The 2000s witnessed an era of exceptional talent and athleticism in the world of American football, and running backs played a crucial role in this. These players were the workhorses of their respective teams, providing power, speed, and agility when it was needed most.
In this article, we will talk about the top 10 running backs from the 2000s, exploring their remarkable careers and contributions to the game.
Top 10 Running Backs from the 2000s
The 2000s marked a golden era for American football, and within this decade of touchdowns and tackles, running backs reigned supreme. These remarkable athletes were the powerhouses of the gridiron, combining speed, strength, and agility to become legends of the game.
In the following sections, we’ll take a closer look at the top 10 running backs from the 2000s, exploring their incredible careers and the indelible impact they left on the sport.
- Emmitt Smith
- LaDainian Tomlinson
- Shaun Alexander
- Marshall Faulk
- Adrian Peterson
- Tiki Barber
- Fred Taylor
- Ricky Williams
- Edgerrin James
- Clinton Portis
From record-breakers to versatile playmakers, these running backs defined an era and continue to be celebrated for their contributions to the game we all love.
1. Emmitt Smith
Emmitt Smith, a name synonymous with excellence in the world of American football, continued to be a formidable force throughout the 2000s. Building upon his illustrious career in the ’90s, Smith’s determination and skill set him apart from his peers.
During the 2000s, Smith added to his impressive resume, playing for the Dallas Cowboys before concluding his career with the Arizona Cardinals. Even in the latter stages of his career, he showcased remarkable consistency and a work ethic that was second to none. Smith’s ability to find running lanes, break tackles, and maintain his explosiveness was truly astounding.
- Smith rushed for over 1,000 yards in both the 2001 and 2003 seasons.
- He scored a remarkable 46 rushing touchdowns during the 2000s.
- Emmitt Smith’s career rushing yards totaled 17,162, making him the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.
Smith’s unwavering commitment to the game and his ability to perform at an elite level well into the 2000s solidify his place as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history.
2. LaDainian Tomlinson
LaDainian Tomlinson, affectionately known as “LT,” left an indelible mark on the San Diego Chargers and the NFL during the 2000s. He wasn’t just a face of the Chargers but a face of excellence in the running back position. His records and contributions during this era are nothing short of legendary.
Tomlinson’s statistics are a testament to his dominance. He led the league in rushing yards for multiple seasons and was a scoring machine. In 2006, he had one of the most remarkable seasons in NFL history, rushing for 1,815 yards and scoring an astonishing 31 touchdowns (28 rushing and 3 receiving).
- Tomlinson rushed for over 1,000 yards in every season during the 2000s.
- He scored a staggering 123 rushing touchdowns during the 2000s.
- In 2006, he was named the NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP).
LaDainian Tomlinson’s impact on the game, both in terms of records and leadership, makes him a true icon in the world of football.
3. Shaun Alexander
Shaun Alexander was a powerhouse of a running back, and his explosive style of play defined the Seattle Seahawks’ offense in the 2000s. Known for his incredible vision and agility, he was a dominant figure on the field, consistently racking up impressive statistics.
In 2005, Alexander achieved a remarkable feat by rushing for 1,880 yards and scoring 27 touchdowns, earning him the NFL MVP award.
- Alexander rushed for over 1,000 yards in every season from 2001 to 2005.
- He scored an astounding 100 rushing touchdowns during the 2000s.
- In 2005, he was named the NFL MVP and the NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
Shaun Alexander’s legacy in the 2000s is defined by his powerful running and his ability to lead the Seahawks to several successful seasons, making him one of the most memorable running backs of the era.
4. Marshall Faulk
Marshall Faulk was a multi-faceted running back, known for his exceptional ability to impact the game as a dual-threat player. His versatility made him a standout figure in the 2000s, as he could run the ball with precision and catch passes with ease.
Faulk’s time with the St. Louis Rams was particularly notable. He was the focal point of “The Greatest Show on Turf” offense, where his skills were showcased to the fullest. He was not just a runner; he was a game-changer in the passing game. Faulk’s ability to line up as a receiver and create mismatches with linebackers made him a nightmare for opposing defenses.
- Faulk rushed for over 1,000 yards in the 2000 season.
- He recorded more than 80 receptions in three separate seasons during the 2000s.
- Faulk was a three-time Pro Bowler during the 2000s.
Marshall Faulk’s unique ability to impact both the running and passing aspects of the game made him one of the most dynamic running backs of the era.
5. Adrian Peterson
The 2000s marked the emergence of a true running back phenomenon in Adrian Peterson. Known for his exceptional combination of speed and power, he quickly became a force to be reckoned with and continued to excel throughout the decade.
Peterson’s rookie season in 2007 with the Minnesota Vikings was nothing short of spectacular. He rushed for an astounding 1,341 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. This set the stage for a career that would be filled with remarkable achievements.
- Peterson rushed for over 1,000 yards in every season during the 2000s.
- Peterson was a seven-time Pro Bowler and a three-time First-Team All-Pro during his career.
Adrian Peterson’s blend of power, speed, and tenacity made him a formidable presence on the field, and he established himself as one of the premier running backs of his generation.
6. Tiki Barber
Tiki Barber’s consistency and longevity as a running back for the New York Giants were truly remarkable. During the 2000s, he was a key figure for his team and made a significant impact both as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield.
Barber was known for his durability, and he was a reliable workhorse for the Giants. He consistently recorded 1,000-yard rushing seasons and was equally effective as a pass-catching running back.
- Barber rushed for over 1,000 yards in all of his seasons during the 2000s.
- He had over 50 receptions in three different seasons during the 2000s.
- Barber was a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time First-Team All-Pro during the 2000s.
Tiki Barber’s consistency and versatility made him a cornerstone of the Giants’ offense and a respected name in the league, showcasing his value as a running back in the 2000s.
7. Fred Taylor
Fred Taylor’s career with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2000s was indeed underappreciated but highly impactful. He was a reliable workhorse for his team, consistently delivering stellar performances and earning respect throughout the league.
Taylor’s running style was characterized by his patience, vision, and ability to break tackles. He was the backbone of the Jaguars’ offense during his tenure, providing stability and leadership.
- Taylor rushed for over 1,000 yards in six out of his seven seasons with the Jaguars in the 2000s.
- He recorded multiple seasons with double-digit touchdowns, showcasing his scoring ability.
- Taylor was a Pro Bowler in 2007, a testament to his consistent excellence.
Fred Taylor’s contributions to the Jaguars and his ability to perform at a high level in multiple seasons make him one of the underrated but impactful running backs of the 2000s.
8. Ricky Williams
Ricky Williams’s journey in the 2000s was far from ordinary. Known for his unique personality and running style, Williams had a career filled with ups and downs.
Williams enjoyed early success with the New Orleans Saints before embarking on a temporary retirement from football. However, his determination and passion for the game brought him back, and he continued to play at a high level.
- Williams had three seasons with over 1,000 rushing yards in the 2000s.
- Despite his temporary retirement, he made a remarkable comeback and played until 2011.
- Williams’s journey was marked by his resilience and love for the game.
Ricky Williams’s story is a testament to the ups and downs that can befall an athlete, and his resilience and determination to continue playing football make his 2000s journey unique and inspiring.
9. Edgerrin James
Edgerrin James was a cornerstone of the Indianapolis Colts’ high-powered offense during the 2000s. His dynamic running style, characterized by a blend of speed and power, was pivotal to the team’s success.
James was not only a prolific rusher but also an excellent receiver out of the backfield. His versatility added an extra dimension to the Colts’ offensive strategy.
- James rushed for over 1,000 yards in every season during the 2000s.
- He had several seasons with over 50 receptions, showcasing his pass-catching ability.
- Edgerrin James was a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro during the 2000s.
Edgerrin James’s ability to consistently produce both as a rusher and a receiver made him a key contributor to the Colts’ offense and one of the most dynamic running backs of his era.
10. Clinton Portis
Clinton Portis was a versatile and charismatic running back who left an indelible mark on the Washington Football Team during the 2000s. His on-field performances and entertaining personality made him a fan favorite.
Portis was known for his flashy playing style, which matched his colorful character. He consistently delivered for his team, providing both power and finesse.
- Portis rushed for over 1,000 yards in six out of seven seasons with the Washington Football Team in the 2000s.
- He recorded multiple seasons with double-digit touchdowns, showcasing his scoring ability.
- Clinton Portis was a two-time Pro Bowler during the 2000s.
Clinton Portis’s impact went beyond the field, as his charisma and entertaining performances made him a beloved figure among fans and a top running back in the 2000s.
Honorable Mentions for Top 10 Running Backs of the 2000s
While the previous sections highlighted the top 10 running backs of the 2000s, it’s important to recognize that this era was brimming with exceptional talent. Several running backs, although not in the top 10, made significant contributions to the game during this decade. Here are some honorable mentions:
- Willis McGahee: Willis McGahee was a true powerhouse on the field, known for his ability to break tackles and gain those crucial extra yards. His relentless running style made him a formidable presence during the 2000s. McGahee’s ability to run through defenders and extend plays left a lasting impact on the game.
- Jamal Lewis: Jamal Lewis’s bruising style of play made him a dominant figure in the 2000s. He was a key player for the Baltimore Ravens and achieved numerous milestones during his career. Lewis’s ability to power through defenses and consistently churn out yardage established him as one of the toughest running backs of the era.
- Priest Holmes: Priest Holmes’s productivity during the 2000s was nothing short of remarkable. His ability to find the end zone and his consistency in producing high yardage totals were unparalleled. Holmes was a scoring machine, and his contributions to the game were highly valued by his team.
- Warrick Dunn: Warrick Dunn was a dynamic and versatile running back known for his agility and ability to make plays. He contributed both as a rusher and as a receiver, providing his team with various offensive options. Dunn’s impact on the game during the 2000s should not be underestimated, as he consistently made crucial plays and contributed to his team’s success.
These honorable mentions exemplify the depth of talent among running backs in the 2000s, each leaving their unique mark on the field and adding to the excitement and legacy of this era in American football.
In conclusion, the 2000s were a remarkable decade for running backs in the NFL. These players showcased their unique talents and contributed significantly to the success of their respective teams. Their legacies continue to inspire the next generation of running backs in the world of American football.