The Top 5 NFL Running Backs of All Time

Running backs are a vital feature of the offensive backfield. Their role is to receive handoffs from quarterbacks and rush the ball. They’re also involved with blocking. To be successful, players need several attributes, including speed, excellent awareness of the game, and strong running and blocking skills. Here is a list of the top 5 NFL running backs and some career highlights.

Jim Brown

James Nathaniel Brown played for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 through 1965 and was said to be one of the best running backs in NFL history. He achieved 12,312 rushing yards, 106 rushing touchdowns, and 20 receiving touchdowns during his career. Brown received several accolades during his career, including NFL Rookie of the Year in 1957 and the Bert Bell Award in 1963. Since retiring from the sport, he has worked as a sports broadcaster and actor.

Emmitt Smith

Emmett Smith spent 15 seasons playing as a running back in the NFL. He spent most of his career with the Dallas Cowboys, where he developed a reputation as one of the best running backs around and became the league’s leading rusher of all time. During his playing career, Smith achieved 18,355 rushing yards, 164 rushing touchdowns, and 11 receiving touchdowns. He also received accolades, including NFL Most Valuable Player in 1993 and the Bert Bell Award in the same year.

Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders played as a running back for the Detroit Lions from 1989 to 1998, where he became known for his agility and speed. Sanders was the four-time rushing year league leader during his time with the Lions and led in rushing touchdowns once. Sanders’ career achievements include 15,269 rushing yards, 99 rushing touchdowns, and 10 receiving touchdowns. His accolades include NFL Most Valuable Player in 1997 and two Bert Bell Awards in 1991 and 1997.

Walter Payton

Walter Peyton is one of the most famous and respected NFL players. He was a prolific and exciting rusher to watch while playing for the Chicago Bears for 13 seasons. The exhilaration of watching Payton skipping over the defensive line and getting the ball into the touchdown zone at a crucial moment is comparable to watching a roulette ball land on your pick of the roulette wheel at a live casino. Both occasions are incomprehensibly filled with high excitement levels. Excitement was almost something intuitive for Payton, and it is all evident in his array of achievements, including 16,726 rushing yards, 110 rushing touchdowns, and 15 receiving touchdowns. He also received accolades, including NFL Most Valuable Player in 1977 and the Bert Bell Award in 1985.

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson is a free agent, having played for seven teams since beginning his NFL career with Minnesota Vikings in 2007. Experts recognise Peterson as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history despite his unsettled career path. His achievements include 14,918 rushing yards, 120 rushing yards, and 6 receiving touchdowns. Peterson’s accolades include NFL Most Valuable Player in 2012 and two Bert Bell Awards in 2008 and 2012.


With their agility, awareness, and pace, running backs are vital to any successful NFL team. The professionals in this list, Brown, Smith, Sanders, Payton, and Peterson, are exceptional exponents of the running back craft who have all lit up the game with their talent over the years.

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