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20 best running back seasons in NFL history


Jamal Anderson #32, Running Back for the Atlanta Falcons in motion running the football during the National Football Conference Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings on 17th January 1999 at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. The Atlanta Falcons won the game 30 – 27. (Photo by Elsa Hasch/Allsport/Getty Images)

It was once the glamour position in the NFL. There have been some memorable single-season performances by running backs during the league’s long history.

The position was back when it came to NFL offenses this past season. A total of 14 running backs ran for 1,000-plus yards in 2022, led by the Raiders’ Josh Jacobs (1,653). Only seven running backs reached the 1,000-yard mark the previous season.

Jacobs was also one of three backs (along with Saquon Barkley and Tony Pollard) to get the “franchise” tag this offseason. On the first night of the 2023 NFL Draft, running backs Bijan Robinson (Falcons) and Jahmyr Gibbs (Lions) were both Top 10 selections.

There’s already been a look at the 20 best seasons by a quarterback in league annals. So why not give some equal time to the men who carry and catch the rock? None of the aforementioned players made this list, but the enclosed submission features some memorable single-season performances.

20 best running back seasons in NFL history

20. Jamal Anderson, Falcons (1998)

The team seemingly came out of nowhere. Dan Reeves inherited a 3-13 Atlanta Falcons squad and led them to a 7-9 finish in his first season in 1997. His second campaign with the club saw the Falcons double their victory total via a surprising 14-2 showing.

The main cog in the Atlanta offense was running back Jamal Anderson. A seventh-round selection in 1994, he was coming off a pair of 1,000-yard seasons on the ground. His fifth year in the NFL saw him rack up a league-high 410 carries for 1,846 yards and 14 scores. The former University of Utah product finished ‘98 with 2,165 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns.

Anderson wasn’t done. He ran for 113 yards and two scores in a 20-18 win over the 49ers in the divisional round. He came up with 100 total yards from scrimmage, including a TD reception, in the Falcons’ 30-27 overtime win at Minnesota in the NFC Championship Game. He also ran for 96 yards in Super Bowl XXXIII but did lose a fumble in the 34-19 setback. This “Dirty Bird” was filthy good that season.