There are quite a lot of great players on this position in NFL history, but our goal is to determine some of the best running backs ever to play the game. A great running back must be speedy, athletic, and durable and to have the ability to break big plays, and help the team win the ball.
12. Terrell Davis
Terrell Lamar Davis only played seven seasons in the NFL with the Denver Broncos, but over these years he earned his place among the greatest running backs. Davis had 7607 rushing yards and 60 rushing touchdowns behind his back. He was elected three times First-Team All-Pro.
Davis helped the Broncos to win two Super Bowls, and in 1997 he was the Super Bowl MVP.
11. Curtis Martin
During his career in the NFL as a member of both the New England Patriots and New York Jets, Curtis Martin achieved plenty.
For eleven seasons, he ran for 14 101 rushing yards. In 2004, Martin was named a First-Team All-Pro, and in 2012, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
10. Marcus Allen
Marcus Allen started his career in the NFL in 1982. He provided the football fans a beautiful running back game for 16 seasons, playing for the LA Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs.
During his career, Allen caught 578 passes for 5 412 yards, ran for 12 243 yards, and scored 145 touchdowns. Allen was the first player who managed to run for more than 10 000 rushing yards and 5000 receiving yards.
In 1984, Allen was named Super Bowl MVP by helping his LA Raiders win the game over the Washington Redskins. The next year he also won the NFL MVP.
9. Tony Dorsett
Tony Dorsett played in the NFL from 1977 to 1988. He was a member of the Dallas Cowboys and the Denver Broncos. Right after the Cowboys drafted Dorsett, he won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Later on, he helped his team to win the Super Bowl XII.
He retired with a total of 12 739 yards on the ground.
8. Marshall Faulk
Marshall Faulk was known for his high productivity as both a runner and a receiver.
During his career, he played for the Indianapolis Colts and the St. Louis Rams. He ranked in this list as the only one with a total of 12 279 rushing yards and 6 875 receiving yards. In 1999, Faulk won the Super Bowl with the Rams. He was elected three times for the NFL Offensive Player of the Year award, earned seven Pro Bowls, and appeared to three First-Team All-Pros.
7. LaDainian Tomlinson
LaDainian Tramayne Tomlinson played for the NFL for eleven seasons. Most of his career he spent with the San Diego Chargers, but he also played for the New York Jets.
In 2006, Tomlinson set a league record with 28 rushing touchdowns, and this record still stands. The 2006 MVP retired with 13 684 career yards and 145 scores as a runner. Also, he had 624 receptions for 4 772 yards and 17 touchdowns.
In 2017, Tomlinson entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame with three First-Time All-Pro selections and five Pro Bowls.
6. Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson is the only active player in this ranking, but he already deserved to be in the top 10 running backs of all time.
He started his career in the NFL as part of the Minnesota Vikings. He was also a member of the New Orleans Saints, and the Arizona Cardinals. Currently, he plays for the Washington Redskins.
As a member of the Vikings, Peterson had 11 747 rushing yards and 97 touchdowns. In 2007 he was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. The 2012 MVP already was to seven Pro Bowls. When Adrian Peterson decides to retire, he will probably be much higher on the list.
5. Eric Dickerson
During his eleven seasons in the NFL, Eric Dickerson played as a running back for several teams – the LA Rams, the Indianapolis Colts, the LA Raiders, and the Atlanta Falcons. With the Rams, he won the NFL's Rookie of the Year honor.
In his Hall of Fame career, Dickerson had 13 259 rushing yards. He was considered as one of the fastest players ever to cross over the 10 000-yard benchmarks.
4. Jim Brown
Jim Brown was considered to be one of the greatest football players of all time. He was a member of the Cleveland Browns for nine years.
After his retirement, he entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971 with more than a successful football career. He recorded a total of 12 312 yards and 106 touchdowns. Brown was a First-Team All-Pro choice for eight consecutive years, and he gathered three MVP awards.
3. Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders played in the NFL for the Detroit Lions. He started playing football in college for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. In 1989 Sanders joined the Lions and won the NFL’s Rookie of the Year award.
During his career, Sanders led the Lions to the playoffs five times. In 1997 he was named NFL MVP.
Sanders retired with a total of 15 269 yards, 2 921 as a receiver and 109 combined touchdowns. Besides, he earned six First-Team All-Pro honors. In 2004 Barry Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
2. Emmitt Smith
Emmitt Smith spent fifteen years as a running back in the NFL. He played for the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals.
During his career with the Cowboys, Smith teamed up ready well with the quarterback Troy Aikman and wide receiver Michael Irvin. They were known as “The Triples,” and they led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl championships in the 90s. Over the years, the 1993 MVP set and held several NFL records – 25 touchdowns for a single season, 164 career rushing touchdowns, and 18 355 career rushing yards.
1. Walter Payton
Walter Jerry Payton also is known as “Sweetness” played in the NFL for the Chicago Bears for thirteen years. With his quick moves and stiff arms, he ran between the tackles effortlessly.
With no doubt, Payton was the most excellent running back in NFL history. He retired with 16 726 rushing yards, 110 touchdowns, and an MVP award. “Sweetness” also won a Super Bowl with the Bears.
Last update : February 2020
Last update : February 2020