Ask anybody who plays Fantasy Football about the best way to ensure a league championship and they are very likely to say something about wide receiver depth. The NFL is clearly a passing offense league these days. The teams that advance all the way to the Super Bowl typically have a dominating passing attack designed to beat their opponents through the air.
It wasn’t that long ago, though, that a solid ground attack could carry an NFL team to Super Bowl glory. Likewise, owning a top running back was essential to winning your typical Fantasy Football league. These days, dominating running backs are few and far between in the NFL because many teams have adopted a “committee approach” to the running back position.
Fantasy Football owners who’ve played the game for many years love to reminisce about the All-Time greatest running backs of the NFL, and often try to imagine what it would have been like if one of those players was on the field in the current aerial environment. Would they be as effective now as they were dominating then? Think about that while we look at the Top 5 NFL Running Backs of All-Time.
#5. Marcus Allen – During his 16-year career, 11 with the Oakland Raiders and five with the Kansas City Chiefs, Allen rushed for 12,243 yards, caught 587 passes for another 5,411 yards and scored 145 touchdowns. His best season was 1985, when he led the NFL with 1,759 rushing yards on 380 carries and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. To this day, Allen is the only NFL player to have won the Heisman Trophy, an NCAA Championship, a Super Bowl and be named both NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP. There is a really cool signed helmet commemorating Allen along with five other Super Bowl-winning Oakland Raiders players at Steiner Sports. That’s just one of the 10 items you’ll find there commemorating Marcus Allen.
#4. Emmitt Smith – Smith was an integral part of the Dallas Cowboys during the organization’s years as a dynasty in the NFL, helping to lead the Cowboys to three Super Bowl wins. During his 15-year career, he rushed for 18,355 yards to become the NFL’s all-time rushing leader. There were 78 games in which Smith rushed for more than 100-yards. Smith is the only running back ever to win a Super Bowl title, the NFL MVP Award, the NFL rushing crown and the Super Bowl MVP in one season. Smith led the NFL in rushing and won a Super Bowl in the same year three times. He’s also one of just two non-kickers to score over 1,000 points during his career. You can get a signed Emmitt Smith football for the Cowboys fan on your holiday gift list from Steiner Sports!
#3. Walter Payton – For me, Walter Payton represented everything that was great about the NFL. His motto, “Never Die Easy,” tells you what kind of player and man he was. “Sweetness” rushed for 16,726 yards over his 13-year career. He played 12 or more games in all but one season, and played all 16 games in eight seasons. He was chosen for the Pro Bowl nine times and had his best season in 1977, when he averaged 132 rushing yards per game. Payton rushed for over 1,000 yards in an astounding nine campaigns and he threw eight touchdown passes, second only to Frank Gifford for a non-quarterback. Steiner Sports has a stunning Chicago Bears jersey signed by Payton on which he wrote “Sweetness,” Super Bowl XX, HOF 1993, 16,726, 75-86. There are several other very cool items on Steiner’s Walter Payton page.
#2. Barry Sanders – Sanders was just as famous for his incredible college career as he was for his accomplishments on the NFL gridiron for the Detroit Lions. In 1988, he had what is arguably the greatest individual season in college football history. He averaged 7.6 yards per carry and more than 200 rushing yards per game for the Oklahoma State Cowboys that year. He set college football records with 2,628 yards rushing, 3,248 total yards, 39 touchdowns and five consecutive 200-yard games. He also scored two touchdowns in 11 consecutive games and played nine games in which he scored three touchdowns. Sanders was probably the greatest running back to never win a Super Bowl. During his 10-year career, he rushed for 15,269 yards. His greatest season was 1997, when he rushed for 2,053 yards and had 14 consecutive 100-yard games, an NFL record to this day. He walked away from football after the following season, still healthy and at the top of his game. Steiner Sports has several signed helmets from Sanders along with both signed and unsigned photos.
#1. Jim Brown – Few would argue with the choice of Jim Brown as the greatest running back ever. Over his nine-year career with the Cleveland Browns, he rushed for 12,312 yards and scored 106 touchdowns, both NFL records in his day. To this day, he is still the only player in the NFL to have a career average of over 100 rushing yards per game. From 1957 to 1965, he was the NFL MVP four times and was named to the Pro Bowl every single year, and he won a championship with the Browns in 1964. Steiner Sports has a very special item commemorating Jim Brown – an autographed picture of him from his rookie season on which he wrote, “HOF 71.”