The greatest New York Giants of all time

Established in 1925, the New York Giants are one of the oldest franchises in NFL history. They’ve sent 32 individuals to the Hall of Fame in their rich history. Many of them are on this list. Let’s take a look at the best players to play in The Big Apple.

This list was created by measuring each player’s Approximate Value, a Pro Football Reference statistic that’s used to “put a single number on the seasonal value of a player at any position from any year,” according to their website. Awards, stats and records were also considered. Let’s get to it! 


Green Bay Press-Gazette Film / USA TODAY NETWORK

The greatest defensive player of all time, Taylor was drafted with the second overall pick in the 1981 NFL Draft. The outside linebacker could do it all: stop the run, play coverage and get to the quarterback. He’s the last defensive player to win NFL MVP. Overall, he won three Defensive Player of the Year awards, was the Defensive Rookie of the Year and led the Giants to two Super Bowl victories (1986, 1990). 


Eli Manning (AV: 169)

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Manning was born into a football family. His older brother is Peyton and his father is Archie. He was drafted first overall by the San Diego Chargers but refused to play for the team and was traded to New York in exchange for Philip Rivers. A member of the legendary 2004 quarterback draft class, Manning is a four-time Pro Bowler and was named Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2016. He famously beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots twice in the Super Bowl. The David Tyree helmet catch will live on in NFL history forever. 


Michael Strahan (AV: 161)

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Strahan was part of several scary defenses in the 2000s. In 2001, he set the record for most sacks in a season with 22.5 sacks, winning Defensive Player of the Year. He helped the Giants beat the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. The Giants sacked Brady five times in the greatest upset in football history, with Strahan claiming one sack. Since retiring as a Super Bowl champion, Strahan has kept himself busy as a football analyst on FOX Sports.


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4. Harry Carson (AV: 126)

Harry Carson (AV: 126)

Carson (53) bracing for impact against Washington (1978).
Tony Tomsic-USA TODAY Sports

The Hall of Fame linebacker flourished in defensive coordinator Bill Belichick’s 3-4 defense. The longtime Giant went to nine Pro Bowls and was a member of the Big Blue Wrecking Crew defense the dominated the NFL in the ’80s. He helped the Giants win their first Super Bowl in 1986 and then retired two years later.


Tiki Barber (AV: 122)

Lou Capozzola-USA TODAY Sports

Barber is the Giants’ all-time leading rusher, with 10,449 rushing yards to his name. He was the Giants star running back under the bright lights of New York. In the prime of his career, Barber rushed for 1,000 yards or more in five seasons in a row. He retired with a lot left in the tank at 31 years old. A year later, the Giants won the Super Bowl.  


Phil Simms (AV: 118)

Herb Weitman-USA TODAY Sports

Simms was the Giants’ first-round pick in 1979. The small-school quarterback out of Morehead State struggled out of the gate, but his luck changed when head coach Bill Parcells arrived. The gunslinger led the Giants to their first Super Bowl in 1986 and was named Super Bowl MVP. The Giants also won in 1990 when Simms was injured and backup Jeff Hostetler sealed the deal. The underrated quarterback has had a great second act as an announcer.


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7. Keith Hamilton (AV: 90)

Keith Hamilton (AV: 90)

Hamilton (75) making a tackle against the New Orleans Saints (2001).
Lou Capozzola-USA TODAY Sports

Hamilton spent his entire career with the Giants. The hometown kid from North Jersey was nicknamed Hammer because of his tough playing style. The hard-nosed defensive tackle finished his career with 545 tackles and 63 sacks. 


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8. Chris Snee (AV: 90)

Chris Snee (AV: 90)

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Snee played 10 seasons with the Giants. He only got better with age, as all of his Pro Bowl selections were earned after the age of 25. He was a durable guard who blocked for two Super Bowls, both against the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick Patriots. 


Amani Toomer (AV: 88)

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants all-time leading receiver‘ was Eli Manning’s most reliable target. The University of Michigan alum was the Giants’ best receiving threat during their improbable Super Bowl run in 2007. When Toomer retired, he was inducted into the New York Giants Ring of Honor.


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10. Greg Larson (AV: 86)

Greg Larson (AV: 86)

Larson (75) gives chase to Cleveland’s Jim Brown (32)
Bettman/Getty Images

Larson was as durable as they come at the center position. He only missed three games in his 13-year career, all with the Giants. His best season was in 1968 when he made the Pro Bowl. He played until he was 34 years old, a rarity for centers of his era. 


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11. David Diehl (AV: 84)

David Diehl (AV: 84)

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Diehl was a versatile offensive lineman that played left tackle, left guard, right guard and right tackle throughout different stages of his career. Regardless of how many positions Diehl played, he had one job: make sure no one hits Eli Manning. In the end, the Giants won two Super Bowls during his time as Manning’s bodyguard. Mission accomplished.


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12. Brad Van Pelt (AV: 84)

Brad Van Pelt (AV: 84)

Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Van Pelt was taller than most linebackers of his era at 6-foot-5. He was the franchise’s best player during their long rebuild in the ’70s, in which the Giants made the playoffs once in his 11 years with the team. Still, he was a good player on a bad team and went to the Pro Bowl five times.


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13. Jessie Armstead (AV: 82)

Jessie Armstead (AV: 82)

Lou Capozzola-USA TODAY Sports

Armstead made the Pro Bowl in five of his nine seasons with the Giants. He helped get them to Super Bowl XXXV, where they were outmatched by the Baltimore Ravens, 34-7. A mainstay on the Giants’ defense, he made a habit out of getting 100 tackles or more every season. He finished his career with 971 tackles and 40 sacks.


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14. Bart Oates (AV: 79)

Bart Oates (AV: 79)

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Oates was the Giants’ starting center during the best era in franchise history. He was the foreman of an offensive line that muscled its way to two Super Bowl victories (1986, 1990). Oates ended up leaving the Giants and signing with the San Francisco 49ers, where he used his veteran experience to lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl win in 1994.


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15. Jim Katcavage (AV: 78)

Jim Katcavage (AV: 78)

Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Katcavage played for the Giants from 1956-1968. This makes him one of the oldest players on this list. The defensive end won the 1956 NFL Championship with the Giants as a rookie. He went to three Pro Bowls over the course of his career.


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16. Leonard Marshall (AV: 78)

Leonard Marshall (AV: 78)

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall was the starting defensive end of the Big Blue Wrecking Crew days. He’s one of the only players to be part of both Super Bowl victories in 1986 and 1990. He’s notorious for his hit on Joe Montana in the 1990 NFC Championship Game. The hit sidelined Montana for two years and was his last game as a 49er.


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17. George Martin (AV: 75)

George Martin (AV: 75)

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

No, not the George Martin that wrote “Game of Thrones.” Martin was a beast on the Giants’ defensive line back in their heyday of the ’80s. He played a key role in their first Super Bowl victory in 1986. 


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18. Joe Morrison (AV: 75)

Joe Morrison (AV: 75)

Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Morrison was the Giants’ running back from 1959-1972. He was nicknamed Old Dependable because he played whatever position his coach needed him to. He played running back, fullback and flanker. He was their best offensive weapon in several rough seasons. `The Giants won one game in 1966. His jersey number (40) is retired by the Giants.


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19. Fran Tarkenton (AV: 75)

Fran Tarkenton (AV: 75)

Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

The Hall of Fame quarterback is known for leading the Minnesota Vikings to three Super Bowls, all losses. But in 1967, he was traded to the Giants and spent five seasons in the Big Apple. He was a running quarterback who could scramble to get out of trouble. His playing style was similar to Russell Wilson in his prime with the Seattle Seahawks. Eventually, Tarkenton was traded back to the Vikings in 1972.


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20. Brian Kelley (AV: 71)

Brian Kelley (AV: 71)

Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley played 10 seasons with the Giants. He was a proud member of the Crunch Bunch defense, one of the greatest linebacker corps ever assembled, which featured Kelley, Brad Van Pelt, Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson. It’s a shame Kelley never won a Super Bowl. He retired three years before the Giants won their first ring. 


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21. William Roberts (AV: 69)

William Roberts (AV: 69)

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive guard paved the way for two Super Bowl victories during his time with the Giants and was a favorite of Bill Parcells. When Parcells took the head-coaching job in New England, Roberts signed with the team and helped them get to Super Bowl XXXI, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers.


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22. Doug Van Horn (AV: 69)

Doug Van Horn (AV: 69)

Herb Weitman-USA TODAY Sports

Van Horn was the definition of reliable. The offensive lineman started in 153 games for the G-Men during the ’70s. Overall, he spent 12 seasons with the Giants.


Justin Tuck (AV: 67)

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

If Tuck was known for one thing, it was sacking Tom Brady in the Super Bowl (as seen in the above picture). He sacked Brady twice in both Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI, taking down the legendary QB four times in the Big Game. In general, the two-time Pro Bowler was a quarterback’s worst nightmare. He also had a cool sack celebration and facemask. 


Osi Umenyiora (AV: 66)

Doug Benc-Staff-Getty Images

Umenyiora was part of the menacing defensive line that won two Super Bowls in four years against the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick Patriots. Without Umenyiora putting pressure on Brady, who knows if the Giants come out on top in those games. The two-time Pro Bowler led the league in forced fumbles in 2007 with 10. His best individual performance was when he had six sacks against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007. 


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25. Carl Banks (AV: 64)

Carl Banks (AV: 64)

Bob Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Banks was the Giants’ starting outside linebacker alongside Lawrence Taylor in the ’80s. This feared linebacker corps helped the Giants win two Super Bowls. His best season was in 1987 when he made his only Pro Bowl. In Super Bowl XXI, Banks recorded a team-leading nine tackles. He’s a member of the 1980s All-Decade Team.  

David J. Hunt is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. He ran cross country at Penn State, became a volunteer firefighter during COVID-19, and is a self taught journalist. He’s a diehard Philly sports fan. When he isn’t watching sports, he enjoys working out, fishing, and traveling. You can find more of his writing at The Chestnut Hill Local and The Temple News. You can follow him on Twitter at @dave_hunt44.

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