The role of the running back has evolved over time. The passing game has superseded the running game in recent years, making it harder for modern players to join the list of the greatest ever NFL running backs.


A truly elite back will still change games and be an important player to monitor for NFL tips.

Best NFL Running Backs:

  1. Walter Payton

  2. Barry Sanders

  3. Jim Brown

  4. Marshawn Lynch

  5. Earl Campbell

  6. Adrian Peterson

  7. Marshall Faulk

  8. Emmitt Smith

  9. Frank Gore

  10. O.J. Simpson

Of course, success as a running back is not an individual achievement, it is a team effort. Blocking and the quarterback’s ability to challenge the defence are massively important.

It’s rare that a running back features in NFL betting for MVP, but even in this era, having a functioning run game is key.

It keeps defences honest, it sets up the pass and is crucial for play-action, which is increasingly popular with offence-minded coaches.

These are the 10 greatest running backs in NFL history…

O.J. Simpson

The infamous O.J. Simpson is among the most talented running backs in NFL history.

He won MVP back in 1973, and spent several more seasons with the Buffalo Bills after before joining the San Francisco 49ers to finish his career.

Along with four rushing titles and a haul of Pro Bowl selections, Simpson also became the first ever player to rush 2,000 yards in a regular season.

Frank Gore

Playing through different eras, Frank Gore’s role has changed throughout his lengthy NFL career.

He’s onto his fifth team and remains an effective player. Only two players in league history have rushed for more yards than Gore.

Emmitt Smith

The league’s all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith was a Super Bowl champion on three occasions and a lock for this list.

Smith was a key component of successful Dallas Cowboys teams, and the Cowboys – one of the Super Bowl dark horses – will hope Ezekiel Elliott can follow in his footsteps in 2020.

Marshall Faulk

Marshall Faulk was one of four players considered to be ahead of the rest of the pack in the 1994 draft. He lived up to that potential, playing a 13-season Hall of Fame career with the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams.

A versatile back, Faulk is one of only three players in league history rack up 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards.

Adrian Peterson

The last non-quarterback to win MVP, Adrian Peterson’s career has that magical mix of peak dominance and longevity.

He took to the NFL quickly, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and registering 296 yards in a single game. Peterson has racked up the counting stats, and deep into his thirties, he’s still going strong.

Earl Campbell

The first overall pick in the 1978 NFL Draft, Earl Campbell enjoyed a Hall of Fame career with the Houston Oilers before spending a brief period with the New Orleans Saints.

Campbell starred in the Luv Ya Blue era, when the Oilers enjoyed sustained success, making the playoffs in three consecutive seasons.

He was a five-time Pro Bowler and won league MVP in 1979, one of three campaigns in which he led the NFL in rushing.

Marshawn Lynch

Unstoppable is the first word that comes to mind with Marshawn Lynch.

Beast Mode is an appropriate nickname for a player who flattened would-be tacklers, a player who was so integral to some of those great Seattle Seahawks teams.

The Seahawks are primed to be a prominent team in NFL betting tips this season – will Lynch make yet another comeback?

Jim Brown

Jim Brown is one of the greatest players of all-time, regardless of position. He was invited to the Pro Bowl every season he was in the league and won MVP three times, a tally only bettered by Peyton Manning.

His list of career achievements makes for phenomenal reading. An eight-time rushing leader, a five-time rushing touchdown leader, and NFL champion in 1964, Brown would make an all-time NFL team.

There are few who can even be compared to him.

Barry Sanders

Drafted third overall in 1989, Barry Sanders spent his entire NFL career with the Detroit Lions.

Despite never reaching the Super Bowl with Detroit, Sanders established himself as an elusive and electric runner, evading defenders with his agility rather than battering his way through.

He was invited to the Pro Bowl in every season of his career, and was one of the first names put on this list.

Walter Payton

Walter Payton could do it all. He mixed tireless rushing with catching ability and all-round versatility. When he retired, he held countless records and in 1993 he was selected to the Hall of Fame.

The solitary MVP award doesn’t reflect Payton’s effectiveness, his stutter-step left countless defenders baffled and many more where rejected by his trademark stiff-arm.

The Chicago Bears are far from sports betting favourites in 2020. How desperately they need an offensive talent like Payton.

*Credit for the main photo belongs to John B. Swart / AP Photo*


FIRST PUBLISHED: 25th August 2020

Sam is a sports tipster, specialising in the Premier League and Champions League.

He covers most sports, including cricket and Formula One. Sam particularly enjoys those on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean – notably MLB and NBA.

Watching, writing and talking about sports betting takes up most of his time, whether that is for a day out at T20 Finals Day or a long night of basketball.

Having been writing for several years, Sam has been working with 888Sport since 2016, contributing multiple articles per week to the blog.