19. Eric Dickerson, 1984
Dickerson’s second entry on this list was his second season as a professional. He would follow his rookie year with one of the most dominant single seasons any player at any position had had up to that point in NFL history. His rushing yards from the 1984 season still stand as the single season record all this time later.
Dickerson followed up his special rookie season by gaining 2,105 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns, and adding 139 yards through the air. If this list was only evaluating a running backs rushing prowess, both Dickerson’s seasons would be top 10 and his 1984 season would likely be in the top 5 all time.
Dickerson would play for four teams throughout his career of 11 years and rush for 13,259 yards and 85 touchdowns, adding 2,137 yards and six touchdowns through the air. Only six running backs before him surpassed 10,000 yards for their careers and he was the fastest to do so. He’s currently ranked ninth all time in career rushing yards and 13th all time in rushing touchdowns.
NORMALIZED SEASON SCORE: 2384.62
18. Jamal Lewis, 2003
Jamal Lewis was a quality college running back, but is most known for his time with the Baltimore Ravens. As the fifth overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, Lewis was expected to be a starter immediately. He had an incredibly impactful rookie year rushing for 1,364 yards and six touchdowns, being named to the All Rookie Team, and helping the Ravens to the franchise’s first Super Bowl.
Lewis will primarily be remembered for one year in particular, 2003, where he came close to breaking the all time rushing mark. During that season, Lewis had 2,066 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns, and 205 receiving yards. He was voted to the Pro Bowl, voted First Team All-Pro, voted the AP Offensive Player of the Year, and voted the PFWA NFL MVP.
He would go on to have several more effective years, but none that would come close to 2003. Lewis would retire after the 2009 season with the Cleveland Browns and remains third all time in rushing yards in a single season.
NORMALIZED SEASON SCORE: 2392.88
17. Ahman Green, 2003
Ahman Green was successful at nearly everything he did. In high school, the Omaha, Nebraska native was the state’s football player of the year his senior season in 1994. He was also a track star, winning the state championship in the 100- and 200-meter dash his senior season.
Green brought this speed to the University of Nebraska, where he dominated for the Huskers. His senior season, Green rushed for 1,877 yards and 22 touchdowns, adding 105 yards through the air en route to the school’s third football national championship in three years. Green would start slow in the NFL, but would grow into a force in the backfield for years.
Drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, it wasn’t until Green found his way to the Green Bay Packers that he began to find success in the NFL. He would play seven years total for the franchise, break 1,000 yards rushing every year, and leave the team as the organization’s all time rushing leader.
The year in particular that makes this list at 17th is 2003. During this season Green played in 16 games, gained 1,883 rushing yards, 367 yards receiving, and scored 20 total touchdowns. In a normal year, these type of stats would lead to First Team All-Pro and Offensive Player of the Year consideration, but 2003 was a special year for running backs as you’ll see later in this list.
NORMALIZED SEASON SCORE: 2407.34