Top 10 rookie running back seasons

NFL Media counts down the top 10 rookie rushing seasons of all time and we compare their initial campaigns against the rest of their career numbers.

Many claim there is a de-emphasis on the rushing attack in the NFL these days, but a strong and explosive back is still a thing of beauty to watch for hardcore fans of the NFL.

In this NFL list of top-10 rookie seasons from running backs, some players peaked in their first year while others established many years of dominance and production. Here are their rookie numbers and how they stack up to the rest of their careers.

10. Ottis Anderson: 1,605 yards, 8 touchdowns in 1979.

Anderson played 14 years in the NFL, but he never had more yards than he did as a St. Louis Cardinals back in his rookie season and never averaged more than the 4.8 yards per carry he had in 1979.

9. Edgerrin James, 1,553 yards, 13 TDs in 1999.

James was a versatile back that had three seasons with more than 480 yards receiving and rushed for more than 1,500 yards in four of his 11 NFL seasons. His rookie year in 1999 was just a portent of things to come.

8. Alfred Morris: 1,613 yards, 13 TDs in 2012.

Morris’ rookie season was his best to date, as his yards per carry have gone down in each of his three seasons since 2012, from a 4.8-yard average as a rookie down to 3.7 yards last year in his fourth NFL season.

7. Mike Anderson: 1,487 yards, 15 TDs in 2000.

Anderson played only eight years in the league and his rookie season in 2000 with the Denver Broncos was by far his best. Only once after that, in 2005, did he ever eclipse the 1,000-yard mark again.

6. George Rogers: 1,674 yards, 13 TDs in 1981.

Rogers played only seven years in the NFL, four with the New Orleans Saints and his final three with the Washington Redskins. Like Anderson, his rookie year was easily his best, although he had three other 1,000-yard seasons.

5. Earl Campbell: 1,450 yards, 13 TDs in 1978.

The “Tyler Rose,” a tribute to his hometown in Texas, rushed for more than 1,300 yards in five of his first six seasons with the Houston Oilers, including a 1,934-yard season in 1980, when he averaged 5.2 yards per carry. In his first three seasons combined, he rushed for 5,081 yards and 45 touchdowns.

4. Clinton Portis: 1,508 yards, 15 TDs in 2002.

Portis rushed for more than 1,500 yards in three of his first four seasons in the league and averaged 5.5 yards per carry each of his two seasons with the Broncos before going to Washington. In all, he rushed for 9,923 yards and 78 touchdowns over nine NFL seasons.

3. Adrian Peterson: 1,341 yards, 12 TDs in 2007.

Peterson may have had 1,341 yards as a rookie, but the more impressive number that year was his 5.6-yard average as he started the season splitting time with Chester Taylor. Peterson had 1,760 yards in 2008, but his best season to date was a 2,097-yard performance in 2012.

2. Barry Sanders: 1,470 yards, 14 TDs in 1989.

Sanders was the shining light on a perennially bad Lions team, playing all 10 seasons in Detroit and AVERAGING more than 1,500 yards per season.  For his career, he had 15,269 yards rushing, 99 rushing touchdowns, 2,921 yards receiving and 10 touchdown catches.

1. Eric Dickerson: 1,808 yards, 18 TDs in 1983.

Despite 1,808 yards his rookie season, that wasn’t Dickerson’s best. Instead, he produced 2,105 yards in 1984 and finished as one of the all-time rushing leaders with 13,259 yards and 85 touchdowns, along with 2,137 yards receiving and six more touchdowns.


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