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NFL at 100: Top 100 Players of All-Time – 50-26 1

Posted on February 01, 2020 by Dean Hybl

There have been many great players in the 100 year history of the NFL, but who are the greatest of the great? As part of our celebration of the NFL at 100, we have been sharing our picks for the top 100 players in NFL history.

We are breaking the selections into four groups of 25. You can read our players 100-76 and 75-51 in previous articles. This article is looking at players 50-26. We will be posting our top 25 picks in a subsequent post.

Below is a look at our picks 50-26 (the team listed is the one they were most associated with during their career).

Willie Lanier

50. Willie Lanier – Kansas City Chiefs – 8 Pro Bowls; 3 time 1st Team All-Pro: Much like was the case on offense with the quarterback position, for many years there was a perception that African American players couldn’t handle the defensive equivalent leadership position of middle linebacker. That inaccuracy was crushed in the 1960s when the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Willie Lanier from Morgan State. After playing outside linebacker as a rookie in 1967, Lanier became the starting middle linebacker during his second season and immediately earned first team All-Pro honors. In 1969 the Chiefs were number one in the AFL in rushing defense, passing defense and scoring defense and reached Super Bowl IV. Lanier had an interception in the game as Kansas City held the Minnesota Vikings to only seven points in a 23-7 victory. Dominant against both the run and pass, Lanier completed his 11 year career with 27 pass interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries.

49. Emlen Tunnell – New York Giants – 9 Pro Bowls; 4 time 1st Team All-Pro: Though not drafted out of college, Tunnell made an immediate impact at defensive back for the New York Giants. He intercepted seven passes as a rookie and 10 during his second season. A key component of the dominant Giants’ defense of the 1950s, Tunnell intercepted at least six passes in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Giants win the NFL Championship in 1956 and then after moving to Green Bay in 1959, helped the Packers win the Championship in 1961.  Tunnell finished his career with 79 interceptions for 1,282 yards and four interceptions. At the time of his retirement, Tunnell was the NFL’s career leader in interceptions and still ranks second all-time. He was the first African American member of the New York Giants and first African American inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

48. Dutch Clark – Detroit Lions – 0 Pro Bowls; 6 time 1st Team All-Pro: A member of the inaugural class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Dutch Clark was a six-time NFL All-Pro and a three-time NFL scoring champion. He rushed for 2,772 yards and passed for 1,501 yards during his career. He also served as a kicker and finished with 369 career points. He scored on a 40-yard touchdown run to help the Detroit Lions win the NFL Championship in 1935.

47. Junior Seau – San Diego Chargers – 12 Pro Bowls; 6 time 1st Team All-Pro: One of the dominant defenders of his era, Junior Seau played 20 years in the NFL and was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection. He recorded more than 1,800 career tackles, 56.5 sacks, 18 interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries. Seau helped the Chargers reach Super Bowl XXIX and was also a member of the New England Patriots team that was 16-0 in 2017 before losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

46. Roger Staubach – Dallas Cowboys – 6 Pro Bowls; 0 time 1st Team All-Pro: Known as “Captain America” during his decade as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to four Super Bowl appearances (won two) and six NFC Championship Games during his career. Famous for his late-game comebacks, Staubach had a career record of 96-35 (74%) as a starter. An elusive runner, he gained 2,264 yards with 20 rushing touchdowns during his career. At the time of his retirement, Staubach was the NFL’s career leader in passer rating.

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