Friday

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?

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:58 AM

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

    ReplyDelete

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