The Dopest 10 Running Backs of All-TimeJuly 1, 2012
by: CJ Oates
Vision. Speed. Quickness. Power. Balance. Blocking. Durability. These are characteristics that come to mind when people ask what makes a running back successful. After LaDainian Tomlinson’s (my favorite running back) retirement from the game, I have decided to make a list of the dopest 10 backs of all-time. I know there are many debates on who the greatest is and how do you rank the guys. No matter where you want to put these guys at the end of the day, these are the dopest 10 running backs of all-time.
● Edgerrin James
● Marcus Allen
● Tony Dorsett
● Earl Campbell
● Bo Jackson
10) Curtis Martin
Led AFC in rushing as rookie … Second player in NFL history to start career with 10 straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Led his team in rushing every season… Rushed for career-high 1,697 yards, won NFL rushing title, 2004. Retired as NFL’s fourth all-time leading rusher (14,101). Scored 90 rushing, 10 receiving TDs. Combined net yards of 17,421 was 10th all-time
Curtis “My Favorite” Martin has not received a lot of credit when it comes to talking about the top backs to ever play even though he is top 5 rushing yards of all time. In the first ten years of his career, Martin never finished with less than 1,094 rushing yards in a single season. Martin was a well-rounded and extremely durable running back. In fact, he only missed four games in that span of 10 seasons while accumulating 16,000 total yards. Curtis had the best fumble rate of any player with 1,500 carries ever: 0.82%. He was never the biggest, quickest, nor fastest player. He was just a great all-around player.
9) O.J. Simpson
Career highlighted by 2,003 yards rushing, 1973. Unanimous All-Pro, topped 1,000 yards rushing, 1972-1976. Won four NFL rushing titles. Career record: 11,236 yards rushing, 203 receptions, 990 yards kickoff returns, 14,368 combined net yards. In 1969 AFL All-Star game, five Pro Bowls. 1973 Pro Bowl Player of the Game.
Don’t let his post-NFL career get in the way of what he did on the field. OJ wasn’t known as the “Juice” when he first entered into the NFL. He played 11 seasons in the NFL, but looking at his stats you would have thought he took the first few seasons off. Man did he make those middle years of his career count though. Simpson had three seasons where he rushed for 1,500-plus yards. His best season, when he ran for 2,003 yards. The thing about that season was that rushing yard total was accomplished in a 14-game season. Simpson averaged a career-best 143.1 rushing yards a game, which ranks as the highest single season total ever. For his career, he averaged a great 4.7 yards per attempt. Simpson’s career totals would have been even greater had he been used properly sooner in his career.
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.
The biggest “what if” player ever, even over Barry Sanders. His career was cut short with him only playing 7 seasons (the last 2 shouldn’t even be counted). People will disagree with him even being on the list in front of people like Earl Campbell and Tony Dorsett because Sayers stats were not the best. Even with his career cut short, he made enough of an impact as a runner, receiver, and return specialist to crack the top 10. It is pretty scary to imagine where he would have stood if he would have had a career like Emmitt Smith. The Kansas Comet, as he was called at KU, led the NFL in rushing in 1966 and 1969 and is the only NFL player with a lifetime kickoff-return average over 30 yards. For every 10 times he handled the ball he got a touchdown. I will remember him as the guy who scored 6 touchdowns on that muddy field when he was just a rookie.
7) Eric Dickerson
Rushed for an NFL-record 2,105 yards in 1984. Gained 1,800 or more rushing yards three of his first four seasons. Retired as the second all-time leading rusher with 13,259 yards on 2,996 carries. Named to six Pro Bowls. All-Pro five times. Led the league in rushing three times with Rams and once with Colts.
Unorthodox in his running style and the googles and neck roll that he wore, but he still got the job done. He had four years in the NFL that were unlike any other four-year stretch. His 2,105 yards in 1984 is the greatest single-season total in NFL history. He also had seasons of 1,821, 1,808 and 1,659 rushing yards. He ran for almost 7,000 total yards and 55 touchdowns in his first four seasons! Dickerson also had 7 seasons in his career where he rushed for over 1,200 yards. Arguably, he is the best running back during his prime.
6) LaDainian Tomlinson
Rushed for 13,684 yards and scored 145 touchdowns. Through the air, LT caught 624 passes for 4,772 yards and another 17 scores.
There is one thing missing from that pile of accolades and achievements – a Superbowl ring. His 13,684 career rushing yards trail only Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, and Curtis Martin on the all-time list, and his 162 total touchdowns are the third most ever. He scored 145 of those touchdowns on the ground, the second highest total in NFL history, and he even passed for seven. In 2006, he rushed for 28 touchdowns, which is the all-time NFL single season record. During the first eight years of his career, he never rushed for less than 1,100 yards and 10 rushing TDs in any season. No one else in the history of the NFL had that many seasons for their entire career. Whether it was using his speed to get outside, his power up the middle or his leaping ability to avoid the pile, Tomlinson could do everything so effectively. Tomlinson was arguably the most dangerous offensive weapon — threatening with run, catch or block. By far one of the greatest football players of the past twenty years.
5) Emmitt Smith
Won rushing crowns in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995. Led NFL in rushing touchdowns three times. Major contributor to Cowboys Super Bowl XXVII, XXVIII, XXX victories. Named first-team All-Pro 1992-95. In 1993, named NFL’s MVP and MVP in Super Bowl XXVIII. Eleven straight 1,000-yard seasons. Became NFL’s all-time rushing leader in 2002. Career totals: 18,355 yards and 164 touchdowns rushing; also had 515 receptions)
Normally people would bash him on why or why not he is the greatest back of all-time because of his place on the all-time rushing list. Yes, I understand that his line was filled with all-pros and he had great players at the QB, WR, and FB position. The point is he played for 15 seasons which is a rare thing at a position where you take constant punishment. He was also amazingly consistent as he had over 1,000 yards in nine consecutive seasons. The thing that comes to mind when you say durable was the ‘94 win against the New York Giants. He played the entire second half with a separated shoulder, finishing with 168 yards. I know he wasn’t as flashy as some other the guys on this list but he ran hard, followed his blockers and exploded through the hole. He has three rings for proof of his hardwork and dedication.
4) Marshall Faulk
Rushed for 143 yards, scored three touchdowns in rookie debut. Rushed for 1,000 yards in seven of first eight seasons. Second in NFL history to eclipse 1,000-yard mark in both rushing and receiving in same season, set then-record for yards from scrimmage (2,429), 1999 … NFL’s MVP, 2000. First player in NFL history to gain 2,000 yards from scrimmage four straight seasons (1998-2001).
Mr. Everything. I know Faulk never had a season where he rushed over 1,500 like people I have already mentioned, but the fact he is this high is because of his dual threat ability. He is the only RB in the history of the NFL to rack up over 12,000-plus rushing yards and 6,000-plus receiving yards. You could line him up anywhere on the field and he would still score. He was the star in the St. Louis Rams’ “The Greatest Show on Turf”.
1c) Jim Brown
All-NFL eight of nine years. NFL’s Most Valuable Player, 1957, 1958, 1965. Rookie of the Year, 1957. Played in nine straight Pro Bowls. Career marks: 12,312 yards rushing, 262 receptions, 15,459 combined net yards, 756 points scored.
He was clearly a step above his time and was built like an ox. He was so durable, he never missed a game in his career. He changed the game and what the running back position meant. I cannot speak on his era because I was nowhere near being born, but the stories of his play are insane. One story went like “In one game, Hall of Famer, Sam Huff, famously stopped him on 2 consecutive plays and decided to rub it in by telling Brown that “he stunk.” On the next play, Brown sprinted off for a 65 yd. TD and called out from the end zone, “Hey Sam, how do I smell from here?” A quick side note, he ran for over 12,000 yards and missed out on 26 games because of the era he played in where the regular seasons were 14 games instead of 16 games.
Retired as all-time leader in rushing, combined net yards. Career stats: 16,726 yards, 110 TDs rushing; 492 receptions for 4,538 yards; 21,803 combined net yards, 125 touchdowns. All-Pro seven times. Played in nine Pro Bowls. Held single-game rushing record of 275 yards. Had 77 games over 100 yards rushing.
Sweetness. He could do it all in his playing days. He could run over you, jump over, or outrun you just depending on his mood. Payton was a finesse runner combined with strength and speed. In his 13 years with the Bears, Payton accounted for 35.06 percent of the Bears’ total offense. Unlike Barry, Payton was fortunate enough to win himself a ring with the Bears. Some would argue that he is the best and I wouldn’t argue.
1a) Barry Sanders
First player to rush for 1,000 yards his first 10 seasons. Led NFL in rushing four times. NFL MVP in 1997. Gained 2,053 yards including record 14 straight 100-yard games in 1997. Career rushing record: 15,269 yards, 99 TDs. First- or Second-team All-NFL each of his 10 seasons.
I read that Sanders was late in returning to campus for his pro day. He arrived at the field in a pair of cutoff jeans and, without warming up, blazed a 4.38 40. This is just one testament of how great he was. Sanders was just a joy to watch and his highlights always make you wonder how a player of his magnitude never won a Super Bowl. It also leaves you with what if he played for the Cowboys instead of Emmitt Smith . Sanders had 15 touchdown runs over 50 yards. He was the first running back to ever have over 1,000 yards in ten straight seasons. He made the Pro Bowl ten times in ten seasons. I could go on and on about his accomplishments. To put it simply, he was “art in motion”.