It's easy to understand where Taylor, of all people, is coming from. After all, Watt joined the Giants legend this past season as the only other guy to win Defensive Player of the Year three times. Taylor's praise inspired the Powers That Be at NFL Media to ask if Watt would make the top 10 defensive players of all time already.
No. Hasn't played long enough. (Or else Terrell Davis would've been a first-ballot Hall of Famer at running back.)
However, I did promise to deliver 10 players I would put above Watt. As you will see below, these guys are NFL royalty, and cover every position on defense. Let me know your position on these selections: @HarrisonNFL is the place.
10) Deion Sanders, cornerback
Perhaps the greatest cover corner to ever play the game, Deion "Prime Time" Sanders edges out Dick "Night Train" Lane for this spot. You could flip a coin on those two, as Lane was a better tackler and ballhawk, whereas quarterbacks avoided Sanders entirely. What puts the latter on this list is the instant offense he provided when he got his hands on the ball. See: His 19 return touchdowns, which was the NFL record until Devin Hester broke it in 2014. That's 19 scores off kicks, punts, interceptions and fumbles.
9) Ed Reed, safety
Surprised? Don't be. Ed Reed was the best player on the Ravens in the 2000s. Bill Belichick has always waxed poetic about the playmaker, once telling him in the postgame, according to the New York Times, "You're the best free safety that has ever played this game that I've seen. You're awesome." The five-time first-team All-Pro could play the pass and run almost equally well, but his 64 interceptions -- in this era of dinks and dunks and none-yard outs -- is remarkable. Quarterbacks simply don't want to take downfield risks in the modern game. Thus, Reed often had to bait them into doing so. Moreover, he and Everson Walls (a former Belichick player with the Giants) are the only players to lead the league in interceptions three times.
8) Rod Woodson, cornerback/safety
It says something about Woodson that he made the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994 despite having only completed seven seasons in the league. What elevates Woodson over Sanders and Reed? His ability to play both corner and safety at a high level, as well as his longevity (17 seasons). Like Prime Time, Woodson could score from anywhere on the field, with 17 return touchdowns during his Hall of Fame career.
7) Mean Joe Greene, defensive tackle
You knew someone from the famed "Steel Curtain" defenses of the 1970s would make this list. The product of North Texas State -- your humble writer's alma mater -- went from a small college program to the worst franchise in pro football. Yet his indelible will and talent pushed Pittsburgh from being pushed around at 1-13 to the playoffs three years later ... and the best defense in the league two years after that ... to the best defense in NFL history two years after that. (Look up the 1976 Steelers. Unreal.) Greene, like Woodson, is a member of the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team.
6) Dick Butkus, middle linebacker
The man who defined the middle linebacker position narrowly edges out Ray Lewis and Chuck Bednarik for a spot on this list. Butkus only played nine years, but those nine years are still spoken about from players of the era. Before bad knees wrecked his career, Butkus could move sideline to sideline, get depth and, of course, knock the living crud out of an opponent. He made the Pro Bowl in each of his first eight seasons. That's back when the NFL's all-star game actually meant something.
5) Deacon Jones, defensive end
The greatest pure pass rusher who ever lived. Sacks were not an official stat when Jones played, but all you have to do is watch, oh, two or three minutes of NFL Films footage to come to that determination yourself. He coined the term "sack." He became so masterful at the headslap move that the NFL eventually banned it. Pro Football Weekly once reported that Jones posted 173.5 sacks, despite playing before the onset of the 16-game season. According to that publication, from 1964 to '68, he racked up 20.5 sacks per season.
4) Ronnie Lott, cornerback/safety
Any player who can make first-team All-Pro as a rookie is generally destined to produce a legendary career. Lott certainly can claim that -- and then some. He went to the Pro Bowl his first four seasons as a cornerback. Then, after switching to safety full time, Lott found himself in Honolulu another six years in a row. Perhaps it's worth mentioning that he won four Super Bowl rings while with the 49ers. Lott is considered the hardest hitter among defensive backs in NFL history. The man could literally change the tenor of a game with one thunderous collision.
3) Bob Lilly, defensive end/defensive tackle
Lilly was as good as any player on the football field any time he suited up in his prime. Forget that, immediately after he was moved inside to defensive tackle, Lilly was named first-team All-Pro seven times from 1964 through 1971. Or that he authored the most famous sack in Super Bowl history. Lilly, according to his peers (like Deacon Jones), was simply unblockable. His Hall of Fame coach said he was as fine a player as he ever saw. Tom Landry benefitted from Lilly's quickness and ability to disrupt blocking schemes for 14 seasons. Bill Walsh once told The Sporting News that Lilly was the third-best football player he ever saw. Enough said.
2) Reggie White, defensive end/defensive tackle
If it weren't for one of his opponents in the NFC East, White would stand atop this list. He could dominate from outside or inside the defensive line. The NFC boasted approximately 10 Pro Bowl-caliber defensive ends when White entered the league in 1985 (following a stint in the USFL), thus his 13 sacks in 13 games were barely noticed. However, his production from 1986 through '88 is the best three-year run any pass rusher in the Super Bowl era has ever put together: 57 sacks in 44 games (with the strike-shortened '87 season). White made first-team All-Pro those three seasons, as well as the next three after that. Then he received that honor twice more with the Packers, whom he helped win one Super Bowl and make another.
1) Lawrence Taylor, outside linebacker
Lawrence Taylor -- not J.J. Watt, or anybody else, for that matter -- remains the baddest mother we've seen. He was named Defensive Player of the Year in each of his first two seasons, partially because no one knew how to block him. The "down" year of his prime came in 1983, when injuries forced him to play inside linebacker. After that, "LT" produced seven straight campaigns of double-digit sacks -- despite playing hurt, getting suspended and having coaches like Joe Gibbs alter their entire game plan to get him blocked. Taylor's best year came in 1986, when he posted 20.5 sacks and helped the Giants win their first Super Bowl. He also took home league MVP honors -- the last defensive player to do so.