Top 10 All-Time NFL Running Backs I'd Least Like to Tackle 1-on-1 - Roto Street Journal
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Top 10 All-Time NFL Running Backs I’d Least Like to Tackle 1-on-1

Of all the offensive firepower in this year’s Super Bowl that mainly starts with MVP-candidate quarterbacks, the elite RBs in this year’s matchup have been pretty ignored. But Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman represent one of the best 1-2 punches in football, and LeGarrette Blount led the NFL this year with 18 rushing TDs. It may be a passing league nowadays, but don’t sleep on a solid ground game.

Blount in particular is part of a less-popular breed of running back that goes directly at guys rather than always trying to make them miss. He’s a 250 pound bruiser that welcomes contact and fights for extra yards. NOT the kind of guy you’d wanna go up against 1-on-1 in practice.

But does he crack the list of the top 10 all-time guys you’d shit your pants trying to go up against? Let’s see.

Disclaimer: I didn’t factor in specialty guys like William Perry or Dontari Poe who have ran the ball once or twice at the goal line; just actual running backs. Fullbacks were pretty much ignored too. 

10. Le’Veon Bell

Let me explain. Yeah I know this list is meant for bruisers, but Bell’s earned a spot. First off, because he’s one of the best back’s in the league and even when he relies on his quickness, speed, and patience, he’ll just make you look silly and break your ankles 1-on-1. But he’s deceptively 225 pounds and can run guys over when he has to. He averaged a ridiculous 105 yards per game this season with a league-average offensive line, and you can’t do that unless you can crack a guy or two. Plus, with the demeanor he takes the field with, and the insane footwork he brings to the table, I’m sure as hell not going up against him.

9. LaDainian Tomlinson

LT only weighed in at 215 pounds, but the guy did whatever the hell he wanted on the field. Insane speed, great vision, and one of the best stiff arms you’ll ever see. Seriously, watch this shit (especially the stiff arm at 0:42):

Nuts. At the time of his retirement in 2012 he was 5th all-time with 13,684 rushing yards and 2nd with 145 rushing TDs. And what’s more, he was one of the humblest guys you’ll ever see on a football field. So when you take him on 1v1 and he shoves you to the ground and flies in the other direction, he won’t even taunt you; he’ll probably help you up off the ground and tell you that you almost got him. Which is probably even more humiliating.

8. Barry Sanders

One of the all-time greats, obviously. Like the 2 before him, Sanders wasn’t exactly known as a bruiser. But he ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the combine, and that speed was combined with some of the most electric footwork we’ve ever seen. He broke off long runs seemingly regularly, averaging 14 runs of 20+ yards per year in his final 8 seasons (that stat began being recorded in 1991), which you can compare to 10.4 per season for Adrian Peterson and 7.7 for LT and see truly how impressive that is. He retired at age 31 with four years remaining on his contract, and even with his early exit ranks 3rd all time in rushing yards. Definitely a legend, and definitely someone I wouldn’t want to go up against in full pads.


7. Walter Payton

Walter Payton was the ultimate back in his 13 seasons with the Chicago Bears; he was voted to 9 Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl, and won 2 MVP awards – eight years apart. He was an obvious first-ballot Hall of Famer, and could break tackles like nobody’s business. He left the game the league’s all-time leading rusher, although Emmitt Smith has since pushed him down to #2, and is 4th with 110 touchdowns. Like LT, Payton was as humble as they come and brought such heart and determination to the field, it was an exercise in futility just to try to bring him down.

6. Steven Jackson

Unlike everyone on this list so far, Stephen Jackson didn’t have first-ballot Hall of Fame talent. Jackson has yet to officially retire, but hasn’t played since New England’s AFC Championship loss to Denver last year. He currently stands at 18th all-time in rushing yards with 11,438 and 31st in touchdowns with 69 (nice). But what Jackson may have lacked in pure talent and athleticism, he made up for and then some with his imposing stature. Coming in at 6’2″ and 240 lbs, he simply rolled over any defender that tried to get in his way. He may not be what comes to mind when you think all-time great running backs, but I’d rather watch every episode of 2 Broke Girls in one sitting than get in his way in the open field.

5. LeGarrette Blount

When Blount went down with an injury during New England’s Week 14 game in 2015, the Patriots signed Steven Jackson to replace him for their playoff run. And the move made sense; the two are very similar runners. What makes Blount even scarier to me is that he brings even more size to the table; how does 6 feet tall, 250 pounds sound? Honestly, I shouldn’t even have to say anything to make my point here. This alone should be enough:

That’s LeGarrette dragging 7 NFL players almost 10 yards. Yeah, I’m not getting in the way of that train.

4. Jim Brown

Widely thought of as the greatest running back of all time, Jim Brown did it all. Playing in a time when running was the majority of the game, Brown won 4 MVP awards and led the league in rushing 8 times in his 9 year career. He’s 10th all time with 12,310 rushing yards and 5th with 106 touchdowns. In addition to his historic running, Brown was also an exceptional receiver and racked up over 600 yards on kickoff returns in his career. It was said that one defender alone could never bring Brown down, and that’s certainly shown in his career 5.22 yards per carry (2nd all time to Jamaal Charles). He’s now at the ripe old age of 80, and honestly I still don’t think I’d want to take him 1v1. The guy was just a beast.

3. Adrian Peterson

Peterson sparked a bit of controversy last week when he said that even though he hopes to stay in Minnesota, he could see a scenario in which he’d end up elsewhere next year. He even named teams; the Giants, Buccaneers, and Texans were all places he’s said he’d be happy signing if he were to hit free agency. But despite the talk of his future, AP is just a force to be reckoned with and has been for some time. Very few players in the history of the league could boast his combination of size (6’1″, 220 lb) and speed. How fast is he? A track star in high school, Peterson has stated his personal best in the 100-meter dash is 10.19 seconds – a time that would’ve qualified him for the semifinals in the event in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Add in his vision and ability to make guys miss and he’s virtually unstoppable, and he showed that in his MVP season in 2012 in which he rushed for 2,097 yards – the 2nd most ever in a season – and did so while battling a sports hernia towards the end of the season. He’s obviously had his share of controversy in recent years, but there’s few guys I’d want to try to take down less than AP.


2. Jerome Bettis

THE BUS. 260 pounds of pure football. Bettis started his career with the Rams, averaging over 1,000 yards per year in 3 seasons, before he found himself dealt to Pittsburgh in 1996. That’s when the Bus really got going, rushing for over 1,000 for 6 consecutive seasons from 1996-2001. He went to six Pro Bowls, and retired with a storybook ending after winning Super Bowl XL in his hometown of Detroit, rushing for 39 yards and a touchdown in the game. He got the nickname of The Bus during college for his tendency to carry defenders on his back while he ran, and the name stuck throughout his NFL career. He was an absolute beast throughout his 13-year career, and I can only think of one guy who’d scare me more 1v1 in the open field.

1. Bo Jackson

Yup, that man’s Bo Jackson. I’m definitely of the opinion that, had he remained healthy, Jackson could’ve gone down as one of the NFL’s true greats. From taking home the Heisman Trophy in ’85 to balancing two professional sports in the late 80s, Jackson is certainly one of the greatest athletes of all-time, despite his shortened career. He came in at 6’1″ and 230 pounds, but his ability to pick up speed and lower his shoulder made him a menace on the football field. I mean, come on:

That’s a bad, bad man right there. Also the only person to ever be an All-Star in two professional sports, Bo’s career never became what it could’ve been after his devastating hip injury in the 1991 playoffs. But in his prime, running downhill at full speed, I can’t think of a more terrifying presence.

Agree with me? Or did I miss anyone? Tweet at me or leave a comment below.


  • Youngest member of the RSJ team. Boston sports and not much else. 0 for 2 closing the deal on Tinder dates. Venmo: @SeanKeegan


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