The Greatest Running Backs Of All Time

LaDainian Tomlinson

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

With LaDainian Tomlinson retiring this week, it once again brings up one of the most difficult questions in all of sports to answerWho are the greatest running backs of all-time?

Do we look at career rushing yards that favours players who were consistently very good for a long period of time? Do we look the greatest single-seasons that may slant towards some players that were unable to maintain a high level over a long period of time? Do we consider a player’s all-around game, or just running ability?

For this, we will try to weigh all these factors. While we use all-around career numbers, a player’s individual seasons are considered in the context of their era, with the best seasons receiving more weight.

#20 Eric Dickerson

Career Rushing Yards: 13,259

Total Touchdowns: 96

Seasons with AV* 15+: 3

Seasons with AV* 20+: 0

* AV=Approximate Value, a stat (via Pro-Football-Reference.com) that looks at a player's all-around game. The cut-offs here are somewhat arbitrary, but a season with an AV of 15 would be considered 'Very Good,' while an AV of 20 would be considered an 'All-Time Great' season

#19 Warrick Dunn

Career Rushing Yards: 10,967

Total Touchdowns: 64

Seasons with AV 15+ 1:

Seasons with AV 20+: 0

#18 Roger Craig

Career Rushing Yards: 8,189

Total Touchdowns: 73

Seasons with AV 15+: 3

Seasons with AV 20+: 0

#17 Lenny Moore

Career Rushing Yards: 5,174

Total Touchdowns: 113

Seasons with AV 15+: 2

Seasons with AV 20+: 0

#16 O.J. Simpson

Career Rushing Yards: 11,236

Total Touchdowns: 76

Seasons with AV 15+: 2

Seasons with AV 20+: 1

#15 Curtis Martin

Career Rushing Yards: 14,101

Total Touchdowns: 100

Seasons with AV 15+: 1

Seasons with AV 20+: 0

#14 Tiki Barber

Career Rushing Yards: 10,449

Total Touchdowns: 68

Seasons with AV 15+: 3

Seasons with AV 20+: 1

#13 Franco Harris

Career Rushing Yards: 12,120

Total Touchdowns: 100

Seasons with AV 15+: 1

Seasons with AV 20+: 0

#12 Ricky Watters

Career Rushing Yards: 10,643

Total Touchdowns: 91

Seasons with AV 15+: 3

Seasons with AV 20+: 0

#11 Marcus Allen

Career Rushing Yards: 12,243

Total Touchdowns: 145

Seasons with AV 15+: 2

Seasons with AV 20+: 0

#10 Tony Dorsett

Career Rushing Yards: 12,739

Total Touchdowns: 91

Seasons with AV 15+: 2

Seasons with AV 20+: 0

#9 Jim Taylor

Career Rushing Yards: 8,597

Total Touchdowns: 93

Seasons with AV 15+: 4

Seasons with AV 20+: 2

#8 Thurman Thomas

Career Rushing Yards: 12,074

Total Touchdowns: 88

Seasons with AV 15+: 4

Seasons with AV 20+: 1

#7 Barry Sanders

Career Rushing Yards: 15,269

Total Touchdowns: 109

Seasons with AV 15+: 5

Seasons with AV 20+: 1

#6 Edgerrin James

Career Rushing Yards: 12,246

Total Touchdowns: 91

Seasons with AV 15+: 5

Seasons with AV 20+: 3

#5 LaDainian Tomlinson

Career Rushing Yards: 13,684

Total Touchdowns: 162

Seasons with AV 15+: 6

Seasons with AV 20+: 1

#4 Walter Payton

Career Rushing Yards: 16,726

Total Touchdowns: 125

Seasons with AV 15+: 6

Seasons with AV 20+: 1

#3 Emmitt Smith

Career Rushing Yards: 18,355

Total Touchdowns: 175

Seasons with AV 15+: 5

Seasons with AV 20+: 3

#2 Marshall Faulk

Career Rushing Yards: 12,279

Total Touchdowns: 136

Seasons with AV 15+: 5

Seasons with AV 20+: 3

#1 Jim Brown

Career Rushing Yards: 12,312

Total Touchdowns: 126

Seasons with AV 15+: 8

Seasons with AV 20+: 5

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