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NFL Top 10 Best Running Backs Ever

Based on Talent and Accomplishments

by Riley Baines
Top 10 Running Backs in NFL History

The NFL’s Top 10 Best Running Backs Ever

These are the best running backs ever based on talent and accomplishments. This considers each Running Back’s impact as a whole, so I’m considering both receiving production and rushing production. I will also consider historical accolades such as MVPs, OPOYs, Super Bowls, and more. Throughout this list, there will be fan voting you can participate in to determine who the best NFL running backs are in the eyes of the fans.

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Top 10 Best Running Backs in NFL History - #10 Earl Campbell

Top 10 Best Running Backs in NFL History – #10 Earl Campbell

#10 – Earl Campbell

Some people are just built different. Earl Campbell was a monster. A machine. Imagine thinking you have what it takes to play at the NFL level then having to try and tackle this beast of a man in the open field. In most cases, you’re ending up on your ass.

When trying to tackle a player as big and powerful as Earl Campbell, the rule of thumb is to go low. The problem with that is one of his thighs are the size of both of your legs. Players just bounced right off of him. He has a highlight reel full of would be tacklers looking like children trying to tackle him.

There is a reason he is one of the very few running backs that have won the NFL’s MVP. The entire offense ran through him and everyone knew it. There was nothing you could do about it. Over this MVP season, he recorded an astounding 1697 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns while averaging 4.6 yards per carry and 106.1 yards per game.

He followed that MVP season up with 1934 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns while averaging 5.2 yards per carry and 128.9 yards per game in only 15 games. That resulted in him finishing 2nd in the MVP voting which frankly was a horrible decision by the voters.

The only knock on him was that he didn’t catch passes. But he didn’t need to. This was a very different era of football than the one we see today. Tyler Rose in his prime was arguably the best running back ever.

Team History: 

  • Houston Oilers (1978–1984)
  • New Orleans Saints (1984–1985)

Career Rushing Stats:

  • 9407 rushing yards, 74 rushing touchdowns, 4.3 yards per attempt, 81.8 rushing yards per game, 43 fumbles

Career Receiving Stats:

  • 806 receiving yards, 0 receiving touchdowns, 121 receptions, 7.0 receiving yards per game

Awards and Accomplishments:

  • NFL Most Valuable Player (1979)
  • 3× NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1978–1980)
  • NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (1978)
  • 3× First-team All-Pro (1978–1980)
  • PFWA All-Rookie Team (1978)
  • 5× Pro Bowl (1978–1981, 1983)
  • Bert Bell Award (1979)
  • 3× NFL rushing yards leader (1978–1980)
  • 2× NFL rushing touchdowns leader (1979, 1980)


Top 10 Best Running Backs in NFL History - #9 O.J. Simpson

Top 10 Best Running Backs in NFL History – #9 O.J. Simpson

#9 – O.J. Simpson

When ranking these lists I speak two languages. English and Football. While I personally believe O.J. Simpson was a horrible person off the field, he is also without a doubt one of the top 10 best Running Backs ever. He was the full package.

When O.J. Simpson was drafted by the Buffalo Bills with the 1st overall pick they were the laughing stock of the NFL. With only a 1-12-1 record, OJ joined a not so luxurious situation.

On Thanksgiving of 1976, O.J. Simpson had one of the greatest games ever. In classic Bills fashion, their no name Quarterback completed 4 passes on 21 attempts for 29 yards. O.J. Simpson on the other hand broke the single game rushing record with 276 rushing yards on 29 attempts. And the Bills still lost the game. That was par for the course as O.J. Simpson and the Buffalo Bills only made the playoffs once over his 11 year career.

It was only until OJ’s 4th season he was 3rd in the MVP voting. The following year he finally won that MVP title while also becoming the first player ever to rush for over 2000 yards in only a 14 game season. Add another 2-3 games and he would still hold the record today. It is one of the best running back seasons ever.

What made him so special was his elusiveness and balance. Don’t get me wrong, he could run through players, but his ability to move side to side then back upfield was something nobody had seen before. He was without a doubt the best running back of the 70s in an era where the running back was the most important position on the field.

Team History: 

  • Buffalo Bills (1969–1977)
  • San Francisco 49ers (1978–1979)

Career Rushing Stats:

  • 11236 rushing yards, 61 rushing touchdowns, 4.7 yards per attempt, 83.2 rushing yards per game, 62 fumbles

Career Receiving Stats:

  • 2142 receiving yards, 14 receiving touchdowns, 203 receptions, 15.9 receiving yards per game

Awards and Accomplishments:

  • NFL Most Valuable Player (1973)
  • NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1973)
  • 5× First-team All-Pro (1972–1976)
  • 5× Pro Bowl (1972–1976)
  • Bert Bell Award (1973)
  • AP Athlete of the Year (1973)
  • 3× UPI AFC Offensive Player of the Year (1972, 1973, 1975)
  • 4× NFL rushing yards leader (1972, 1973, 1975, 1976)
  • 2× NFL rushing touchdowns leader (1973, 1975)
  • NFL scoring leader (1975)
  • AFL All-Star (1969)
  • NFL 1970s All-Decade Team
  • NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team


Top 10 Best Running Backs in NFL History - #8 Eric Dickerson

Top 10 Best Running Backs in NFL History – #8 Eric Dickerson

#8 – Eric Dickerson

Speaking of players who ran for over 2000 rushing yards. Eric Dickerson is still the record holder for most rushing yards in a season with 2105. To put this in perspective, he was averaging a ridiculous 131.6 yards per game and 5.6 yards per carry.

He exploded onto the scene in his rookie season with 2212 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns. His 13 fumbles that season are the only reason I don’t consider it the best rookie season ever.

This was a unique breed of running back. At 6 foot 3 inches, Eric Dickerson was bigger than most running backs, but also one of the fastest. His long strides and upright running style allowed him to outrun most defenders in the open field and his 230 pound frame allowed him to run them over.

He didn’t run the way he looked. Eric Dickerson had the goggles, he had the neck brace, and he had the large frame, but the fluidity in his running style was exceptional. Something never seen before.

The reason I have him so low is because he was blessed with one of the better offensive lines of any player on this list. Over his career he had 20 pro-bowl offensive linemen which only Emmitt Smith can compete for. His 78 fumbles are also a deterrent to put him higher on this list.

Team History: 

  • Los Angeles Rams (1983–1987)
  • Indianapolis Colts (1987–1991)
  • Los Angeles Raiders (1992)
  • Atlanta Falcons (1993)

Career Rushing Stats:

  • 13259 rushing yards, 90 rushing touchdowns, 4.4 yards per attempt, 90.8 rushing yards per game, 78 fumbles

Career Receiving Stats:

  • 2137 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns, 281 receptions, 14.6 receiving yards per game

Awards and Accomplishments:

  • NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1986)
  • NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (1983)
  • 5× First-team All-Pro (1983, 1984, 1986–1988)
  • 6× Pro Bowl (1983, 1984, 1986–1989)
  • 4× NFL rushing yards leader (1983, 1984, 1986, 1988)
  • NFL rushing touchdowns co-leader (1984)
  • NFL 1980s All-Decade Team
  • NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team
  • PFWA All-Rookie Team (1983)
  • St. Louis Football Ring of Fame
  • Indianapolis Colts Ring of Honor
  • Los Angeles Rams No. 29 retired
  • 3× UPI NFC Offensive Player of the Year (1983, 1984, 1986)

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