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Best RB you've ever seen?

SFGFNCGiantsFan : 9/15/2020 7:25 pm
My old man always say Jim Brown, but he was ahead of my time. Barry Sanders was the best I've seen, with Emmitt Smith a close second.

How about you?
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Eric Dickerson  
BlueVinnie : 9/16/2020 8:40 am : link
I'd say Barry Sanders was the most exciting RB I've ever seen but if I needed a guy to carry the load for my team it would definitely be Dickerson.

I don't recall seeing Gayle Sayers or Jim Brown play so I can't chooses either of those guys.
RE: Eric Dickerson  
dschwarz in westchester : 9/16/2020 9:17 am : link
In comment 14974049 BlueVinnie said:
Quote:
I'd say Barry Sanders was the most exciting RB I've ever seen but if I needed a guy to carry the load for my team it would definitely be Dickerson.

I don't recall seeing Gayle Sayers or Jim Brown play so I can't chooses either of those guys.


I was going to say something similar - Barry Sanders was absolutely the most exciting RB I've ever seen. But I'm not sure that makes him the 'best' running back I've ever seen. Those highlights were amazing but there were too many negative runs. (Barkley is the same way.)

I would say the best I've ever seen was either Marshall Faulk or LaDainian Tomlinson.(For reference I was born in 76 so guys like Earl Campbell, Jim Brown, and even Payton's glory years, are all really before my time.)

Emmitt Smith was amazing but it's too hard to parse his success out from playing for an excellent offense with a crazy good offensive line. I think he's a HOFer even with a lesser cast, but is he 'best ever', I can't say.

Faulk and Tomlinson were hyper versatile guys who excelled at virtually every aspect of the game and while both had time on great teams, they also had time without great supporting casts and still produced. And unlike Sanders and Barkley they were super consistently productive; not boom-or-bust. Just my two cents...
go to utube and watch Jim Brown highlights for those  
gtt350 : 9/16/2020 9:20 am : link
not from that era
Walter Payton no contest. GREAT runner, got both the short, tough yard  
Victor in CT : 9/16/2020 9:33 am : link
and could bust the long one, was a great receiver, punishing blocker, never fumbled and was deadly on the half back option.
Payton in my lifetime. My dad always sad Jim Brown was the best  
Victor in CT : 9/16/2020 9:34 am : link
player ever he ever saw, at least until LT came along.
wasn't old enough to see  
Osi Osi Osi OyOyOy : 9/16/2020 9:37 am : link
most of them play, but I love watching highlights of older athletes in all sports to try and get a better perspective of them. I've watched so many old NFL, NBA, Boxing, etc. youtube clips. I've read up about and researched old articles about how great certain players/teams were.

I think Jim Brown is pretty easily the #1 RB in football history and the most impressive back I watched. First of all he was 230 lbs at a time when the average Lineman was about 250 lbs and maxed out at around 280 lbs. He was the biggest and most powerful RB in the game. He also supposedly ran in the 4.5s back then, which is really impressive for his size and shows in his breakaway speed.

But when I watch him play, there are two things that really stand out even compared to other all-time greats. His balance and his cutting ability.

His balance is absolutely incredible. There are so many times in his videos where a defender just lined him up for a kill shot but Brown somehow was able to stay up despite going backwards. I've never quite seen anything else like it, he somehow wills himself to defy gravity.

His cutting ability and change of direction was absolutely insane for a man of his size. It's the #1 thing that I notice from his videos. We're talking absolutely crappy condition muddy 1960s football fields while wearing prehistoric cleats and yet this guy is making cuts that would be extremely impressive for a 210lb RB in 2020. Some of his most impressive runs are when he cuts back against the field, and it also showcases his speed. He's the Offensive GOAT.

- Barry Sanders was amazing, best short area explosiveness ever. But people underrate his Lions' OL though, they weren't bad
- Sayers was smoother/faster than Sanders and almost as quick, probably the most graceful runner ever (did it in old cleats/shitty fields too)
- Eric Dickerson is a little overrated imo, but he just looked like a thoroughbred and was a big play machine.
- Adrian Peterson reminds me a lot of Eric Dickerson, just explosive upright runners with speed
- Earl Campbell's power was ridiculous, but he had nifty feet and insane balance too.
- When you think about what a RB "should" look like, it's OJ Simpson. Just an incredible athletic package.
- Walter Payton really is the definition of effort, it's the generic thing to say about him but it really stands out
- Bo Jackson is the only guy in Jim Brown's tier as an athlete, his speed doesn't make sense.

A lot of other great backs over the years. Always loved Faulk for his receiving ability. Although I kind of hated on Tomlinson while he played because of the post-Eli draft rivalry with the Chargers, I've come to appreciate him as the most complete back of the last 15/20 years. He checked all the boxes. I think Priest Holmes gets overlooked due to his short prime. He had some amazing OLines in KC but his production was just out of this world. I think LeSean McCoy is a little underrated, he's the only guy this decade besides Saquon who is even remotely comparable to the Sanders/Sayers duo in terms of video-game short area cutting ability.
Brown was the best but he the physical advantage of being bigger  
Ivan15 : 9/16/2020 9:37 am : link
Than most of the LBs and some of the linemen trying to stop him. If you stopped Jim Brown, Cleveland couldn’t win.

Sayers had an almost unique running style and was easily injured because of it. I would put him in a large group of great RBs who were second to Jim Brown. Sayers, Simpson, Sanders, Campbell, Smith, Jackson, Payton all could carry a team and could make big contributions to winning even when they were not having their best day.

Sanders’ game was unusual. I don’t have the image of him just taking the ball, hitting a gap and running with it. He was always dancing around with a risk/reward running style. Very good back but not what I want to see in a RB.
Walter Payton was an absolutely complete RB. Could do it all.  
Heisenberg : 9/16/2020 9:37 am : link
If Bo Jackson could have managed a 10 year career, he might be my answer
Guess!  
Jimmy Brown : 9/16/2020 9:51 am : link
You are correct, sir!
Barry Sanders with Marshall Faulk a close 2nd  
sb from NYT Forum : 9/16/2020 9:53 am : link
and then Thurmon Thomas (watched a lot of Bills games when I went to college upstate).

I wouldn't put Emmitt in my top 5. He was tough, but not spectacular. His yardage was more because he had a great line, IMO.
barry sanders and bo jackson  
GiantsFan84 : 9/16/2020 10:07 am : link
nobody else is close
I'm going to go with Walter Payton,  
Section331 : 9/16/2020 10:09 am : link
but Bo Jackson was the most explosive football player I've ever seen. If he had been able to stay healthy...
Jim Brown  
PaulN : 9/16/2020 10:10 am : link
He is the LT on the offensive side of the ball. He is the only player I rank above LT, that is how good he was. Like LT when played the Browns, he had to be stopped, and the entire game plan was first to figure out what to do with him. Not everyone understands this, there were only 2 players in the history of the game, that were not QB's and who were the main focus every single game they played, when you played the 49rs, it was Montana, not Rice. Rice over LT or Jim B rown is a joke, Sayer's career got ruined so he is not there for only that reason, because he returned punts and kicks at an elite level. Payton and Sanders fall right after Brown, then you have to make a top 10 list, because there are a few really great ones.
RE: Barry Sanders with Marshall Faulk a close 2nd  
ShockNRoll : 9/16/2020 10:22 am : link
In comment 14974141 sb from NYT Forum said:
Quote:
and then Thurmon Thomas (watched a lot of Bills games when I went to college upstate).

I wouldn't put Emmitt in my top 5. He was tough, but not spectacular. His yardage was more because he had a great line, IMO.


I'm surprised Faulk has not been mentioned more on this thread. Obviously there are going to be a lot of Sayers, OJ, Dickerson, Payton, Jim Brown, Sanders entries on this thread, but Faulk is up there too. Another one I don't think I've seen is Adrian Peterson. I've always downplayed Emmitt because of my hatred of the Cowboys over the years, and because he had the luxury of one of the greatest OL's ever assembled, and his 4.2 career YPC is good, but nothing special. However, for him to have played at the level he did for the amount of years that he did is pretty remarkable. Guy missed 7 games in 13 years with the Cowboys, and he got a full workload, some years touching the ball well over 400 times. I remember as a kid arguing Rodney Hampton was just as good as him lol.
RE: Jim Brown  
Del Shofner : 9/16/2020 10:37 am : link
In comment 14974160 PaulN said:
Quote:
He is the LT on the offensive side of the ball. He is the only player I rank above LT, that is how good he was. Like LT when [you] played the Browns, he had to be stopped, and the entire game plan was first to figure out what to do with him. Not everyone understands this, there were only 2 players in the history of the game, that were not QB's and who were the main focus every single game they played...


This is how I see it as well - with great respect to all the other great RBs mentioned.
Barry Sanders and Bo Jackson were the two most talented RBs I've seen  
NYG27 : 9/16/2020 10:58 am : link
Marshall Faulk was the most dangerous duel treat talent I've seen as both a runner and receiver.

Although I might be biased but Tiki Barbers 2005 season was on par with anything I ever saw. Barber had 2,390 yards from scrimmage and three games that season where he rushed for over 200+ yards.
I'm in the Jim Brown camp  
Jeever : 9/16/2020 10:59 am : link
He was putting up numbers in a 10 game season that most of today's RBs are putting up in 16. When he left the game he was at his peak and could've played 6, 7 maybe 8 more seasons.

I remember getting a Giants yearbook and they had a photo from the previous season. It was Brown's backside as he ran down the sideline with 7 or 8 Giants laying on the ground after attempting to tackle this monster.

Sanders was exciting, but to me he's not top 5 because he couldn't  
Victor in CT : 9/16/2020 11:23 am : link
be relied upon to get that 2 yd gain when needed. Always looked for the HR when a bunt was needed to sustain a drive and was stoppable with the game on the line. Barkley has some of those tendencies which I am hopeful he will learn to pick his spots as situations dictate
Slightly different styles  
Beezer : 9/16/2020 11:30 am : link
but it's these three that I actually have seen play: Barry Sanders, Walter Payton and Earl Campbell.

FWIW, my Dad saw all three of those guys, and he said it was Jimmy Brown.

Side note: Happy birthday in heaven, Pop! Miss you.
EARL CAMPBELL...  
x meadowlander : 9/16/2020 11:38 am : link
...in his prime, an absolute nightmare for defenders. The most punishing running back I ever saw, a human bowling ball.

.  
arcarsenal : 9/16/2020 11:42 am : link
I'm 35 years old, so it's Barry Sanders for me.

I didn't get to watch Jim Brown or Earl Campbell or guys from older eras.
.  
arcarsenal : 9/16/2020 11:42 am : link
Honorable mention to Marshall Faulk. He was amazing - especially in 99.
Walter Peyton  
GoDeep13 : 9/16/2020 12:02 pm : link
His game had no weakness. He could run away from you. He could juke you out you cleats, he could run over you, he had a great stiff arm, his balance was astounding, he could catch out the backfield, great short yardage back.

I wish Saquon emulated him more than Barry. What Barry did, only Barry could do. At 6ft 235lb you can’t be Barry. You just can’t. The closest thing I saw to someone that moved like Barry was Lesean McCoy in the early Eagles years.
I was born in '54  
richynyc : 9/16/2020 12:04 pm : link
so I got to see plenty of Jim Brown. He was the best I've even seen. By far.
Jim Brown and Barry Sanders  
Rick in Dallas : 9/16/2020 12:09 pm : link
Gale Sayers was electric but career cut short by injuries.
RE: Walter Peyton  
Victor in CT : 9/16/2020 12:21 pm : link
In comment 14974390 GoDeep13 said:
Quote:
His game had no weakness. He could run away from you. He could juke you out you cleats, he could run over you, he had a great stiff arm, his balance was astounding, he could catch out the backfield, great short yardage back.

I wish Saquon emulated him more than Barry. What Barry did, only Barry could do. At 6ft 235lb you can’t be Barry. You just can’t. The closest thing I saw to someone that moved like Barry was Lesean McCoy in the early Eagles years.


"I wish Saquon emulated him more than Barry"

I agree with this completely. To me it's the difference between winning and losing
RE: RE: Sweetness  
Optimus-NY : 9/16/2020 12:36 pm : link
In comment 14973831 Jim from Katonah said:
Quote:
In comment 14973827 trueblueinpw said:


Quote:


He never ran out of bounds. Which was amazing back then and would be even more amazing today. He was a fierce competitor and feared player. He gave it out as good as ever got it. Just an incredibly physical player. Also amazing because he was by all accounts a terrific person. Even when he was playing, everyone loved Walter. A complete back, he could do it all and he *did* do it all over a long career. Best career I ever saw for a RB. Not really close.

You start to talk about best seasons or even spurts and the field gets crowded pretty quickly. Dickerson was as smooth and easy and as good a usher as any back since. Man could he run. Edge was terrific, Faulk was amazing and probably the most complete back I can think in that elite level - smart as heck by all accounts. Faulk had a great career too. Emmitt was a great champion, so tough and an iron will to win. Barry Sanders, of course. Earl Campbell just ran over guys, the definition of a punishing back. Tiki was great RB. Marcus Allen.

Lotta great backs...



I like the Emmit “iron will” description. Clutch and at his best in big games.

As far as blitz pickups, best I ever saw was Clinton Portis. Dude was amazingly violent, knocked guys out who outweighed him by 50 lbs.


You're spot on about Portis. Madden used to rave about his pass blocking. Helluva back but a GREAT pass protector.
I'm younger than most  
Sonic Youth : 9/16/2020 12:40 pm : link
but my gut reaction was Faulk or Tomlinson.
I only saw the tail end of Walter Payton's career.  
Optimus-NY : 9/16/2020 12:50 pm : link
And that was enough. He was a man possessed. The LT of running backs. Show Saquon how Sweetness blocked and then make him run some laps.
Sweetness  
Optimus-NY : 9/16/2020 12:53 pm : link
The best right here:



Walter Payton A Football Life - ( New Window )
RB  
TGATE GRLMST : 9/16/2020 1:14 pm : link
For me it's Sayers, Sweetness and Barry in that order
Remember sitting in stands at old Stadium When Barry was lighting us up
And the saying "Don't Chase Sanders he'll be back in a minute" was born lol
Payton  
TheMick7 : 9/16/2020 1:22 pm : link
.
Earl Campbell  
Grey Pilgrim : 9/16/2020 1:23 pm : link
...
Earl Campbell is a great one too...  
BillKo : 9/16/2020 2:25 pm : link
......he has some famous runs too. Too many to mention, including some end runs that went the distance.

But more famous is hee one where his shirt rips off, another where he puts the crown of his helmet right into a poor LB, and finally the one where he meets the Raiders Jack Tatum at the goal line and then stubbles in for the TD.

But another personal fav is where a Broncos' LB, I believe Randy Gradishar, tries to form tackle Earl by putting his shoulder into Earl's thigh.

Gradishar simply went limp due to the collision, and Campbell just started up again and kept going....total strength.
Barry Sanders is the best I've ever seen  
PaulBlakeTSU : 9/16/2020 2:51 pm : link
Jim Brown was obviously the most dominant, but it's so hard to compare across eras, especially all the way back in Jim's day. The quality of athlete and size/speed of defenders is just a different story in the modern league.

I have no doubt that Jim would have been great in any era. But I think a large part of his dominance was his size for his era, compared with the defensive players that he went against. Jim was 6'2, 232, making him 5 lbs heavier than the average linebacker from 1970. I don't have data going back to the late 50s, and early 60s, but I imagine the players were even smaller than they were in 1970

According to this study from PFR 15 years ago, going back to 1970, here are the average height/weight of players entering the league at various positions.

RBs:
1970: 6'1, 210
2005: 5'11, 217

DE:
1970: 6'4, 250 lbs
2005: 6'4, 275 lbs

DT:
1970: 6'4, 256 lbs
2005: 6'3, 305 lbs

LBs:
1970: 6'2, 227 lbs
2005: 6'2, 240lbs

DBs:
1970: 6'0, 197 lbs
2005: 6'0, 185lbs

And on the Oline side

OTs
1970: 6'5, 260
2005: 6'6, 320

OGs
1970: 6'3: 254
2005: 6'4, 316 lbs

Centers
1970: 6'3, 245
2005:6'4, 301
https://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/index7255.html? - ( New Window )
whoops, have the DBs switched  
PaulBlakeTSU : 9/16/2020 2:52 pm : link
2005 are heavier
Paul, i hear what you’re driving at vis a vis eras.  
Big Blue '56 : 9/16/2020 3:23 pm : link
Jim Brown was an outlier pertaining to weight. It was his quickness and speed around the edge and through a given hole, that made him Sanders and Sayers-like in that aspect of his game. Now sure, I would believe his weight advantage helped against opposing tacklers, but his size, albeit, advantageous, was not the predominate factor in his greatness. He was faster than most RBs (who were many pounds lighter) than I’ve ever seen. As in most cases, he had to be seen LIVE to properly assess how fast/quick he was.
that I’ve ever seen  
Big Blue '56 : 9/16/2020 3:24 pm : link
.
in my lifetime  
RasputinPrime : 9/16/2020 4:10 pm : link
1) Sanders
2) Bo Jackson
---
3) Tomlinson
4) Peterson
Best 3 I ever saw were 5  
arniefez : 9/16/2020 4:30 pm : link
Jim Brown

Gale Sayers

OJ Simpson

Barry Sanders

Walter Payton

In that order. Those 5 were on their own level.

For those of you - probably most of you - who never saw Jim Brown play I'll explain him in therms you can understand.

LeBron James is the Jim Brown of the NBA.

A generational player who was decades ahead of his time physically. A player larger and faster than the smaller fast players he competes against and much more athletic but as big and strong as the big strong players he competes against.

Jim Brown is the only player I ever saw who was better at football than Lawrence Taylor.
Only saw Brown in the highlight films  
JonC : 9/16/2020 4:35 pm : link
In the 40+ years I've watched:

Bo Jackson was the most explosive. Watching him hit the edge and hit the gas pedal was unbelievable. Probably the best raw college football athlete I've seen.

Eric Dickerson was the smoothest and scariest, at his peak you held onto your hat when he was pitched the football off tackle. OJ from what I understand was considered similarly at his peak.

Barry Sanders was the most elusive and perhaps even a little underrated as a great, given what he accomplished with his small size and he didn't train much during the offseason.

Earl Campbell was the most difficult to tackle, the ultimate workhorse, battering ram. He was pure FUN to watch.

Walter Payton could do it all, he is missed.

Emmitt was durable and extremely productive, but ran behind an all-time set of OLs and wasn't what I'd consider multi-dimensional. Tomlinson reminded me of Payton as did but Faulk, but at their peaks Faulk was more explosive and a better runner. Faulk was a feared weapon, but didn't stay as healthy as Tomlinson.

I see no size fits all answer from ~1978 to present for me.
I wish I could have seen  
Enzo : 9/16/2020 4:40 pm : link
some of Barry in college. His stats were just stupid. His last year at OSU he put up 2,628 yards on 344 carries for a ridiculous 7.6 average. And 37 touchdowns.
Barry Sanders 1988  
JonC : 9/16/2020 4:44 pm : link
was insane, he was scary great. THAT's when to use the word great.
RE: Barry Sanders 1988  
Big Blue '56 : 9/16/2020 4:47 pm : link
In comment 14974758 JonC said:
Quote:
was insane, he was scary great. THAT's when to use the word great.


You mean ‘89 unless you’re referring to College?
RE: RE: Barry Sanders 1988  
JonC : 9/16/2020 5:09 pm : link
In comment 14974762 Big Blue '56 said:
Quote:
In comment 14974758 JonC said:


Quote:


was insane, he was scary great. THAT's when to use the word great.



You mean ‘89 unless you’re referring to College?


Yep, college, his Heisman winning year.
.  
Del Shofner : 9/16/2020 5:13 pm : link
In comment 14974736 arniefez said:
Quote:
Jim Brown

Gale Sayers

OJ Simpson

Barry Sanders

Walter Payton

In that order. Those 5 were on their own level.

For those of you - probably most of you - who never saw Jim Brown play I'll explain him in therms you can understand. ...

Jim Brown is the only player I ever saw who was better at football than Lawrence Taylor.


I think that, for those who saw LT play, the last part is all you need to say.
Earl Campbell  
Thegratefulhead : 9/16/2020 5:17 pm : link
In his prime was the best I ever saw. They knew he going get it and they could not stop him. The games vs that HoF Steelers D were unreal. I watched every time he was on the television. He was must see TV for me.
RE: RE: RE: Barry Sanders 1988  
Big Blue '56 : 9/16/2020 5:28 pm : link
In comment 14974775 JonC said:
Quote:
In comment 14974762 Big Blue '56 said:


Quote:


In comment 14974758 JonC said:


Quote:


was insane, he was scary great. THAT's when to use the word great.



You mean ‘89 unless you’re referring to College?



Yep, college, his Heisman winning year.


Gotcha, Daddy
RE: .  
Big Blue '56 : 9/16/2020 5:29 pm : link
In comment 14974782 Del Shofner said:
Quote:
In comment 14974736 arniefez said:


Quote:


Jim Brown

Gale Sayers

OJ Simpson

Barry Sanders

Walter Payton

In that order. Those 5 were on their own level.

For those of you - probably most of you - who never saw Jim Brown play I'll explain him in therms you can understand. ...

Jim Brown is the only player I ever saw who was better at football than Lawrence Taylor.



I think that, for those who saw LT play, the last part is all you need to say.


Jim Brown was the best offensive player I ever saw. That said, LT was the best football player I ever saw.
of the players mentioned most  
Bill2 : 9/16/2020 6:17 pm : link
Walter, Barry and Jim Brown had the lesser OL. (maybe Bo Jackson as well).

Walter and Sanders were smaller than average backs.

Payton the most durable and well rounded (pass catching and just a devastating blocker).

To me, Jim Brown showed how exciting football could be just when it began to expand from a garbage sport ( back then behind Boxing, Baseball, horse racing and basketball) to a major sport on TV. Some of the first names you learned outside your family between 4-6 years old was the President, the Heavyweight Champ, who won the Derby and Russel vs Chamberlain followed by Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. And in that mix was Jim Brown. A smart kid knew who the VP was and who Khrushchev was.

But although he was not the best of the great backs, my favorite was Walter Payton.

Honestly, to me, Gale Sanders just didn't play that long to register in the top rungs. Ditto Jackson.
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