Hall of Fame inductees (2017), Taylor starred as both an outside linebacker and defensive end during his stellar career. A true physical specimen, Taylor recorded a league-best 18 ½ sacks in 2002. He also ranks among the all-time leaders with 48 forced fumbles and 29 fumble recoveries while playing mostly for Miami, but also for Washington and the New York Jets.

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12. Jack Youngblood, DE (1971-1984)

The Los Angeles Rams lifer unofficially recorded around 150 sacks during his Hall of Fame career, and officially had 10 ½ in 1983 and 9 ½ during his final season a year later. Youngblood worked hard to get to the quarterback. The Ram legend was fearless and did not allow injuries to stop him from taking the field. He’s perhaps best known for playing the 1979 postseason with a broken leg.

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11. Doug Atkins, DE (1953-1969)

At 6-foot-8, 257 pounds, Atkins was one of the most athletic and powerful defenders of his time. He would often leap over would-be blockers and was one of the pioneers of how active a defensive end could be when pursuing the quarterback. A two-time NFL champion with Cleveland (1954) and the Chicago Bears (1963), Atkins was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.

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10. Richard Dent, DE (1983-1997)

“The Sackman” went from an eighth-round draft pick to one of three Hall of Famers on the Chicago Bears’ vaunted 1985 defense that helped the franchise win its only Super Bowl. Dent, the MVP of Super Bowl XX with 1 ½ sacks and two forced fumbles, recorded 34 ½ sacks over the 1984 and ‘85 seasons. His 137 ½ career sack total is tied for ninth all-time.

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9. John Randle, DT (1990-2003)

One of the NFL’s greatest stories of perseverance, Randle went undrafted before hooking up with the Minnesota Vikings. In his second season, Randle recorded 9 ½ sacks then posted at least 10 in each of the next eight campaigns. Despite his presumed undersized frame (6-1, 290), Randle used a strong combination of fundamental technique and trash talking to pave his way to 137 ½ career sacks and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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8. Gino Marchetti, DE (1952-1966)

The longtime Baltimore Colt, Marchetti was strong against the run and one of the first ends to have consistent success rushing the quarterback. He won two NFL Championships with the Colts in 1958 and ’59. The nine-time All-Pro and Hall of Famer also served in the U.S. Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

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7. Michael Strahan, DE (1993-2007)

Strahan’s 22 1/2 sacks in 2001 remain an NFL single-season record – even if Brett Favre helped him achievement that feat. Since the league started keeping track of sacks in 1982, the current co-host of Good Morning America is one of only a handful of players to lead the NFL in sacks for two seasons. His 141 1/2 sacks rank sixth all-time in league history – all of which came as a member of the New York Giants.

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6. Derrick Thomas, LB (1989-1999)

Another vicious pass rusher with exceptional speed, the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Famer totaled 126 ½ career sacks and still holds the NFL single-game sack record with seven against Seattle on Nov. 11, 1990. When Thomas’ career was prematurely cut short as the result of a car crash, it was believed he had a few productive seasons left. Tragically, Thomas died at the age 33 due to a pulmonary embolism.

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5. Deacon Jones, DE (1961-1974)

The man who is credited with coining the phrase quarterback “sack,” Jones was by far the most feared member of the Los Angeles Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome.” Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, Jones is considered by many as the greatest defensive end of all-time. Various reports over the years credit Jones with an unofficial total of 173 ½ sacks and even more hits delivered on helpless quarterbacks.

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4. Kevin Greene, LB (1985-1999)

Third in NFL history with 160 sacks, Greene will go down as one of the true characters of the game. With his long, blond hair flowing from his helmet, Greene was fast, strong and boisterous. His motor never seemed to stop, and that’s why he recorded double-digit sacks with four different teams (Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh, Carolina and San Francisco). Greene was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

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3. Reggie White, DE (1985-2000)

The Hall of Famer was known as the “Minister of Defense,” because of his dominant defensive play and the fact he was an ordained minister in the Evangelical church. White was menacing on the field, but popular and happy-go-lucky off it with Philadelphia, Green Bay and Carolina. White posted double-digit sack totals in each of his first nine NFL seasons en route to 198 career sacks — good for second all-time.

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2. Bruce Smith, DE (1985-2003)

The NFL’s all-time sack leader with 200, Smith did most of his damage with Buffalo where he recorded double-digit sack totals in 12 seasons — including seven straight from 1992-98. He was the anchor of a defense that helped Buffalo make it to four Super Bowls in the 1990s, and posted 13 seasons with at least 10 sacks.

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1. Lawrence Taylor, LB (1981-1993)

The man who revolutionized the role of the outside linebacker as a pass rusher. The likes of Von Miller and Terrell Suggs do it better than most, but still not as aggressively and dominantly as LT did. Taylor posted seven straight seasons (1984-90) with at least 10 sacks. The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, two-time Super Bowl champion and Hall of Famer finished his career with 132 1/2 sacks.

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