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Most dominant all-around Rbs in NFL History

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  1. PonyExpress

    PonyExpress In the Starting Line-Up

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    Most Dominant All-Around Running Backs in NFL History
    The Pats’ drafting Maroney has definitely got me interested in the history of the RB position, and prompted me to wonder about some of the greatest at the position. Last time I posted a thread about “most dominant pure runners†I received a lot of criticism and much of it was justified. When you start ranking greatest RBs in NFL history you enter sacred territory to football fans and have to approach it with due respect, which I didn’t. So I went over the top, and decided to look more carefully at the issue. First I decided to look at the most dominant “all-around†Rbs in NFL history, in terms of yards from scrimmage. My method was as follows: I narrowed the pool of players to be considered down to players who appeared on the top-50 rushing list all-time, players in the HOF at the HB/FB position, plus a few Wild Cards (William Andrews, Chick Foreman, Billy Sims, Wendell Tyler, and Chuck Muncie) who had excellent primes. Then I cherry-picked the 5 best years of each player, which I called “prime years†(creative, huh). Then I ranked all the players against each other in 3 categories: (1) Yards from scrimmage per game played by each player’s team during his 5 prime years (per team game instead of per player’s appearance, thereby valuing durability as a factor in dominance); (2) average yards per touch, rushing and receiving combined; and (3) TDs per game played by team during player’s 5 prime seasons (once again factoring in durability). I valued these three categories equally, a subjective but not irrational valuation. After ranking the players against each other in these three categories, I added up the results and listed the candidates in order. Here are the results. Key:
    Player Name (Prime Years), Yards per Game (Rank)/Yards per Touch (Rank)/TDs per Game (Rank)/ Final Score.
    Tiebreaker: Average YPG.

    1.J.Brown (1958,61,63-5)137.1 (1) /5.91 (5) /1.07 (3)/ 9
    2.M.Faulk (1994, 98-01) 135.0 (2) /6.02 (4) /1.01 (5)/ 11
    3.L.Moore (1957-61)107.5 (19) /9.73 (1) /.97 (7) / 27
    4.Simpson (1972-76)126.3 (5) /5.49 (9) /.77 (17)/ 31
    5.Sanders (1991, 94-97) 124.7 (6) /5.48 (10) /.78 (16)/ 32
    6.Holmes (1998,01-04) 111.4 (15) /5.38 (15) /1.04 (4)/ 34
    7.Payton (1977,79,83-85)130.2 (4) /5.26 (19) /.79 (15)/ 38
    8.Barber (2000, 02-05)123.4 (7) /5.52 (8) /.61 (26)/ 41
    9.Dickerson (1983-4, 86-88)131.3 (3) /5.00 (29) /.87 (10)/ 42
    10.E.Smith (1991-95) 121.8 (10) /4.77 (35) /1.11 (2)/ 47
    11.Thomas (1989-93) 119.9 (11) /5.33 (17) /.69 (21) 49
    12.Tomlinson (2001-05) 121.9 (9) /4.77 (35) /1.00 (6) 50
    13.S.Alexander (2001-05) 110.6 (16) /4.82 (34) /1.23 (1) 51
    14.M.Allen (1982-85,95) 110.0 (17) /5.18 (22) /.85 (12) 51
    15.L.Kelly (1966-69,71) 96.2 (33) /5.42 (13) /1.01 (5) 51
    16.E. James (1999-00,03-05)123.3 (8) /4.86 (33) /.86 (11) 52
    17.W.Andrews (1979-83)114.8 (12) /5.46 (11) /.55 (29) 52
    18.A.Green (2000-04)113.0 (13) /5.17 (23) /.76 (18) 54
    19.J. Taylor (1960-64)101.4 (28) /5.14 (25) /1.04 (4) 57
    20.C.Foreman (1973-77)106.1 (22) /5.07 (28) /.94 (8) 58
    21.B.Sims (1980-84) 98.3 (30) /5.45 (12) /.64 (24) 66
    22.J.Brooks (1985-6,88-90) 91.4 (40)/6.12 (3) /.66 (23) 66
    23.H.Walker (1986-88,92-3)104.0 (25) /5.40 (14) /.54 (30) 69
    24.Sayers (1965-9) 88.3 (42) /5.80 (6) /.69 (21) 69
    25.F. Taylor (1998,00,02-04)106.5 (21) /5.16(24) /.61 (26) 71
    26.R.Craig (1985-9) 104.9 (23) /5.32 (18) /.54 (30) 71
    27.T. Davis (1995-8,01)104.6 (24) /5.00 (29) /.76 (18) 71
    28.Dorsett (1977-8,81,83,85)106.6 (20) /5.14 (25) /.60 (27) 72
    29.C.Garner (1999-03) 97.7 (31) /5.80 (6) /.41 (36) 73
    30.McElhenny (1952-3,56-8)81.5 (51) /6.52 (2) /.72 (20) 73
    31.J.Perry (1950,52-4,58) 82.7 (49) /5.71 (7) /.67 (22) 78
    32.O.Anderson (1979-81, 83-4) 110.6 (16) /4.92 (32) /.53 (31) 79
    33.C.Martin 1995,99-01,04) 112.0 (14) /4.49 (45) /.69 (21) 80
    34.Campbell (1978-81,83)103.4 (26) /4.55 (42) /.84 (13) 81
    35.Watters (1995-6,98-00) 107.8 (18) /4.59 (40) /.63 (25) 83
    36.G.Riggs (1984-7,89) 94.6 (34) /4.42 (47) /.50 (32) 83
    37.F.Harris (1972,74-6,79) 92.5 (37) /4.95 (31) /.75 (19) 87
    38.Muncie (1977,79,81-3) 86.3 (45) /4.97 (30) /.83 (14) 89
    39.W.Tyler (1979,81,83-5)82.3 (50) /5.35 (16) /.63 (25) 91
    40.Dillon (1997,00-02,04) 98.4 (29) /4.67 (38) /.63 (25) 92
    41.C. Warner 96.4 (1983,85-88) (32) /4.54 (43) /.76 (18) 93
    42.McNeil 90.3 (1982,84-86,88)(41) /5.20 (21) /.47 (35) 97
    43.E.George (1996-00) 104.0 (25) /4.32 (49) /.63 (25) 99
    44.R.Williams (1999-03)102.0 (27) /4.49 (45) /.56 (28) 100
    45.Dunn (1997-8,00,04-05) 92.5 (37) /5.11 (26) /.39 (38) 101
    46.Hearst (1995,97-8,01-02) 93.4 (36) /5.07 (28) /.39 (38) 102
    47.M.Pruitt (1979-83) 92.0 (38) /4.74 (36) /.55 (29) 103
    48.Riggins (1972,75,79,83-4) 85.7 (46) /4.35 (48) /.88 (9) 103
    49.R. Smith (1995,97-00)83.2 (48) /5.25 (20) /.40 (37) 105
    50.T. Allen (1992,94-6,99) 87.1(43) /4.35 (48) /.79 (15) 106
    51.Bettis (1993,96-7,00-01) 94.5 (35) /4.57 (41) /.50 (32) 108
    52.S. Davis (1999-03) 91.9 (39) /4.53 (44) /.61 (26) 109
    53.JHJ (1954,57,60,62,64) 75.7 (53) /5.09 (27) /.53 (31) 111
    54.C.Warren (1992-6) 86.4 (44) /4.64 (39) /.53 (31) 114
    55.E.Byner (1985,88,90-92) 85.1 (47) /4.72 (37) /.48 (34) 118
    56.Csonka (1970-74) 71.5 (54) /4.82 (34) /.49 (33) 121
    57.G.Rogers (1981-3,85-6) 81.1 (52) /4.45 (46) /.63 (25) 123
    58.R.Hampton (1991-5) 81.1 (52) /4.15 (50) /.56 (28) 130

    Observations:
    1.Herschel Walker seems to be ranked much higher than I expected. But there was a reason Minnesota traded so many draft picks to Dallas to acquire him. He was a monster early in his NFL career both rushing and receiving, and one of the great pass catching RBs in NFL history.

    2. During SB 39 there was a reason BB scoffed at the idea that Westbrook was comparable to Marshall Faulk. BB compared Westbrook more to Kevin Faulk, which I take as a major attempt at humor for BB. Marshall Faulk is second, and a close second, to Jim Brown for dominance during his prime, which is amazing.

    3. Lenny Moore of the Colts lined up as a flanker much of the time during his prime, but so did M. Faulk. He is in the HOF as a HB, led the league in rushing during his career, and held the consecutive games with a TD record until Tomlinson broke it last year.

    4. Priest Holmes’ career seems to have ended with a whimper, but it is easy to remember how productive he was with 3 straight 2,000 yard seasons and breaking the TD record.

    5. Chuck Foreman may be one of the most underrated players in NFL history.

    6. William Andrews and Billy Sims are forgotten but were among a handful of the most dominant players in the NFL history during their primes.

    7. James Brooks was the offensive engine behind Cinci’s SB offense during Esiason’s prime. He averaged an amazing 6.12 yards per touch, more than any post 1960-HB.
     
  2. Lloyd_Christmas

    Lloyd_Christmas I can delete my own crap! PatsFans.com Supporter

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    This is one of those posts that I found so informative and detailed that I can't think of anything to add.

    Just wanted to say thanks for doing the research and compiling the list.

    I wouldn't interpret low reply numbers to lack of interest... others may be like me ... nothing to argue about or add, but interesting to read.
     
  3. Keegs

    Keegs In the Starting Line-Up

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    thanks for posting that. My response serves no purpose but to bump this up.
     
  4. Flying Fungi

    Flying Fungi In the Starting Line-Up

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    a little shocking to see one of my favorites of all time down at 34, but I cannot argue with the criteria and analysis

    nice work--thanks!
     
  5. shakadave

    shakadave In the Starting Line-Up

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    Hail to the Pony!

    Pony, as one of the (lazy) givers of constructive criticism on your other thread, I would like to officially say Wow, this is worthy of publication! I really think looking at five prime years is the way to go. You rate the player at his best, controlling against one-hit (or three-hit) wonders. You made a decision to rate the RBs' all-round performance, rushing+receiving. There are other ways to do it too, but none any more valid than this IMO. It is what it is, and it is excellent data.

    Let us all return to this thread from time to time like pilgrims, bumping and re-bumping it at least until January.
     
  6. PonyExpress

    PonyExpress In the Starting Line-Up

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    Don't worry, Earl Campbell finishes #9 among "Most dominant pure runners" a list I may post later (depending on how this one is received).
     
  7. shakadave

    shakadave In the Starting Line-Up

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    I thought Campbell would be one to benefit from throwing out all that receiving nonsense!;)

    I hoped you had that list too. Please wait at least several days for us to savor this list for awhile!
     
  8. gomezcat

    gomezcat It's SIR Moderator to you Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Excellent job. The last stat about James Brooks particularly caught my eye. I remember him being a good back behind a very good O line (Munoz and Montoya come to mind without cheating), but not to that extent. A quick search showed that he averaged over 1,000 yards per season from 88-91 at over 5 ypc. One suspects that if Lewis Billups had made THAT pick, then Brooks might have been better remembered.

    I've only seen footage of Jim Brown but he was a monster by all accounts. I wonder if our more "mature" posters remember him?
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2006
  9. T-ShirtDynasty

    T-ShirtDynasty Moderator

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    Excellent work. Gotta bookmark this one for later use of those stats. How much time did you put into this?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2005
  10. PonyExpress

    PonyExpress In the Starting Line-Up

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    a lifetime of football fandom.:)
     
  11. patsfan13

    patsfan13 Hall of Fame Poster PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Interesting list. Interesting that in spite of Jim Brown not being used as a reciever much that he is still the most dominant RB. I suspect that if you stretched out to period to 9 years Brown's numbers would look even better. Nice to see Lenny Moore ranked so high. Suprised that Gail Sauers is ranked so low.

    Good effort.
     
  12. the taildragger

    the taildragger Third String But Playing on Special Teams

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    great work and I hate to be the jerk but to me, RB stats are very flaky....for instance, statistically Csonka is way down the list, but in my view he was the single most dominant back of the 1970s, the guy defenses least wanted to face...he didn't have a passing game to help out, but he carried that team to 2 championships and made Mercury Morris look like a big-time back too.

    On the other hand George McAfee is in the Hall strictly because he ran behind the most dominant forward line in history (the Monsters of the Midway, every single guy on the line was enshrined). I'd also throw Franco Harris into the category of "doesn't belong in the HoF" -- but don't shoot me for it, my standards are pretty high.

    On the other hand you had backs like Hornung and Taylor on the same team who played behind an equally stellar line, but despite a great line they both clearly belong in Canton.

    I love this thread I'm just not sure there's a fair statistical way to rank these guys.

    if we're strictly isolating prime years, I think you have to throw out the yardage kings like payton and smith in favor of guys like sayers, brown, riggins, campbell, moore, sanders, simpson.

    but of those guys, only riggins and brown ever carried their teams to championships (moore had unitas and simpson was an afl guy)...back in the day it wasn't uncommon for the fullback to be as important as the passing halfback: Doak Walker, van Buren, Hinkle, Ken Strong, Nagurski all carried their teams to titles.

    but as long as we're going back that far, no modern back has ever completely dominated games the way Red Grange or Jim Thorpe did...Thorpe was more of a jack of all trades, so if we're strictly talking running backs, Grange gets my vote.
    :bricks:
     
  13. PonyExpress

    PonyExpress In the Starting Line-Up

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    I will post soon my "most dominant pure runner" list and Csonka will do better there than here, compared with these all-purpose track stars.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 3, 2005
  14. PonyExpress

    PonyExpress In the Starting Line-Up

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    Also, these Red Grange comments are strange, since he only played one year in the NFL, 1925, before switching to an alternate league that failed. He returned to the NFL in 1928, suffered a bad knee injury, and was never the same. So Grange's actual NFL career was really very mediocre, and he is in the HOF more for the popularity he brought to the league during his barnstorming days with George Halas in 1925. Grange was not an elite NFL runner by any measure, despite his Illinois "galloping ghost" nickname.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2006
  15. shakadave

    shakadave In the Starting Line-Up

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    No passing game? I was young, but my memory is that Paul Warfield was significant.
     
  16. the taildragger

    the taildragger Third String But Playing on Special Teams

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    correct. that was exaggeration.

    Relative to other champinoship teams, they were primarily a running team.
     
  17. the taildragger

    the taildragger Third String But Playing on Special Teams

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    First I should say that I love the thread...thank you.

    but since you've put me on the defensive...

    I interpreted the question the same way the voters for the pro-football Hall of Fame did...how can you discard the greatest and most dominant back of all time simply because his prime years did not overlap with the NFL for very long?

    Grange was a charter member of the Hall of Fame, the prestigious class of '63 -- with Thorpe and Halas. One wonders what those idiots must've been thinking since he only had a "mediocre" career.

    He had 3 great years in pro ball, one in the NFL and 2 in the AFL. As you're aware, the Patriots were an AFL team -- anyone who wants to enshrine Gino better hope there's no bias againt the AFL. I suppose O.J. Simpson, another AFL back, must also be ignored??

    Grange's AFL team, the Yankees, eventually became an AAFC team...the AAFC was the league where Paul Brown and Otto Graham had most of their success.

    I answered the question literally -- "most dominant back in NFL history" -- absolutely no concessions for career length.

    Neither Gale Sayers nor Earl Campbell played more than 2-3 injury free seasons...should we therefore ignore them too?

    Up until the 1940s (and really the 50's), all the best coaches and teams were in the college ranks. For example, Grange's coach at Illinois, Zuppke, was a far more significant innovator than Halas (who is commonly and wrongly credited for the invention of the T formation).

    Luckily for the pro game, the best of the college game and the NFL would occasionally overlap. Thorpe, Nevers and Grange all had pro careers which were FAR less significant than their college careers -- but they were inarguably the 3 most dominant backs from the 1910-1935...unless this is strictly a cookie-cutter "pure NFL and NFL only" thread (which strikes me as rather silly), then I don't see the point of leaving them out of any discussion of the "most dominant backs."

    Now, if we're looking at "all-around" backs, then durability is a major criteria...but I interpreted the question narrowly on the question of "dominance" and broadly on the question of "NFL."

    Let's not pretend Red Grange didn't exist simply because the NFL was a joke prior to WWII (and if not for Graham and Namath the League would almost certainly have a different name today).

    again, thanks for the thread...always fun to inject some history into the offseason.
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2006
  18. AllabouttheVinces

    AllabouttheVinces Practice Squad Player

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    Great analysis, Pony! I don't dispute the method at all. Any time you a list is created, it generates good discussiona and debate. For example, I don't know many who would rather have Ahman Green over Franco Harris.

    Based on your screen name, I have to ask - is it safe to say you were a fan of the SMU teams with Dickerson and Craig James?
     
  19. Alk

    Alk In the Starting Line-Up

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    I would have been curious to see where Bo Jackson fit into that list had he played football full time.
     
  20. PonyExpress

    PonyExpress In the Starting Line-Up

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    Yes, huge fan. Maybe the greatest college backfield of the last 50 years.
     

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