Top 20 Hardest Hitters in NFL History

With another year of NFL in the books, the behemoths of the gridiron have added a new chapter to the NFL's book of devastating hits and ridiculous plays. Many football fans watch the game for its physical aspect, hoping to see a competition involving strong, determined beasts manhandling each other. Due to the intervention of a few bureaucrats in response to some lawsuits however, hitting is nearly illegal in the NFL.

Looking at it honestly, hits occur in American football in the form of a block or a tackle and while it is all well and good to disallow some forms of tackling, these new rules regarding hits to the head and "defenseless" receivers who aren't actually defenseless are causing problems for the watch-ability of the game. It now seems like the refs are paid per flag (especially with the new rules regulating contact with receivers) and hits that used to be known as good entertainment are now enough to have a player publicly shamed. In short, the game is still great, but some rules are hampering the product.

With that said, much like illegal substances, robbery, and bestiality, you can make them illegal, but people will still do it, and that is what is happening with big hits. Players are being fined a few thousand dollars (peanuts) and the hits have kept coming but now they are accompanied by flags and fines. Has the game changed monumentally? No, but what has been gained in player safety (next to nothing) has been viciously stripped from the entertainment value. My moping and complaining aside, however, the game has gone on and the hits, when they happen, are still devastating, and should continue to be. With that in mind, here is a rundown of twenty of the NFL's greatest hitters of all time. Time has been taken to include players from decades past but if your personal favorite is not present, angrily belch his name into the comments section, you mighty Sunday afternoon couch-bound warrior, you!

*All stats taken from

20 Chuck Cecil

19 Brian Urlacher

18 Joe Greene

17 Ronnie Lott

16 Patrick Willis

15 Chuck Bednarik

14 Kam Chancellor

While the entire Seahawks' defensive secondary like to call themselves the Legion of Boom, and they'd still be great without Kam Chancellor, they wouldn't be able to have a name like that. Sherman and Maxwell are good in coverage and Earl Thomas can hit, but Chancellor is a devastating hitter coming out of the secondary.

13 Ray Nitschke

12 Dick Lane

11 Steve Atwater

10 Ryan Clark

9 Andre Waters

8 John Lynch

7 Willie Lanier


6 Ray Lewis

5 Jack Tatum

4 Deacon Jones

3 Lawrence Taylor

2 Jack Lambert

1 Dick Butkus

Dick Butkus is what I imagine we would get if someone genetically combined a gorilla with a rabid pit bull. Ball carriers simply had nowhere to go when Butkus got a hand on them. He was one of those infuriating defenders who just made tackles and was consistently all over the field, mangling quarterbacks, running backs and receivers with brutality and force. Out of his nine years with the Bears, he earned eight Pro Bowl selections. If you want to talk about strength, Dick Butkus was one of those guys who would tackle a blocker and the ball carrier at the same time. In other cases, he'd just stop a play dead by pushing a blocker back into a runner. Like a great football player does, he put his weight and muscle into somebody on every play, and for his incredible career, he is the hardest hitter in NFL history.

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Top 20 Hardest Hitters in NFL History