Easily one of the most debatable topics in sports, the top ten running backs of all time is a topic that’s been covered by everyone and their mother. I honestly believe that with the level of talent that the position has had over the years, there are no wrong choices for this list, not that everyone would agree with me. So, with that being said, let’s jump into my top ten NFL runners of all time…
10. Jerome Bettis
A player that doesn’t get nearly the recognition that he deserves, Jerome “the Bus” Bettis is easily one of the top ten backs of all time. His power was overwhelming and his deft feet belied his size, Jerome was a bruiser who knew how to avoid the big hit.
9. Ladanian Tomlinson
Ladanian Tomlinson or simply “LT” is one of the greatest modern backs to play the game. He holds the NFL single season touchdown record with 31 and is the only back in the history of the NFL to rush for 1000 yards and catch 100 passes. LT is easily considered one of the best all-purpose backs of all time.
8. Eric Dickerson
The 1986 offensive player of the year, Eric Dickerson was the fastest back to ever reach 10,000 yards, doing it in just 91 games. He had an effortless, fluid style of running that left defenders in his wake and is easily considered one of the greatest of all time among commentators and experts.
7. OJ Simpson
Forget the murder charge and all the other run-ins with the law, when O.J. Simpson was on the field, he was a nightmare for opposing teams. “The Juice”, as he was called, was the first player to top 2000 yards in a single season and needed only 14 games to do it. A six time pro bowler, Simpson left a mark on the game that will never be tarnished.
6. Gayle Sayers
A surprise pick to many, I put Gayle Sayers on my list because of pure talent. This is the type of guy who Reggie Bush wishes to become. An all around player, Sayers was a threat in every facet of the game; rushing, receiving, and special teams. Maybe I’m placing him a little high on my list but this man deserves it, period.
5. Emmit Smith
Emmit Smith is the career lead in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, as well as an owner of three SuperBowl rings. However, he benefited from one of the best offensive lines in history that constantly gave him gaping holes to run through. That being said, Emmit was the model of consistency and wee deserving to be on this list.
4. Earl Campbell
When you talk power back, there was no better in the NFL than Earl Campbell. At 5-11, 250 pounds,
3. Barry Sanders
Like the number one on this list, Barry Sanders walked away from the game at the peak of his ability. This 2 time offensive player of the year was the type of runner that would lose a yard on consecutive plays and then break out for a huge gain. In 1997, Sanders rushed for an amazing 14 straight 100 yds game on his way to 2053 yards that season; the second player to ever break the 2000 yard rushing barrier.
2. Walter Peyton
Walter “Sweetness” Peyton, a nine time pro bowler, was the League’s record holder for most career rushing yards, touchdowns and carries when he retired. He was one of the first players to use a stutter-step in their rushes; a high stepping, irregular paced run that holds up defenders, giving the rusher more time to find the gaps. He was also known for his brutal stiff-arms.
1. Jim Brown
Easily the number one choice as top running back. The record holder for all-time rushing yards per game (104.3) and total yards from scrimmage per game (125. 5), Brown was a boy among men and could probably still suit up and play at a high level today. He retired from the NFL at age 29 to pursue an acting career but left the game as the NFL record holder for both single-season (1,863 in 1963) and career rushing (12,312 yards), as well as the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (106), total touchdowns (126), and all-purpose yards (15,549). He was also the first player ever to reach the 100-rushing-touchdowns milestone.