The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time Football Players (American)

The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time

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175,579 votes 18,055 voters 404,173 views 195 items tags f p @

List Criteria: Only running backs. Rank the players based on their career achievements in the NFL

This list of top NFL running backs of all time is ranked by football fans worldwide. Who are the best NFL running backs of all time? The goal is to determine the greatest running backs to ever play the game.

They are some of the fastest, most athletic sports stars in the game. These top athletes have been wowing fans across the country for years. Some of them currently play in the league, others are long-retired legends whose legacy will be remembered on and off the field for a long time. 

The list establishes individual rankings of specific running backs and helps answer the question, "Who is the best NFL running back in the world?" This list includes some legendary famous football players with a lot of rushing yards under their belt. Anyone can vote on the top running backs in history, which means these players are truly fan favorites.


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  1. 1
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    Barry Sanders is a former American football running back who spent his entire professional career with the Detroit Lions of the National Football League. A member of both the college and professional football halls of fame, he was ranked by NFL Top 10 as the most elusive runner in NFL history, and also ...more

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    • Teams: Oklahoma State Cowboys football, Detroit Lions
    • Position: Running back
    • Birthplace: Wichita, Kansas, United States of America
    • Age: age 47
  2. 2
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    - 2123
    Walter Payton
    Photo: Freebase

    Walter Jerry Payton was an American football running back who played for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League for thirteen seasons. Walter Payton was known around the NFL as "Sweetness". He is remembered as one of the most prolific running backs in the history of the NFL. Payton, a ...more

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    • Teams: Chicago Bears
    • Position: Running back
    • Birthplace: Columbia, Mississippi, USA
    • Age: Died at 45 (1954-1999)
  3. 3
    + 5342
    - 1862
    Jim Brown
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain

    James Nathaniel "Jim" Brown is an American former professional football player and actor. He is best known for his exceptional and record-setting nine year career as a running back for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League from 1957 to 1965. In 2002, he was named by Sporting News as the ...more

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    • Teams: Cleveland Browns, Syracuse Orange football
    • Position: Running back, Fullback
    • Birthplace: St. Simons, Georgia, United States of America
    • Age: age 79
  4. 4
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    - 2039

    Earl Christian Campbell, nicknamed The Tyler Rose, is a former professional American football running back. He, Paul Hornung, and O. J. Simpson are the only Heisman Trophy winners to have also been first overall National Football League draft picks and members of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and ...more

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    • Teams: New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers, Texas Longhorns football
    • Position: Running back
    • Birthplace: Tyler, Texas, United States of America
    • Age: age 60
  5. 5
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    Eric Dickerson
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain

    Eric Demetric Dickerson is a former American college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League for eleven seasons during the 1980s and 1990s. Dickerson played college football for Southern Methodist University, and was recognized as an All-American. He was ...more

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    • Teams: Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, SMU Mustangs football, Atlanta Falcons
    • Position: Running back
    • Birthplace: Sealy, Texas, USA
    • Age: age 55
  6. 6
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    Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson is a retired American baseball and football player. He is the only athlete to be named an All-Star in two major American sports. He was named the greatest athlete of all time by ESPN. While at Auburn University, Jackson won the 1985 Heisman Trophy, annually awarded to the ...more

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    • Teams: Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, Oakland Raiders, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
    • Position: Running back
    • Birthplace: Bessemer, Alabama, United States of America
    • Age: age 53
  7. 7
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    Emmitt James Smith, III is an American former college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League for fifteen seasons during the 1990s and 2000s. Smith played college football for the University of Florida, where he was a unanimous All-American. A first-round ...more

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    • Teams: Florida Gators football, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys
    • Position: Running back
    • Birthplace: Pensacola, Florida, United States of America
    • Age: age 46
  8. 8
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    Adrian Lewis Peterson is an American football running back for the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League. He was drafted by the Vikings seventh overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. He played college football at Oklahoma. Peterson set the NCAA freshman rushing record with 1,925 yards as a true ...more

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    • Teams: Minnesota Vikings
    • Position: Running back
    • Birthplace: Texas, USA, Palestine
    • Age: age 30
  9. 9
    + 3476
    - 2067
    LaDainian Tomlinson
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain

    LaDainian Tramayne Tomlinson is a former American college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League for eleven seasons. He played the majority of his 11-year career with the San Diego Chargers, who selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 2001 NFL ...more

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    • Teams: TCU Horned Frogs football, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers
    • Position: Running back
    • Birthplace: Rosebud, Texas, United States of America
    • Age: age 36
  10. 10
    + 3275
    - 1898
    Marshall Faulk
    Photo: via Youtube.com

    Marshall William Faulk is an American former college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League for twelve seasons. He played college football for San Diego State University, and was a two-time consensus All-American. He was selected by the Indianapolis Colts ...more

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    • Teams: Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams, San Diego State Aztecs football
    • Position: Running back
    • Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America
    • Age: age 42
  11. 11
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    - 2076

    Gale Eugene Sayers, also known as "The Kansas Comet", is a former American college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League for seven seasons during the 1960s and early 1970s. He played college football for the University of Kansas, and was twice recognized ...more

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    • Teams: Chicago Bears, Kansas Jayhawks football
    • Position: Running back, Return specialist
    • Birthplace: Wichita, Kansas, United States of America
    • Age: age 72
  12. 12
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    Marcus LeMarr Allen is a former American football running back and football analyst for CBS. As a professional, Allen ran for 12,243 yards and caught 587 passes for 5,412 yards during his career for both the Los Angeles Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs from 1982 to 1997. He scored 145 touchdowns, ...more

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    • Teams: USC Trojans football, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs
    • Position: Running back
    • Birthplace: San Diego, California, United States of America
    • Age: age 55
  13. 13
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    Orenthal James "O. J." Simpson, also nicknamed "The Juice", is a retired American football player, broadcaster, actor, and convicted felon currently incarcerated in Nevada. Simpson played college football at the University of Southern California, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1968. He then played ...more

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    • Teams: Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers
    • Position: Running back
    • Birthplace: California, United States of America
    • Age: age 68
  14. 14
    + 2408
    - 2016

    Anthony "Tony" Drew Dorsett is a former American football running back in the National Football League for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos. After graduating from Hopewell High School, Dorsett attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he won the Heisman Trophy. He was a first round draft choice ...more

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    • Teams: Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Panthers football, Dallas Cowboys
    • Position: Running back
    • Birthplace: Rochester, Pennsylvania, United States of America
    • Age: age 61
  15. 15
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    James Francis "Jim" Thorpe was a Sac and Fox athlete of Native American and European ancestry. Considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern sports, he won Olympic gold medals for the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, played American football, and also played professional baseball and basketball.more

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    • Teams: Cleveland Indians, Oorang Indians, Canton Bulldogs, Arizona Cardinals, Rock Island Independents, + more
    • Position: Running back, Punter, Placekicker, Defensive back
    • Birthplace: Oklahoma, United States of America
    • Age: Died at 65 (1888-1953)
  16. 16
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    Herschel Walker
    Photo: via Youtube.com

    Herschel Junior Walker is a former college and professional football player, bobsledder, sprinter and mixed martial artist. He played college football for the University of Georgia, earned consensus All-American honors three times and won the 1982 Heisman Trophy. Walker began his professional football ...more

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    • Teams: Georgia Bulldogs football team, New Jersey Generals, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, + more
    • Position: Running back, Return specialist
    • Birthplace: Wrightsville, Georgia, USA
    • Age: age 53
  17. 17
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    Terrell Lamar Davis is a former American football running back who played for the Denver Broncos of the National Football League from 1995 to 2001. Davis was drafted by the Broncos in the sixth round of the 1995 NFL Draft. He is the Denver Broncos all-time leading rusher, with 7,607 rushing yards. As a ...more

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    • Teams: Denver Broncos, Georgia Bulldogs football team, Long Beach State 49ers football
    • Position: Running back
    • Birthplace: San Diego, California, United States of America
    • Age: age 43
  18. 18
    + 1939
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    Jerome Bettis
    Photo: via Youtube.com

    Jerome Abram Bettis Sr., nicknamed "The Bus," is a former American football halfback who played for the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League. Bettis is sixth on the list of NFL rushing yards leaders. He retired in 2006 after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL in ...more

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    • Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams
    • Position: Running back
    • Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States of America
    • Age: age 43
  19. 19
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    Robert John Riggins, nicknamed "The Diesel" and "Riggo", is a former American football running back in the National Football League for the New York Jets and Washington Redskins. Riggins was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.more

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    • Teams: Washington Redskins, New York Jets
    • Position: Running back, Fullback
    • Birthplace: Seneca, Kansas, United States of America
    • Age: age 66
  20. 20
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    Curtis James Martin, Jr. is a former American football running back who played in the National Football League for the New England Patriots and New York Jets over the span of 10 years. Martin began his professional career with the Patriots, who selected him in the third round of the 1995 NFL Draft. As a ...more

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    • Teams: New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Panthers football, New York Jets
    • Position: Running back
    • Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America
    • Age: age 42
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