The 50 Greatest Running Backs in NFL History (Revised and Updated, 2012 edition)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Part 2 of a series.  Part 1 is here.

50. Red Grange Bears 1925-34
-Tough to evaluate a leather helmet back, but there are a few at the bottom end of the list.

49. John Henry Johnson Steelers 1954-66 
-We've got a few fullbacks on the list

48. Bronko Nagurski Bears 1930-43
-Both from the 30s and a fullback.  Grange+Johnson=Bronko

47. Don Perkins Cowboys 1961-8
-More fullbacks!  I heart fullbacks!  

46. Lawrence McCutcheon Rams 1972-81
-This is what a running back's career looks like; five good seasons in his 20s and then nothing for a couple years until he got run out of the league.  His '73 is the best season on the board so far.  

45. Chuck Muncie Saints/Chargers 1976-84
-Boom or bust, really good in '79, '81, '82 and almost nothing other than that.  

44. Ernest Byner Browns/Redskins 1984-97
-2100 rushing attempts; 500 catches..  

43. Herschel Walker Cowboys 1986-97
-Profiles similar to Byner, save that almost all of his good years were right out of the gate.  Herschel left some legs behind at Georgia, right?  He had 360 carries in '88 and was on fumes the rest of his career.  Hard to be a running back, this is what I'm saying.  

42. OJ Anderson Cardinals/Giants 1979-92
-2500 carries.  He shoves it in Byner's face.  

41. Jerome Bettis Steelers '93-05
-3500 carries.  3500 carries!  3500 carries!  

40. Frank Gifford Giants '52-64
-Fewer than a thousand carries, but over 4 yards a carry, nearly 15 yards a catch, and with 8 good seasons it's going to be 20 more guys before we have someone to match that number.  

39. Steve Van Buren Eagles '44-51
-See the Galloping Ghost.

38. Gale Sayers Bears '65-71
-Just didn't play enough to mark him higher, fewer than a thousand carries; they were good carries, he retired at 5 yards a run and his rookie year is the best year on the board so far, but there weren't enough of them to merit (for me) a HOF vote.  

37. Ricky Williams Dolphins/Saints '99-11
-Right in line with the other modern players in this section, 4 yards a carry, some value catching the ball, 2500 carries, 5 good seasons.  His 2002 is the current second best season on the board, he averaged over a hundred fifteen on the ground per game.  

36. John L Williams Seahawks '86-95

35. Corey Dillon Bengals '97-06
4.3 yards/carry for his 2600 carry career.

34. Freeman McNeil Jets '81-92
-Light career comparatively, only 1700 carries - but 4.5/carry and 10 yds/catch.

33. Terrell Davis Broncos 1995-01
-A handful of fewer carries than McNeil, 4.6/carry and the two best seasons on the board so far, '98 and '97.  

32. Eddie George Titans 1996-04
-Consistently good until a 400 carry season at age 27 and then he only hit 3.5 yards a carry one more time the rest of his career.  

31. Fred Taylor Jaguars '98-02
-7 good years, the most on the list, and a 4.6 career per carry avg in 2500 attempts. 

30. James Brooks Bengals '81-92
-Really similar to McNeil, number of carries+rate stats.  

29. Larry Brown Redksins '69-76
-His '72 is the new fourth best season on the board.

28. Larry Csonka Dolphins '68-79
-Not as good as you think; all his value is in 4 seasons in his 20s.  He's at this place in the list for the titles.  

27. Warrick Dunn Falcons/Bucs '97-08
-7 good years, 2700 consistent carries.  

26. Lydell Mitchell Colts '72-80
-The second best season on the board so far?  Mitchell in '76.  

The Top 25 Running Backs in NFL History.

25. Priest Holmes Chiefs/Ravens '97-07
-Priest has the best year on the board so far ('02) and the best 3 year run on the board (01-03) and almost nothing else.  Running backs.  

24. Chuck Foreman Vikings '73-80
-5 solid seasons to start his career (including 73 catches in '75) and not much after he turned 28. 

23. Leroy Kelly Browns '64-73 
4.2 yds/carry, 12 per catch. 

22. Joe Perry 49ers '48-63
-Like Sayers with a thousand more carries, 5 yards/carry for his career. 

21. Hugh McElhenny 49ers '52-64
-4.7 yards/carry and 12.3 per catch.  That was Hugh McElhenny's career.  

20. Roger Craig  49ers '83-93
-A little cute putting my 3 guys in a row, sure.  Roger opened his career with 7 straight good seasons, hit 30 and had nothing left.  His titles nudge him up to this spot.  He's a hall of famer. 

19. John Riggins Redskins '71-85
-Long career, a half dozen good seasons and the title.  

18. Eric Dickerson Rams/Colts '83-93
-His profile and Riggins's are remarkably similar.  Probably, given the SB, you should flip them.

17. Tiki Barber Giants 1997-2006
-Barber's last 3 seasons might be the best last 3 seasons of anyone ever who wasn't Jim Brown.

16. Curtis Martin Jets '95-05
-Martin was never great - but he had 10 good seasons; 3500 carries and almost all of them good.

15. Marcus Allen Raiders/Chiefs '82-97

-This is longevity based; after '85 Allen never really had another good year; he also rushed 380 times in '85 so while we think of Al Davis taking the ball away from Marcus as the pivotal event in his career, it could be that he wasn't the same back after '85. 

14. Lenny Moore Colts '56-67
-4.8 yards per carry, 16.6 yards/catch.

13. OJ Simpson Bills '69-79
-The new best season on the board is Juice's '75.  16 scores, 5 and a half yards per carry, 15.2 yards a catch.  That's even better than his '73 where he rushed for over 143 yards a game.  

12. Ricky Watters Niners/Seahawks/Eagles '92-01
-Just a stud his whole career; 9 straight good to great years - his numbers are among the most consistent on the board.  Add in the SB and that half a dozen touchdown playoff game - he's absolutely this good.  

11. Jim Taylor Packers '58-67
-Led the league in yards from scrimmage as a fullback in '62.  Fullbacks.  

The 10 Greatest Running Backs in NFL History.

10. Thurman Thomas Bills '88-00
-Half dozen good years including leading the league in yards from scrimmage four straight seasons.

9. Tony Dorsett Cowboys '77-88
-8 good seasons; really similar to Watters, actually, with a tail to his career that Watters didn't have.

8. Edgerrin James Colts '99-09
-His first two years are the best first two years on the board.  Like Dickerson's career, but Edge had a little more.  

7. Franco Harris Steelers '72-84
-8 good seasons, his profile is in that Dorsett model, but with the extra titles.  

6. Ladainian Tomlinson Chargers '01-
-8 good to great to ridiculous seasons to start his career; his 28 touchdown '06 is the new second best season on the board.  

5. Emmitt Smith Cowboys 90-04
-Like Edge, 3 all time great seasons, and then you add the Franco profile underneath that.  Like Franco+Dickerson.  

4. Walter Payton Bears '75-87
-10 good seasons, had one great year, '77, and the SB. 

3. Marshall Faulk Rams/Colts '94-05
-His '98-01 is the best stretch on the board; '99 is the new third best season on the board. 

2. Barry Sanders Lions '89-98
-10 years, all of them good to great. An even 5 yds/carry for his career. 

1. Jim Brown Browns '57-65
-9 years, not only all good, most of them great, his '64 is the new second best season for a running back ever.  


DennisVee said...

Please tell me that Earl Campbell was #51, Shaun Alexander #52 and Ahman Green #53....

Anonymous said...

Earl Campbell!!!!!!!!!

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