Top 10 Best Running Backs in the NFL Since 2000
For these NFL rankings, I will not consider any impact or stats before the year 2000. What I will be considering is overall talent as well as rushing and receiving production. These are the best running backs since 2000.
#10. Chris Johnson
Rushing Stats: 9651 yards, 55 touchdowns, 4.5 yards per attempt, 74.2 yards per game
Receiving Stats: 2255 yards, 9 touchdowns, 307 receptions, 72.4 catch percentage
He was easily the fastest player in the NFL during his time and it showed every single time he touched the football. Many people forget that he still holds the record for most yards from scrimmage in a season with 2509. It only took him until his second season to break this record. The reason he is not higher on this list is that he only had six great seasons. His production fell off after he turned 28 years old.
#9. Todd Gurley
Rushing Stats: 6082 yards, 67 touchdowns, 4.2 yards per attempt, 69.1 yards per game
Receiving Stats: 2254 yards, 12 touchdowns, 243 receptions, 72.3 catch percentage
It pains me to see plays who were on course to become one of the best at their position but had their career cut short by injury. Todd Gurley was as good as any in his prime. He had pass-catching prowess and the ability to make defenders miss with every move in his arsenal. Sure, a lot of credit can go to Sean McVay, but his eye-popping highlights tell the story of just how good he was over his time in the NFL. His 2017 season is still one of the best running back seasons ever.
#8. Derrick Henry
Rushing Stats: 7807 yards, 75 touchdowns, 4.8 yards per attempt, 81.3 yards per game
Receiving Stats: 1045 yards, 3 touchdowns, 112 receptions, 75.7 catch percentage
King Henry continues to rise on this list. He is an absolute freak of nature that completely wears down defenses. Many were predicting a fall off for this man, but he is an exception to the rule in terms of the running back cliff. He is apart of the rare list of running backs that surpassed the 2000 rushing yard mark. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities for him to reach that mark again before he hangs up the cleats.
#7. Shaun Alexander
Rushing Stats: 9453 yards, 100 touchdowns, 4.3 yards per attempt, 76.9 yards per game
Receiving Stats: 1520 yards, 12 touchdowns, 215 receptions, 68.0 catch percentage
This man was a touchdown machine. In his first year as a pro, he stayed as the backup for the Seahawks. His problem was that he was holding his breath while rushing the football. The moment he started breathing while running, the long plays started piling up. He was also an absolute menace near the goal line. There are very few running backs you’d rather have in short yardage scenarios.
#6. Marshawn Lynch
Rushing Stats: 10413 yards, 85 touchdowns, 4.2 yards per attempt, 69.9 yards per game
Receiving Stats: 2214 yards, 9 touchdowns, 287 receptions, 73.4 catch percentage
They called him Beast Mode and all it takes is YouTubing his name to find out. He has two of the best runs ever in NFL history and the personality to match his reckless “Beastquake” running style. Not only did he have the speed to run away from defenders, but the power to run people over. That style made him a fan favorite along with his desire to not get fined in interviews. From 2011-2014 he was widely considered the best running back in the NFL, but longevity keeps him just outside the top 5.
#5. LeSean McCoy
Rushing Stats: 11102 yards, 73 touchdowns, 4.5 yards per attempt, 65.3 yards per game
Receiving Stats: 3898 yards, 16 touchdowns, 518 receptions, 77.8 catch percentage
Shady McCoy was one of the first really dominant dual-threat running backs of the 21st century. He has the second most receiving yards of any running back on this list. The reason he was nicknamed Shady because of his mood swings as a kid. He went from happy to shy in a second. Some nicknames write themselves as his running style was very shady as well. Rarely using his power, LeSean McCoy was one of the most elusive running backs ever. His ability to go side-to-side made his career.
#4. Frank Gore
Rushing Stats: 16000 yards, 81 touchdowns, 4.3 yards per attempt, 66.4 yards per game
Receiving Stats: 3985 yards, 18 touchdowns, 484 receptions, 69.4 catch percentage
When thinking about the greatest running back of all-time, the name Frank Gore rarely comes to mind. The thing is, he was captain consistent. His longevity can not go unnoticed as he currently ranks 3rd all-time in rushing yards. He played a long 16 seasons and had nine seasons with over 1000 rushing yards. The reason he isn’t top 3 on this list is because I don’t think there was a season he was considered the best running back in the NFL.
#3. Edgerrin James
Rushing Stats: 12246 yards, 80 touchdowns, 4.0 yards per attempt, 82.7 yards per game
Receiving Stats: 3364 yards, 11 touchdowns, 433 receptions, 74.7 catch percentage
Recently joining the pro football hall of fame in 2020, Edgerinn James was far from a late bloomer. In his first season he recorded 2139 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns. In his second season he recorded 2303 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns. He was a man possessed until he tore his ACL the following year. It took 2 years from him to return to form, but then he followed up with five straight seasons with over 1000 rushing yards. Edgerrin James could do it all as a running back and his highlights and stats reflect that.
#2. Adrian Peterson
Rushing Stats: 14918 yards, 120 touchdowns, 4.6 yards per attempt, 81.1 yards per game
Receiving Stats: 2474 yards, 6 touchdowns, 305 receptions, 71.9 catch percentage
I’ll tell you what, it was not easy ranking Adrian Peterson second on this list. As a pure runner, it’s clear that he was in a league of his own. Because I considered pass catching ability, he just misses the nod as the best running back since 2000. That does not discount his greatness. He was a freak athlete who had the combination of speed and power never seen before. The 2012 MVP season for Adrian Peterson is one of legends. He ran for 2097 yards while averaging 6.0 yards per carry only a year removed from an ACL tear. Once again, this was a freak of nature who has a highlight tape that holds up to any running back in NFL history.
#1. LaDainian Tomlinson
Rushing Stats: 13684 yards, 145 touchdowns, 4.3 yards per attempt, 80.5 yards per game
Receiving Stats: 4772 yards, 17 touchdowns, 624 receptions, 71.9 catch percentage
LaDainian Tomlinson was the definition of a touchdown machine and he exploded onto the scene the moment he stepped onto the NFL field. This man averaged an astounding 1827 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns per year for his first 9 seasons. That includes his 2006 record breaking season in which he scored a ridiculous 28 rushing touchdowns and 31 total touchdowns. Once again, it was his ability as a pass catcher that separated him from the rest which was something extremely rare to see in the 2000s. We take it for granted in today’s NFL, but LaDaianian Tomlinson was years ahead of his time.
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