Football The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time  

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Originally by Ranker Community
308.6k votes 29.8k voters 577.6k views 215 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
12,187 4,247
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
10,919 3,865
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
8,824 3,280
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
7,116 4,686
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 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

5
5,144 3,234
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 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

6
5,955 3,328
LaDainian Tomlinson is listed (or ranked) 6 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

7
5,893 3,738
Earl Campbell is listed (or ranked) 7 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

8
5,393 2,982
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
7,111 3,854
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
6,906 3,092
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
4,664 2,960
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
3,782 2,227
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
4,543 3,807
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
3,714 2,768
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
2,907 1,995
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
2,868 2,162
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 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

17
3,131 2,674
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., 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

18
2,501 1,994
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
2,772 2,060
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
2,303 1,999
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
2,466 2,044
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
2,657 2,405
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
2,099 1,791
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
2,845 2,009
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
1,730 1,499
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

26
1,903 1,480
Frank Gore is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins - Franklin Delano "Frank" Gore is an American football running back for the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League. He played college football for the University of Miami. ...more

27
1,504 1,528
Bronko Nagurski is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Minnesota Golden Gophers football, Chicago Bears - Bronislau "Bronko" Nagurski was a Canadian-born American football player. He was also a successful professional wrestler, recognized as a multiple-time world heavyweight champion.

28
1,453 1,363
Red Grange is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Chicago Bears, New York Yankees (football team) - Harold Edward "Red" Grange, nicknamed "The Galloping Ghost", was a college and professional American football halfback for the University of Illinois, the Chicago Bears, and ...more

29
1,284 820
Le'Veon Bell is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
madd added Pittsburgh Steelers, Michigan State Spartans football - Le'Veon Bell is an American football running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League. He was drafted by the Steelers in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He played ...more

30
1,263 1,085
Eddie George is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Tennessee Titans/Oilers, Ohio State Buckeyes football, Dallas Cowboys - Edward Nathan George, Jr. is a former American college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League for nine seasons. He played college football for ...more

31
1,241 1,254
Shaun Alexander is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Alabama Crimson Tide Football - Shaun Edward Alexander is a former American football running back who played for the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins of the National Football League. He played college football for the ...more

32
1,488 1,180
LeSean McCoy is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
BobbyMoore added Pittsburgh Panthers football, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills - LeSean Kamel McCoy is an American football running back for the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League. He played college football for the University of Pittsburgh, and was drafted by the ...more

33
1,249 1,266
Jim Taylor is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
New Orleans Saints, LSU Tigers football, Green Bay Packers - James Charles "Jim" Taylor is a former professional American football fullback in the National Football League. Taylor played for ten seasons, from 1958-67. He is a member of the Pro ...more

34
1,170 1,252
Edgerrin James is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals - Edgerrin Tyree James is a former American football running back who played in the National Football League for eleven seasons. He played college football for the University of Miami. He was ...more

35
1,863 1,853
Chuck Foreman is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots - Walter Eugene "Chuck" Foreman is a retired American football football player. He was a running back during his National Football League career, and often caught passes out of the ...more

36
1,080 1,091
Priest Holmes is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, Texas Longhorns football - Priest Anthony Holmes is a former American football running back who played eleven seasons in the National Football League. He played college football for the University of Texas. He was signed ...more

37
1,143 1,123
Ricky Williams is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
New Orleans Saints, Toronto Argonauts, Baltimore Ravens - Errick Lynne "Ricky" Williams, Jr. is a retired American football running back who played eleven seasons in the National Football League and one season in the Canadian Football League. ...more

38
1,074 862
Jamaal Charles is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
RichardHonda added Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Texas Longhorns football - Jamaal RaShaad Jones Charles is an American football running back for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League. He played college football for the University of Texas, and was ...more

39
1,185 1,149
Paul Hornung is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Notre Dame Fighting Irish football, Green Bay Packers - Paul Vernon Hornung is a retired professional football player, a Hall of Fame running back for the Green Bay Packers of the NFL from 1957 to 1966, winning four NFL titles and the first Super ...more

40
917 981
Ricky Watters is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks - Richard "Ricky" James Watters is a former American football running back who played for the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football ...more

41
988 1,018
Tiki Barber is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
New York Giants - Atiim Kiambu "Tiki" Barber is a retired American football running back who played for the New York Giants of the National Football League for ten seasons. He played college football ...more

42
1,027 1,079
Steven Jackson is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Atlanta Falcons, St. Louis Rams, New England Patriots - Steven Rashad Jackson is an American football running back who is a free agent. He played college football for Oregon State University, and was drafted by the St. Louis Rams 24th overall in the ...more

43
1,148 1,055
Matt Forté is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Tulane Green Wave football, Chicago Bears, New York Jets - Matthew Garrett Forte is a former American football running back who played ten seasons in the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Tulane and was drafted by the Chicago ...more

44
907 962
Billy Sims is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Oklahoma Sooners football, Detroit Lions - Billy Ray Sims is a former American college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League for five seasons during the 1980s. Sims played college ...more

45
706 659
Christian Okoye is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Kansas City Chiefs - Christian Emeka Okoye, is a Nigerian-American former American football fullback for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1987 to 1992. Nicknamed "The Nigerian Nightmare," Okoye was known for ...more

46
683 728
Fred Taylor is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars - Frederick Antwon Taylor is an American former college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League for thirteen seasons during the 1990s and 2000s. He ...more

47
598 550
Clinton Portis is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
wiabux added Washington Redskins, Denver Broncos, Miami Hurricanes football - Clinton Earl Portis is a former American football running back who played in the National Football League for nine seasons. He played college football for the University of Miami. He was drafted ...more

48
1,046 1,179
Arian Foster is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins - Arian Isa Foster is an American football running back for the Houston Texans of the National Football League. He played college football for the University of Tennessee. He was signed by the ...more

49
645 717
Jamal Lewis is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Volunteers football - Jamal Lafitte Lewis is a former American football running back in the National Football League. He was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens fifth overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. He played college ...more

50
870 1,043
Maurice Jones-Drew is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time
UCLA Bruins football, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders - Maurice Christopher Jones-Drew is a retired American football running back who played in the National Football League. He played college football at UCLA and received consensus All-American ...more