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Most Dominant RBs: Best Overall RBs Ever

Posted by Chase Stuart on April 10, 2009

Monday we reviewed methodology; Tuesday the top single seasons. On Wednesday, we looked at the most dominant RBs in NFL history and yesterday we focused on the greatest playoff performances ever. Today we bring it all together, regular and post-season numbers, to examine the best single seasons and careers in NFL history.

The table below shows each player's regular season adjusted rushing yards over average ("RSH"), his total touchdowns per game over average ("TTD"), his adjusted receiving yards over average ("CAT"), along with his post-season performances in all three categories ("PRSH", "PTTD" and "PCAT"). Finally, all six numbers were added together to get a total value on the season for each player ("TVAL").

			year	team   	 RSH 	TTD 	CAT 	PRSH	PTTD	PCAT	TVAL
Terrell Davis		1998	den	 881	13.9	  0	319	0.7	 20	1513
Marshall Faulk		2001	ram	 437	13.8	472	138	1.0	 79	1422
O.J. Simpson		1975	buf	 981	14.4	 70	  0	0.0	  0	1339
LaDainian Tomlinson	2006	sdg	 647	21.0	146	 52	1.4	 39	1331
Terrell Davis		1997	den	 695	 6.5	  0	332	8.2	  0	1323
Marshall Faulk		2000	ram	 452	17.1	475    - 42	0.4	 76	1310
Jim Brown		1963	cle	1088	 6.7	  0	  0	0.0	  0	1223
Priest Holmes		2002	kan	 603	14.4	327	  0	0.0	  0	1218
O.J. Simpson		1973	buf	1094	 4.6	  0	  0	0.0	  0	1186
Emmitt Smith		1995	dal	 642	15.7	  0	108	5.7	  0	1177
Earl Campbell		1980	oti	1063	 4.5	  0	 12	0.4	  0	1175
Walter Payton		1977	chi	 992	 9.6	  0    - 20	0.0	  9	1172
Marshall Faulk		1999	ram	 319	 2.9	733    -129	0.0	181	1161
Jim Brown		1958	cle	1000	 9.8	  0    - 39	0.0	  0	1156
Emmitt Smith		1992	dal	 708	10.3	  0	137	2.8	 11	1118
Jim Brown		1965	cle	 841	11.9	  0	  6	0.0	 14	1099
Barry Sanders		1997	det	 952	 5.0	  0    -  1	0.0	 23	1075
LaDainian Tomlinson	2003	sdg	 501	 6.9	413	  0	0.0	  0	1052
Priest Holmes		2003	kan	 243	17.2	337	 79	1.4	 10	1041
Eric Dickerson		1984	ram	 907	 4.2	  0	 23	0.4	  0	1020
Emmitt Smith		1993	dal	 635	 3.4	 20	157	4.2	 56	1019
Shaun Alexander		2005	sea	 613	17.8	  0	 21	0.0	  0	 990
Thurman Thomas		1990	buf	 346	 3.5	127	262	2.6	116	 973
Steven Jackson		2006	ram	 325	 5.5	506	  0	0.0	  0	 941
Marcus Allen		1985	rai	 738	 3.2	 92	 34	0.3	  0	 933
Ahman Green		2003	gnb	 617	10.0	  0	 79	0.7	 13	 924
Jim Brown		1959	cle	 796	 6.1	  0  	  0	0.0	  0	 919
Tiki Barber		2005	nyg	 722	 0.3	205    - 30	0.0	  7	 909
Barry Sanders		1994	det	 963	 0.0	  0    - 59	0.0	  0	 904
Jim Taylor		1962	gnb	 711	 9.8	  0    - 16	0.3	  0	 897
Emmitt Smith		1994	dal	 573	13.9	  0	  1	1.9	  0	 892
Joe Morris		1986	nyg	 590	 5.2	  0	138	2.4	  0	 879
Edgerrin James		2000	clt	 520	 7.7	146	 41	0.0	  4	 864
Brian Westbrook		2007	phi	 268	 3.6	519	  0	0.0	  0	 859
Barry Sanders		1991	det	 660	 8.6	  0	  9	0.0	  0	 840
Jamal Anderson		1998	atl	 635	 6.7	  0	 44	0.7	  0	 827
James Wilder		1984	tam	 429	 3.1	325	  0	0.0	  0	 816
Jim Taylor		1961	gnb	 626	 8.3	  0	 19	0.0	  0	 812
Marshall Faulk		1998	clt	 168	 0.5	631	  0	0.0	  0	 809
Thurman Thomas		1991	buf	 487	 3.4	264    - 11	0.0	  0	 808
Roger Craig		1988	sfo	 458	 0.0	139	 46	0.0	165	 808
Jamal Lewis		2003	rav	 755	 3.8	  0    - 36	0.0	  0	 794
Jim Brown		1964	cle	 717	 0.0	  0	 66	0.0	 10	 793
Larry Johnson		2006	kan	 620	 8.6	 21    - 39	0.0	  8	 783
Jim Brown		1961	cle	 627	 1.4	127	  0	0.0	  0	 783
Eric Dickerson		1988	clt	 672	 5.1	  0	  0	0.0	  0	 775
Steve Van Buren		1949	phi	 569	 2.7	  0	147	0.0	  0	 771
Larry Johnson		2005	kan	 557	10.6	  0	  0	0.0	  0	 768
Walter Payton		1979	chi	 600	 5.2	  0	 12	1.3      24	 765
Edgerrin James		1999	clt	 394	 8.0	216    -  7	0.0	  0	 764

TD's 1998 is the new gold standard for seasons. 2,000 rushing yards and a Super Bowl MVP. His 2,476 rushing yards in 19 games that season is still the record for rushing yards in a season. Jim Brown still leads all backs with six seasons in the top 50; Emmitt Smith and Marshall Faulk each have four seasons on the list. Barry Sanders has three top 50 seasons while LaDainian Tomlinson, Thurman Thomas, Jim Taylor, O.J. Simpson, Walter Payton, Larry Johnson, Edgerrin James, Priest Holmes, Eric Dickerson and Terrell Davis all appear twice on the list, too. Davis produced two of the top five seasons of all time.

Finally, here's the career list. Let's use Terrell Davis as an example as I explain the four (eight) categories. The first category, Value, shows how many adjusted yards over average each RB added in each season of his career (with the 100/95/90 dropoff rate). Davis added 2,651 adjusted yards over average (which ranks as the 13th best number). You can also compare Davis to replacement, instead of league average. Comparing a RB to replacement rewards players who were very good for a long time; comparing a RB to league average only really rewards those who were great. Because of his short career, Davis added only 3,964 adjusted yards over replacement (which ranks as the 19th highest number). Once you include the playoffs, though, Davis added 3,516 adjusted yards over average (8th) and 5,051 yards over replacement (12th). And, of course, the line that shows Davis' numbers is really Davis, the Broncos offensive line, the Broncos offensive philosphy, Denver's coaching and Denver's players. So a RB can rank highly on this list by being great, having great support, or a combination of the two.

Here's the final career list, sorted by post-season included value added over average.

			Val	 Rk	Rep	 Rk	Val(P)	 Rk	Rep(P)	 Rk
Jim Brown		6114	  1	7971	  1	6174	  1	8082	  2
Emmitt Smith		4459	  5	7057	  6	5349	  2	8311	  1
Barry Sanders		5063	  2	7312	  3	5082	  3	7418	  4
Marshall Faulk		4482	  4	7445	  2	4817	  4	7998	  3
Walter Payton		4544	  3	7126	  4	4583	  5	7284	  5
LaDainian Tomlinson	4222	  6	7105	  5	4240	  6	7229	  6
Eric Dickerson		3693	  7	5457	  7	3868	  7	5740	  8
Terrell Davis		2651	 13	3964	 19	3516	  8	5051	 12
O.J. Simpson		3486	  8	4998	 11	3497	  9	5028	 13
Thurman Thomas		2859	 11	5083	  9	3386	 10	6036	  7
Priest Holmes		2937	  9	4491	 13	3048	 11	4629	 15
Jim Taylor		2780	 12	4155	 16	2899	 12	4371	 18
Earl Campbell		2867	 10	4198	 15	2868	 13	4286	 19
Curtis Martin		2591	 14	5203	  8	2784	 14	5606	  9
Steve Van Buren		2582	 15	3586	 26	2770	 15	3824	 26
Edgerrin James		2571	 16	5029	 10	2651	 16	5252	 10
Shaun Alexander		2422	 17	4221	 14	2451	 17	4406 	 17
Tiki Barber		2399	 18	4906	 12	2443	 18	5073	 11
Marcus Allen		1990	 19	4120	 18	2322	 19	4988	 14
Leroy Kelly		1961	 20	3421	 29	2087	 20	3630	 34
Franco Harris		1251	 47	3064	 36	2057	 21	4230	 21
John Riggins		1307	 44	3143	 35	1994	 22	3982	 22
Lydell Mitchell		1912	 22	3666	 21	1957	 23	3770	 31
Chuck Foreman		1803	 24	3443	 28	1931	 24	3807 	 27
Ottis Anderson		1702	 25	3542	 27	1853	 25	3775	 29
Brian Westbrook		1678	 27	3406	 30	1850	 26	3782	 28
Clinton Portis		1923	 21	3768	 20	1846	 27	3758	 32
Tony Dorsett		1523	 32	3644	 23	1808	 28	4235	 20
Jerome Bettis		1816	 23	3650	 22	1793	 29	3742	 33
Ahman Green		1622	 28	3611	 25	1743	 30	3891	 25
William Andrews		1690	 26	3293	 32	1678	 31	3308	 36
Eddie George		1450	 34	3391	 31	1652	 32	3773	 30
Ricky Watters		1343	 40	4127	 17	1616	 33	4624	 16
Fred Taylor		1440	 35	3632	 24	1613 	 34	3900	 24
Stephen Davis		1552	 29	2668	 45	1605	 35	2840	 41
Roger Craig		1291	 46	3261	 33	1599	 36	3938	 23
Gerald Riggs		1539	 31	2608	 48	1539	 37	2599	 50
Larry Johnson		1544	 30	2723	 43	1513	 38	2717	 43
Wilbert Montgomery	1332	 42	2985	 38	1500	 39	3317	 35
Larry Brown		1383	 36	2781	 41	1491	 40	2960	 40
Gale Sayers		1480	 33	2669	 44	1480	 41	2669	 46
Jamal Lewis		1333	 41	2983	 39	1425	 42	3191	 38
Abner Haynes		1379	 37	2624	 46	1399	 43	2668	 47
Joe Morris		1123	 56	1972	 68	1353	 44	2299	 62
Joe Perry		1352	 38	2498	 49	1352	 45	2510	 54
Clem Daniels		1351	 39	2787	 40	1351	 46	2787	 42
Corey Dillon		1247	 48	3051	 37	1323	 47	3224	 37
Lawrence McCutcheon	1192	 51	2399	 53	1287	 48	2613	 49
Curt Warner		1302	 45	2451	 52	1287	 49	2502	 55
Herschel Walker		1313	 43	3235	 34	1284	 50	3187	 39
Paul Lowe		1096	 57	1845	 73	1259	 51	2051	 71
Larry Csonka		 858	 72	2074	 65	1245	 52	2653	 48
Ron A. Johnson		1211	 49	2191	 63	1211	 53	2191	 66
Rodney Hampton		1128	 55	2275	 60	1205	 54	2382	 57
Chris Warren		1182	 52	2328	 55	1182	 55	2328	 60
Steven Jackson		1179	 53	2466	 50	1179	 56	2466	 56
Billy Sims		1147	 54	2609	 47	1176	 57	2679	 45
Ricky Williams		1208	 50	2731	 42	1158	 58	2697	 44
Robert Smith		1045	 60	2295	 58	1127	 59	2514	 53
George Rogers		1069	 59	2235	 61	1104	 60	2255	 64
Cliff Battles		1094	 58	1802	 78	1094	 61	1825	 80
Adrian Peterson   	 975	 63	1541	 97	1019	 62	1605	 98
Lenny Moore		 905	 68	2465	 51	 983	 63	2549	 51
Jim Nance		 981	 62	1632	 89	 981	 64	1632	 91
Floyd Little		 967	 64	2289	 59	 967	 65	2289	 63
Dan Towler		 962	 65	1604	 91	 963	 66	1630	 92
Cookie Gilchrist	 952	 66	1705	 82	 962	 67	1736	 86
Terry Allen		 985	 61	2315	 57	 955	 68	2315	 61
Deuce McAllister	 944	 67	2118	 64	 944	 69	2196	 65
Barry Foster		 858	 73	1469	102	 938	 70	1592	100
Frank Gifford		 846	 76	1949	 69	 938	 71	2100	 68
Eddie Price		 887	 70	1410	111	 905	 72	1439	112
Jamal Anderson		 844	 77	1805	 77	 901	 73	1957	 73
James Wilder		 893	 69	1986	 67	 893	 74	2028	 72
Billy Cannon		 717	 84	1171	118	 869	 75	1394	115
Charlie Garner		 851	 74	2345	 54	 861	 76	2539	 52
Timmy Brown		 861	 71	1888	 71	 861	 77	1888	 78
Otis Armstrong		 849	 75	1555	 94	 849	 78	1555	103
Neal Anderson	 	 843	 78	2318	 56	 826	 79	2363	 58
Dorsey Levens		 613	 96	1390	113	 790	 80	1693	 88
Delvin Williams	 	 791	 80	1667	 86	 777	 81	1657	 90
Bill Brown		 697	 87	1836	 74	 748	 82	1908	 76
Garrison Hearst	 	 805	 79	1933	 70	 738	 83	1914	 75
Rick Casares		 741	 81	1504	100	 733	 84	1519	106
Greg Bell		 655	 93	1660	 87	 730 	 85	1787	 83
Freeman McNeil		 558	102	1783	 79	 730	 86	2080	 70
J.D. Smith		 727	 82	1608	 90	 727	 87	1608	 95
Mark van Eeghen	 	 691	 88	1678	 85	 710	 88	1900	 77
Alan Ameche		 658	 92	1434	108	 691	 89	1474	108
Michael Turner		 699	 86	1015	136	 681	 90	1018	142
John Brockington	 724	 83	1572	 93	 679	 91	1541	105
Bill Paschal		 711	 85	1158	119	 676	 92	1146	122
DeAngelo Williams	 651	 94	 968	142	 648	 93	 982	147
Thomas Jones		 520	107	1861	 72	 645	 94	2089	 69
Frank Gore		 637	 95	1700	 83	 637	 95	1700	 87
Christian Okoye	 	 675	 91	1240	117	 627	 96	1242	118
Hoyle Granger		 684	 90	1459	104	 615	 97	1421	113
John Henry Johnson	 612	 97	1463	103	 612	 98	1455	109
Ted Brown		 584	101	1647	 88	 606	 99	1736	 85
Gene Roberts	 	 604	 98	 984	139	 604	100	1022	141

There are 9 RBs who gained 300 or more yards of value once you include the postseason data. Emmitt Smith (+891), Terrell Davis (+865) and Franco Harris (+805) were monsters in the post-season. John Riggins (+688) and Thurman Thomas (+527) had great success, too. Larry Csonka (+386), Marshall Faulk (+335), Marcus Allen (+332) and Roger Craig (+308) have terrific playoff resumes, too. Keith Lincoln (+289) is on there off of one game; Tony Dorsett, Ricky Watters (who many forget was a terrific playoff back), Duane Thomas, Joe Morris and Eddie George round out the top 15 biggest movers when you consider playoff performances.

This entry was posted on Friday, April 10th, 2009 at 6:59 am and is filed under History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.