Top 5 RBs of All Time
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
1. Barry Sanders
He was a running back for the Detroit Lions of the National Football League. A Pro Bowl invitee in each of his ten NFL seasons and two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Sanders led the league in rushing yards four times and established himself as one of the most elusive runners in pro football with his quickness and agility. In 2007, he was ranked by NFL Network's NFL Top 10 series as the most elusive runner in NFL history. Through ten seasons in Detroit, he averaged over 1,500 rushing yards per season and just under 100 rushing yards per game. In 1997, he became the third player to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season and was named the NFL Most Valuable Player. He is often regarded as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.
2. Walter Payton
He was a running back for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League for 13 seasons. Payton was known around the NFL as "Sweetness". A nine-time Pro Bowl selectee, Payton is remembered as a prolific rusher, once holding records for career rushing yards, touchdowns, carries, yards from scrimmage, all-purpose yards, and many other categories. He was also versatile, and retired with the most receptions by a non-receiver, and had eight career touchdown passes. He was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame that same year, and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996. Hall of Fame NFL player and coach Mike Ditka described Payton as the greatest football player he had ever seen.
3. Jim Brown
He was a fullback for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League from 1957 through 1965. Brown was a Pro Bowl invitee every season he was in the league, was the AP NFL Most Valuable Player three times, and won an NFL championship with the Browns in 1964. He led the league in rushing yards in eight out of his nine seasons, carrying the ball 2,359 times for 12,312 rushing yards and 106 touchdowns, which were all records when he retired. He averaged 104.3 rushing yards per game, and is the only player in NFL history to average over 100 rushing yards per game for his career. His 5.2 yards per rush is second-best among running backs. In 2002, he was named by The Sporting News as the greatest professional football player ever.
4. Emmitt Smith
He was a running back for 15 seasons in the National Football League primarily with the Dallas Cowboys. A three-time Super Bowl champion with the Cowboys, he is the league's all-time leading rusher. During his long professional career, he rushed for 18,355 yards, breaking the record formerly held by Walter Payton. He also holds the record for career rushing touchdowns with 164. Smith is the only running back to ever win a Super Bowl championship, the NFL Most Valuable Player award, the NFL rushing crown, and the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award all in the same season (1993). He is also one of four running backs to lead the NFL in rushing three or more consecutive seasons.
5. Eric Dickerson
He played running back in the National Football League for 11 seasons. Dickerson played college football for the Mustangs of Southern Methodist University and was recognized as an All-American. He was selected in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft and played professionally for the Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Raiders, and Atlanta Falcons of the NFL. During his NFL career, he rushed for over 13,000 yards. He holds the NFL's single-season rushing record with 2,105 yards, set in 1984. Dickerson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999.