While Thanksgiving has always been a great holiday, how much better is that there is wall-to-wall NFL football on the tube? Even for those who like their relatives, Thanksgiving football is still a nice perk that increases the enjoyment of the day. So what better time to take a look at the best running backs in NFL history. Here are our top dozen of all-time.
10. MARCUS ALLEN
There was nothing that he couldn’t do on the football field. He could run, block, and was one of the best pass-catching backs, ever. He was Super Bowl MVP in 1983 and was league MVP in 1985.
9. EARL CAMPBELL
Only brave defensive players got in Earl’s path. He was the most bruising runner on this list. Because of that physical style, he can barely walk and sometimes needs a wheelchair. He was a three-time rushing champ, Rookie of the Year and MVP.
8. TONY DORSETT
In addition to his great vision and quick cutting ability, he had blinding speed. Who can forget his 1983, 99-yard touchdown run against Minnesota on Monday Night Football—and the Cowboys only had 10 men on the field to boot.
7. LADANIAN TOMLINSON
LT was the best running back in the first decade of the 2000s. Considering his small size, it was incredible how unstoppable he was. In 2006, he had 28 rushing touchdowns. Amazing.
6. EMMITT SMITH
When you’re considered the best runner in a team’s history that also has Tony Dorsett, that’s all you need to know. He was the best short yardage runner in NFL history. If Dallas had the ball inside the 5 yard line, forget it—it was a touchdown.
4. ERIC DICKERSON
Because he was the Rams offense in the 1980s, opposing defenses knew he was getting the ball and still couldn’t stop him. He had over 13,000 yards in his career. In 1984 he ran for 2,136 yards and averaged an astonishing 5.6 yards a rush.
3. WALTER PAYTON
Believe it or not, “Sweetness” left us 13 years ago. He had a unique running style (think of that stutter-step), but he was a great pass catcher, too. He had almost 22,000 all-purpose yards and was also the Bears’ emergency punter and quarterback.
2. JIM BROWN
Brown averaged a mind-boggling 5.2 yards a carry and won the MVP three times in his 9-year career. He retired as the NFL record holder for almost every rushing stat in the book. And he walked away in his prime!
1. BARRY SANDERS
As far as a pure runner, he was the best ever. Sanders often left defenders in their tracks wondering where the hell he went. Nobody in NFL history had a quicker change of direction and burst of speed like Barry. Nobody.