When it comes to running backs in today's NFL, they seemingly come out of nowhere and often. The idea of a franchise running back is soon to be long forgotten, as teams are drifting towards running back by committee or situational running back type offenses. With the rules being bent towards a more pass happy style, a workhorse back is becoming increasingly rare.
This opens the door for football fans to forget some of the best running backs to play the game. More specifically, we will be focusing on a group at this position that gets swept under the rug even more, which is white running backs. Great white running backs are few and far between, and their has been plenty of horrific ones as well that are long forgotten.
Many of the players on this list may have played fullback at one point in their careers, and that is often the case. This list will primarily focus on those who played either a full season as a running back in the NFL, or were regarded as a fullback who received a large amount of carries, with that being said, let's take a look at the best and worst white running backs the NFL has ever seen.
20 Best: Doak Walker
Doak Walker has an award named after him. Even though that award is in the college landscape, for best running back of the year, Walker showed some of the greatness he displayed in college on the next stage as well.
During his short six season career, he was named a pro bowler five of those seasons, and lead the league in points scored twice. He ability to be the running back shouldering the load in Detroit, as well as splitting time as the kicker helped Walker be one of the most versatile players in the league.
Walker's biggest achievement however may be the fact that he was able to do something that Lions great Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson could never do, which was win a NFL championship for the Lions.
19 Worst: Chase Reynolds
Chase Reynolds has not seen much time playing at running back, not registering a single carry in his four years in the NFL. The only reason why he is on the roster, which he is just barely making, is his special team prowess.
Reynolds was a member of a fist fight that broke out last summer, which was featured on "Hard Knocks." That is basically the only reason why any NFL fan would know him, as many Rams fans probably would not be able name him as one of the teams running backs.
Reynolds probably has no shot at being a viable option at running back for the Rams, and shows no signs of being a reliable pass catcher out of the backfield. His contributions offensively so far are limited to a four yard catch in 2016. Reynolds looks to be someone who could lose his job at any moment, but seems to have found a role on the special teams side of the field.
18 Best: Larry Csonka
Larry Csonka was a vital member of a Miami Dolphins team that appeared in three straight Super Bowls from 1971-73. Rushing for over 1,000 yard in each of those three seasons, and getting more carries than his backfield mate Mercury Morris while playing the fullback position.
He helped the Dolphins secure victories in two of those appearances, rushing for at least 100 yards in both of the wins. Csonka's production did dip after that three year stretch, and ultimately ending up leaving for the New York Giants just two seasons after winning the Super Bowl. In his last season, after returning to the Dolphins, he put on a touchdown scoring clinic, rushing for 12 touchdowns before retiring. To this day, Csonka barely edges out Ricky Williams as the Dolphins all time leading rusher.
17 Worst: Nick Goings
Nick Goings is the definition of a one hit wonder. 55 percent of his total yards in the NFL came during the 2004 season, where he only amassed 821 as the starting running back in Carolina.
Goings was in a position he wasn't quite ready for, as three running backs where injured before him. Primarily a special teams player, it is shocking that Goings actually got so many carries, but at times he was the only running back on the roster after injuries to Stephen Davis, DeShaun Foster and Rod Smart kept them from playing.
Another sign that Goings wasn't necessarily trusted to carry the ball was the 2006 NFC championship game, where Goings found himself as a starter again. The Panthers rushed the ball nine times, with Goings carrying the ball five times as Carolina completely abandoned the run game.
16 Best: Peyton Hillis
It is still astonishing that Peyton Hillis was able to become a Madden cover athlete in the summer of 2011. After one season in which he rushed for 1,777 yards and scored 11 touchdowns, he was able to grace the cover of the sports more prestigious game.
Either his breakout season was just a fluke, or Hillis was a victim of the "Madden Curse." His 2010-11 season was legendary compared to others on this list though, as Hillis was the first white running back since 1985 to reach the 1,000 yard mark.
The amount of success he had at the position, even if it was just for a single season, is still more than most on this list. Hillis ended up falling of the edge of a cliff after his break out season, with his highest yardage total afterwards only being 587.
15 Worst: Jacob Hester
Jacob Hester was the workhorse running back for a LSU team that won the title in 2007, but his success did not carry on with him once he was drafted by the Chargers. He was a victim of being drafted by a team that had on of the greatest running backs of a generation in LaDainian Tomlinson, as well as the best change of pace receiving back in the league in Darren Sproles.
He barely hung on to NFL rosters for five seasons, and never saw more than 28 carries in a season. Hester was not able to stay in the league by being a special teams presence like others on this list, and was quickly out of the league. During his tenure in the league, he received 111 carries for an even 400 yards. Ouch.
14 Best: Frank Gifford
When a running back is able to stay in the league for 12 years, like Gifford was able to, that is no small accomplishment. Running backs are one of the most replaceble parts on an NFL roster.
Gifford was able to make his name known quickly, receiving seven straight pro bowl nominations starting in his second season. While playing for the Giants, Gifford was able to be one of the biggest dual threat backs in the league, often times catching more touchdowns than rushing, as well as playing cornerback. He was the definition of jack of all trades, earning pro bowl spots at three different positions, which is a big reason he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.
13 Worst: Travis Jervey
Travis Jervey's claim to fame has very little to do with football, rather that we was the owner of a lion that he shared with another teammate. He was known to rent videos of African lions to help her feel at home.
When Jervey was on the football field, there was little to be excited about. He became know as someone who couldn't stop fumbling the ball, and that reputation kept him from getting a larger amount of carries.
In his 109 games played, he only carried the ball 129 times. Jervey faced that fact that he wouldn't see much time as a running back, and converted to playing special team, where he found his niche and made on pro bowl. He was able to carve out a nine year career due to his special team play.
12 Best: Danny Woodhead
Danny Woodhead is the most accomplished player on this list that has played in the last two decades. He has shown the ability to be an average ball carrier, but makes his killing in the passing game.
At times, Woodhead seems virtually unstoppable when catching passes out of the back field. During his career, he has scored 32 touchdowns, 15 rushing and 17 receiving, becoming one of Phillip Rivers' favorite targets. His stats do not jump off the page, but he was one of the league leaders in receptions in 2013 and 2015.
Injuries have kept Woodhead from being a bigger force in the league over the past couple years, suffering season ending injuries twice during his career in 2014 and 2016. Woodhead is one of the premier pass catching backs, when he is healthy.
11 Worst: Larry Stegent
If you have no idea who this is, no matter how big of a football fan, do not be alarmed. Stegent's career did not go as planned, and was very short lived. He suffered on injury during his first preseason game, and only ended up playing one season in league and calling it quits.
During that lone season, Stegent was able to get on the stat sheet once, recording a 12 yard catch. The worst part about his story is that he was supposed to be a star, being a part of a Texas A&M team that won the Cotton Bowl in 1968, and was named Southwest Conference all-tailback three times.
Stegent, the eighth overall pick by the St. Louis Cardinals, only appeared in seven games for the franchise, ultimately being one of the biggest busts in NFL history.
10 Best: Jim Taylor
Jim Taylor, without a doubt was one of the most dominate running backs in the NFL during the '60s. In 1963 and 1964, he lead the league in touchdowns, scoring 15 and 19 during those seasons. Taylor was a crucial part of the Packers success during the time period, netting a Super Bowl victory during the 1967 season.
When his career was over, Taylor was the the all time leader in rushing yards for the storied franchise, but was passed by Ahmad Green in 2009. As far as touchdowns, Taylor is far and away still the leader in touchdowns, with over 30 more than any one to put on a Green Bay uniform. He has gone down as one of the best running backs of his time period.
9 Worst: Brian Leonard
How does a running back play all 16 games in a season, start seven of them, and still only rush for 303 yards? Brian Leonard knows how to do that, and that is why he lands here. Leonard was taken in the second round, and produced nowhere near what was expected of him. He was given ample playing time during his rookie season, but was a dud.
In St. Louis, he was never really given another chance, and starting playing for the Bengals, this time as a fullback. He stayed in the league for six more years, primarily as a fullback who never had another opportunity at starting playing time. Throughout his stay in the NFL, Leonard never saw the end zone, and proved to be a costly pick for the Rams, who were trying to find a backup for Steven Jackson at the time.
8 Best: Mike Alstott
This was the obvious name to appear on this list, as Alstott is one of the greatest fullbacks in NFL history. He was a huge part of the franchise, playing for Tampa Bay for 11 seasons and gave stability to the running game.
Alstott was a security blanket for a team that did not have the best rushing attack outside of himself. In 2003, he was able to capture a Super Bowl victory, in a game where he ended up finding the end zone once. When his career was all said and done, he stood alone at the top of the Buccaneers all time touchdown list, scoring 58 for his career. During his generation, Alstott is regarded as one of the greatest full backs to play the game, and may get some Hall of Fame votes in the next few years. Even if he does not, he will be remembered as one of the last high usage fullbacks of his generation.
7 Worst: Casey Cramer
Cramer is another player who falls victim of being labeled as a fullback, and was switched around multiple times once he got into the NFL. Cramer mainly lined up at tight end or fullback in the NFL, but the results were minimal. He actually did not receive a single carry after being the second leading rusher in Dartmouth College's history.
The Titans did not feel like Cramer could be used as a running back, and unsuccessfully tried to move him into a tight end position that did not work out. Like others, he tried to land a gig on the special team unit, even blocking a punt, but it was not enough to keep him on the Titans for more the two seasons, and was out of the league just one year after playing with the Dolphins in 2008.
6 Best: Craig James
Craig James doesn't have the most glorious stat line as far as career achievement goes, but his 1985 season stands out as one of the nest season of any player mentioned on this list. During that season, James, as a member of the Patriots rushed for 1,227 yards and helped carry them to a Super Bowl berth.
The team didn't have too much success offensively during that Super Bowl, as they ran into the all time great Chicago Bears defense. James was not able to capitalize on his break out season however, as his playing time decreased as the Patriots found a more balanced offense the following season. Even so, his 1,227 yard rushing total during the 1985 is a performance that definitely warrants a spot as one of the better seasons a white running back has seen.
5 Worst: Rob Lytle
During Lytle's seven year career, he never had a season in which he ran for more than 450 rushing yards. Those are not the best numbers when you are a running back in the NFL. During his rookie season, Lytle fumbled the ball twice in costly situations, and lost the trust of the coaching staff. This kept him from getting more carries or an expanded role, which can contribute to him ending up on this list.
Overall, his career stats are an eye sore for someone who played for so long, totaling just 1451 yards while playing in Denver. Lytle was expected to do bigger things when he was selected in the second round of the 1977 draft, but was deemed a bust by most people.
4 Best: Merrill Hoge
Merril Hoge has done something that very few people on this list has, which is stay relevant in the public eye. With his ESPN job, Hoge may only be known to some as a TV personality, which is sad due to his impressive NFL career with the Steelers.
For three straight seasons from 1989-1991, Hoge was able to have over 1,000 total yards as a change of pace back. After a small playoff drought the Steelers were able to get back into the playoffs in 1989, where Hoge was a huge factor. In the two playoff games, Hoge ran for 220 yards and scored a touchdown in each of the games. Hoge was not the most memorable running back, but he was very effective when the team needed him the most.
3 Worst: John Cappelletti
John Cappelletti has more success than most of the players grouped as the worst, but that is indicative of the hype surrounding him coming out of college. Cappelletti was supposed to set the league on fire after winning the 1973 Heisman award, but turned out to be just another running back who couldn't average four yards a carry throughout his career. In fact, he only averaged more than four yards a career once during his career.
That season, he ran the ball once, for five yards. Cappelletti was supposed to be a premier running back in the league, but disappointed and never was given many chances to be a starting running back after doing poorly with the amount of carries he had. He finished his career 2,951 rushing yards, which was just 300 more than he accumulated in his two season at Penn State.
2 Best: John Riggins
John Riggins is the greatest white running back of all time, and there is very little argument over this. He torched opposing defenses as a member of the Washington Redskins. He is in the top twenty in rushing yards all time (19th), as well as touchdowns (6th).
During the Redskins two Super Bowls runs in 1982 and 1983, Riggins was unstoppable, and the main reason for the teams success. During those two playoff runs (7 games), he ran for 916 rushing yards and ten touchdowns, helping Washington secure a Super Bowl victory in 1982. He was one of the best running backs to ever play the game, and by far the most accomplished player on this list. In 1992, Riggins was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
1 Worst: Toby Gerhart
Even though he was a major bust coming out of Stanford, he was absolutely robbed from winning the Heisman in one of the closest races of all time. Gerhart did not perform anywhere near what his expectations were, and fall flat on his face when given the opportunity for a large amount of carries.
He was unimpressive during his time in Minnesota, and even though he was backing up Adrian Peterson, Gerhart did not show the ability to become a larger factor, scoring just five touchdowns in four seasons. When he was given a larger role in Jacksonville, the results were even more disappointing. He was given over 100 carries, and only was able to rush for 326 yards during the 2014 season. After another terrible year, Gerhart was released and has yet to find naother chance at the NFL.
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