From Eric Dickerson in the 1980's, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith in the 1990's and Marshall Faulk, Priest Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson in the current era, running backs have thrilled us on the gridiron with their elusiveness, immense speed and graceful strides.
In fact, their skills and abilities have made them the most coveted athletes in the world of fantasy football.
In the second of NFL.com's three-part series on the greatest statistical seasons based on fantasy points in the Super Bowl era, we take a look at the best performances at the running back position.
|Otto Greule Jr. / Getty Images|
|Marshall Faulk was a fantasy superstar during much of his NFL career.|
Players were rewarded six points for all touchdowns and one point for each 10 rushing and receiving yards.
1. LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (2006): Tomlinson led the entire NFL with 1,815 rushing yards, added 508 yards as a receiver out of the backfield, scored a record 31 total touchdowns and finished with an incredible 419 fantasy points in what was a memorable season. He rushed for 100-plus yards 10 times, scored multiple touchdowns in 10 starts and led countless fantasy football owners to a title. L.T. was be the consensus No. 1 overall selection in most 2007 drafts, and he'll no doubt be a top-three choice in 2008.
2. Marshall Faulk, St. Louis (2000): Once the most coveted players in the history of fantasy football, Faulk had a number of productive seasons between Indianapolis and St. Louis in what was a Hall of Fame career. His best season came in 2000, when he had 375 fantasy points on 1,359 rushing yards, 830 receiving yards and 26 total touchdowns. The versatile running back is also one of two running backs (Roger Craig) to record 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season, so his value in fantasy land is well evident.
3. Priest Holmes, Kansas City (2002): Holmes, who was once stuck behind Errict Rhett on the depth chart in Baltimore, exploded onto the scene as a member the Kansas City Chiefs and would surpass Marshall Faulk as the top overall player in fantasy football. He thrived in the offense of head coach Dick Vermeil with a career-best 1,615 rushing yards, 672 receiving yards and 24 total touchdowns in 2002, all of which totaled 373 points. Holmes, who missed significant time with an injured neck, returned for four contests in 2007.
4. Priest Holmes, Kansas City (2003): Holmes produced one heck of an encore to his 2002 season, as he recorded 2,110 all-purpose yards and what was an NFL record 27 touchdowns for a total of 373 fantasy points. He had 100-plus all-purpose yards 13 times and scored multiple touchdowns in 10 contests, but this would be Holmes' final full season. Knee and neck injuries limited him to 15 games between 2004-2005, he missed all of 2006 and would retire this past season after a short-lived comeback in red, white and yellow.
5. Emmitt Smith, Dallas (1995): The all-time leader in career rushing yards with an incredible 18,355 yards, Smith was a true fantasy football stud throughout the 1990's. His greatest statistical season came in 1995, when he recorded 365 fantasy points on a career-best 1,773 rushing yards, 375 receiving yards and what was at one time a NFL record 25 touchdowns. Smith, who will soon be a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, is also second behind Jerry Rice in career touchdowns with a total of 175.
6. Shaun Alexander, Seattle (2005): Alexander rushed for an NFL best 1,880 yards and scored what was a record 28 total touchdowns to finish with 364 fantasy points in what was a MVP season. He rushed for 100-plus yards 11 different times and made multiple trips to the end zone in nine of his 16 starts. Alexander would become a victim of the dreaded Madden cover curse in 2006 and he faltered in 2007 as well, so it looks like his time as an elite fantasy running back are now in the rearview mirror.
7. O.J. Simpson, Buffalo (1975): The now infamous Simpson didn't need a white Ford Bronco to run from defenders in the 1975 season, as he recorded 1,817 rushing yards, 426 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns for a total of 363 fantasy points. What made his numbers even more spectacular was the fact that Simpson achieved them in just 14 contests. He had one more solid season with the Bills (1976) before his pro football career ended with a thud with two unimpressive seasons with the San Francisco 49ers from 1978-1979.
8. Terrell Davis, Denver (1998): While his career was short lived due to knee injuries, Davis did make some serious noise in his time between the white lines. His best statistical season came in 1998 when he became the fourth running back ever to reach the 2,000-yard mark. He also scored an impressive 23 total touchdowns and finished with 361 fantasy points. Davis rushed for 56 scores in his first four seasons -- that is a mark that no member of the Hall of Fame has matched -- so he could land in Canton in the future.
9. Ahman Green, Green Bay (2003): Maybe the most surprising member of our top 10 fantasy seasons at the running back position, Green scored 345 fantasy points on a career-best 1,883 rushing yards, 367 receiving yards and a total of 20 touchdowns in 2003. A versatile back who has been a solid contributor when at 100 percent, Green has seen his value waver in the past four seasons due to injuries. He missed much of the 2007 season due to knee problems, and it seems like Green's time as a viable fantasy back is over.
10. Eric Dickerson, L.A. Rams (1983): One of the greatest and most graceful runners in the history pro football, Dickerson had his best statistical season as a rookie with 341 points on 1,808 rushing yards, a career-best 404 receiving yards and a career-best 20 total touchdowns. He had an NFL-record 2,105 rushing yards the next very season and finished his Hall-of-Fame career sixth on the all-time list with a total of 13,259 rushing yards. Dickerson also scored 90 rushing touchdowns, which is tied for 12th all-time.