Sports

The best rookie seasons from NFL running backs

The NFL has seen its fair share of great rookie seasons from running backs. These 30 seasons stand out among the rest.

 

1 of 30

1964: Charley Taylor, Washington

Nate Fine / Getty Images

Taylor won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1964, accumulating 1,569 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns in 14 games. He had 199 carries and 53 receptions, and would move to wide receiver two years later. Taylor eventually made the Hall of Fame following eight Pro Bowl appearances.

 

1965: Gale Sayers, Bears

Bettmann / Getty Images

Sayers had a brief but terrific career with Chicago, being named an All-Pro in his first five seasons. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1965 with 1,374 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns, and he also led the NFL in all-purpose yards as his team’s punt and kick returner in his rookie season, adding two more scores in that role.

 

3 of 30

1971: John Brockington, Packers

1971: John Brockington, Packers

Focus on Sport / Getty Images

Brockington’s NFL career started with a bang, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year after accumulating 1,203 yards from scrimmage with five scores. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and have 1,105 yards rushing in 1971, but that average plunged to 3.7 yards per carry the following year. Brockington was an All-Pro in his rookie season, and also made the Pro Bowl in the next two years.

 

4 of 30

1973: Boobie Clark, Bengals

1973: Boobie Clark, Bengals

Clifton Boutelle / Getty Images

Clark comprised one part of a terrific one-two punch in the Cincinnati backfield alongside Essex Johnson in 1973. While Clark averaged only 3.9 yards per carry, he had 988 yards rushing and 45 catches for 347 yards, also finding the end zone eight times. Clark had a productive eight-year career, but would never repeat the success he had in his rookie season.

 

1977: Tony Dorsett, Cowboys

Bettmann / Getty Images

Dorsett had his first of eight 1,000 yard rushing seasons in his rookie year, rushing for 1,007 yards and scoring 13 times to win Offensive Rookie of the Year with Dallas. He also had an excellent playoff run en route to a Super Bowl victory.

 

6 of 30

1978: Earl Campbell, Oilers

1978: Earl Campbell, Oilers

Bettmann / Getty Images

Campbell had one of the best starts to a career of any running back in NFL history, winning Offensive Player of the Year in his first three seasons with Houston. His career began in 1978 with the first overall draft choice matching the hype, leading the NFL with 1,450 yards rushing and 96.7 yards rushing per game. He also found the end zone 13 times. Campbell made the Pro Bowl five times in his eight-year career.

 

7 of 30

1979: Ottis Anderson, Cardinals

1979: Ottis Anderson, Cardinals

Ronald C. Modra / Getty Images

Anderson’s prominent 14-year career started with the Cardinals, as he was an All-Pro and won Offensive Rookie of the Year after rushing for a career-high 1,605 yards and scoring 10 times. Anderson had 4.8 yards per career, but was never able to match that mark during the rest of his career. He did rush for over 1,000 yards six times, including his first three years in St. Louis.

 

1980: Billy Sims, Lions

Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

Two years after winning the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma, Sims was the first overall pick in the 1980 draft. He started a very short but productive career by winning Offensive Rookie of the Year, rushing for 1,303 yards and 13 touchdowns and adding 51 catches for 621 yards and three scores. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards two more times in his career, but had his NFL time cut short by injuries, retiring after only five seasons.

 

9 of 30

1981: George Rogers, Saints

1981: George Rogers, Saints

Andrew D. Bernstein / Getty Images

Rogers was quite the workhorse for the Saints after going first overall in the 1981 draft. He led the NFL in carries (378) and rushing yards (1,674), adding 13 rushing touchdowns. The 1981 Offensive Rookie of the Year rushing for more than 1,000 yards three more times in his seven-year career, and also led the NFL with 18 rushing touchdowns in 1986 while in Washington.

 

10 of 30

1982: Marcus Allen, Raiders

1982: Marcus Allen, Raiders

The Sporting News / Getty Images

Allen started his terrific 16-year career by winning Offensive Rookie of the Year with a league-high 1,098 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns over nine games in a shortened NFL season. It was his first of two career All-Pro designations.

 

11 of 30

1983: Curt Warner, Seahawks

1983: Curt Warner, Seahawks

Owen C. Shaw / Getty Images

Warner made his first of three career Pro Bowls with a terrific rookie campaign, rushing 335 yards for 1,449 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also had 325 yards receiving on 42 receptions. The Seahawks running back was still upstaged by Eric Dickerson for Rookie of the Year.

 

12 of 30

1983: Eric Dickerson, Rams

1983: Eric Dickerson, Rams

Owen C. Shaw / Icon Sportswire

Dickerson not only won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1983, but had one of the best running back seasons of his era. He led the NFL with 390 carries for 1,808 yards and 2,212 yards from scrimmage, adding 20 touchdowns. Dickerson would go on to rush for 2,105 yards the following year, a record that still stands.

 

1989: Barry Sanders, Lions

Kevin Reece / Icon Sportswire

Sanders started his historic career by winning Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1989, rushing for 1,470 yards and 14 touchdowns. He added 24 catches for 282 yards. It was his first of 10 career Pro Bowls and six career All-Pro designations.

 

14 of 30

1992: Ricky Watters, 49ers

1992: Ricky Watters, 49ers

Michael Zagaris / Getty Images

Watters added to the high-powered 49ers offense, with 1,418 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns. He had his first of seven career 1,000-yard rushing seasons in a 10-yard career that included stints with the 49ers, Eagles, and Seahawks.

 

1994: Marshall Faulk, Colts

George Gojkovich / Getty Images

Faulk helped the Colts improve from 4-12 to 8-8 with his great rookie season, with 1,804 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns. He had a career-high 314 carries, rushing for 1,282 yards and 11 scores en route to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

 

16 of 30

1995: Curtis Martin, Patriots

1995: Curtis Martin, Patriots

Focus on Sport / Getty Images

Martin started his 11-year Hall of Fame career in New England with 368 yards for 1,487 yards and 14 touchdowns, adding 30 catches for 261 yards. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year and made his first of five Pro Bowls. The rushing production started a streak of 10 consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons.

 

1997: Warrick Dunn, Buccaneers

Peter Muhly / AFP / Getty Images

The versatile Dunn made the Pro Bowl and won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1997 with 1,440 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns. He started 10 of 16 games for the Bucs, rushing for 978 yards and also catching 39 passes for 462 yards. Dunn made three Pro Bowls during his 12-year and finished with more than 15,000 yards from scrimmage.

 

1998: Fred Taylor, Jaguars

Robert Laberge / Getty Images

The speedy Taylor fulfilled the hype as the eighth overall pick in the 1998 draft, finishing with 1,644 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns. Despite the production, which included 1,223 yards rushing, Taylor failed to make the Pro Bowl and trailed Randy Moss in the Offensive Rookie of the Year vote.

 

1999: Edgerrin James, Colts

Henry Ray Abram / AFP / Getty Images

Indianapolis drafted James after trading Marshall Faulk to the Rams in 1999. James filled the enormous void with arguably the greatest rookie season ever by a running back, finishing with 2,139 yards from scrimmage and a league-leading 17 touchdowns. He led the NFL with 369 carries and 1,553 rushing yards. James won Offensive Rookie of the Year honors but was even better in his sophomore season, with 2,303 yards from scrimmage and 18 scores.

 

20 of 30

2000: Mike Anderson, Broncos

2000: Mike Anderson, Broncos

John W. McDonough / Icon Sportswire

Following up on the rookie success of Terrell Davis (1995) and Olandis Gary (1999) in Mike Shanahan‘s Broncos offense, Anderson emerged as a sixth-round pick to win Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2000 with 297 carries for 1,487 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. He never came close to matching that success after 2000, though Anderson did rush for more than 1,000 yards once more in 2005.

 

2002: Clinton Portis, Broncos

Getty Images

Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan hit once again with a rookie running back, as Portis won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2002 with 1,872 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns. He averaged a spectacular 5.5 yards per carry, finishing with 1,508 yards rushing on 273 carries. Portis had another great year with Denver in 2003 before getting traded to Washington.

 

2006: Joseph Addai, Colts

Tony Medina / Icon Sportswire

Addai had back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons to begin his career. He helped the Colts win a Super Bowl in his rookie season alongside fellow running back Dominic Rhodes, finishing the regular season with 1,081 yards rushing and eight touchdowns, while adding 325 yards receiving.

 

2007: Adrian Peterson, Vikings

Icon Sportswire

Peterson led the NFL in rushing yards per game (95.8) in his rookie season, helping him win Offensive Rookie of the Year. He totaled 1,609 yards from scrimmage and 1,341 rushing yards in 14 games, along with 13 total touchdowns. Peterson rushed for over 1,000 yards seven times in 10 seasons with Minnesota, and continues to impress with his longevity.

 

24 of 30

2008: Matt Forte, Bears

2008: Matt Forte, Bears

Jeff Haynes / Icon Sportswire

Forte was a centerpiece of the Bears offense for eight seasons, and his rookie year was one of his best seasons. He had 1,715 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns in 2008, seeing a career-high 379 touches. Forted ended up playing 10 seasons and making two Pro Bowls.

 

2012: Alfred Morris, Washington

Anthony J. Causi / Icon Sportswire

Head coach Mike Shanahan’s success with little-known rookie running backs continued in Washington after he set the standard in Denver. Morris, a sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic, had 335 yards for 1,613 yard and 13 touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. His success continued the following two seasons, rushing for more than 1,000 yards and making the Pro Bowl in both seasons.

 

26 of 30

2012: Doug Martin, Buccaneers

2012: Doug Martin, Buccaneers

Rich Kane / Icon Sportswire

Martin had the best season of his seven-year career in his rookie year, with 1,926 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns. He had 319 carries for 1,454 yards with 11 touchdowns on the ground, helping him make the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

 

2016: Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys

Aaron Doster / USA Today Sports Images

The highly-touted Elliott was the fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Ohio State, and fulfilled expectations by leading the NFL in carries (322) and rushing yards (1,631) as a rookie. He added 15 rushing touchdowns and also had 363 yards receiving on 32 catches. While Elliott was an All-Pro and Pro Bowler as a rookie, he lost out on the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award to teammate Dak Prescott.

 

28 of 30

2017: Kareem Hunt, Chiefs

2017: Kareem Hunt, Chiefs

Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports Images

Hunt replaced the injured Spencer Ware as the Chiefs starting back in his rookie season and led the NFL in rushing for 1,327 yards. He also had 53 catches for 455 yards and 11 total touchdowns to make the Pro Bowl. Hunt got off to another hot start in 2018 but was released late in the year due to off-field issues.

 

2017: Alvin Kamara, Saints

Brad Penner / USA Today Sports Images

Kamara beat out fellow third-round rookie running back Kareem Hunt for Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2017, with 1,554 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns, averaging an incredible 6.1 yards per carry and 7.7 yards per touch. He’s made the Pro Bowl in his first three NFL seasons.

 

2018: Saquon Barkley, Giants

Noah K. Murray / USA Today Sports Images

The Giants spent the second overall pick in the 2018 draft on Barkley, and he paid off quickly with 2,028 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns in his rookie season. His production included 1,307 yards rushing and 91 catches for 721 yards receiving. Unfortunately, Barkley has struggled with injuries in the following two years.

Source link