As you read this please keep in mind that I am only 22 years old, so awesome running backs like Walter Peyton, Eric Dickerson, and O.J. Simpson were a little bit before my time.
Also, this list is based mostly on the eyeball factor, but also on certain traits and abilities that I admired about particular players. I didn’t factor in career stats, but I did take great single seasons into consideration.
Let’s start at the top with number one.
Barry Sanders is the most electrifying runner I have ever seen. I have never seen another running back that can do the things he could do.
Watching a Detroit Lions game when he played was like watching the Barry Sanders show. He was like a human highlight reel in the 1997 season, in which he rushed for 2,053 yards. That’s an amazing 128.3 yards per game!
Next is all time rushing leader: Emmitt Smith.
What he did in the early to mid 90s was astounding, including in 1995 when he rushed for 1,773 yards and a then-NFL record 25 touchdowns.
Emmitt was the perfect blend of speed, agility, and strength. He was not as elusive a runner as Barry Sanders, but still had some amazing seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.
Third on my list is LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers. He is the only active player on my list.
I believe that when his career is over, he might go down as the greatest ever, but you never can tell, especially with running backs because of injuries and the length (or lack of length) of their careers.
In 2006, L.T. ran for 1,815 yards and the current NFL record 28 touchdowns. He was also very valuable in the passing game, catching 56 passes for 508 yards and three touchdowns.
Coming in fourth is Marshall Faulk. What made Faulk so incredibly valuable was his versatility. He was just as valuable in the passing game as he was in the running game.
Marshall Faulk is the best receiving running back I have ever seen.
In 1999, when Faulk’s team, the St Louis Rams, won the Super Bowl, he rushed for 1,381 yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught 87 passes for 1,048 yards and 5 touchdowns.
In the 2000 season he had 2,189 yards from scrimmage and 26 total touchdowns.
The five spot was tough for me, because I had four or five guys that I could have gone with. After much tossing and turning, I settled on Priest Holmes.
In the 2002 season Priest rushed for 1,615 yards, caught 70 passes for 672 yards, and scored 24 touchdowns.
He followed that up in 2003 with 1,420 rushing yards, 74 catches for 690 yards, and a then-NFL record 27 rushing touchdowns.
I had him on my fantasy team that year and he rocked the world.
The main reason that I decided on Holmes to finish off my list is because of how he seemed to dominate the field whenever he played. He also made some very acrobatic plays at the goal line with a complete disregard for physical pain.
I could have made a case for several other guys to be on this list.
Terrell Davis was amazing for a few years in Denver, Curtis Martin and Eddie George were the picture of consistency, Thurman Thomas always got the job done (except in the Super Bowl), Edgerrin James exploded onto the scene as a rookie phenom, and Jerome Bettis was as powerful as one can be.
I can’t wait to see who emerges in the next few years. Could it be Ronnie Brown? Adrian Peterson? Or maybe Darren McFadden? It remains to be seen.
Here was my 6-10:
6. Terrell Davis
7. Curtis Martin
8. Thurman Thomas
9. Eddie George
10. Edgerrin James