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Hall of Fame cases for next wave of RBs: Peterson, Gore locks

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No one in NFL history with 1,000-plus rushing attempts has run for more yards per carry than Jamaal Charles (5.38).

Not Jim Brown (5.22). Not Brown's fellow Hall of Famers Barry Sanders (4.99), Eric Dickerson (4.43) and Emmitt Smith (4.16). Not current stars Todd Gurley (4.36) and Le'Veon Bell (4.34).

On the other hand, Charles only topped 1,000 yards in five seasons, tied for 29th-most alltime. And the last time he reached that benchmark was 2014.

Charles -- who retired this offseason -- is part of a wave of running backs who are either wrapping up or have completed accomplished careers but are not yet eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Players like Charles, Marshawn Lynch and Chris Johnson (to name a few) regularly were at or near the top of the list of leading rushers over the past 10 years. Will they make the cut for Canton?

There are 12 players who rushed for 7,000 yards or more in their careers and have not yet been eligible for Hall of Fame voting (meaning they played in the NFL in 2014 or later). Below, you'll find my assessment of each player's Hall of Fame chances. NOTE: Active players have the names of their current teams listed.

The players are listed in reverse order. At the bottom, you'll see my locks for the Hall, along with those players who are on the bubble. First, let's discuss the players who had distinguished careers and might be considered for the Hall, but are not likely to receive gold jackets.

12
Jonathan Stewart
RB
RETIRED

Injuries short-circuited what might have otherwise been a memorable career. Stewart, who also shared carries with DeAngelo Williams and Cam Newton for much of his tenure in Carolina, surpassed 200 totes in just three of his 11 seasons, but his per-game rushing-yards mark in those seasons (70.1) is on par with the career per-game figures put up by Frank Gore (70.2) and Marshawn Lynch (70.1)

Played for: Carolina Panthers (2008-2017), New York Giants (2018)

Career stats: 134 games | 1,705 carries | 7,335 rush yds | 4.3 ypc | 51 rush TDs | 7 rec TDs | 8,630 scrimmage yds

11
DeAngelo Williams
RB
RETIRED

Williams might not rank among the top ball carriers of all time, but he was one of the greatest running backs in Carolina Panthers history. Among Panthers players to have 600 or more career rushing attempts, Williams is the franchise leader in rushing yards per game (58.5) and is second in rushing yards per attempt (4.78), behind only quarterback Cam Newton (5.18).

Played for: Carolina Panthers (2006-2014), Pittsburgh Steelers (2015-16)

Career stats: 142 games | 1,730 carries | 8,096 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 61 rush TDs | 9 rec TDs | 10,202 scrimmage yds

10
DeMarco Murray
RB
RETIRED

Known for getting the tough yards and converting would-be losses into short gains, Murray got within spitting distance of joining the 2,000-yard club in 2014, when he finished with 1,845. But he never reached the same heights again after leaving Dallas, averaging 883 rushing yards over the final three seasons of his career, split between Philadelphia and Tennessee.

Played for: Dallas Cowboys (2011-14), Philadelphia Eagles (2015), Tennessee Titans (2016-17)

Career stats: 99 games | 1,604 carries | 7,174 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 49 rush TDs | 6 rec TDs | 9,339 scrimmage yds

9
Maurice Jones-Drew
RB
RETIRED

Jones-Drew ranks 47th all time in rushing yards and 79th in yards from scrimmage, but he was one of the best Mighty Mite backs during his heyday. The 2011 NFL rushing king reached three Pro Bowls and earned one All-Pro nod over the course of his career despite checking in at a shade under 5-foot-7.

Played for: Jacksonville Jaguars (2006-2013), Oakland Raiders (2014)

Career stats: 126 games | 1,847 carries | 8,167 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 68 rush TDs | 11 rec TDs | 11,111 scrimmage yds

8
Chris Johnson
RB
RETIRED

Johnson secured his place in NFL history by posting the sixth-most prolific rushing season ever, racking up 2,006 yards in 2009. However, he was never really able to match that one great year again. He'll get some consideration, but unfortunately, I don't think he was able to produce at a high level for long enough to reach the Hall.

Played for: Tennessee Titans (2008-2013), New York Jets (2014), Arizona Cardinals (2015-17)

Career stats: 130 games | 2,163 carries | 9,651 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 55 rush TDs | 9 rec TDs | 11,906 scrimmage yds

7
Steven Jackson
RB
RETIRED

Jackson posted eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons on Rams teams that were mostly subpar in the passing game -- that's a very impressive feat. His name will be considered. But after his rookie year in 2004, his squads never reached the playoffs, meaning Jackson was never able to create the kinds of special postseason moments that can help burnish a Hall of Fame resume. Frankly, if he'd been able to work with a more competent passing game for a significant length of time during his prime, his numbers would have been even better.

Played for: St. Louis Rams (2004-2012), Atlanta Falcons (2013-14), New England Patriots (2015)

Career stats: 160 games | 2,764 carries | 11,438 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 69 rush TDs | 9 rec TDs | 15,121 scrimmage yds

6
Matt Forte
RB
RETIRED

Forte was one of the most complete running backs of his generation, logging a whopping 2,910 touches in 10 seasons -- the most in the NFL from 2008 through '17. He was a constant source of scrimmage yards, putting up 1,447 per season. His name will draw consideration, but his career total of 9,796 rushing yards (33rd all time) is probably not enough to get him into the final round of Hall of Fame voting. If his teams had performed better, he'd have a better chance.

Played for: Chicago Bears (2008-2015), New York Jets (2016-17)

Career stats: 146 games | 2,356 carries | 9,796 rush yds | 4.2 ypc | 54 rush TDs | 21 rec TDs | 14,468 scrimmage yds

ON THE BUBBLE

5
Marshawn Lynch
RB
RETIRED

The strength of Lynch's case for Canton lies in his penchant for signature runs. And no run better captures the essence of Lynch on the field than the iconic "Beast Quake." In 2010, Pete Carroll's first season as the Seahawks' coach, Seattle reached the postseason as 7-9 winners of the NFC West -- and Lynch helped put the Seahawks over the top against the 11-5 Saints in the Wild Card Round with a 67-yard touchdown run, shaking off or steam-rolling about 50 would-be tacklers. His yardage total of 10,379, however, ranks a modest 29th on the all-time list, and the way his career ended -- marked by injuries and a temporary retirement -- won't help his cause. There is a possibility that he'll make the Hall, but it's far from a cinch.

Played for: Buffalo Bills (2007-2010), Seattle Seahawks (2010-15), Oakland Raiders (2017-18)

Career stats: 148 games | 2,441 carries | 10,379 rush yds | 4.3 ypc | 84 rush TDs | 9 rec TDs | 12,593 scrimmage yds

4
LeSean McCoy
RB
Bills

By the end of the 2019 season, McCoy might be out of a job in Buffalo, given that this is the last year of his current contract and the Bills drafted running back Devin Singletary in the third round. But he could also be firmly within the top 20 on the list of all-time rushing leaders. This is important because only three eligible players in that group -- Edgerrin James (No. 13), Fred Taylor (No. 17) and Corey Dillon (No. 20) -- are currently not in the Hall of Fame. I'm not certain McCoy will make the cut, but he has a chance.

Played for: Philadelphia Eagles (2009-2014), Buffalo Bills (2015-present)

Career stats: 147 games | 2,346 carries | 10,606 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 69 rush TDs | 15 rec TDs | 14,222 scrimmage yds

3
Jamaal Charles
RB
RETIRED

In my opinion, the resume of each entrant to the Hall of Fame must include at least one distinctive accomplishment. The fact that Charles' career yards-per-carry mark (5.368) is better than any other running back's in NFL history is an eye-opener. Counting against him is the fact that he failed to top 400 rushing yards in six of his 11 seasons. To me, he's something of a long shot to reach the Hall, but he has a chance, especially if he reaches the final round of voting and his presenter is able to make a strong, convincing case for him.

Played for: Kansas City Chiefs (2008-2016), Denver Broncos (2017), Jacksonville Jaguars (2018)

Career stats: 119 games | 1,407 carries | 7,563 rush yds | 5.4 ypc | 44 rush TDs | 20 rec TDs | 10,156 scrimmage yds

LOCKS

2
Frank Gore
RB
Bills

Consistent excellence is what Gore will most be remembered for. The 15th-year pro is the only player in NFL history to have logged 1,200-plus scrimmage yards in 12 consecutive seasons, and he ranks fifth all-time in career yards from scrimmage (18,544). He's also scored five-plus touchdowns in 11 consecutive seasons, which is tied for the best mark in history. He might not have the sizzle to land in Canton as a first-ballot guy, but he's definitely bound to wear a gold jacket someday.

Played for: San Francisco 49ers (2005-2014), Indianapolis Colts (2015-17), Miami Dolphins (2018), Buffalo Bills (present)

Career stats: 210 games | 3,382 carries | 14,748 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 77 rush TDs | 18 rec TDs | 18,544 scrimmage yds

1
Adrian Peterson
RB
Redskins

Even though he's still 5,037 yards away and 34 years old, Peterson said as recently as last September that he believes he has a chance to catch Emmitt Smith (18,355 career rushing yards) to claim the all-time rushing title. Putting off retirement to presumably chase that goal is the only thing delaying Peterson's induction as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Looking back over the gaps in his career ( he missed most of 2014 after being indicted on a charge of reckless or negligent injury to a child and missed most of '16 with a knee injury), it's fair to wonder what might have been, especially when you consider his ability to put up 1,000 yards at 33 -- there have been only seven 1,000-yard rushing seasons recorded by players 33 or older in NFL history. I can't say whether the 2014 incident involving his son -- he ultimately pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault in a case related to what the league called "an incident of abusive discipline" -- will factor in; I'm looking here strictly at what he accomplished on the field.

Played for: Minnesota Vikings (2007-2016), New Orleans Saints (2017), Arizona Cardinals (2017), Washington Redskins (2018-present)

Career stats: 149 games | 2,825 carries | 13,318 rush yds | 4.7 ypc | 106 rush TDs | 6 rec TDs | 15,541 scrimmage yds

Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter @Gil_Brandt.

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