The NFL gained popularity on the great running backs that became stars. This article will form a list of the top 10 NFL running backs of all-time. This list is composed of dominant prime years, longevity, and skills watched through film.
5. LaDainian Tomlinson
LaDainian Tomlinson is one of five running backs with 100 receptions in a season and is one of the best dual threat running backs in the history of the league. He ranks 6th all time in yards from scrimmage with 18,456.
LaDainian Tomlinson is also one of the greatest touchdown machines of all time ranking 3rd all time in career touchdowns with 162. He also has the most rushing touchdowns (28) in a season and total touchdowns in a season with 31.
The tape on Tomlinson is also from another world, he possessed top end speed, and jukes that left defenders’ ankles broken. Tomlinson also had one of the quickest spin moves of all time and had some of the greatest vision a running back has ever had.
From 2004-2007 Tomlinson was selected as a first team all pro three times and won the NFL MVP in 2006. Tomlinson led the league in rushing yards twice in 2006 and 2007, rushing touchdowns three times in 2004, 2006, and 2007. He also led the league in total scrimmage yards in 2003.
Tomlinson also ranks 7th all time in rushing yards with 13,684. Overall, Tomlinson has been one of the best running backs of his era, which is rich with running back talent and the ability to be known as the best one help him rank where he does.
4. Emmitt Smith
Emmitt Smith is the all time leading rusher in the history of the NFL with 18,355 yards. Emmitt is also a three time Super Bowl champion and won the Super Bowl MVP in XXIX. From 1992-1995 Emmitt Smith was selected as a first team all pro four straight years.
Smith was one of the greatest running backs ever at reading blocks and using his vision to find the hole. Yes, he did have one of the greatest offensive lines of all time but he also helped them make blocks due to his ability to set up blocks.
Smith led the league in rushing yards four times, rushing touchdowns three times, and total scrimmage yards twice. Smith also had amazing balance and center of gravity allowing him to bounce off of hits and gain extra yards.
Overall, Smith is easily one of the Mount Rushmore running backs along with the three players that rank ahead of him. Regardless of the order Smith is a top four running back of all time.
3. Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders was the most electrifying running back of all time due to his ability to take one to the house anytime he touched the ball. Sanders was easily the most elusive running back of all time and had the best agility of any back ever.
Sanders is the only player in NFL history to have a 1,000 rushing yards in every season he played and ranks 4th all time in career rushing yards with 15,269. Sanders also retired early which is why he didn’t break the record for most rushing yards in a career even though he was only 30-years-old.
Sanders also has the second highest rushing yards per game of all time with 99.8. Just go watch a Barry Sanders highlights video if you need any more proof as to why he ranks third all time on this list.
2. Walter Payton
Walter Payton ranks second all time with 16,720 career rushing yards. The man nicknamed sweetness showed why he earned that nickname by anyone who watched his tape. A powerful runner who could truck any player on the field but also had the agility to make anyone miss in the open field.
Payton was the NFL MVP in 1977 winning the rushing triple crown. Payton was a five time first team all pro selection in his career and helped the Chicago Bears win Super Bowl XX. Payton was also the greatest blocking running back of all time helping the Bears protect their quarterback for his entire 13 year career.
Payton also had the ability to throw the ball from the running back position showing that he is one of the greatest football players of all time. When you add in his receiving ability it proves he might be the most complete running back of all time.
1. Jim Brown
Anyone that disagrees with this placement on this list doesn’t do their research. Jim Brown might be the greatest football player of all time let alone running back. He has the highest career yards per game of all time with 104.3.
Jim Brown also had the shortest career of the top four running backs of all time but yet his stats still compare even with only playing 12 games a year. Brown’s type is also something from a movie.
The power, speed, and agility is the greatest combination of any three skills in the history of the NFL. I don’t need to waste any more time and just state Jim Brown is the greatest running back of all time.