Top 10 NFL Running Backs of the 90s
A list of the best NFL Running Backs of the 1990s. Lots of great choices to choose from. As always, only what the players did in the 90s will be taken into consideration.
Before we begin, be sure to check out my other Top 10 NFL Running Back Lists:
Let the countdown begin!
10. Marcus Allen: Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders & Kansas City Chiefs
Stats for the Decade: 4,968 Rushing Yards, 60 Rushing TD
Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 1x Pro-Bowler
While Allen wasn’t the player he was in the ’80s during the ’90s, he was still a very serviceable and solid Running Back in the Decade. He played for a long time and his 60 Rushing Touchdowns in the ’90s are very impressive for aging Running Back.
9. Eddie George: Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans
Stats for the Decade: 5,365 Rushing Yards, 28 Rushing TD
Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 1996 Offensive Rookie of the Year, 1996 All-Rookie Team, 3x Pro-Bowler
George was a huge power-back that grinded out tough yardage. He wasn’t necessarily flashy by any stretch. He just got the job done and had at least 1000 yards Rushing in every season he played during the ’90s. Now that’s what I call productive and consistent.
8. Ricky Watters: San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks
Stats for the Decade: 9,083 Rushing Yards, 70 Rushing TD, 3,528 Receiving Yards
Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 1x Super-Bowl Champion, 5x Pro-Bowler
Waters is one of the most forgotten Top Running Backs in NFL history. The Man is a Super-Bowl Champion that would break for huge runs and catch passes out of the backfield. Watters has never quite gotten the respect he deserves. He was a great player for a long time.
7. Curtis Martin: New England Patriots & New York Jets
Stats for the Decade: 6,550 Rushing Yards, 45 Rushing TD
Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 1995 Offensive Rookie of the Year, 1995 All-Rookie Team, 3x Pro-Bowler
If I told you Curtis Martin was in the NFL Hall of Fame, you’d probably be shocked. Martin quietly had a fantastic career. If I told you he had at least 1000 Yards Rushing or more in every season of his career including the ’90s, except for his last year, once again you’d be shocked. The bottom line is Martin was one of the more Productive Running Backs of his era.
6. Jerome Bettis: St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams & Pittsburgh Steelers
Stats for the Decade: 8,463 Rushing Yards, 41 Rushing TD
Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 1993 Offensive Rookie of the Year, 1993 All-Rookie Team, 4x Pro-Bowler, 2x All-Pro, 1x Comeback Player of the Year
His Yards per Carry weren’t always pretty. But “The Bus” was another power-running back that was used in tough yardage situations where his team only needed a couple of yards for a touchdown or a first down. Bettis played his role beautifully within any Offensive scheme he played in.
5. Thurman Thomas: Buffalo Bills
Stats for the Decade: 9,813 Rushing Yards, 57 Rushing TD, 3,464 Receiving Yards
Accolades Awards for the Decade: 1x MVP, 1x Offensive Player of the Year, 4x Pro-Bowler, 2x All-Pro
Thomas for many years was the best Offensive player the Bills had, even with Andre Reed and Jim Kelly on the roster. He was that good of a Running Back and a huge reason why the Bills were able to get to an unprecedented four straight Super-Bowls in the '90s.
4. Marshall Faulk: Indianapolis Colts & St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams
Stats for the Decade: 6,701 Rushing Yards, 49 Rushing TD, 3,852 Receiving Yards
Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 1x Super-Bowl Champion, 1994 Offensive Rookie of The Year, 1994 All-Rookie Team, 1x Offensive Player of the Year, 4x Pro-Bowler, 1x All-Pro
The fact that Faulk is only 4th on this list lets you know how good the top-end Running Backs of the ’90s were. Faulk could do it all. He was a Wide Receiver who just happened to play Running Back. I almost forgot he was a Running Back. He was a great receiver and a fantastic runner. Faulk was a big reason for “The Greatest Show on Turf” winning a Super-Bowl, in his first season with the team.
3. Terrell Davis: Denver Broncos
Stats for the Decade: 6,413 Rushing Yards, 56 Rushing TD
Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 2x Super-Bowl Champion, 1x Super-Bowl MVP, 3x Pro-Bowler, 3x All-Pro, 1x MVP, 2x Offensive Player of the Year, 1995 All-Rookie Team
Davis is the classic example of a player whose career we did not need to see more of to justify him being a Hall of Famer. Davis’ short stint as a top Running Back was more than enough. What he did and was able to accomplish in such a short amount of time was astounding. Davis helped the Broncos and John Elway win back-to-back Super-Bowls in the Decade and the Man they call “TD” won himself a Super-Bowl MVP to go along with his two rings.
2. Emmitt Smith: Dallas Cowboys
Stats for the Decade: 13,963 Rushing Yards, 136 Rushing TD
Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 3x Super-Bowl Champion, 1x Super-Bowl MVP, 8x Pro-Bowler, 4x All-Pro, 1x MVP, 1990 Offensive Rookie of the Year, 1990 All-Rookie Team
This ranking might upset some Cowboy fans, but Smith played with a tremendous Offensive Line, a Hall of fame Quarterback, and a Hall of Fame Wide Receiver. Still, there’s no denying Smith’s contribution to the Cowboys during the ’90s. He was their “bread and butter” more times than not on Offense. The Cowboys ran the Offense through Emmitt and he delivered. Smith ran the Cowboys to 3 Super-Bowl wins.
1. Barry Sanders: Detroit Lions
Stats for the Decade: 13,799 Rushing Yards, 85 Rushing TD
Accolades/Awards for the Decade: 9x Pro-Bowler, 5x All-Pro, 1x MVP, 2x Offensive Player of the Year
As an individual talent, there was no one better than Sanders. Plain and simple. Sanders didn’t play with good teammates or Quarterbacks. The Lions weren’t a good team during his time there. But he was the one shining star that made them watchable and exciting to watch. Sanders was the 90’s version of Saquon Barkley. It’s a shame he didn’t play in a Super-Bowl or even win one. Had he played for a team like the Bills, maybe he gets them over the hump. He was, after all, a substantially better player than Thurman Thomas. His play and production speak for themselves though and, he’s easily the best Running Back of the '90s.
Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out more of my content at: