Charles Woodson- best NFL d-back ever?

Submitted by Champeen on September 18th, 2012 at 1:41 PM

*EDIT* the data came from this site.. .. which appeared to be an extremely useful site for filtering data, however, as some below pointed out, it does not appear to be complete.  :(    /*EDIT

2nd all-time in takeaways (Rod Woodson).  2nd all-time in defensive TD's (Darren Sharper).

With 29 forced fumbles, 54 INT's and 12 defensive touchdowns, and still adding to his statistics, he has a strong case.  Here is a list of top 25 takeaways all-time i compiled (note, nearest CB to him is Sanders, 20 full takeaways back)....

name pos team g ffum deftd dintc dsack tot Total
Rod Woodson S OAK 238 20 11 71 13.5 639 91
Charles Woodson CB GB 200 29 12 54 17 904 83
Ronnie Lott S NYJ 192 16 0 63 8.5 106 79
Brian Dawkins S DEN 224 36 3 37 26 1169 73
Darren Sharper S NO 205 9 13 63 7.5 954 72
Eugene Robinson S CAR 250 15 1 57 7.5 616 72
Ed Reed S BAL 145 11 9 58 6 552 69
Aeneas Williams S STL 211 12 10 55 3 657 67
Deion Sanders CB BAL 188 10 7 53 1 276 63
Dre' Bly CB SF 167 20 7 43 5 506 63
Eric Allen CB OAK 217 6 4 54 3 441 60
Ty Law CB DEN 203 7 7 53 5 845 60
Terrell Buckley CB NYJ 205 10 6 50 2 459 60
Troy Vincent S BUF 207 13 3 47 5.5 749 60
Everson Walls CB CLE 186 2 0 57 3 0 59
Darrell Green CB WAS 295 5 4 54 1 430 59
Ronde Barber CB TB 226 15 11 44 28 1174 59
Cris Dishman CB MIN 199 15 4 43 1.5 435 58
Charles Tillman CB CHI 131 28 6 30 3 731 58
Champ Bailey CB DEN 195 7 4 50 3 852 57
Nate Clements CB CIN 166 22 5 35 4.5 777 57
Sammy Knight S NYG 183 13 5 42 9 1057 55
Albert Lewis S OAK 225 13 1 42 12.5 277 55
James Hasty CB OAK 206 8 4 45 10 496 53




September 18th, 2012 at 1:56 PM ^

As exciting as he was to watch return punts and cover WR's, i always label him the most overrated CB because of his inability to tackle.  If all teams passed 100% of the time and Sanders never had to stop the run, then i would agree with you that he is the best ever.

I always liked Kenny Easley and Ronnie Lott because they were excellent at both, not just excellent at one facet.

I think Charles Woodson is equally excellent at both.  Just masterfull at stripping the ball for a DB.  Very physical.

Leaders And Best

September 18th, 2012 at 10:00 PM ^

One of the most underrated defensive statistics, but unfortunately, also one of the most unreliable to compare players historically. According to the NFL, the forced fumble is still an unofficial statistic. Every team started to track it at different times and only started fairly recently like the sack (mid-1980s I think). It still bothers me that fumbles recovered is an official statistic when recovering a fumble is totally random when compared to the skill involved in forcing a fumble.

That being said, Charles Woodson has been one of the best, if not the best, CB at forcing fumbles in his era. The only other CB that is in his league is Charles Tillman. This skill among DBs is seriously undervalued.


September 18th, 2012 at 1:50 PM ^

But tend to agree - it depends on what you need from your CBs.  Wood's a good cover corner, but no one was like Prime Time in that regard.  Then again, watching Deion tackle in run support was always comical.

Nice to see two UM CBs on that list -- been awhile since I thought of UM as a top-line CB-producing program.

Rather be on BA

September 18th, 2012 at 1:51 PM ^

Quite possibly the greatest playmaker at the position (at least top 2-3), hell probably a top 5-10 all time of any position.  However, when it comes to coverage skills and locking someone down I don't think he is in that conversation so much.


September 18th, 2012 at 1:54 PM ^

Man, I love Chuck more than any single Michigan player in history.  But I don't think he can be considered one of the best ever in the NFL.  There was simply too long of a period at the beginning of his career where he was bordering on bust status with the Raiders.  He turned his pro career around in amazing fashion with the Packers, but I don't think you can say best ever when he wasn't even considered above average for a few years. 

Also shocking - Ronnie Lott never scored a defensive TD.  That is crazy. 


September 18th, 2012 at 2:13 PM ^

I don't think he was bordering ever on 'bust'.  He was injured though.  I mean the guy was the defensive rookie of the year, made four straignt Pro-Bowls to start his NFL career and three All-pro years to start his career before the injuries put a damper on his production.  He finally got healthy and moved to Green Bay and has continued as a 30 something year old like he did in his early 20s.  He's been very impressive throughout his career in my opinion.


September 18th, 2012 at 2:24 PM ^

Remember, when GB signed him, they were the only team to offer him a contract.  Largely the result of the various injuries from 2002-2005, but you can't just take out a 4 year chunk in what should be the prime of a guy's career and ignore it.  Being the greatest ever involves luck, and maybe without those injuries he would have been. 

How lucky was Green Bay.  Geesh. 


September 18th, 2012 at 3:42 PM ^

I disagree. Being the best is based solely on talent and production (i.e. taking that talent and putting it to use). The fact that he can "take out a 4 year chuck in what should be the prime of a guy's career" and still be second in many statistical categories makes those feats even more impressive. There's a chance that he is first in some of those categories by the time that he retires, even with that major handicap.

Space Coyote

September 18th, 2012 at 6:42 PM ^

That if he didn't suffer the injuries he did, that he was the best or in the select group at the top. I still think he's a HOF player despite those years though, and is one of the best of all time, but probably not in that top, top tier. He's a physical player and he is slower now because of the injuries, and because of that he gets flagged a ton. Great, versitile DB though, and a HOF in my eyes.


September 18th, 2012 at 1:57 PM ^

 Rod Woodson moved to Safety later in his career. Rod was an awesome corner when he was younger.

 Deon sanders won't ever have the stats of any of the other top corners because QB's just didn't throw it at Deon in his prime. When they did more often than not he made them pay


September 18th, 2012 at 2:02 PM ^

HOF member Dick "Night Train" Lane, played 1952-65, including 6 years with the Lions. Had 68 interceptions in 157 games during an era that saw far fewer passing attempts on average per game.

Brewers Yost

September 19th, 2012 at 10:35 AM ^

That era had fewer passing attempts per game but pass interception rate was much higher.

If you look at the lowest  career pass int% on pro football reference only 2 of the top 108 (lowest int %) played any part of their career before 1975: Roger Staubach and Ken Anderson. Furthermore, 9 of the top 10 are currently active players, Neil O'donnell being the other. The Qb's with the highest int% are mostly players pre-1970s.

Now you could argue fewer passes would artificially skew the int %. So I looked at total career int's.

Out of the top 10 passes intercepted QB's 6 never saw the 80's. Only three: Favre, Testaverde, and Marino played in the 90s or later.

Finally, the last player to throw over 30 int's in a season was Testaverde (35) in 1988*. From 1960-1969 30+ int's were thrown 6 times (Tripucka, Dorow, Blanda (twice), Hart, Hadl). Blanda threw an incredible 42 picks in 1962.

*The data is from most int's thrown in a season so it is possible others threw fewer picks but still had over 30 passes intercepted.

The modernization of the passing game along with rules changes favoring the passing game (contact with receiver) have made interceptions more difficult to come by.






September 18th, 2012 at 2:03 PM ^

Ok, I love Charles Woodson as much as the next guy but I would argue that he isn't even the best "Woodson" to play DB. Rod Woodson was a stud back there, and a HOF'er.

11 Pro Bowls. (Would of been 12 had he not attempted to takle Barry Sanders).


September 18th, 2012 at 2:29 PM ^

I like Woodsons ability to force turnovers more than other corners ability to make you throw it to somebody else due of excellent coverage. Such a high volume of turnovers are so much more valuabe to success (or the other teams failure,) to me, than limiting total passing yards, and 3rd down conversions with great coverage. I also like his ability in blitzing and against the run. He makes the whole defense better.


September 18th, 2012 at 2:27 PM ^

Greenbay wouldn't have won the Super Bowl without Charles Woodson. His ability to cover anyone while still baiting the Qb is amazing. There are very few Db's in the league that can tackle as well too. Definitely in the top 5 defensive backs ever. He's guaranteed to make it into theHall of Fame. Plus who doesn't like hearing recruits wanting to come to U of M because Charles had played here!


September 18th, 2012 at 2:28 PM ^

If you're going to make a case for him being the best ever you need to consider all who have played... and you left a lot of great ones off your list: Paul Krause (all-time interception leader), Emlen Tunnel (second place), Night Train Lane (4th place, great tackler), Dave Brown (also from U-M), Lem Barney, Willie Wood and Herb Adderly (both with the great Packer teams), Yale Lary, Ken Houston, Lester Hayes, Dick LeBeau. All hall-of-famers.

Looks like you just made a list off the top of your head of people who have played in recent years. I agree that Woodson is one of the best ever, but this is not much of an analysis.


September 18th, 2012 at 2:35 PM ^

In his post he said he listed the top 25 in total takeaways. He didn't put up his personal favorites, or just recent names he could remember. This is, he says, the comprehensive list (Forced Fumbles, Interceptions, qb Sacks, and defensive Touchdowns)  by defensive backs.

Brewers Yost

September 19th, 2012 at 10:47 AM ^

His list is flawed, not sure where he got it. However, I think my response to Don regarding Night Train Lane is applicable to many you have listed.

Having said that the real problem is comparing across era's. The game has change and will continue to. All the guys mentioned are great players and HOFers.



September 18th, 2012 at 2:29 PM ^

At CB I think that Rod Woodson, Darrell Green and Night Train Lane are all better.

At S I would rank Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, Ronnie Lott and Dick Labeau higher.

He is a wonderful hybrid player, and I would rate him as an equivalent player to Carnell Lake, who excelled at both positions.

What stands out about Charles is his ability to play physically and cover at the same time, and he has many similarites to Rod Woodson in the way he developed as he aged. Both had to move inside, but both played at a very high level there.

Blue Durham

September 18th, 2012 at 2:30 PM ^

The last one, labeled "Total" is total takeaways (forced fumbles and interceptions).  What is the column left of that labeled "tot"? 

Are there stats for tackles and fumble recoveries as well?



September 18th, 2012 at 3:06 PM ^

When you compare him to someone like Polamalu they make such a big impact, but in different ways.

However, Mr. Football Ohio, All-American, Thope award, Walter Camp award, Bednarik award, Nagurski award, Tatum award, primarily defensive Heisman is ridiculous, National Championship, Defensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive MVP, Pro Bowl, All Pro, and Super Bowl Champ.

It's also extremely hard to compare DB's of the modern era to past DB's.  NFL offenses are thowing wayyy more and outside of bump coverage at the line, you can't touch a WR.


September 18th, 2012 at 2:40 PM ^

but no way.  sorry OP, but your post is poorly researched.


All Time

Ronnie Lott.  Rod Woodson.  Night Train Lane.  Paul Krause.  Darrell Green.

nuff said.


You might be able to make a case for the past 15 years, but Ed Reed, Ronde Barber, and Champ Bailey might have something to say about that.


Chaz's value has come from his extreme versatility.  He's been a corner only in name (even going back to his time at Michigan).  He's been more of a disruptor that anything else.  His coverage skills, while very very good, weren't quite as great as Champ.  Ronde Barber doesn't give up as many big plays.


September 18th, 2012 at 2:56 PM ^

I'd say without a doubt Ronnie Lott, Rod Woodson and Primetime have him beat.  And there may be a few that would probably be an easy win in an argument on the subject (did Jim Thorpe play defensive back?).  However, I think he's a lock for the best still actively playing and he's clearly up there as one of the best of all time.


September 18th, 2012 at 3:14 PM ^

Here are the 23 defensive backs in the Hall Of Fame, for reference:

Herb Adderley,  Lem Barney,  Mel Blount, Willie Brown, Jack Butler, Jack Christiansen, Darrell Green, Mike Haynes, Ken Houston, Jimmy Johnson, Paul Krause, Dick (Night Train) Lane, Yale Lary, Dick LeBeau, Ronnie Lott, Mel Renfro, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Thomas, Emlen Tunnell, Roger Wehrli, Larry Wilson, Willie Wood, Rod Woodson

Nearly all of them have played within the last 45 years or so. Some brief statistics on a few of them, Ronnie Lott has more than 1,000 career tackles, and five seasons of more than 100. As others have mentioned, Paul Krause has 81 career interceptions and eight pro bowls to his credit. Ron Woodson is the all-time leader in interception return yardage at 1,473 yards, with 11 Pro Bowls and a spot on the 1990s all-decade team.

I see Charles Woodson in the Hall Of Fame someday, and I have nothing but fond memories of him at Michigan (his time partially coincided with my undergraduate years). He is probably the most versatile defensive back in the last 20 years, in the vein of Ron Woodson (who literally did it all at Purdue, including time at WR and RB as well), but the greatest of all-time in the NFL? I would have to say that some of the folks in the HoF right now have a better argument, but Charles Woodson will definitely sit among the best, if you care to phrase it that way, particularly in the pass-heavy game of today.