Sports

The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time 

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
Updated December 27, 2019 391.9k votes 36.3k voters 619.7k views 192 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
Barry Sanders is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from Wichita
Barry Sanders (born July 16, 1968) is a former American football running back. He played professionally for the Detroit Lions of the National Football League (NFL). A Pro Bowl invitee in each of ...more
2
Walter Payton is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from Columbia
Walter Jerry Payton (July 25, 1954 – November 1, 1999) was an American football running back who played for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League (NFL) for thirteen seasons. Payton ...more
3
Jim Brown is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back and Fullback from St. Simons
James Nathaniel Brown (born February 17, 1936) is an American former professional football player and actor. He was a running back for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL) ...more
4
Adrian Peterson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from Palestine
Adrian Lewis Peterson (born March 21, 1985) is an American football running back for the Washington Redskins of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Oklahoma and was ...more
5
Bo Jackson is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from Bessemer
Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson (born November 30, 1962) is an American former baseball and football player. He is the only professional athlete in history to be named an All-Star in both ...more
6
Marshall Faulk is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from New Orleans
Marshall William Faulk (born February 26, 1973) is a former American football player who was a running back in the National Football League (NFL) for twelve seasons. He played college football ...more
7
LaDainian Tomlinson is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from Rosebud
LaDainian Tramayne Tomlinson (born June 23, 1979) is a former professional American football player who was a running back in the National Football League (NFL) for eleven seasons. He is widely ...more
8
Earl Campbell is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from Tyler
Earl Christian Campbell (born March 29, 1955) is a former American football running back who played professionally in the National Football League (NFL) for the Houston Oilers and New Orleans ...more
9
Gale Sayers is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back and Return specialist from Wichita
Gale Eugene Sayers (born May 30, 1943) is an American former professional football player who earned acclaim both as a halfback and return specialist in the National Football League (NFL). In a ...more
10
Eric Dickerson is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from Sealy
Eric Demetric Dickerson (born September 2, 1960) is an American former football running back who played in the National Football League (NFL) for eleven seasons. Dickerson played college ...more
11
Emmitt Smith is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from Pensacola
Emmitt James Smith III (born May 15, 1969) is a former college and professional American football running back who became the National Football League's (NFL) all-time leading rusher during his ...more
12
Marcus Allen is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from San Diego
Marcus LeMarr Allen (born March 26, 1960) is an American former football running back and football analyst for CBS. As a professional, Allen ran for 12,243 yards and caught 587 passes for 5,412 ...more
13
Tony Dorsett is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from Rochester
Anthony Drew "Tony" Dorsett (born April 7, 1954) is a former American football running back who played professionally in the National Football League (NFL) for the Dallas Cowboys and ...more
14
Jim Thorpe is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back and Punter from Oklahoma
James Francis Thorpe (May 22 or 28, 1887 – March 28, 1953) was an American athlete and Olympic gold medalist. A member of the Sac and Fox Nation, Thorpe became the first Native American to win a ...more
15
O. J. Simpson is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from California
Orenthal James Simpson (born July 9, 1947), nicknamed "the Juice", is an American former football running back, broadcaster, actor, advertising spokesman, and defendant in what has ...more
16
Herschel Walker is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back and Return specialist from Wrightsville
Herschel Walker (born March 3, 1962) is an American former professional football player, bobsledder, sprinter, and mixed martial artist. He played college football for the University of Georgia, ...more
17
Terrell Davis is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from San Diego
Terrell Lamar Davis (born October 28, 1972) is a former American football running back who played for the Denver Broncos of the National Football League (NFL) from 1995 to 2001. Davis was ...more
18
Marshawn Lynch is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from Oakland
Marshawn Terrell Lynch (born April 22, 1986) is a former American football running back. He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft after playing college ...more
19
Thurman Thomas is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from Houston
Thurman Lee Thomas (born May 16, 1966) is a former American football player who was a running back in the National Football League (NFL) for the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. Thomas was ...more
20
Frank Gore is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from Coconut Grove
Franklin Delano "Frank" Gore (born May 14, 1983) is an American football running back for the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the ...more
21
Jerome Bettis is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from Detroit
Jerome Abram Bettis Sr. (born February 16, 1972), nicknamed The Bus, is a former American football halfback who played for the Los Angeles Rams/St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers of the ...more
22
John Riggins is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back and Fullback from Seneca
Robert John Riggins (born August 4, 1949), nicknamed "The Diesel" and "Riggo", is an American former football running back who played professionally in the National Football ...more
23
Larry Csonka is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back and Fullback from Stow
Larry Richard Csonka (; born December 25, 1946) is a former professional American football fullback and was inducted to both the College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame. With ...more
24
Franco Harris is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Franco Harris (born March 7, 1950) is an American former football running back who played professionally in the National Football League (NFL) for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks. ...more
25
Curtis Martin is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Running back from Pittsburgh
Curtis James Martin Jr. (born May 1, 1973) is a former American football running back who spent the majority of his career with the New York Jets of the National Football League (NFL). Martin ...more