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Top 10 Running Backs of My Lifetime

A few weeks ago, a co-worker and I were discussing how much we enjoy top ten lists. So, we decided to start making some. The first one we tackled was the top ten NFL running backs who started their career in 1982 or later. We selected this range because we wanted to pick players whom we both had seen play. Since I was born in 1983, my football memories only go back to about 1990 or so.

We devised a ranking system that factored in rushing yards, touchdowns, receiving yards, yards per carry, the number of seasons with 1200+ yards rushing, and pro bowl appearances (I won't divulge the exact formula).

Here's our top 10 (all statistics are from Pro-Football-Reference).

10. Edgerrin James - I was surprised to see the Edge make the top ten, but the numbers don't lie. He was a very effective runner and an adequate receiver. It's easy to forget how good he was at his peak. He had four seasons with over 1500 yards rushing.

Rushing Yards Yards Per Carry Touchdowns Receiving Yards Pro Bowl Appearances Seasons with 1200 Yards Rushing or More
12246 4.0 91 3364 4 6

9. Tiki Barber - Tiki is a very under appreciated back. His career was a little short, but his yards per carry is astronomical.
Rushing Yards Yards Per Carry Touchdowns Receiving Yards Pro Bowl Appearances Seasons with 1200 Yards Rushing or More
10449 4.7 68 5183 3 5

8. Marcus Allen - Undoubtedly the greatest athlete bearing my namesake. Marcus Allen is the first great running back that I have clear memories of. He was a touchdown machine for the Raiders. It is often forgotten that he was a threat to catch passes out of the backfield too, racking up more receiving yards than any back on our list not named Marshall Faulk. He would have been higher except that he never cracked the 1000 yard plateau after 1985.

Rushing Yards Yards Per Carry Touchdowns Receiving Yards Pro Bowl Appearances Seasons with 1200 Yards Rushing or More
12243 4.1 145 5411 6 1

7. Thurman Thomas - The Thurmanator was the prototype for the great all-purpose backs that would follow (think Marshall Faulk, Tiki Barber, Brian Westbrook, etc.). He definitely benefited from playing on a high-powered offense in Buffalo, but with that said, no back in his day fit the K-Gun offense that the Bills ran better than Thomas.

Rushing Yards Yards Per Carry Touchdowns Receiving Yards Pro Bowl Appearances Seasons with 1200 Yards Rushing or More
12074 4.2 88 4458 5 5

6. Curtis Martin - Curtis 'my favorite' Martin never won any awards for being flashy, but few in the history of the league have been better and more consistent.
Rushing Yards Yards Per Carry Touchdowns Receiving Yards Pro Bowl Appearances Seasons with 1200 Yards Rushing or More
14101 4.0 100 3329 5 7

5. Eric Dickerson - I don't remember much firsthand about Eric Dickerson, but all you need to know is this. He had 4 seasons with more than 2000 yards from scrimmage.

Rushing Yards Yards Per Carry Touchdowns Receiving Yards Pro Bowl Appearances Seasons with 1200 Yards Rushing or More
13259 4.4 96 2137 6 7

4. LaDainian Tomlinson- Without a doubt, LT is the greatest of active running backs. Inch for inch pound for pound he is the toughest runner I have ever seen. He has changed the game by showing that sometimes it's better to use a smaller and quicker running back at the goal line.
Rushing Yards Yards Per Carry Touchdowns Receiving Yards Pro Bowl Appearances Seasons with 1200 Yards Rushing or More
12490 4.3 153 3955 5 7






3. Marshall Faulk- Faulk was the ultimate weapon for the ultimate offense, also known as 'The Greatest Show on Turf.' In addition to his 12279 career rushing yards, he amassed 6875 receiving yards on 767 receptions (24th all time, ahead of Michael Irvin and James Lofton). Without question, Faulk was the greatest two-dimensional threat that the league has ever seen.
Rushing Yards Yards Per Carry Touchdowns Receiving Yards Pro Bowl Appearances Seasons with 1200 Yards Rushing or More
12279 4.3 136 6875 7 5

2. Barry Sanders - Both my co-worker and I wanted to see Barry come out number 1, but alas he didn't. No player at any position has ever been as exciting to watch as Barry Sanders. He was a threat to score on every play. I always looked forward to watching the Lions on Thanksgiving Day because it was one of the few opportunities that I would have to see Sanders.
Rushing Yards Yards Per Carry Touchdowns Receiving Yards Pro Bowl Appearances Seasons with 1200 Yards Rushing or More
15269 5.0 109 2921 10 9

1. Emmitt Smith - No one can argue here. Emmitt is number one in rushing yards and touchdowns by a substantial margin. No one ever was as consistently great for so long, as evidenced by his 11 consecutive 1000 yard rushing seasons. Like Martin, he wasn't flashy, but you could always count on Emmitt to get the job done.
Rushing Yards Yards Per Carry Touchdowns Receiving Yards Pro Bowl Appearances Seasons with 1200 Yards Rushing or More
18355 4.2 175 3224 8 9

You may have noticed that the Bus, Jerome Bettis didn't make our list. We assure you that it wasn't an oversight. He failed to make the cut. Even though he is 5th in career rushing yards, he did not perform well in other categories.
Rushing YardsYards Per CarryTouchdownsReceiving YardsPro Bowl AppearancesSeasons with 1200 Yards Rushing or More
13662 3.9 94 1449 6 4

His yards per carry is very low (3.9) and he only had 1449 career receiving yards. While he had a great, and hall of fame worthy career, the Bus didn't make a stop here on our list.

Comments

  1. In defense of Marcus Allen, Al Davis hated him and pretty much ensured Allen didn't play as much as he should have. Add that to the fact that he had a significant knee injury while Bo Jackson (who would rank high in this list if he didn't get hurt) was there, and his numbers would have been even better.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's good to know. I had no idea that Al Davis had it in for him. I had also overlooked that he played with Bo. Those two factors do combine to make Allen's career much more impressive.

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