Sports

The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
377.4k votes 35.3k voters 612.7k views 196 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
Oklahoma State Cowboys football, Detroit Lions
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
Chicago Bears
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
Cleveland Browns, Syracuse Orange football
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
Emmitt Smith is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Florida Gators football, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys
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
5
Eric Dickerson is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders
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
6
Adrian Peterson is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals
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
7
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 (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
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 (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
9
Earl Campbell is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers, Texas Longhorns football
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
10
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 (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
11
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 (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
12
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 (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
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 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
14
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 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
15
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 Thorpe (Sac and Fox (Sauk): Wa-Tho-Huk, translated as "Bright Path"; May 22 or 28, 1887 – March 28, 1953) was an American athlete and Olympic gold medalist. A member of ...more
16
Terrell Davis is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Denver Broncos, Georgia Bulldogs football team
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
17
Jerome Bettis is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams
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
18
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 (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
19
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 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
20
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. (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
21
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 (born August 4, 1949), nicknamed "The Diesel" and "Riggo", is an American former football running back who played professionally in the National Football ...more
22
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 (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
23
Marshawn Lynch is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders
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
24
Larry Csonka is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Syracuse Orange football, Miami Dolphins, Memphis Southmen
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
25
Frank Gore is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins
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