Run, Forrest! Run!
It's officially NFL football season and I thought I'd entertain the oft-debated question of the greatest NFL running backs of all time.
Not just yardage or yards per attempt, though the hard stats are helpful, but who were the greatest all around running backs, as far as durability, value to their teams, running, receiving, blocking, etc.?
ESPN's experts have compiled their top 10 and it's pretty good, except where it deviates from mine, of course. I welcome your thoughts, but trust me, my list is correct.
- Jim Brown - Admittedly, I go on reputation and stats alone, but he seems to be the Babe Ruth of running backs and in a league of his own. Remember, he averaged 5.2 yards per carry, which means handing him the ball would probably get you half a first down every time.
- Barry Sanders - I hate putting him above my Cowboys, but he was phenomenal with a spare team and he could have easily done much more had he not retired early.
- Tony Dorsett - It may be heresy to rate him above Emmitt, but Dorsett was so explosive and a great threat catching passes out of the backfield. He was also a central piece of a very successful Cowboys team.
- Emmitt Smith - Not only was he great on the field, he was an inspiration and the gauge of his team. As went Emmitt, so went the Cowboys. Of course, being the All-Time Rushing Leader doesn't hurt any. Perhaps unfairly, Emmitt's accomplishments can get downplayed because he played on such a great time with such a great offensive line, even though he also contributed and made that line look good.
- Earl Campbell - He was a man among boys it seems and arguably the least fun to try to tackle. Had he not been a hated Longhorn, he might have ranked higher.
- Walter Payton - He was another punished by being on a subpar team, but he still managed to break Jim Brown's rushing record.
- Eric Dickerson - Many times I was juked out of my socks just watching him on the couch. He just seemed to have another gear on the field. I think his reputation would be greater had he been privileged to play for one franchise instead of 4.
- Marshall Faulk - Mister Everything it seemed there for a while with the Rams, in his prime who wouldn't have prioritized him over just about anyone else playing?
- O.J. Simpson - I know he may be a murderer, but prior to all that or his Naked Gun movies, the Juice was loose all over the NFL. He was another who wasn't fortunate to play on a perennial top team, but still put up absurd numbers.
- Marcus Allen - Though never a Raider fan, it was hard not to respect his abilities on the field.
Guys to Watch: Adrian Peterson and Ladainian Tomlinson.