Although the passing game dominates today’s NFL, there was a time when running backs ruled the field.
Running backs have grown into much more than Jim Brown’s bulldozing approach over the years. Others ran with grace and elusiveness, while others became Swiss Army knives for offenses, displaying the ability to be a running and receiving danger out of the backfield, as we see in today’s game. The five most OK NFL running backs of examing all the time.
Adrian Peterson, No. 5
With a solid 15-year career and more, the 36-year-longevity old’s has been amazing, but he remains unsigned heading into 2021 training camp. He’s a seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro who has led the league in the running three times and scored two rushing touchdowns.
He was the MVP in 2012, a rare feat for a running back in the modern game, with 2,097 yards on the ground, nine yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season record. He accomplished it after recovering from an ACL tear the year before. With 118 rushing touchdowns, Peterson is fourth all-time in rushing touchdowns and seventh all-time in rushing yards.
Emmitt Smith No. 4
He has the most rushing yards (18,355) and rushing touchdowns (164) in NFL history; the former may not surpass. He’s a three-time Super Bowl champion, an eight-time Pro Bowler, and a four-time All-Pro selection.
In 1993, Smith won the MVP award, but it wasn’t even his most excellent season. That happened in 1995, when he set a career-high with 1,773 running yards and 25 rushing touchdowns, surpassing John Riggins’ previous mark.
Walter Payton, No. 3
One could argue that Walter Payton is the rightful winner. He indeed has a compelling case to present. The Hall of Fame rushing back, sometimes known as “Sweetness,” is one of the most prolific runners in NFL history. In his 13-year career, he was a nine-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro. He was the league’s MVP in 1977, with 1,852 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns to go along with 2,121 yards from scrimmage.
He shattered Jim Brown’s record for all-time rushing yards and held it until 2002 when Emmitt Smith passed him. He has the fifth-most rushing touchdowns in NFL history and the third-most all-purpose yards.
- Senator Barry Sanders
There’s a strong case that Barry Sanders, like Payton, belongs at the top of this list. The Hall of Fame is rushing back about as one of the most explosive rushers in NFL history. He was a 10-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro in his 10-year career, leading the league in rushing yards four times.
In 1997, Sanders was named MVP after rushing for 2,053 yards and 11 touchdowns, the fourth-best single-season total in NFL history. Even in his “worst” statistical season (in 1993), he carried for 1,115 yards and missed five games. Sanders, who retired at the age of 30, was also in his heyday, yet he still ranks fourth in rushing yards.
Jim Brown is number one.
Jim Brown starred in an era when the running game was king, and he was unrivaled. He is, in fact, one of the top five best football players of all time. Brown controlled the game like no one else, leading the league in rushing in eight of his nine seasons and scoring touchdowns in five. In all nine of his seasons, he was a three-time MVP, a Pro Bowler, and an All-Pro.
The last time the Browns won a championship was in 1964 when Brown rushed for 114 yards on 27 carries to lead Cleveland to victory. He, like Sanders, would have gone on to have even more amazing seasons and career totals if he hadn’t quit at the age of 29.
Who do you think is the best running back of all time?
The top five best NFL running backs of all time are listed above.