NFL The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
326.9k votes 31.3k voters 586.2k views 224 items

List Rules 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.
list ordered by

1
12,798 4,499
Barry Sanders is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Oklahoma State Cowboys football, Detroit Lions
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 ...more

2
11,439 4,068
Walter Payton is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Chicago Bears
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 ...more

3
9,274 3,452
Jim Brown is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Cleveland Browns, Syracuse Orange football
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 ...more

4
5,407 3,394
Eric Dickerson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders
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. ...more

5
7,466 4,935
Emmitt Smith is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Florida Gators football, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys
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. ...more

6
6,173 3,864
Earl Campbell is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers, Texas Longhorns football
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 ...more

7
6,254 3,485
LaDainian Tomlinson is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
TCU Horned Frogs football, New York Jets, San Diego Chargers
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 ...more

8
5,641 3,116
Marshall Faulk is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams, San Diego State Aztecs football
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 ...more

9
7,476 4,001
Adrian Peterson is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals
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 ...more

10
7,231 3,253
Bo Jackson is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Los Angeles Raiders
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 ...more

11
4,886 3,063
Gale Sayers is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Chicago Bears, Kansas Jayhawks football
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 ...more

12
3,962 2,333
Marcus Allen is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
USC Trojans football, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs
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 ...more

13
4,756 3,966
O. J. Simpson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers
Orenthal James "O. J." Simpson, also nicknamed "The Juice", is a retired American football player, broadcaster, actor, and is currently incarcerated in Nevada. Simpson played ...more

14
3,901 2,845
Tony Dorsett is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Panthers football, Dallas Cowboys
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 ...more

15
3,047 2,091
Jim Thorpe is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Cleveland Indians, Oorang Indians, Canton Bulldogs
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 ...more

16
3,290 2,789
Jerome Bettis is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams
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 ...more

17
3,036 2,263
Terrell Davis is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Denver Broncos, Georgia Bulldogs football team
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 ...more

18
2,654 2,076
Thurman Thomas is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins
Thurman Lee Thomas is a former American college and professional football player who was a running back who spent most of his National Football League career with the Buffalo Bills. Thomas was ...more

19
2,928 2,149
Herschel Walker is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Georgia Bulldogs football team, New Jersey Generals, Philadelphia Eagles
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 ...more

20
2,408 2,100
Curtis Martin is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Panthers football, New York Jets
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 ...more

21
2,565 2,130
John Riggins is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Washington Redskins, New York Jets
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 ...more

22
2,779 2,479
Franco Harris is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers, Penn State Nittany Lions football
Franco Harris is a former American football player. He played his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks. In the 1972 NFL Draft he was picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers ...more

23
2,191 1,858
Larry Csonka is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Syracuse Orange football, Miami Dolphins, Memphis Southmen
Larry Richard Csonka is a former college and professional American football fullback and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With the Miami Dolphins he won the Super Bowl in 1973 and

24
3,010 2,118
Marshawn Lynch is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders
Marshawn Terrell Lynch is an American football running back for the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League. He is nicknamed "Beast Mode" for his aggressive running style and ...more

25
1,807 1,574
Roger Craig is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Raiders, San Francisco 49ers
Roger Timothy Craig is a former American football running back in the National Football League. He played with San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Raiders and Minnesota Vikings. Craig went to four ...more