The Drive with Jody Oehler

The Drive with Jody Oehler

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Rank It!: Most Impactful Individual Defensive Players


Aaron Donald just got an extra $40 million dollars for being Aaron Donald.

In an unprecedented move, the Rams didn't give their Super Bowl hero Donald an extension, they just gave him more cash.

And even at 31, he's worth every penny.

Donald is one of the rare NFL defensive players that impacts the game on nearly every snap, in virtually every game he's played in. It doesn't mean he's always the best player on the field but he's always impacting the game.

What other players fit this mold? Who else has consistently disrupted offenses and game plans over an extended period of time in their career?

My only caveat: These are players I have a full memory of watching their entire career. I remember Reggie White's narrative vividly

Let's Rank It!

1. Aaron Donald

  • He's a 3 time Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) and in an era increasingly dominated by offenses and offensive players, Donald rightfully became the highest paid non-QB in NFL history this week.

2. Deion Sanders

  • Deion was something else. Somehow I feel like one of the most audacious athletes ever has become underappreciated over time. He was a good baseball player but an all time great cornerback. Since 1990, only 3 cornerbacks have won a DPOY award and Neon Deion Sanders is one of them. He also swung the Super Bowl in consecutive years: 1994, he joins the 49ers and they win the Super Bowl. In 1995, he joined the Cowboys and they won the Super Bowl.

3. Ray Lewis

  • Lewis is not only one of the least likable NFL players of my lifetime, he was also one of the most aggravating. There was no shortage of coverage of Lewis during his career with a heavy emphasis on his intensity and passion. Then you'd watch the Ravens and there was Lewis living up to every bit of it. Lewis's combination of leadership and production remains one of the NFL's best in the last 30 years.

4. Reggie White

  • The Minister of Defense changed the free agent game and the pass rush game over his career. His 198 career sacks is good for second all time to Bruce Smith.

5. Kevin Greene

  1. Greene is 3rd all time on the NFL sack list. Now maybe it was because of his hair, his style or his moonlighting as a professional wrestler but Kevin Greene sneaks onto my Top 5. Greene played the majority of his career in Los Angeles for the Rams but made his mark with the Steelers, 49ers and Carolina Panthers in the back half of his career.

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