All-Time Running Backs in NFL
By: Charlie Miller | 11/3/10, 2:40 PM EDT
1. Jim Brown
In his short, nine-year career with the Cleveland Browns, the talented runner ran through and around defenses to lead the league in rushing eight times. He led in touchdowns five times, scoring 21 in his final season in 1965 at age 29. His first four years in the league, teams played just 12 games in a season. The schedule expanded to 14 games for his final five seasons. He gained more than 1,000 yards seven times, topping out at 1,863 in 1963, an average of 133.1 yards a game. He averaged 104.3 yards a game for his career. Chris Johnson, in his third season with the Tennessee Titans, is the only other player with an average of more than 100 yards a game.
2. Walter Payton
Sweetness played 15 seasons for the Chicago Bears, leading the league in yards from scrimmage twice, and topping 2,000 yards from scrimmage four times. At the time of his retirement in 1987, he was the all-time leading rusher in the NFL with 16,726 yards. He scored 110 rushing touchdowns and another 15 receiving. He was a leader on the Bears’ team that won Super Bowl XX.
3. Barry Sanders
A 10-time Pro Bowler, Sanders spent his entire 10-year career laboring with Detroit after the Lions made the Heisman Trophy winner the third overall pick in 1989. He has four rushing titles to his credit, and one season of more than 2,000 yards. He owns a career average of 5.0 yards per carry. In his second season, he led the NFL with 1,304 yards. That was the lowest total of his career save an injury-plagued season in which he ran for just 1,115 yards.
4. Emmitt Smith
The all-time leading rusher with 18,355 yards was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010. He ranks first in career rushing touchdowns with 164, and has 175 (2nd all-time) total TDs. While playing for the powerful Dallas Cowboys, Smith led the league in rushing four times, made eight Pro Bowls and won three Super Bowl rings.
5. LaDainian Tomlinson
Tomlinson owns two rushing titles and two seasons with more than 2,300 yards from scrimmage, both ranked in the top seven seasons of all-time. Currently suiting up for the New York Jets, L.T. has 158 touchdowns in his career and is on pace for his ninth 1,000-yard rushing season. His 143 rushing TDs rank second all-time.
6. Eric Dickerson
While the featured runner for the Los Angeles Rams in 1984 in just his second season, Dickerson established the all-time mark for rushing yards in a season with 2,105. He led the NFL in rushing four times and was best in rushing yards per game five times. In four different seasons Dickerson had more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage. He was named to six Pro Bowls in the 1980s. The SMU product entered the Hall of Fame in 1999.
7. Curtis Martin
Martin is one of only two players to lead the NFL in rushing at age 30 or older. He was 31 in 2004 when he ran for 1,697 yards for the Jets to lead the NFL. He ended his career with 14,101 rushing yards and another 3,329 receiving.
8. Tony Dorsett
In 11 years with the Dallas Cowboys, Dorsett totaled 12,036 yards on the ground and more than 3,500 through the air. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1994.
9. Marshall Faulk
Faulk spent time with both the Colts and Rams, amassing four seasons of more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage. He led the league twice in that category and led three times in yards per rushing attempt. He caught more than 80 passes for five straight seasons from 1998-2002. Last season, Chris Johnson broke his record of 2,429 yards from scrimmage in a single season.
10. Earl Campbell
The 1977 Heisman Trophy winner was selected first overall in 1978 by the Houston Oilers. With a punishing style of running, Campbell led the NFL in rushing his first three seasons. In 1980, he ran for 128.9 yards a game, gaining 1,934 yards in just 15 games. He carried the ball more than 300 times in five different seasons.
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