Top 12 Best Running Backs of All Time [2021 Updated]

Running backs require players in terms of speed and power to attack the fastest. The below are the guys running backs who excelled in the NFL and became the top NFL running back of all time. Who are they?

In this article, Scott Fujita will provide you with a lot of information about the best running back of all time. Let’s read on to know more details!

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Top 12 running back player in NFL history 

Top 12 Best Running Backs of All Time

By recounting the performance of NFL players, here we list the top running backs of all time from top to bottom.

1. Jim Brown

Team: Cleveland Browns

Time: 1957-1965

Achievement: 12.312 rushing yards, 1 NFL champion, 5.2 yards per carry, 3 NFL MVP, 15,459 all-purpose yards, Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

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Jim Brown 

Jim Brown played in a decade when the emphasis was on building solid defenses. However, Jim Brown overcame them all. He is the second-highest rushing player in NFL history with 104.3 yards per game.

Brown 8-time led the league in rushing. Jim Brown also has an excellent record in the yards per carry category with a history of 5.2. Furthermore, the Browns have owned eight All-Pros during his NFL career.

Jim Brown had a relatively short NFL career, just 9 NFL seasons. However, Jim Brown is still one of the greatest running backs of all time. This video recaps the highlights of Brown’s NFL career for your reference. 

 

2. Walter Payton

Team: Chicago Bears

Time: 1975-1987

Number of games: 190 games 

Achievement: 16,726 career rushing yards, 110 career rushing touchdowns, Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996, 1 Super Bowl champion, 1 NFL MVP.

You cannot ignore Walter Payton when you talk about Walter, the best running backs in NFL history. Walter Payton has won so many achievements during his NFL career that it is difficult to have a typical player.

Walter Payton is an American professional football player with exceptional productivity and endurance. That has made him one of the greatest back runners.

He won the league MVP 3 times in 1976, 1977, and 1985) and won the Pro Bowler nine times. Payton also won one time as Super Bowl champion. Payton joined the 1993 Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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Walter Payton 

3. Gale Sayers – Youngest Pro Football Hall of Fame

Team: Chicago Bears

Time: 1965-1971

Number of games: 68 games

Achievement: 4,956 career rushing yards, 39 career rushing touchdowns, led the league two times in rushing, Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Gale Sayers used to have six touchdowns in just one game. Additionally, Sayers has 22 touchdowns in his rookie league. It’s the most significant achievement of any NFL rookie.

Gale Sayers is also one of the running backs of all time.

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Gale Sayers 

4. Bo Jackson

Bo Jackson

Team: Las Vegas Raiders

Time: 1987-1990

Achievement: 16 career rushing touchdowns, 2,782 career rushing, and one Pro Bowl Selection.

People often call Jackson a legendary running back. One cannot even believe such remarkable abilities and talents,

Bo Jackson once won the Heisman Trophy when he played as a running back at Auburn University. Jackson does well on both football and baseball. What he does in both categories makes opponents constantly bored. 

However, luck did not smile when Jackson suffered a severe injury in 1991. This injury hindered his career. Anyway, Jackson is an outstanding running back in NFL history.

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Bo Jackson 

5. LaDainian Tomlinson

Team: San Diego Chargers (2001-2009) and New York Jets (2010-2011)

Number of games: 70 games

Achievement: One NFL MVP, three times First-Team All-Pro, 28 career rushing touchdowns per season, 13,684 career rushing yards

2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame, 18,456 yards from scrimmage

People often call LaDainian Tomlinson a significant threat if he has a chance to touch the ball. He’s in touchdowns just behind Rice and Smith.

In addition, Tomlinson is also the owner of countless other records. The most notable achievement is 28 touchdowns in just one season. According to many experts, Tomlinson would get even more records if the overall performance of the teams he joined was better.

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LaDainian Tomlinson 

6. Eric Dickerson

Team: Los Angeles Rams (1983-1987), Indianapolis Colts (1987-1991), Las Vegas Raiders (1992), and Atlanta Falcons (1993)

Number of games: 146 games

Achievement: 13.259 career rushing yards, 15,396 yards from scrimmage,

4-time led the league, Pro Football Hall of Fame, Player of the Year

Dickerson is 6.3 feet tall. It’s not an ideal height for a running back. However, Dickerson became one of the best running backs in the NFL record.

Eric Dickerson excellently ranked 6th in the list of best running in the world. His outstanding achievement is winning the title of rushing in the Hall of Fame career four times.

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Eric Dickerson 

7. Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders

Team: Detroit Lions

Time: 1989-98

Number of games: 153 games

Achievement: 15,269 rushing yards, one NFL MVP, 2004 Pro Football Hall of Fame, 

10-time Pro Bowls voted, 99 career rushing touchdowns, second all-time in rushing yards, Rookie of the Year

Barry Sanders is a player who defies the laws of physics. Barry Sanders is arguably the most-watched player in the NFL, as he always does the unthinkable. Although Sanders’ NFL career was relatively short (10 seasons), he’s had an admirable track record.

Those are two times NFL MVP award winners, four times NFL rushing titles. He also appeared in Pro Bowls in all ten seasons of his career. 

Sander even holds up to 10 NFL records. One of them is the most consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. If he continues his career, Sanders’ numbers certainly do not stop here.

8. Earl Campbell

Earl Campbell

Team: Houston Oilers (1978-1984), New Orleans (1984-1985)

Number of games: 115 games

Achievement: one NFL MVP, 3-time First-Team All-Pro, 9,407 career rushing yards

 1991 Pro Football Hall of Fame, 74 career rushing touchdowns, 10,213 yards from scrimmage

To this day, Earl Campbell’s strength and speed are still a mystery. He can rush over 200 yards in a season. Campbell won the MVP tournament three years in a row (1978-1980).

9. Tony Dorsett

Tony Dorsett

Dallas Cowboys (1977-1987) and the Denver Broncos in 1988

Number of games: 173 games

Achievement: 12,739 career rushing yards, 1994 Pro Football Hall of Fame, 4-time Pro Bowls voted, Rookie of the Year

Tony Dorsett is well-known as one of the best running defenders in the history of the sport.  In 1988, Tony Dorsett decided to retire after his final professional season with the Broncos. 

At the time of his retirement, 1988, Tony Dorsett was the second-fastest NFL runner of all time, with 12,739 yards in his career. During his 12-year career, he accumulated a total of 16,293 yards and scored 90 touchdowns.

10. O.J Simpson

Team: Buffalo Bills (1969-77) and San Francisco 49ers (1978-79)

Number of games: 135 games

Achievement: one NFL MVP, 11,236 career rushing yards, 1985 Pro Football Hall of Fame, 61 career rushing touchdowns

Orenthal James Simpson, better known as O. J. Simpson is an excellent back rusher. He is “likened” to Pele or Maradona in football fans. O.J Simpson was the 1st player to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season.

With brilliant sports achievements, Simpson is still a millionaire with a fortune of tens of millions of dollars.

11. Emmitt Smith – Best Rushing Yards of All Time

Team: Dallas Cowboys (1990-02) and Arizona Cardinals (2003-04)

Number of games: 226 games 

Achievement: one Super Bowl MVP, 3 Super Bowl champions, NFL Rookie of the Year

Best rushing yards 18,355, 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame, 21,579 yards from scrimmage

Emmitt Smith is a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Cowboys. Currently, Smith holds the record for most yards (18,355) in NFL history. In addition, he has 164 touches of the ball.

He joined the first round in the 1990 NFL Draft after spending three years in Florida. The best offensive player is also the NFL leading rusher of all time. 

12. Marshall Faulk

Team: Indianapolis Colts (94-98) St. Louis Rams (99-05)

Number of games: 176 games

Achievement: one Super Bowl champion, one NFL MVP, 7-time Pro Bowls voted, 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame, 12,280 yards rushing, Player of the Year

Marshall Faulk is one of 2 running backs to own 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 yards rushing in a single season. Faulk is one of the top 10 running backs of all time. 

Final Thoughts

Above is the top 12 of the best NFL running backs of all time. Official figures from NFL.com show the credibility of the article.

Besides, we have some other good rushing backs: Adrian Peterson, Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis, Marcus Allen, Thurman Thomas, etc. This list will change over time as players constantly break records. 

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