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The alive aback position is alive in today’s era of football, but NFL history appearance an absorbing accumulation of brilliant ball-carriers.
Up until the mid-2000s, a standout in the backfield could be an cutting difference-maker. A few avant-garde players accept become stars, too.
Most of the best alive backs in NFL history played assorted decades ago. But area do Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith fit alongside legends such as Jim Brown and Walter Payton? That’s what we’re actuality to determine.
Individual assembly and accomplishments advised heavily in the afterward rankings, as did longevity. Team success during a player’s career was advised as well, but it served primarily as a tiebreaker.
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Marcus Allen: Allen’s mid-career abeyance didn’t stop the Hall of Fame from calling in 2003. Despite the four-season amplitude during which he aggregate carries with Bo Jackson, Allen able his NFL career with 17,654 yards from flat and 144 hasty and accepting touchdowns.
Earl Campbell: Similar to Allen, constancy prevented Campbell from finishing aural the top 10 here. He spent abandoned eight seasons in the NFL, but his bristles seasons of 1,300-plus hasty yards demands attention. Campbell racked up 9,407 hasty yards and 74 touchdowns in abandoned 115 games.
Gale Sayers: Injuries beggared Sayers of a able career. But aback healthy, he was special. The able brilliant averaged 5.0 yards per backpack beyond his 68 appearances, tallying 800-plus hasty yards bristles times and scoring a absolute of 56 touchdowns.
O.J. Simpson: Decades afterwards his NFL career, it’s become difficult to abstracted Simpson the amateur from Simpson the person. But during his 11 seasons, the USC artefact scampered for 11,236 yards—with a single-season aerial of 2,003—and 61 scores.
Thurman Thomas: The able agent played a cardinal role in the Buffalo Bills acceptable four beeline AFC championships. Thomas surpassed the 1,000-yard barrier for eight beeline seasons, ultimately accession 16,352 yards from flat and 88 touchdowns.
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LaDainian Tomlinson is one of abandoned three runners in NFL history to defended 100 receptions in a season. He able the accomplishment in 2003, aback he additionally scampered for 1,645 yards and 13 array on the ground.
None too shabby, no?
The TCU artefact alert led the NFL in hasty and additionally set a still-standing alliance almanac with 28 hasty touchdowns in 2006. Tomlinson accumulated 13,684 yards and 145 array as a runner, abacus 624 receptions for 4,772 yards and 17 touchdowns.
After a career that included an MVP award, three first-team All-Pro selections and bristles Pro Bowls, Tomlinson fabricated the cruise to Canton, Ohio, as a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in 2017.
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Rarely flashy, consistently productive.
A key contributor on four Super Bowl-winning teams, Franco Harris led the Pittsburgh Steelers in hasty for 12 seasons. He austere the 1,000-yard mark eight times and afraid his way to 12,120 hasty yards and 91 touchdowns during 13 NFL seasons.
“For bristles years, he was our offense,” Pittsburgh fable Terry Bradshaw said in 1983, according to the New York Times.
Harris managed a almost acclimatized 307 catches in his career, but his “Immaculate Reception” during the 1972 playoffs charcoal one of the best iconic plays in NFL history.
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Had a bang not beneath the 1982 campaign, Tony Dorsett would’ve opened his career with nine beeline 1,000-yard efforts.
Nevertheless, he acquaint eight such years with a single-season aerial of 1,646. By the time Dorsett retired 1988, his 12,739 yards ranked additional all time abaft abandoned Walter Payton.
The 1977 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Dorsett becoming a first-team All-Pro alternative in 1981, four Pro Bowl nods and a amplitude in Canton as a affiliate of the 1994 class.
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To this point, no amateur in NFL history has boasted Marshall Faulk’s aggregate of assembly as both a agent and receiver.
Not abandoned does he rank 12th with 12,279 hasty yards, but the above Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams brilliant has the best accepting yards (6,875) and second-most receptions (767) by a alive back. Faulk alike acquaint a 1,000-1,000 division in 1999.
For three beeline years, Faulk won AP Offensive Amateur of the Year. He becoming seven Pro Bowl nods and three first-team All-Pro appearances, and he additionally won the Super Bowl with the Rams in 1999.
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Eric Dickerson ashen no time announcement himself as an NFL superstar. During his admission division for the Los Angeles Rams, the SMU artefact cruised to 1,808 yards and 18 touchdowns on the arena with 51 catches for 404 yards and two added scores.
Would you accept he won Rookie of the Year?
In his additional year, Dickerson bankrupt O.J. Simpson’s single-season hasty almanac with 2,105 yards.
“People allocution about the greatest runners,” Dickerson told Rhiannon Walker of The Undefeated. “Some say Walter [Payton] is the best, some say O.J., some may say me, some say Jim Brown. I aloof say, I’m good.”
In 1986, Dickerson took home Offensive Amateur of the Year while earning one of his six Pro Bowl nods and one of his bristles first-team All-Pro appearances. Dickerson, who additionally paced the NFL in hasty with the Indianapolis Colts in 1988, had 13,259 hasty yards in his Hall of Fame career.
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The abandoned alive amateur highlighted, Adrian Peterson entered the alliance as a awful admired concrete specimen. Throughout 12 seasons and counting, the Oklahoma artefact has backed up the hype.
Peterson was best acknowledged during his 10-year assignment with the Minnesota Vikings, alive for 2,097 yards in 2012 and almost missing Dickerson’s single-season record. AP able with 11,747 hasty yards and 97 touchdowns as a affiliate of the Vikings.
Already a top-10 rusher in alliance history, Peterson has aback played for three teams—the Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins. The 2007 Offensive Rookie of the Year has an MVP, seven Pro Bowls and four first-team All-Pro nods on his resume.
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During the Super Bowl era, the Detroit Lions’ best acknowledged run coincided with Barry Sanders’ career. He propelled the authorization to the playoffs bristles times. Unfortunately, annoyance with Detroit’s disability to body a adversary led Sanders to retire afterwards 10 seasons.
But what a decade it was.
Sanders calm 1,300-plus hasty yards a beauteous nine times, topping out at 2,053 yards in a 1997 MVP season. He totaled 15,269 yards on the ground, 2,921 as a receiver and 109 accumulated touchdowns.
In accession to earning Offensive Rookie of the Year, Sanders anchored 10 Pro Bowl nods and six first-team All-Pro honors.
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On aptitude alone, Jim Brown claim a college position. However, added interests affected him from the football acreage afterwards nine years.
During that acknowledged run, the Cleveland Browns brilliant punished defenses for a then-record 12,312 yards and 106 touchdowns on the ground. He led the NFL in hasty eight times and was a first-team All-Pro best in anniversary of those years.
“I abdicate with affliction but not sorrow,” Brown said at the time of his retirement, per Sports Illustrated’s Tim Layden.
Brown, who aggregate three MVP awards, a cruise to nine Pro Bowls and one NFL championship, entered the Hall of Fame in 1971.
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Emmitt Smith abandoned the NFL’s almanac books.
After 15 years in the league, the Cowboys fable captivated several NFL records—most conspicuously continuing aloft the blueprint for single-season touchdowns (25), career hasty yards (18,355) and career hasty touchdowns (164). The closing two marks abide untouched.
“It will be broken,” Smith said of his career hasty almanac aback he retired, according to the New York Times.
Until that happens, the 1993 MVP, three-time Super Bowl champion, four-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler will be a beloved in the chat for greatest alive aback of all time.
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From 1975 through 1987, Walter Payton fabricated a apology of hopeful tacklers with aerial accomplish and annealed arms.
Highlighted by an MVP-winning 1977 division with 1,852 hasty yards and 14 touchdowns, “Sweetness” surpassed the 1,200-yard barrier 10 times. No added amateur in NFL history has able that. Payton’s career 16,726 hasty yards stood as a almanac aloft his retirement.
“Sweetness” still ranks third all time in yards from flat (21,264). Among his Hall of Fame-worthy account of accomplishments are nine Pro Bowls and bristles first-team All-Pro nods.
Payton’s amount of aristocratic assembly is unparalleled at the position.
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