NFL legend Peyton Manning is arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time. He has the most MVPs (five), and countless records - including the most touchdowns and passing yards. Manning created remarkable chemistry with a number of wide receivers and tight ends.
In fact, the list goes way on. Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas are some of the guys that stood out playing with Manning.But when it came to running backs, Manning rarely had the luxury of a reliable rusher. Joe Montana had Roger Craig, John Elway had Terrell Davis and Johnny Unitas had Tom Matte.
But if Manning ever had a great running back, they were either traded, got injured or became late bloomers, meaning there wasn't much time for him to co-exist with a quality rusher. Here is a look at the eight best and seven worst running backs No. 18 had.
15 Best: Kenton Keith
Kenton Keith's talents in the Canadian Football League were noticed by the Indianapolis Colts. Keith was a two-time CFL West All-Star and named the division's Most Outstanding Player in 2006. Keith also rushed for 1,000 yards in two different seasons. The New York Jets signed Keith, only to go back to the CFL.
Keith landed with the Indianapolis Colts in the 2007 season. Though it was his only season with them, he was actually quite productive. With Joseph Addai taking most of the carries and snaps, Keith managed to finish with 533 yards and four touchdowns. The Colts finished with a 13-3 record.
He added 13 catches for 77 yards and one receiving touchdown. Keith returned to the CFL, but he did have a nice season in the NFL. It's a surprise that he didn't stay around any longer.
14 Worst: Juwan Thompson
In his defence, Juwan Thompson hasn't really had the chance to shine. He's been a number three/four running back on the Broncos depth chart throughout his three seasons with the team. That being said, Thompson hasn't been able to burst through thus far in his career. 2014 was his best season, finishing with 272 rushing yards and three touchdowns while averaging five yards per carry.
Then again, that was a small sample size. Thompson had 18 carries all of last season for 48 yards and no touchdowns. Thompson's best game thus far was Week 14, 2014 against the Buffalo Bills. In that game, he had four carries for 63 yards. But he hasn't been able to jump back up on the depth chart.
He hasn't been able to find his game through three seasons. Will he ever do it?
13 Best: Ronnie Hillman
Ronnie Hillman and Manning played with the Denver Broncos together from 2012 to 2015. The team lacked a reliable running mid-way through the 2012 season, after stater Willis McGahee injured his knee. Hillman was given his fair share of chances, but finished with just 330 yards on 85 carries, scoring one touchdown.
In a running-back-by-committee approach, Hillman struggled again in 2013 and 2014, finishing with 218 and 434 yards, respectively. Finally, Hillman broke through in 2015 - enough to make the list. Sharing the workload with C.J. Anderson, Hillman finished with 863 yards and seven touchdowns. Hillman wasn't as effective in the playoffs, finishing with just 54 yards on 32 carries.
But Manning's body broke down during the 2015 season, but Hillman was able to bail him out as a flashy running back who could carry the offence when called upon.
12 Worst: Lance Ball
Lance Ball made his debut with the Indianapolis Colts in the 2008 season, but he played in just one game. He had 13 carries for 83 yards and added a five-yard reception. Ball didn't play in 2009 but joined the Denver Broncos in 2010. He didn't do much there, but he did rush for 402 yards while averaging 4.2 yards per carry in 2011.
With the Broncos running back position open for much of 2012, Ball had his chance but ultimately failed to do all that much. He had 96 carries for a total of 402 yards and one touchdown. He averaged a mere 3.8 yards per carry that season.
Ball also added seven catches for 61 yards and one touchdown reception, but he never became the reliable running back Denver had hoped for. After the 2012 season, Ball never played in the NFL again.
11 Best: Knowshon Moreno
The Broncos drafted Knowshon Moreno with the 12th pick in the 2009 Draft. He showed promise with 947 yards and seven touchdowns, but then put up lackluster numbers from 2010 to 2012. In his first year with Peyton Manning at the helm, Moreno averaged just 3.8 yards per carry (525 yards), and had just four rushing touchdowns.
But Moreno was lucky to be part of the greatest offence of all-time in 2013. He set a career-high in rushing yards (1,038), touchdowns (10), receptions (60), receiving yards (548), and tied his career best receiving touchdowns (three). Moreno had one great season with the Broncos in 2013, as they set the record for most points in a season with 606.
Manning also set the record for most touchdowns and passing yards, winning his fifth MVP. The Broncos would lose to the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, but Moreno was a huge part in the team getting there.
10 Worst: Mike Hart
Mike Hart played with Manning's Colts from 2008 to 2010, but it was not a memorable partnership. In his rookie season, Hart had just two carries for nine yards and had an 18-yard reception.
2009 wasn't all that better. Hart carried the ball 26 times for a mere 70 yards and one touchdown - averaging just 2.7 yards per carry. Hart had one last chance in 2010, but managed just 185 yards and one touchdown on 43 carries. When all was said and done, he finished with 264 rushing yards (3.7 yards per carry), and two touchdowns. He added 12 catches for 97 yards.
To be fair to Hart, the Colts offensive line was awful in 2010, so he didn't stand much of a chance to stand out. That being said, Hart wasn't able to succeed despite having Manning as the leader.
9 Best: C.J. Anderson
C.J. Anderson's rookie year in 2013 was a forgetful one. He carried the ball seven times for just 38 yards and didn't get a touchdown. Thanks to Moreno's breakout season, Anderson wasn't given plenty of opportunities.
But then came 2014. With Peyton Manning visually regressing, the Broncos relied on a rush-heavy offence, and Anderson bailed out his team. Despite not being the starter until halfway through the season, Anderson finished with 179 carries for 849 and eight touchdowns. That was his breakout season.
Though Anderson struggled with consistency in 2015, he managed 720 rushing yards (4.7 yards per carry), and five touchdowns. He was arguably the team's best offensive player in the playoffs, rushing for 234 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Broncos win Super Bowl 50. It was quite a run for Anderson and Manning.
8 Worst: Jacob Hester
Jacob Hester struggled as a second/third running back on the San Diego Chargers from 2008-2011. The Broncos brought him on for the 2012 season, hoping they had found a possible hidden gem from an AFC West rival. Well, it didn't quite work out that way with Hester.
He ran the ball just 17 times with the Broncos for 81 yards and two touchdowns - being used mainly as a third running back. Hester also had one catch for seven yards that same season. I also remember his biggest chance to make a play for the Broncos.
In the 2012 AFC Divisional Round, the Broncos and Baltimore Ravens went to overtime. Manning handed the ball to Hester on a third-and-one situation, but he was stopped. A few drives later, Manning threw an interception that led to the Ravens game-winning field goal. That was Hester's big moment, and he couldn't do it. That was also the final NFL game Hester ever played.
7 Best: Marshall Faulk
Yes, Marshall Faulk is perhaps the greatest running back of all-time. You may believe he should be number one on this list. The fact is, though, that Faulk played just one season with Manning in Indianapolis, so it's tough to give place him much higher than this.
Nonetheless, Faulk and Manning had a somewhat memorable run together. The Colts would win just three games in 1998, but it was the exciting start of the Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis. As for Faulk, his final year with the Colts was a memorable one. He had 1,319 yards and six touchdowns while adding 86 catches for 908 yards and four touchdowns.
Faulk would go to the Rams in 1999, winning a Super Bowl as part of the infamous Greatest Show on Turf offence with Kurt Warner. How dynamic this Colts offence would have been with Manning and Faulk for more than one year, though.
6 Worst: Ricky Williams
This isn't the Ricky Williams that starred with the Miami Dolphins for years and got into trouble with the law. This was a different Ricky Williams, who played for the Colts in the 2002 and 2003 seasons. His task of outplaying the other Ricky Williams in the NFL was tough enough. But this Ricky Williams struggled through two NFL seasons.
In 2002, Williams had 11 carries for just 35 rushing yards and zero touchdowns. He did have one 20-yard touchdown reception, though. In 2003, Williams had 48 rushes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. He added 22 catches for 157 yards and another touchdown. He also lost two fumbles in his career.
One reason Williams never got to shine with the Colts was because this team had better running backs in 2002 and 2003. We'll get to that shortly.
5 Best: Dominic Rhodes
Dominic Rhodes had a roller coaster of an NFL career. He had a monumental season in 2001 with the Colts. In fact, he was one of the few bright spots on a team that finished 6-10 and played so poorly, head coach Jim Mora went on his infamous "Playoffs?!" rant.
That year, the rookie averaged 4.7 yards per carry, rushing for 1,104 yards and nine touchdowns. He tore his ACL and missed all of 2002, however. He struggled in 2003, rushing just 37 times for 157 yards in 11 games. But Rhodes would finally get his career back on track.
He became a serviceable second running back behind a guy you'll read about later. Rhodes was a part of the Colts Super Bowl XLII-winning team, and finished with 3,286 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns in his career. He spent three seasons with the Colts and was one of Manning's favorite teammates, without question. They spent forever together.
4 Worst: Lamont Warren
Lamont Warren played with the Indianapolis Colts from 1994-1998. He also played one season with the New England Patriots and two campaigns with the Detroit Lions. He finished with 922 career rushing yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 3.2 yards per carry. Not exactly spectacular numbers, though.
He and Manning were only together in Indianapolis for the 1998 season. With Marshall Faulk occupying most of the snaps, Warren didn't get much of a chance to shine. He had 25 carries for just 61 yards and one rushing touchdown. He had 11 catches for 44 yards and one receiving touchdown.
It's hard to blame Warren for not being a star; how many running backs really would with Marshall Faulk on their team? But when the ball came to Warren, he didn't exactly take advantage of the opportunities.
3 Best: Joseph Addai
The Colts took Addai with the 30th pick in the 2006 Draft, and he came to play. In his rookie season, Joseph Addai averaged 4.8 yards per carry and finished with 1,081 yards and seven touchdowns. He was a huge piece of the Colts Super Bowl 41 championship season, as he scored the game-winning touchdown in the 2006 AFC Championship against the New England Patriots, Manning's arch rival.
Addai picked up where he left off the following season, finishing with 1,072 yards and a career-high 12 touchdowns. He struggled with injuries the rest of his career; but his 2009 season was also worth nothing: 828 yards and 10 touchdowns.
He played in just eight games during the 2010 season and last played for the Colts in 2011. That was a miserable season that saw the team go 2-14 with Manning sidelined. Addai never played another game, but was one of the best running backs Manning had.
2 Worst: Montee Ball
Ball really wasn't the least productive running back Manning had. But for a guy who was supposed to be a star at the position, Montee Ball was a huge disappointment and takes first place on our list. The Broncos drafted him with the 58th-overall pick in 2013, hoping he'd give Manning a reliable running back.
Ball was a mega star at Wisconsin, but it took the Broncos just two seasons before they moved on from him. He had 559 yards and four touchdowns with a pair of fumbles in 2013. The following season, Ball played just five games and finished with 172 yards, one touchdown and one fumble.
The Broncos released Ball, and he hasn't played in the NFL since. He had a great offensive line up front, but he saw Knowshon Moreno and C.J. Anderson take starting jobs away from him. He was a major draft bust for the Broncos and one of the least effective under Manning.
1 Best: Edgerrin James
When you think of the greatest Colts to play with Manning, three names come to mind. Those would be Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark. Running back Edgerrin James just doesn't seem to get the love he deserved.
James played with the Colts from 1999 to 2005. He led the league in rushing for the 1999 and 2000 seasons and was a four-time Pro Bowler. In his rookie year, James had 1,553 yards and four touchdowns. He took it a step further in 2000, rushing for 1,709 yards and five touchdowns. He played just six games in 2001 but finished with 989 yards in 14 games the following season.
James would hit the 1,000 rushing yard mark over the next three seasons in Indianapolis - scoring 33 touchdowns over the time period. James was a huge weapon for Manning and the Colts, and he's a key reason The Sheriff won league MVP in 2003 and 2004. He was the best deputy The Sheriff had. Ever.