Sports
38.7k voters

The Best NFL Running Backs of All Time

Updated July 31, 2020 358.3k votes 38.7k voters 633.8k views206 items

List RulesOnly 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.
Photo:
...more
  • Barry Sanders1
    13,408
    5,035

    Barry Sanders

    Oklahoma State Cowboys football, Detroit Lions

    More Barry Sanders 

    #1 of 119 The Best Detroit Lions of All Time#1 of 22 The Best 80s College Running Backs

  • Jim Brown2
    10,065
    3,783

    Jim Brown

    Cleveland Browns, Syracuse Orange football

    More Jim Brown 

    #297 of 310 The Coolest Actors Ever#118 of 191 The Greatest Black Actors in Film History

  • Walter Payton3
    11,734
    4,449

    Walter Payton

    Chicago Bears

    More Walter Payton 

    #1 of 144 The Greatest Chicago Bears of All Time#6 of 56 Athletes Who Won MVP Before Turning 25

  • LaDainian Tomlinson4
    6,755
    3,884

    LaDainian Tomlinson

    TCU Horned Frogs football, New York Jets

    More LaDainian Tomlinson 

    #71 of 85 Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire#5 of 25 The Best College Running Backs of the 1990s

  • Bo Jackson5
    7,654
    3,927

    Bo Jackson

    Los Angeles Raiders

    More Bo Jackson 

    #413 of 708 The Best Hitters in Baseball History#7 of 25 MLB Players Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

  • Gale Sayers6
    5,293
    3,005

    Gale Sayers

    Chicago Bears, Kansas Jayhawks football

    More Gale Sayers 

    Gale Sayers Was One Of The Most Unsung Trailblazers In Sports History#29 of 116 The Greatest Left-Handed Athletes of All Time

  • Adrian Peterson7
    7,815
    4,502

    Adrian Peterson

    Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints

    More Adrian Peterson 

    #16 of 41 The 41 Hottest Men in the NFL#22 of 24 The Most Hated Players In The NFL Right Now

  • Eric Dickerson8
    6,060
    3,563

    Eric Dickerson

    Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts

    More Eric Dickerson 

    #45 of 143 Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon#45 of 176 The Best Atlanta Falcons of All Time

  • Marshall Faulk9
    5,896
    3,406

    Marshall Faulk

    Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams

    More Marshall Faulk 

    #7 of 13 The Worst Cases of the Madden Curse That'll Make You Believe#9 of 21 The Best Madden NFL Cover Athletes

  • Earl Campbell10
    6,412
    3,845

    Earl Campbell

    New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers

    More Earl Campbell 

    #3 of 53 The Best No. 1 Overall NFL Draft Picks Of All Time, Ranked#47 of 48 The Best University of Tennessee Football Players Ever

  • Emmitt Smith11
    8,068
    5,180

    Emmitt Smith

    Florida Gators football, Arizona Cardinals

    More Emmitt Smith 

    #377 of 583 The Greatest Entertainers of All Time#855 of 1,427 The Best Athletes Of All Time

  • Marcus Allen12
    4,214
    2,536

    Marcus Allen

    USC Trojans football, Oakland Raiders

    More Marcus Allen 

    #1 of 104 The Best USC Trojans Players of All Time#18 of 173 The Best Oakland Raiders Of All Time

  • Tony Dorsett13
    4,091
    2,696

    Tony Dorsett

    Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Panthers football

    More Tony Dorsett 

    #3 of 26 The Best College Running Backs of the 1970s#5 of 139 The Best Dallas Cowboys Of All Time

  • Jim Thorpe14
    3,310
    2,212

    Jim Thorpe

    Cleveland Indians, Oorang Indians

    More Jim Thorpe 

    The Life And Legacy Of Jim Thorpe#438 of 753 People We Wish Were Still Alive

  • Thurman Thomas15
    2,956
    2,126

    Thurman Thomas

    Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins

    More Thurman Thomas 

    #4 of 17 The Worst Super Bowl Plays of All Time#14 of 14 The 14 Biggest Super Bowl FAILs

  • Terrell Davis16
    3,332
    2,483

    Terrell Davis

    Denver Broncos, Georgia Bulldogs football team

    More Terrell Davis 

    #5 of 26 NFL Players Whose Careers Ended Too Soon#16 of 44 The Best University of Georgia Football Players of All Time

  • Frank Gore17
    2,710
    1,826

    Frank Gore

    San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts

    More Frank Gore 

    #9 of 64 The Best Miami Football Players of All Time#16 of 53 The Most Likable Active NFL Players

  • Herschel Walker18
    3,324
    2,373

    Herschel Walker

    Georgia Bulldogs football team, New Jersey Generals

    More Herschel Walker 

    #9 of 15 The Worst NFL Trades Ever Made#13 of 60 Famous Athletes Who Could Have Dominated a Second Sport

  • Franco Harris19
    2,985
    2,329

    Franco Harris

    Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers

    More Franco Harris 

    #2 of 94 The Best Penn State Football Players of All Time#69 of 77 The Best Athletes Who Have Used Performance Enhancing Drugs

  • Jerome Bettis20
    3,580
    2,809

    Jerome Bettis

    Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams

    More Jerome Bettis 

    #102 of 150 Athletes You Didn't Know Were Conservative#7 of 80 The Best NFL Player Nicknames

  • Marshawn Lynch21
    3,459
    2,605

    Marshawn Lynch

    Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills

    More Marshawn Lynch 

    #95 of 329 The Most Obnoxious Athletes#40 of 71 Athletes Who Spark the Most Fan Arguments

  • John Riggins22
    2,699
    2,089

    John Riggins

    Washington Redskins, New York Jets

    More John Riggins 

    #3 of 115 The Greatest Washington Redskins of All Time#11 of 26 The Best New York Jets Running Backs of All Time

  • O. J. Simpson23
    5,030
    4,068

    O. J. Simpson

    Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers

    More O. J. Simpson 

    Facts About OJ Simpson That Will Make Your Skin Crawl#1081 of 2,443 The Most Influential People of All Time

  • Larry Csonka24
    2,340
    1,823

    Larry Csonka

    Syracuse Orange football, Miami Dolphins

    More Larry Csonka 

    #7 of 27 The Best NFL Running Backs of the 70s#10 of 47 The Best Super Bowl MVPs of All Time

  • Eddie George25
    1,644
    1,349

    Eddie George

    Tennessee Titans/Oilers, Ohio State Buckeyes football

    More Eddie George 

    #1351 of 1,355 The Greatest Minds of All Time#150 of 322 People Who Should Be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame