One of the most controversial topics within the realm of professional football is who should be considered among the greatest players of all time at their respective positions.
At the running back position, public opinion tends to contrast greatly on the matter and tempers often flare in the heat of the conversation.
This is often due to the differing in criteria between football historians and fans alike. For example, how heavily should longevity be weighed in comparison to potential? Issues like this make this topic extremely interesting yet difficult to debate, and therefore I will now attempt to undertake this challenge.
Here are the five greatest running backs of all time, as identified through my personal assessment.
Rushing Yards: 12,279
Rushing Avg.: 4.3
Rushing TD: 100
Receiving Yards: 6,875
Receiving TD: 36
Faulk, one of the most versatile running backs in the history of the game, dominated both on the ground as well as through the air. For this reason, there is no doubt in my mind that Marshall Faulk deserves his ranking on my list.
Rushing Yards: 18,355
Rushing AVG: 4.2
Rushing TD: 164
Receiving Yards: 3,224
He may not be the most talented running back ever, but he certainly had the greatest level of longevity. By playing as long and as hard as he did, Emmitt left the game as the most prolific rusher in NFL history.
Rushing Yards: 15,269
Rushing AVG: 5.0
Rushing TD: 99
Receiving Yards: 2,921
Receiving TD: 10
Many would argue that Barry Sanders was the most talented running back of all time. His speed and agility were almost non-human, and his statistical success in spite of playing for a poor team is mind- boggling.
However, due to his decision to leave the game early on in his career, Barry Sanders forfeited his chance to be recognized as the greatest running back of all time.
Rushing Yards: 16,726
Rushing AVG: 4.4
Rushing TD: 110
Receiving Yards: 4,538
Receiving TD: 15
Walter Payton's blazing speed and incredible versatility allowed him to dominate in every facet of the game, including special teams. While many would argue that Barry Sanders was the more talented of the two, Payton's superior numbers in almost every category make it hard to argue against him.
Rushing Yards: 12,312
Rushing AVG: 5.2
Rushing TD: 106
Receiving Yards: 2,499
Receiving TD: 20
Passing TD: 3
Despite playing only nine seasons in the NFL, Jim Brown walked away from the game holding almost every record attainable for a running back in football. Simply stated, Jim Brown was a player who emerged in the NFL before his time, and his pure athletic abilities allowed him to dominate the game in a way few others ever have.
Brown had the speed to blow by defensive backs, the hands to catch the ball like a receiver, and the power to run over, well, just about anyone. In fact, he even threw his share of touchdowns during his career.
It's interesting to note that many sports historians consider Jim Brown to be the greatest lacrosse player of all time as well.
In short, what Jim Brown brought to the game of football for nine seasons has yet to be topped, and for that reason Jim Brown is the greatest running back in the history of the NFL.