Best Football Running Backs of All Time
The Top TenXW
Detroit's first-round draft pick, 1989... Electrifying running style... First player to rush for 1,000 yards his first 10 seasons... Led NFL in rushing four times... NFL's MVP, 1997... Gained 2,053 yards including record 14 straight 100-yard games, 1997... Career rushing record: 15,269 yards, 99 TDs... First- or second-team All-NFL each of his 10 seasons... Selected to 10 Pro Bowls.
People often compare Barry Sanders to Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith. While Payton and Smith were great running backs and deserve every bit of recognition they've received, comparing Barry Sanders to these great backs is almost like comparing apples to oranges (perhaps plantains and bananas is more fitting).
Payton and Smith both had offensive lines envied by today's NFL coaches. Sanders did not have a solid offensive line, often had no holes created for him, and, had they counted the number of yards he ran sideways and backwards to avoid defenders, he likely would've topped the 20K yard mark.
Ranked the #1 most elusive back in NFL history. There's a reason coaches and commentators would say, "You couldn't tackle this guy in a phonebooth". What truly makes Barry Sanders the greatest RB of all time though? In my opinion, his display of skills that you can't teach... The keen sense to switch directions on a dime, for example.
Barry Sanders is the best! And always will be... L. T. Is good but he will never be like Payton Or Sanders
Barry didn't have a good offensive line or quarterback and he still amassed over 15000 yards in only ten seasons he is the best in my mindV205 Comments
I have to go with payton. I think everyone on this list has earned a their spot here. Except I don't think peterson should be here quite yet but in a few years adrian peterson will be one of tops for sure. I've seen all of these guys highlights and I don't care what order their in but the top five should be Payton, Sanders, Brown, Smith, and Campbell. I go with payton because he can run, pass, and catch. He was also good man off the field. Who else on this list led their team 15-1. He also suffered from cancer and still went on and played
Easily one of the greatest players to grace the nfl
Amazing! RUSHED FOR SO MANY YARDS HAD CANCER AND LANDED ON HIS HEAD NUMEROUS TIME ALL TIME GREAT ENOUGH SAID! Go walter
Head of the Class In So Many Ways!V133 Comments
He gained more yards in fewer games and season than any other running back, didn't miss a game due in injuries.
In case you haven't noticed Payton was in the nfl longer and only called it quits when he was like 38 - Danmarino4
My older brother told me about Jim Brown. He would carry tacklers down the field with him. He would lift defenders into the air with his driving force. He heard testimony of defensive players who hated to see him coming. It hurt to take him down. To accumulate the stats he did playing on a losing team like he did -- not to mention he played only 12 game seasons if I remember correctly. These things demand him being in the top 10. I also like Sayers and Simpson and Tony Dorsett.
When talking greatest of All time lists like this are born and frequently the names on it are all deserving of some recognition. In this case though it really is rather simple... When Barry Sander's was inducted into the Hall of Fame, even his own Father acknowledged he was no Jim Brown. Jim Brown was the greatest running back of All Time and that is widely held as law among his peers. It would be nice if the average modern fan understood this.
Jim Brown is by far hands down the best running back of all time it took like three people to tackle himV111 Comments
QB's are judged by Superbowl wins and stats, why not running backs? Emmitt's stats far exceed the rest of the backs on this list, he has more superbowls than the rest of this list put together. He may not have had the raw skills of a Barry Sanders or the power of a Jim Brown, what he did possess is all the attributes you look for in a football player intelligence, leadership, durability (only missed 14 games in 15 seasons) the list goes on. There is no need to say anymore, Emmitt is the greatest of all time.
He also had a pro bowl offensive line and not just 1 how many pro bowler did barry run behind on that garbage team he played for year after year s and
Rushed for the most yards, can break tackles, won 3 superbowls, was one of the triplets, and is a florida gator! He is definitely #1!
He has more rushing yards than anybody else
A running back rushes, blocks, and catches passes. No other running back did as often or for as many yards. For what a team signs for a running back position, Emmitt Smith was the best pick of all time. It paid off for the Dallas Cowboys...No better return on an investment! I hate the Cowboys!V62 Comments
He's on pace to break dickersons yardage record In an era where qb's reign supreme. He's going up against teams who are stacking against him because he's the Vikings only threat, and all this after tearing his acl and mcl. He has 1000 yards after contact. He also has a 99 yard TD run, (not this year) his speed in and out of his cuts are unmatched, not to mention his POWER, he's not even done his career yet, in an age where qb's have a short shelf life, he's still getting better. I think when it's all said and done, he'll be the best to ever play the game
1000 rushing yards so quick someone put tape and that boys hands and it'll be the end for every other team as we know it - dissthisnoob
He might not have the best stats. But every season he has 100 yards or more that isn't bad at all. He is very fast strong and talented. With heart that has passion for the game.
So is the bestV76 Comments
Lets see the stats and compare...159 touchdowns and 13404 rushing yards... LT will fly past the great emmit smith in TDs and will run further then barry guaranteed and maybe even walter... Laugh out loud the funny thing is people actually think he as to be constant to reach these goals... He's so close any average human could break them in his situation
I'm pretty sure no one had seen his receiving stats. He has over 1400 yds more than Barry Sanders and well 1200 yds over Emmitt Smith, not to mention his 144 TDs in only 10 seasons. Granted he hadn't finished strong he's last years, but he still putting some yards in. Also, we shouldn't used superbowl rings when comparing positions, because it takes a whole team to win one not just one player, that's more of a Quarter Back's conundrum. I think the list should go Emmitt first, then LT and third Barry. By the way I'm not a Charger's fan; more of a Colts fan, who's hopes had been crushed by the Chargers in the Playoffs more than any other team.
Most touchdowns in a season. First to get 1000 rushing yards and 100 receptions in one season. 8 straight seasons 1000 yards rushing and 50 receptions. Fastest player to score 100 touchdowns. One of only 7 players to rush for, catch, and throw for a touchdown in a single game. Broke 46 year old record for most points scored in a single season (which was held by a kicker). The list goes on and on. Most of all, he declines being on the cover of Madden '08 and calmly and willingly steps down from the limelight to share a roll with a young running back. I don't know how you can get any more humble than that
Always put his needs behind everyone else.V38 Comments
Dickerson's Rookie Rushing season, it the Best ever in the NFL and has stood for 24 seasons. His 2105 Single Season Rushing record has stood for 23 seasons. Jim Taylor held the record for most yards in a season for 1 year. Jim Brown broke it the next season. Brown held that record for 10 Years, until O.J. broke it. 10 years later, Dickerson broke the record. He has held onto it more than twice as long as ANY Single season Rushing record holder has held this mantle. It's time to Place this feat up there with the other hallowed benchmarks in Sports.
The best there was and best there may ever be, his only problem was maybe wanting to much money and complaining about it. And I agree he should have be much higher in the order and for sure ahead of Payton, he was in the same scope of Barry Sanders.
He held a very long record and is a true legend in the game
Eric Dickerson and Jim Brown are bestV18 Comments
Earl is under rated. Understand this is a back who took a week team to the afc championship twice only to loose to the stealers twice a team who had 9 hall of fame players on the same team. 1 Swan. 2 Ham 3 Green 4 Bradshaw 5 Blount 6 Harris 7 Lambert 8 Knoll 9 Webster. Houston had none. Everyone knew he was getting the ball. His 1934 yards in 1980 was done in 14 games not 16. In his 15th game he had 2025 yards rushing he would need one more game 81 more yards if he had the opportunity to hold the single season record.
Earl was the greatest. In case most of you forgot, Walter Payton and Tony Dorsett played in his era and neither could compare to him. He was a beast and a classy player not like todays players. Remember he played the Steel Curtain twice a year and if not for them stacking the line to stop him he would have easily broken the 2000 yard barrier. Great Player and great person, he really made the Oilers although he would never agree because he was the ultimate team player.
Set 'em up and knock 'em down and if they don't go down, then just drag them on down the field!
The greatest ever. I saw him play in person at UT. I have seen another running back like him.V36 Comments
This guy was amazing. He could step buy or run over linebackers. He flew past DBs. At his peak he was so good he was lining up as a reciever. He picked defenses apart and set many records. He was so smart, his coaches used to say he was like having a second quarterback on the field. Super bowl champ, leage mvp, rushing leader,record holder, and probowler,he is a lock for the hall of fame.
Faulk was my favorite of all time, don't get me wrong it doesn't bother me about a few of the names ahead of him, but peterson practically gave away the game in the nfc championship, faulk rarely fumbled, and never in such a clutch moment
is like the best are you kidding me he appears in 2 super bowls he wins one and has such great rushing yards and if you saw ck up americas game he picks up az hakim so tha team can spike it man!
He is super good he is unbelievable and he is just really good especially really good on maddenV13 Comments
O.J. simpson IS one of the TOP 3 running backs of all time along with Jim Brown and Walter Payton. That is not debatable. The rationale behind this is very clear and straight forward if you have an understanding of the evolution of the game and what it meant to run the football in the era of the 60's and 70's. Quite simply O.J. simpson was a world class sprinter that could run between tackles. Look it up people he was on USC's world record setting sprint relay back in the day. World class speed! The NFL HAS not seen another back like him since. He had it all. Size, speed, moves. His only problem as a football player was he played for an organization that was completely in shambles and was inept at complimenting his skill until Lou Saban arrived in Buffalo. Also O.J. played in an era where the NFL was still a developing franchise. This is a whole discussion all by itself. I could write a book on that! But in short it makes a difference in today's game where so much $$ is being spent to make playing condition better and more comfortable for these players over what players had to endure a long time ago.
Most people that watch football today don't realize that they are watching an altered product over what it was back in the 1960's and 1970's. It is not the same game. That is NOT debatable either if you understand the history and evolution of the sport and the NFL. All you need to do is look at the record book and have some understanding of where the game has evolved with its institutions and rules to make it easier, yes, EASIER! For offensives to thrive! This also explains O.J. simpson isn't higher on this list and the names that appear on the top of the list are there because most people who watch today think its all about these bloated stats that have been inflated by the league to keep people who don't really understand the sport interested. Look people, the NFL rules committee met in 1978 with the intent of coming up with ways to make the game more exciting for a fan base that is largely ignorant of the game. They started with what offensive linemen where able to get away with as far as blocking. This forever changed the structure of the game and now offensive linemen could get away with clutching and grabbing their defensive opponents. Quite literally you can call holding on most plays in the NFL today but they don't. The holding penalty is reserved for when they literally tackle or headlock the defender! In the 60's and 70's they were a lot stricter. You couldn't get away with the blocking techniques that are used today without being penalized. The other thing that has changed is ALL of the rules that have to do with passing. What you can and cannot do as a defender to cover receivers has forever altered the game and has inflated a lot of passing and receiving records. Because defenses are so preoccupied with defending against pass plays where receivers and really can't be touched after they are 5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage this has made the art of running the football NOT as difficult as it used to be way back in the day. Had O.J. played in today's offenses with the rules that they have now he would run for 25,000 career yards!
O.J. Simpson not in the Top 10? How can that be? Just so you youngsters can relate --- that's like saying Peyton Manning is not among the top three quarterbacks in football today. I think O.J. was the best running back ever, but I could understand why someone would vote Jim Brown over him. Walter Payton, to me, doesn't come close, and neither does Eric Dickerson. And how did Barry Sanders get to No. 1. Not a chance. - aquaman
Okay, yeah, he supposedly did a few bad things off the field but on the field he was amazing. he deserves the top ten. HE IS IN THE HALL OF FAME. YEAH YOU KNOW THE BIGGEST HONOR EVER FOR AN NFL THAT IS IN CANTON YAH THAT PLACE PUT HIM IN THE TOP TEN HE DESERVES IT
O.J. doesn't belong in the top 10V24 Comments
I've been watching football since 1964 and I've never seen a runner like, or better than Sayers. First he was elusive, so much so that Barry Sanders is the only top back that could compare with him. He broke tackles like no else, he seemed to run through them. And he was fast. In the open field, he was like poetry in motion, a beauty to behold.
Kansas All-America... Exceptional break-away runner... Scored rookie record 22 TDs, 132 points, 1965... Led NFL rushers, 1966, 1969... Named all-time NFL halfback, 1969... All-NFL five straight years... Player of Game in three Pro Bowls... Career totals: 9,435 combined net yards, 4,956 yards rushing, 336 points... NFL lifetime kickoff return leader.
No doubt Sayers should be higher then this. If he had been playing now and his knees could have been repaired more effectively he may have been on top of this list. He was capable of scoring whenever he touched the ball. He accomplished what he did on a team that really wasn't very good. Very hard to find video of him playing which is a shame.
Gayle Sayers is the best to me he is the reason I want to go to the NFLV19 Comments
He said he always wanted to be remembered as the guy who fought to get that extra one or two yards. Mission accomplished.
after 12 years, still finishes with his all time career high rushing touchdowns... he's unstoppable. He never even played running back till the NFL. He didn't dodge cornerbacks, he ran them over. I'd like to say he's humble but he knows he's good but he also knows what a privilege it is to be a role model and inspiration for his city.
He didn't run to the side or dance around, he just plowed you over. He fit the Steelers' style very well. He also did a good job at adjusting as his speed left him with age by running more of a fullback style.
Ran the ball with HEART! Ran over Brian urlacherV13 Comments
Name a RB that combined more power, speed and could hit the hole or beat the defense to the corner more than Bo Jackson? His talent was never seen before him and hasn't been seen since.
It was tragic to lose him to injury before we could see him get even better than he was... - corebare32
Like Bobby Orr, Bo Jackson's career was short but he still established himself as the best the sport may ever witness! Baseball career was equal to football and hall of fame for both careers should be a no brainer.
Most atheletes have trouble excelling in one sport but Bo was different. He played in two and did very well in both football and baseball. So if you are going to talk about excellent atheletes of some kind you have to put Bo somewhere at the top!
Awesome! Also played baseball tooV33 Comments
ok this list is not as retarted as the basketball one but its pretty damn retarted. the 1st 2 are good but number 3 does not earn it yet what happens if he gets hurt. and adrian peterson number 6 its his 2nd year! maybe they could be the greatest but you dont know what could happen to them erick deserves top 7 and jim brown deserves number 3 and larry csonca should be in there he is amazing. and jim brown had the most yards per carry. and my final one gale sayers deserves top 20. and marcus allen should up there to. - fortebros777
Anyone who is a student of football should know Marcus Allen deserves to be top ten. Had the hands of a wide receiver, with incredible break away speed. An unselfish player that would give up his body for a block. He understood it was a team game what other Hall of Fame Player would give up his starting position for half a year to a rookie and throw blocks for that rookie like a seasoned fullback.
I am embarassed for everyone that he is ranked so low. Any student of the game knows he is one of the all-time greats. The fact that he is often overlooked by amateurs making lists is a testament to his humbleness. But if you question his greatness, just look at his accomplishments - they speak for themselves. - chambon
Marcus allen should be 5V14 Comments
This guys the best i mean he has been to 5 pro bowls went to 4 super bowls and is on the bills wall of fame and hes a 2nd round pick(40) this guys the best
32 you got to be kidding this list is officially retarded!
Could do it all. Run, catch, block and shared the ball with other big time players. A team leader as well... Payton hillis? Darren sproles (that's a joke, right? ) tiki barber? Gimme a breakV7 Comments
It is harder to find a more inspirational moment in the game of the football than "the immaculate reception" and the trans formative effect it had on one of the greatest teams in history and on the career of this--certainly one of the top five. Power, speed, attitude, and LUCK. I'd rather be lucky than good--Franco was both.
How is reggie bush, brian westbrook, CJ2K, AP, curtis martin, bo jackson, O.J, marcus allen, tony dorsett, shaun alexander, and terrell davis better than this legendary running back?
3-4 super bowls steelers fan
...because a bunch of morons are picking guy like bush,mcfadden,johnson and so forth.They probably were not around to watch Franco back in the 70's.
Immaculate Reception, though?V10 Comments
The combination of great speed, patience, hole selection and deceptive power. Jack Lambert called him one of the most powerful backs he ever played against. Smart, not to run over everyone and fast enough not to need to run over everyone. Definitely would be in top 10 if he played on different team in his prime that would have featured him.
TONY IS ONE OF THE NFL GREATEST RUNNING BACK HE WAS THE TRUTH HE HAS THE LONGEST RUN FROM SCRIMMAGE IN HISTORY 99 YARDS AGAINST THE VIKINGS ON MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL GIVE TONY HIS PROPS
they never give my cousin his props, so I've been standing up for him since 1978 when my dad and I watched him win s.b. 12! he's one of the top 5 greatest ever!
Very underrated running back should be before Franco HarrisV13 Comments
Too bad he does not get the credit he deserves because he played in denver. Been a lot of backs get 1000 in denver's shanahan years but only one with over 2,000. Davis was scary on the super bowl teams. Elway would get them the lead and td would run out the clock. His play in super bowl 32 is amazing, prob could of set the rushing record if he didn't have to sit out some of the game with that migrane. I really hope he will make the hof someday, elway had no rings till td came to town!
3 year span 1996-1998 - 5,296 total yards! As post season came, Davis' numbers only went up. Rushed for over 100 yards in 7 of his eight post season games including 12 touch downs! On of only 3 running backs to rush for over 1000 yards in his first 7 games of the 1998 season. The other 2 were Jim Brown, ^^ O. J. Simpson who accomplished that feat twice in his career. Long Live TD!
Terrell is by far the best when he played. If you look back at him in tape he had skills that I don't think any other back in the league has possessed. He won a superbowl without eyesight! He played well his whole career and it is not fair he is cut short on the list because of an injury. He was a pure beast.
If he had more seasons TD would be #1 all time in running backs. He is so overlooked.V18 Comments
Curtis Martin, deserves more credit than what people give him. He's one of the great players at his position very consistent, reliable & unselfish...rushing 1000 + yrs for over 10+ seasons.
Curtis Martin, will not be easily replaced.... often greatness is not realized until it moves on.... Todays players will find it very hard to achieve the same consitant level of success...the game has changed...its more about the player than the game these days!
Curtis Martin....What a player. He was drafted in the 3rd round and look where he got. He had 10+ 1000 yard seasons, and probably would've had 11 if he wasn't injured. I'd rate him 4th. Barry #1, Walter #2, Emmit #3, and Curtis #4. He was so consistent, and even at his 10th season, he had his career year.
Curtis Martin was so consistent! I mean, not like 958 yard, 976 yards, I'm talking about 1400, 1300, 1500, 1600, come on, he's the 4th best ever! Give him some credit.
He had the incredible consistency of 10 straight 1000 yard sesasons including 1 rushing title in 2004.V9 Comments
As soon as he stops sharing carries with Fred Taylor Maurice will be dominating defenses. He's extremely fast and he can blow over defenders.
If your gonna put him low in your rankings, at least put him in the 20's or something higher because this is just bullcrap. he is one of the best in today's football I think
You people really don't know what the definition of a great back is, to mention this clowns' name is an insult to the great runners of the past.
Um how did maurice get in the top 25! That is not cool!V5 Comments
Related ListsTop Ten NFL Running Backs of All Time Best Soccer (Football) Players of All Time Greatest College Running Backs Greatest Portuguese Football Players of All Time Most Underrated Football (Soccer) Players of All Time
List StatsUpdated 28 Nov 2015
9 years, 354 days old
Top Remixes (73)
2. Walter Payton
3. Franco Harris
2. O. J. Simpson
3. Gale Sayers
2. Barry Sanders
3. LaDainian Tomlinson
View All 73