It didn't take Bruce Smith long to establish himself as one of the best defenders in the NFL. The former Buffalo Bills first overall pick had double-digit sacks 12 times in his career with the Bills, but he wasn't just a pass rusher. Smith was also strong against the run. Being such a complete player, many believe that Smith is the greatest Bills player of all-time and one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history.
Recently, Gil Brandt of NFL.com included Smith on his list of the 10 best defenders he's ever seen. The senior analyst named Smith as the seventh best defender that he's ever seen.
7) Bruce Smith, defensive end
Buffalo Bills, 1985-1999; Washington Redskins, 2000-03.
Watching Smith in his prime, you knew you were watching a generational pass-rushing talent. He had long arms, quickness and a knack for getting to the quarterback, plus the agility to keep his man from making him miss. His pass-rush skills were really off the charts. I remember watching him destroy future Chiefs offensive lineman Brian Jozwiak -- a first-round pick in 1986 -- in an October, 1983 matchup between Smith's Virginia Tech Hokies and Jozwiak's Mountaineers in Morgantown, West Virginia. Smith didn't play well as a rookie, but, of course, that wound up being just a speed bump in a special career. After all, he remains the all-time leader in sacks with 200.0 despite spending most of his NFL tenure in a 3-4 defense, which is not great for a pass rusher.
Smith is the only Bills player to make Brandt's list, but current assistant defensive backs coach Ed Reed also made the cut. Reed was ninth on Brandt's list.
9) Ed Reed, defensive back
Baltimore Ravens, 2002-2012; Houston Texans, 2013; New York Jets, 2013.
The key to Reed's success was his outstanding ball skills, which -- along with his film-study habits -- helped him collect 64 picks for an NFL-record 1,590 return yards. A great example of this was in a 2008 wild-card playoff game against Miami. Recognizing a formation that the Dolphins had run only twice before that season, Reed left the defense that was called, freelancing, and came up with a key interception -- one of two in that game. His hands really stood out; they were even better than most people thought. Defensive backs are often converted receivers who couldn't catch, but Reed had the hands of a wideout. He wasn't the fastest or most talented, but he made himself into a great performer.null