Best Football Running Backs of All Time

The Top Ten

1 Barry Sanders Barry Sanders is a former American football running back who spent his entire professional career with the Detroit Lions of the National Football League.

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 Sanders is easily the best ever. Only he and Jim brown had a full career average of 5.0 ypc lifetime. Barry ran for 19 yards in his first every carry in his long career. If he had played for a team with an offensive line he would have no doubt ran for multiple 2000 yard seasons and probably have 1 or 2 close to 3000. He crated his own holes, got out of more situations than I can think of, he was more exciting to watch lose 3 yards than watching most great backs run forward for 70. Most electrifying, and yet with his greatness was by far the most humble I have ever seen. No TD celebrations, never. He could have had more records but he didn't care for records at all. He had 4 years left when he walked away, he would have had 20,000 yards for his career if he hadn't left as he was still in prime condition.

2 Walter Payton Walter Jerry Payton was an American football running back who played for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League for thirteen seasons.

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


"Sweetness", was incredible. He was the most versatile running back who walked on the field. He could run over defenders, at the same time scamper out of their way, and he had the best stiff arm in the business. As coach Mike Ditka once said, "Walter could play any position. " and he meant it. He block as well as any offensive lineman in the game, he hit harder than a ton of bricks, he could throw with as much touch as any quarterback in the game, and he could catch anything thrown at him. But, he most known for something he did in when the bears were about a yard out of the end zone. He would leap over all of his offensive and defensive linemen into the end zone. He truly displayed a never say die attitude.

3 Jim Brown James Nathaniel Brown is a former professional American football player and actor. He was a running back for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League from 1957 through 1965.

As with many of these lists, there are flaws but I have seen much worse. Here are my top 10 RB's of all time based on not only numbers but raw talent:

1. Jim Brown-he was the ultimate weapon at RB.
2. Walter Payton-wasn't called Sweetness for nothing.
3. Barry Sanders-he's not number 1 but he's close.
4.O.J. Simpson-list not based on personal character or morality.
5. Gale Sayers-kind of like the Barry Sanders of the 1960's.
6. Bo Jackson-based on his talent.
7. Emmitt Smith-now with RBBC, his record could be untouchable.
8. LaDanian Tomlinson-28 TD's in 06' could also stand for a long time.
9. Eric Dickerson-had 3 seasons of +1,800 yards rushing.
10. Adrian Peterson-could easily finish in the Top 5 for yards rushing if he can get his personal life straightened out.

Next in line: Franco Harris, Earl Campbell, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin, Tony Dorsett, Jerome Bettis, and Marcus Allen.

As good as Barry Sanders was, Jim Brown is head and ...more

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.

4 Emmitt Smith Emmitt James Smith III is a former college and professional American football running back who became the National Football League's all-time leading rusher during his fifteen seasons in the league during the 1990s and 2000s.

I'm a huge cowboys fan so Emmitt Smith should be in the top 5 at least.

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

He has more rushing yards than anybody else

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!

5 Adrian Peterson Adrian Lewis Peterson is an American football running back who originally played for the Minnesota Vikings and currently plays for the Washington Redskins of the National Football League.

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

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.

Equally capable of running away from defenses or powering it in from short distance. He won't have the career of Smith or Payton due to durability, but Peterson is faster and more powerful than both. Campbell was more powerful but not as fast. Sanders was more elusive, but had less speed and power. I'm too young to have seen Jim Brown, so he's disqualified. Peterson is the best pure runner ever, but probably won't have the durability to have the best career.

6 LaDainian Tomlinson LaDainian Tramayne Tomlinson is a former professional American football player who was a running back in the National Football League for eleven seasons.

one of the recivieving backs of all time, fast, agile, shifty and most touchdowns in a season non-qb

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

Fast, Agile, Smart, Strong, Breaks tackles like the tackler is a QB, catches and runs like a WR. Never doubt LT, to come up big.

7 Eric Dickerson Eric Demetric Dickerson is a former college and professional American football player who was a running back in the National Football League for eleven seasons during the 1980s and 1990s.

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

I live near Detroit and I am a Barry Sanders fan... However, I admit Dickerson was by far the best back I ever saw. He was the only player ever to never be in the players union - and never got blocking of any kind as a result. Watch his films - there is no close second, not even Sanders.

8 Marshall Faulk Marshall William Faulk is a former college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League for twelve seasons.

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!

Marshall Faulk is the greatest receiving back of all time. He has more catches and receiving yards than any other running back. The second player to have 1, 000 yards rushing and receiving in one season.

9 Earl Campbell Earl Christian Campbell is a former American football running back who played professionally in the National Football League for the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints.

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!

Campbell didn't jump out of defenders' way, he jumped into it. I loved how he just dragged the defenders with him. If you were to try to tackle him, you're the guy who the announcer is gonna say "we got an injury on the field". He's not your scaredy cat running back. He's like a bull in a China shop. If he goes down, he's gonna make sure you go down with him. In my opinion he should be #1. Remember, he had a generic back disease

10 O. J. Simpson

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 ...more

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.

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

haha wow what a list Adrian "I fumble" Peterson a bit early guys come on. LT love him but number four. OJ's not my number one but wow 12 behind Jerome Bettis as well sick... what is this kids 10-15 years old on here

The Contenders

11 Gale Sayers Gale Eugene Sayers, also known as "The Kansas Comet", is a former American college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League for seven seasons during the 1960s and early 1970s.

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.

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.

I grew up watching all of these players.
I'm 62 closer to 63 and as much as I loved Walter's
Style and Jim Brown's arm chop, nobody and I mean that, nobody had
The style and grace, of Gale Sayers!
He was the best, just as Michael Jordan!
There will never be another!
Sayers was the best!

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.

12 Bo Jackson Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson is a former baseball and American football player. He is the only athlete in history to be named an All-Star in both baseball and football, and one of few to do so in two major sports.

He played football and baseball if he didn't dislocate his hip he would be the best

Bo jackson was the best running back of all time if he stayed healthy and played for a better team he would be the best running back he was the strongest and the best forget payton and peterson peterson not even close to the best running back marshall faulk is better than him but I'm writing about bo and bo is the best running back that ever lived period.

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!

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...

13 Jerome Bettis

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.



14 Franco Harris Franco Harris is a former American football player. He played his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks. In the 1972 NFL Draft he was picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round, the 13th selection overall.

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.

really? Brian westbrook and chris johnson ahead of Franco harris I say he should be in the top ten

15 Marcus Allen

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.

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.

This is the most overrated of the so-called "great backs" its not even funny. I don't even know where to start on this guy. let me start by saying I'm a big fan of Allen, but he doesn't belong on this list nor should he be in the Hall. Yeah he had a good Rookie season a Great Super Bowl and a great 85 season but that's it. After 86 he played 10 more seasons and didn't do anything, Hell he went about 5 years without any 100
Yard games. He was also great out of the backfield but Please would you all look up his stats, 3 1000 yards seasons in a 16 year career is a joke.

16 Thurman Thomas

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!

His really close to O.J very good player.

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 break

17 Frank Gore Franklin Delano Gore is an American football running back for the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League.

not a big play back not sure why he's so high, the stats and being top 5 rushing yards, but not a first team all-pro caliber back.

lead the team in receptions last year and may very well lead the team this year and rushed for 1000 2 of his first 3 years in the league only played in 7 games his rookie year and led the team in rushing beat that

He can do it all, run, block, pass. No back in the league can compare to Frank the Tank. The inconvenient truth.

For his run with the 49ers absolutely, but now his with the colts and his really not doing much time to retire.

18 Stephen Jackson

This guy should not be on this list

Top 30 in the nfl and is in the NBA

Sjax is 100000x better than moreno this list is shot

^^ he's a football player also stupid

19 Curtis Martin

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.

curtis martin should be number 8 because he shows power speed and agility. He is also very realiable and doesnt get hurt.

20 Knowshon Moreno

How the hell did moreno get this high up is this a joke

Underrated the guy could run very well if he was healthy.

He's a bust he's not even in the top 50

21 Ahmad Bradshaw

Had his up's but now his at his decline stage in which he really sucks bump him down the list.

Were is jim taylor not in top 25 what a joke

Ahmad Bradshaw is better then whoever is at the top of this daggone list go Giants.

22 Marshawn Lynch Marshawn Terrell Lynch is an American football running back for the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League. He previously played for the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks, winning one Super Bowl in Seattle. Lynch initially retired from professional football in 2016, but returned in 2017 to more.

He is the best he can break many tackles he jumped over three guys for a touchdown how is that possible this guy is amazing he should be on the Seahawks he is the best why isn't he number 1? He can run to the end zone easily any man before him is a lie he can catch a pass and juke people if the juke doesn't work he will break that stupid tackle. I've seen him in a live game he made it to the super bowl 2 times. People have avoided to tackle him, he even hurt someone getting tackle that is a lol. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS ALWAYS WIN CAUSE OF HIM!

I think lynch should be 2nd because I have seen him run over players

I've seen defenders avoid tackling Marshawn Lynch. Coaches tell their players to swarm him, jump on the pile, because it takes more then one or two or even three guys to bring him down. Oh yeah he can catch a pass and make cuts too!

Best running back in his era in big games. Plays better against the best. Seahawks would have won back to back super bowls had they chosen to hand the ball off to the beast. He belongs in the Hall of Fame.

23 Ray Rice Raymell Mourice Rice (born January 22, 1987) is a former American football running back who played his entire professional career with the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for Rutgers and was drafted by the Ravens in the second round of the 2008 NFL more.

This right here is an example of how stupid people are. Ray rice lesean mccoy Michael turner maurice jones drew etc are much better than peyton hills and darren sproles.

No comment he is the worst running back ever! Amen done

Going to to beat my wife in a elevator oh too soon!

Did you watch football in 2013

24 Darren Sproles Darren Lee Sproles is an American football running back for the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League.

He is fast and a great receiver which he was a little bigger he is only 5'7

Single season total yards record PERIOD

He got swag
he is smart
he is fast
he is big
he is black
he has drew brees as QB
he is hella fast
has 700+ reception yards with 9 Tds
averages 6.9 yards per carry
so he is the best rb of all time.
he is in top 100

Darren sproles is one of the running backs on earth

25 Christian Okoye

Best short yardage running back ever! Guaranteed 2-3 yards with every touch. Unstoppable!

He is this low because of Steve Atwater, who did tried to tackle him head on and laid him out. He retired soon after as a result of that blow.

big dude dig heart runs people ever. Best ever period.

The Nigerian Nightmare! If you tried to tackle this guy head on he would level you. How is he this low on this list?

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