Best Sports Debates - Best NFL Running Back Ever

To narrow down the list of running backs we could consider as the best of all-time in the NFL, let's do what we did with the quarterbacks and use statistics to cull the list to a handful of the best ever.

The stats we'll use for the RB comparison, and there are much less available career stats for RBs than there are for QBs, are:   total career rushing yards, total career rushing touchdowns, career rushing yards per game, career yards per rushing attempt, and Super Bowl Championships won.  The running back would have to have at least 1500 career rushing attempts to qualify here. 

Using that criteria, here are your top 5 running backs in each category, as of today:

Walter Payton White Reebok NFL Premier 1985 Throwback Chicago Bears Jersey - Small
Total Career Rushing Yards
Emmitt Smith
Walter Payton
Barry Sanders
Curtis Martin
Jerome Bettis

Total Career Rushing TDs
Emmitt Smith
LaDanian Tomlinson
Marcus Allen
Walter Payton
Marcus Allen 1984 Raiders Mitchell & Ness Jersey 56Jim Brown

Career Rushing Yards Per Game
Jim Brown
Barry Sanders
Terrell Davis
Eric Dickerson
Walter Payton

Career Rushing Yards Per Attempt
Jim Brown
Joe Perry (Technically a Fullback)
James Brooks
Tiki Barber
O.J. Simpson
Charlie Garner

Super Bowl Championships Won
Franco Harris
Roger Craig
Emmitt Smith
Terrell Davis
Mark van Eeghen
Antowain Smith
Larry Csonka
(I think I must be missing someone else here.  Help me out with a comment if you know who else, as the primary running back for their team, won two or more Super Bowls). 

Using the same criteria as we did for quarterbacks, the running backs who appear on the above lists more than once are:

Emmitt Smith
Jim Brown
Barry Sanders
Walter Payton
Terrell Davis

Now let's look at the stats for each of these running backs, in the categories above, listing them alphabetically by last name.

Jim Brown
9 NFL Seasons, 2,359 Rushing Attempts
12,312 career rushing yards
104.3 rushing yards per game
106 career rushing TDs
5.2 career rushing yards per attempt
No NFL Championships

Terrell Davis
7 NFL Seasons, 1,655 Rushing Attempts
7,607 career rushing yards
97.5 rushing yards per game
60 career rushing TDs
4.6 career rushing yards per attempt
2 Super Bowl Championships

Walter Payton
13 NFL Seasons, 3,838 Rushing Attempts
16,726 career rushing yards
88.0 rushing yards per game
110 career rushing TDs
4.4 career rushing yards per attempt
1 Super Bowl Championship

Barry Sanders
10 NFL Seasons, 3,062 Rushing Attempts
15,269 career rushing yards
99.8 rushing yards per game
99 career rushing TDs
5.0 career rushing yards per attempt
No Super Bowl Championships

Emmitt Smith
15 NFL Seasons, 4,409 Rushing Attempts
18,355 career rushing yards
81.2 rushing yards per game
164 career rushing TDs
4.2 career rushing yards per attempt
3 Super Bowl Championships

Using the  same scoring methodology we used for the quarterbacks, where each place in the comparative rankings gets a point based on their place in the category ranking from 1 to 5, here are your point totals and your top 5 NFL running backs in order:

Jim Brown Reebok NFL Premier 1963 Throwback Cleveland Browns Jersey - XX-Large1(Tie) - Jim Brown - 17 points
1(Tie) - Emmitt Smith - 17 points
3 - Barry Sanders - 16 points
4 - Walter Payton - 15 points
5 - Terrell Davis - 12 points

There you have it.  Some people will no doubt contend that Emmitt Smith should not be tied with Jim Brown for 1st place.  Well......durability and championships are what the NFL is all about.  And Smith is the all-time leading rusher, with more Super Bowl championships than the others.

Emmitt Smith 1992 Cowboys Mitchell & Ness Jersey 44The numbers here played out pretty well.  I expected Jim Brown to be in first with Emmitt, Barry Sanders and Walter Payton close.  I didn't expect Terrell Davis to be in the top five, but his career numbers in a brief career are impressive.  If we raised the rushing attempt total to qualify here who knows what happens.  The big surprise, for me, is that neither Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk or Tony Dorsett squeaked into that 5th slot.

What do you think?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:58 AM

    Did you know Jim Brown was "technically" a fullback???


Search For Athletes



.366 0 00 07 1 10 100 points 100% 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 2 20 2010 NFL Draft 2011 2013 208 21 215 22 23 24 25 256 26 27 28 29 3 30 31 32 327 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 4 40 406 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 49ers 5 50 51 511 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 6 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 7 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 76ers 77 78 79 8 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 9 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 ABA adam dunn Adam Foote aikman ALDS Alex English Amani Toomer Andrew Lang Andy Pettitte angels Arkansas asham astros athletics atlanta avalanche baa Baltimore Barry Cofield barry sanders Bart Oates Bearcats bears bednarik best athlete Best Dallas Cowboys By The Numbers Best Giants By The Numbers Best NBA Athletes By The Numbers Best New York Giants By The Numbers best videos Big East Big Ten Bill Laimbeer Bill Russell bills Billy Cundiff Biron blackhawks blue jackets blue jays blues bob gainey Bob Lanier Bob Tucker bonds boston boston bruins boston celtics Brad Daluiso bradford Brandon Jacobs braves Brett Favre brewers Brian Urlacher brodeur broncos brooklyn Brooklyn Nets browns bruins bucaneers Buckeyes bucks buffalo bulls BYU calder calgary Calvin Hill canada canadiens canucks capitals cardinals Carmelo Anthony carolina Cary Blanchard Cavaliers Cedric Jones Celtics center fielder chargers Charlie Conerly cheifs chicago Chicago Bears Chicago Bulls chiefs Chris Boniol Chris Bosh Chris Paul Cincinnati clemente Cleveland Cleveland Cavaliers clippers College Basketball College Football colorado Colorado Avalanche colts columbus cornell cornerback Cornerbacks cowboys coyotes cubs D'Angelo Russell dallas Dallas Cowboys Dallas Mavericks dallas stars Damian Lillard Dan Bailey Dan Reeves Danny White Darren Woodson dave cowens Dave Jennings David Diehl David Tyree DeAndre Jordan Deion Sanders demitra Dennis Rodman Denver denver nuggets DePaul Derrick Rose Derrick Ward detroit detroit falcons Detroit Pistons detroit red wings devil rays devils diamondbacks Dick Lynch Dirk Nowitzki ditka dodgers dolphins Don Meredith Doug Gilmour dryden drysdale ducks dunk of the night Dwayne Wade eagles edmonton Elam Elgin Baylor Eli Manning emmitt smith Ernie Koy esposito expos falcons favre fields fisk Five flames fleury florida Florida State Flyers Frank Ferrara Frank Gifford free hockey card games Gary Reasons gehrig Generals George Martin georgetown georgia Georgia Tech giants Giants By The Numbers Giatns By The Numbers glavine goalie goals Golden State Warriors gossage green bay packers Greg Ostertag grizzlies guy lafleur Hakeem Olajuwon hall of fame halladay hank aaron Harry Carson hartford harvey hawks heat henderson Herschel Walker heyward hhof hockey hockey hall of fame hockey top 10 hockeywks hoffman home runs Homer Jones housley houston Houston Rockets howard Howard Cross howe hughes hurricanes Iginla Ike Hilliard Illinois indiana Indiana Pacers indians Isaiah Canaan Isaiah Thomas Islanders J.J. Reddick J.R. Smith J.T. Turner jackie robinson Jackson jaguars James Butler Jaromir Jagr Jason Kidd Jason Terry Jay Alford jazz Jeff Feagles Jeff Hostetler Jeremy Roenick Jeremy Shockey Jerry Rhome jersey number of the day Jerseys Jessie Armstead jeter jets jim brown Jim Burt Jim McMahon Joe Morris John Elway John Havlicek John Wall johnson jokinen jones jordan Jorge Podada Josh Smith Jumbo Elliott kansas city Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Kevin Dockery kevin durant Kevin Love Kevin Smith kings knicks Kobe Bryant Kristaps Porzingis Kyle Korver Kyle Lowry Kyrie Irving l.a. lakers lalime lambert larmer Lawrence Taylor lebron LeBron James lee left wing lemieux Leonard Marshall Lew Alcindor lightning links Lionel Manuel lions los angeles Los Angeles Lakers Louisville madden magic maple leafs mariners Mark Aguirre Mark Collins Mark Haynes Mark Herzlich Mark Ingram marlins Marquette marshall faulk Mathias Kiwanuka Matthew Dellavedova mavericks mays Mel Renfro mets mexico miami miami heat Michael Jordan Michael Strahan mighty ducks mike bossy Mike Saxon Mike Singletary mikita Milwaukee Bucks minnesota missouri state Missouri Valley Conference mlb montreal moose MVP Nathan MacKinnon nba NCAA NCAA Football nets New England new jersey New Mexico new orleans new york New York Giants new york islanders New York Knicks New York Mets new york rangers New York Yankees newsome NFC nfl NFL a nhl nordiques nordiquesques north stars Northwestern University Notre Dame Number 0 Number 00 Number 1 Number 10 Number 11 Number 12 Number 13 Number 14 Number 15 Number 16 Number 17 Number 18 Number 19 Number 2 Number 20 Number 21 Number 22 Number 23 Number 24 number 25 Number 26 Number 27 number 28 Number 29 number 3 Number 31 Number 32 Number 33 Number 34 Number 35 Number 37 Number 39 Number 4 Number 40 Number 41 number 45 Number 5 Number 53 Number 54 number 6 Number 7 Number 8 Number 9 Number 91 Number 92 Number 93 Number 94 Number 95 Number 96 Number 97 Number 98 Number 99 October Ohio State oilers one orioles orlando orr Ottis Anderson ovechkin pacers packers padres panthers Patriots Pavel Bure pedro pedro martinez pena penguins penn state Pete Maravich pettitte Peyton Manning Phil Simms philadelphia phillies phoenix photos Piazza pirates pistons pitcher pittsburgh Pittsburgh Steelers plante Plaxico Burress playoffs point guards porter portland potvin Power Memorial High School predators Providence College pujols quarterbacks quebec Rafael Septien raiders Rajon Rondo rams Randy Johnson rangers raptors Raul Allegre ravens Ray Flaherty rays Razorbacks record Records red sox red wings reds redskins Reggie Miller Retired Numbers richer Rick Barry Rob Carpenter robitaille rockets rodgers Rodney Hampton Roger Staubach Ron Artest Ron Widby Roosevelt Brown roy Roy Williams royals running backs russell Russell Westbrook russia Rutgers sabathia sabres sacramento Saint Mary's saints san antonio san diego san francisco san jose sandy koufax sayers Seahawks Sean Landeta seattle Senators Serge Ibaka Seton Hall sharks sixers soviet union spurs St. John's st. louis st. louis blues Stanford Cardinal stanley cup stars steelers Steve Beurlein Steve Pelluer Steve Smith stoudemire suns super bowl super sonics supersonics sweeden Syracuse syracuse nationals tampa bay Tashard Choice Tennessee terrell davis texas Texas Rangers thrashers thunder tickets tigers Tight Ends Tiki Barber titans tom seaver Tony Dorsett Tony Romo toronto Toronto Raptors Tracy McGrady trail blazers trailblazers Trevor Ariza Troy Aikman Tuffy Leemans twins ucla UCLA Bruins UConn University of Arizona University of Oklahoma utah vanbiesbrouck vancouver Vancouver Canucks vezina Victor Oladipo videos vikings Villanova Walt Garrison walter payton warriors washington Washington Wizards Washinton State whalers white sox wide receivers Wildcats willie mays Willis Reed Wilt Chamberlain winnipeg winter classic World Series Y.A. Tittle yankees yogi berra Youngblood yzerman Zak DeOssie Zeke Mowatt