Welcome to my next installment of my list of TOP 20 NFL Players at their position post 1990. These type of lists are always debatable and many times controversial. During the drafting of my Top 20 Quarterback List…I failed to set certain parameters which raised a few eyebrows. For example…I did not include Aaron Rodgers on the list because in my parameters he is too new. The players on this list must have played at least five seasons between 1990-2010. Please believe me…when all is said and done Aaron Rodgers will be on the Top 20 List of all-time Quarterbacks without a doubt. However…my lists are made to inspire debate and as I said must meet the parameters. Likewise…I left Joe Montana off of the Quarterback list due to him playing the final years of his career out from 1990-1994. John Elway and Dan Marino were on the list for their dominance during most of the Nineties Decades.
Quarterback lists, no matter all-time, fantasy wise, or present day and modern, will always be much easier than a Running Back or Receiver list if not for anything else but the fact that there are less of them…and there are less stars at this position as well. Some players on this list will also belong on the all-time list. Some players will be long forgotten now but were known to make huge impacts on the game at one point in time. Another parameter that I use is Statistics vs Championships. These categories are not weighted one way more than the other; however, they have to be the main reason for a player making the list. For example, while doing the Quarterback List I had a really hard time ranking Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Although Manning has better career statistics, he has less Championships than Brady. This was the tie breaker. Some skeptics will state that you cannot use the Championship Category as a parameter because Football is a “Team” sport. To these people…I say BULLSHIT. No matter what…certain star players belong ranked higher than others due to their shear leadership in guiding their teams to Championships. So…let us begin the controversy and review my Top 20 Ranking. Remember…this is the TOP 20 Post 1990.
Brian Westbrook just cracks the TOP 20. Brian played Nine Seasons where he was a star for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was drafted in 2002 as a Third Round Pick and went on to have a very productive career with the Eagles. Statistics: 6,335 Career Rushing Yards, 4.6 Yard Per Carry Average, 41 Rushing Touchdowns, 442 Receptions, 3,940 Receiving Yards, 30 Receiving Touchdowns. Brian was one of the prototypical running backs like Marshall Faulk that could catch the ball just as well as run it. Unfortunately, Westbrook never won a Super Bowl as the Eagles lost in 2004, his only trip there. However, 10,000 Yards From Scrimmage and 71 Touchdowns is no joking matter.
19) Jerome Bettis (LA/Saint Louis Rams-1993-1995/Pittsburgh Steelers-1996-2005). Jerome Bettis, nicknamed “THE BUS” cracks the list at number 19. Jerome Bettis is a One Time Super Bowl Champion, 6x Pro Bowler, 3x All-Pro, Sixth Leading Rusher of all time, and 3x Player of the Year for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Statistics: 13,662 Rushing Yards, 3.9 Yards Per Carry Average, 200 Receptions, 1,449 Receiving Yards, 94 Touchdowns. Jerome Bettis has the distinction of Winning a Super Bowl in his hometown Detroit and going out on top as he retired after the 2005 Season.
18) Jamal Lewis (Baltimore Ravens- 2000-2006/Cleveland Browns 2007-2009). Jamal Lewis was the Fifth Player taken in the 2000 Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. He busted onto the scene and immediately made an impact for the Ravens. In fact, the Ravens won the Super Bowl in only his second season when they beat the New York Giants in 2001. Jamal Lewis was named the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2003. Lewis had an outstanding season in which he rushed for 2,066 Yards which is the third highest total ever by a Running Back in a season behind Eric Dickerson and Adrian Peterson. Lewis also rushed for the single game high of 295 Yards which stood as the record until Adrian Peterson rushed for 296 Yards in 2007. Statistics: 10,607 Yards Rushing, 4.2 Yards Per Carry Average, 58 Touchdowns. He finished his career with the Cleveland Browns where he was released in 2010 and consequently retired.
17) Eddie George (Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans-1996-2003/Dallas Cowboys-2004). Eddie was the 14th pick in the 1996 Draft by the Houston Oilers. During his career, George was a 4x Pro-Bowler and he also won the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award in 1996. George was highly recruited as he also won the Heisman Trophy as the best College Player in 1995. He was the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1996 and lead the Tennessee Titans as their starting tailback straight through 2003. George became only the second NFL Running Back to join the 10,000 Yard Club without missing one game to injury. The only other back to accomplish this feat was Jim Brown and only Walter Peyton started more consecutive games in a season than George. He was a true Iron Man in a day of injury riddled running backs. Statistics: 10,441 Yards Rushing, 3.6 Yards Per Carry Average, 78 Touchdowns.
16) Ahman Green (Seattle Seahawks-1998-1999/Green Bay Packers-2000-2006/Houston Texans-2007-2008/Green Bay Packers-2009). Ahman Green was one of those Running Backs that had star power, but he did it quietly. Green was a 4x Pro-Bowler, 2x All-Pro, NFC Offensive Player of the Year in 2003, and lead the league in Rushing in 2003. Green remains the Green Bay Packers all-time rusher. Green was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 1998 and had two years of over 6.0 Yards Per Carry and 4.6 Yards Per Carry. However, he had a hard time cracking the starting lineup and generating playing time behind Ricky Watters. Green was trade to the Packers in 2000 where he went onto win 4 Consecutive Pro Bowls. He also became only the second player besides Bo Jackson to have two runs of over 90 Yards in the same game. He set the Packers all-time season rushing record with 1,883 in 2003. Statistics: 9,205 Rushing Yards, 4.5 Yards Per Carry, 60 Touchdowns, 108 Receptions, 1,994 Yards Receiving.
15) Corey Dillon (Cincinnati Bengals-1997-2003/New England Patriots-2004-2006). Dillon was drafted by the Bengals in 1997 with the 43rd pick in the draft of the second round. Corey Dillon was one of the most consistent Running Backs of his time averaging almost 1,000 yards per season for 10 seasons. He was a 4x Pro-Bowler and he won a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots in 2004. In 2000, Dillon broke the then single-game rushing record of 275 Yards by Walter Peyton, rushing for 278 Yards. In the 2004 Super Bowl, Dillon had 106 Total Yards and a Touchdown and was one of the main reasons the Pats beat the Eagles. Statistics: 11,241 Rushing Yards, 4.3 Yards Per Carry Average, 82 Rushing Touchdowns. Dillon was another Star Running Back that lead a quiet NFL career.
14) Maurice Jones-Drew (Jacksonville Jaguars-2006-Present). Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the smallest running backs in the NFL today. At 5’7″, and 210 LBS., he is what you would call a spark plug. Drew is a 3x Pro-Bowler, 2x NFL Running Back of the Year, the 2011 Rushing Leader, the Jaguars single season leader in all-purpose yards with 2,250 Yards in 2011. Jones-Drew has had some injuries, but not withstanding there is no doubt that if he was on a better team, he not only would have better stats, but also probably a Championship. With his career still in effect, he ranks higher on this list. Statistics: 7,483 Rushing Yards, 4.6 Yards Per Carry Average, 64 Rushing Touchdowns, 295 Receptions, 2,579 Yards Receiving, 11 Receiving Touchdowns. Maurice Jones-Drew gave the Jaguars one of the most potent one-two punches of the past decade along with Fred Taylor.
13) Fred Taylor (Jacksonville Jaguars- 1998-2008/New England Patriots-2009-2010). Taylor was the Ninth Pick of the 1998 Draft. He is the all-time rushing leader for the Jaguars as well as Attempts. Taylor is in the same boat as Jones-Drew in that he was a star running back for a bad team. Statistics: 2,354 Attempts, 11,695 Yards Rushing, 4.0 Yards Per Carry Average, 290 Receptions, 66 Rushing Touchdowns, 8 Receiving Touchdowns. Taylor is a member of the Jaguars all-pride team with Mark Brunell.
12) Chris Johnson (2008-Present Tennessee Titans). Johnson was the 24th Pick of the Draft by the Titans in 2008. He is a 4x Pro-Bowler, AP Offensive Player of the Year in 2009, won a rushing title in 2009, NFL RECORD Yards From Scrimmage in a Season-2,509, Single Season 2,000 Yard Club. Johnson has only been playing for 6 Seasons and has amassed over 7,000 Yards Rushing and 9,000 All Purpose Yards. He has been injured the past two seasons which is all the more reason why he is this high on the list. Statistics: 7,054 Yards Rushing, 4.7 Yards Per Carry Average, 44 Rushing Touchdowns, 15 Receiving Touchdowns, 9,054 All Purpose Yards. If Johnson continues at this pace he could either move up or down on the list…its all up to him.
11) Clinton Portis (Denver Broncos- 2002-2003/Washington Redskins-2004-2010). Portis was a second round pick of the Denver Broncos from the Miami Hurricanes. He was then traded to the Washington Redskins when he fell out of favor in Denver. Clinton enjoyed a solid NFL Career that saw him make 3 Pro Bowls and win the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award in 2002. Statistics: 9,923 Rushing Yards, 4.4 Yards Per Carry Average, 75 Touchdowns, 90 Total Touchdowns.
10) Edgerrin James (Indianapolis Colts-1999-2005/Arizona Cardinals-2006-2008/Seahawks-2009). “EDGE” as he was nicknamed burst onto the NFL scene as the 4th Round Pick of the Colts in 1999. He is a 4x Pro Bowler, 4x All-Pro, 2x Rushing Champion, Super Bowl Champion, 2008 NFC Champion, 11th All-Time Rusher, NFL 2000’s Decade Team. He also played college football for Miami just like Portis. Some critics blasted the Colts for drafting James over Ricky Williams who had won the Heisman Trophy. He became the Colts All-Time Leading Rusher after 2006 when he won a Super Bowl with them. The following year he left the team for the NFC. He again reached the Super Bowl with the Cardinals where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Statistics: 12,246 Rushing Yards, 4.0 Yards Per Carry Average, 80 Rushing Touchdowns, 101 Total Touchdowns.
9) Tiki Barber (New York Giants 1997-2006). Tiki Barber was a standout for the Giants from day one of his career. He was drafted in 1997 in the second round. Many critics blasted the Giants saying that Barber was too fragile and that he would never last in the NFL. My…how wrong they were. Tiki was a 3x Pro Bowler, 3x All-Pro, and he is also the Giants all-time leading rusher. Statistics: 10,449 Yards Rushing, 4.7 Yards Per Carry Average, 56 Rushing Touchdowns, 586 Receptions, , 5183 Yards Receiving, 12 Receiving Touchdowns. He is also the Giants all-time receiving player. During his career, Barber amazed fans and analysts and coaches with his durability. In his final game as a pro, he rushed for 137 Yards and a Touchdown in a playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. At the end of the game, Brian Dawkins embraced Barber and called him a “Warrior.”
8) Terrell Davis (Denver Broncos-1995-2002). Davis was not like any other Running Backs on this list in that he did not have notoriety coming out of college. In fact, Davis almost went un drafted as he was taken in the sixth round. He is a 3x Pro Bowler, 3x All-Pro, 2x Super Bowl Champion, 2x NFL AP Player of the Year, 1998 NFL MVP, and a member of the 2,000 Yard Season Club. Statistics: 7,607 Yards Rushing, 4.6 Yards Per Carry Average, 169 Receptions, 1,280 Receiving Yards, and 65 Touchdowns. In Super Bowl XXXII, Davis rushed for 157 Yards and had three touchdowns. Davis is higher on this list due to his importance in carrying his team to the next level. His performance also helped Denver break an 0-13 Year Slump by the AFC in Super Bowls.
7) Ricky Watters (San Francisco 49ers-1991-1994/Philadelphia Eagles-1995-1997/Seattle Seahawks-1998-2001). “FOR WHO? FOR WHAT?” I will never forget that quote…nor will any Philadelphia Eagles fan. Ricky Watters made that comment after one game when he was asked why he did not stretch out for a pass in an Eagles loss. Ricky was a 2nd Round Pick of the Niners out of Notre Dame. During his career, he was a 5x Pro Bowler, 3x All-Pro, and Super Bowl Champion. Statistics: 10,643 rushing Yards, 4.1 Yards Per Carry Average, 4,248 Receiving Yards, 9.1 Yards Receiving Average, 78 Touchdowns. Watters was a durable back and he always ran the ball hard. He was also a good back out of the back field. He also won a National Championship with Notre Dame. He is one of two running backs to rush for 1,000 yards with three different teams along with Willis McGahee. He scored three touchdowns in the 49ers 49-26 Super Bowl win against the San Diego Chargers.
6) Priest Holmes (Baltimore Ravens-1997-2000/Kansas City Chiefs-2001-2007). Priest Holmes was an un drafted free agent that signed with the Ravens in 1997. Little did anyone know that he would go on to have one of the most successful careers for a running back ever. He was a 3x Pro-Bowler, Super Bowl Champion, and 2x NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Statistics: 8,172 Yards Rushing, 4.6 Yards Per Carry Average, 89 Touchdowns. In 2003, Holmes broke Marshal Faulk’s record of 26 Touchdowns with 27, which was subsequently broken by Shaun Alexander with 28 and then Ladainian Tomlinson with 31. Holmes career was cut short due to a spinal injury. If Holmes had played a full career, there is no telling what he could have accomplished.
5) Shaun Alexander (Seattle Seahawks- 2000-2007/Redskins-2008). Alexander had a short career like Earl Campbell but that did not stop him from becoming one of the greatest running backs ever. He put up some ridiculous numbers. 3x Pro Bowler, 2x NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and NFL MVP in 2005. Statistics: 9,453 Yards Rushing, 4.3 Yards Per Carry Average, 100 Rushing Touchdowns, 10 Receiving Touchdowns. Alexander never won a Super Bowl but he was the talk of the NFL for a good six seasons.
4 ) Ladanian Tomlinson (San Diego Chargers-2001-2009/New York Jets-2010-2011). Stats say it all: 13,684 Yards Rushing, 4.3 Yards Per Carry Average, 145 Rushing Touchdowns (Including Single Season Record of 31, and 972 Points scored. WOW!!!!! In 2003, he became the first player to rush for 1,000 Yards and have 100 Receptions the same season. Tomlinson is one of the all time greats as well…hands down. Adrian Peterson is on pace to break Tomlinson’s records. He was the sixth fastest player to 8,000 Yards.
1) Emmitt Smith- Emmitt is the Martin Brodeur of Running Backs. He has every record that can be held. Yes…He did play for an awesome offensive line but he also talked the talk and walked the walk. 18,355 Yards Rushing, 164 Rushing Touchdowns, 515 Receptions, 3,224 Yards Receiving, 11 Receiving Touchdowns. Pro Football Hall Of Fame, 8x Pro Bowler, Career Rushing Yards Leader, Career Touchdown Leader, Career 100 Yard Rushing Games-78, 3x SUPER BOWL CHAMPION, 2x SUPER BOWL MVP, 4x Rushing Leader, Offensive Rookie of the Year. Emmitt is the best on my list.
*****Honorable Mention- Adrian Peterson (New), Curtis Martin (Longevity), Ricky Williams, Frank Gore, Steven Jackson, Charlie Garner, Warrick Dunn, Thomas Jones.
STAY TUNED FOR MY NEXT LIST WHICH WILL BE THE TOP 20 RECEIVERS POST 1990! THIS HAS BEEN FUN!