Tom Brady won the Super Bowl MVP because he rallied the New England Patriots to win. However, the Patriots’ best player in the game was running back James White. White had 14 receptions for 110 receiving yards and a touchdown reception, in addition to two rushing touchdowns, one of which was the game-winner in overtime; an incredible play of composure under pressure. White’s domination in the Super Bowl was an emphatic statement that the passing back in the NFL was no longer just a fantasy football phenomenon, but a trusted formula that can win a championship.
Now is the perfect time to assess the greatest receiving running backs of all time, who with the success of current running backs like Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson, should be recognized as more valuable than originally perceived.
Warrick Dunn Is a Top Five Catching Back
- LaDainian Tomlinson (3,174 carries, 624 receptions) had 10 seasons of at least 200 carries, but also nine seasons of at least 50 catches. He had seven straight seasons of at least 300 carries and 50 catches in a season, including 313 carries and 100 catches for 2,370 yards from scrimmage (fourth most all-time) in 2003. His best playoff game was in 2004 with the San Diego Chargers when he had 26 carries for 80 yards and nine catches for 53 yards in a loss to the New York Jets. He also had 187 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in a playoff loss to the Patriots in 2006.
- Emmitt Smith (4,409 carries, 515 receptions) ran the ball 300 times a year, but also had seven straight years of at least 40 catches. Smith had at least 50 catches in four straight seasons. He had 59 catches for 335 yards in 1992, which produced 2,048 yards from scrimmage. In his career year 1995, Smith had 62 catches for 375 yards, which equaled to 2,148 yards from scrimmage. In the 1993 NFC Championship against the San Francisco 49ers, Smith had 173 yards from scrimmage.
- Marshall Faulk (2,838 carries, 767 receptions) has the most catches by a running back in NFL history and 36 touchdown catches, which is as many as Santonio Holmes. He had an incredible streak of five consecutive seasons with at least 200 carries and 80 catches, four of which produced four seasons of over 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Faulk’s 2,419 yards from scrimmage in 1999, which included 1,048 receiving yards, is the second most in NFL history. He had 83 rushing yards and 175 receiving yards in the Rams’ three playoff wins in ’99 and 317 rushing yards and 114 receiving yards in three playoff games in 2001.
- Roger Craig (1,991 carries, 566 receptions) was a key cog in Bill Walsh‘s West Coast offense for eight years. He had seven consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards from scrimmage, including two seasons over 2,000 yards. In 1985, Craig had 1,050 rushing yards and 1,016 receiving yards with 15 touchdowns. He won three Super Bowls with the 49ers. He had 135 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in the 1983 Super Bowl against the Miami Dolphins. Craig averaged 136 yards from scrimmage in three Super Bowl games.
- Warrick Dunn (2,669 carries, 510 receptions) had five seasons of over 1,000 rushing yards and finished below 1,000 yards from scrimmage once in 12 seasons. Dunn was the best offensive player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1997-2001 and was essential to Michael Vick‘s career with the Atlanta Falcons. He made the playoffs four times with the Buccaneers and two times with the Falcons. Dunn had 104 yards from scrimmage in the Falcons’ famous playoff win over the Green Bay Packers in 2003 and averaged 103 yards from scrimmage in four playoff games with the Falcons.
- Matt Forte (2,253 carries, 517 receptions) has had 1,000 yards from scrimmage in every season. He’s had six seasons with at least 50 catches, including 102 in 2014 with the Chicago Bears. His best season was in 2013, when he had 1,933 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns. Forte had 160 yards from scrimmage in the Bears’ NFC Championship loss to the Packers in 2010.
- Herschel Walker (1,954 carries, 512 receptions) had nine consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards from scrimmage while playing for the Cowboys, the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles. He led the NFL with 1,606 yards from scrimmage in 1987 and had 2,019 yards from scrimmage in 1988.
- Tiki Barber (2,217 carries, 586 receptions) had six seasons with over 200 carries and over 50 catches and seven consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards from scrimmage. He had three straight seasons of 2,000 yards from scrimmage from 2004 to 2006, and nearly had another in 2002 with 1,984. Barber’s total of 2,390 in 2005 ranks third all-time. He also averaged 95 yards from scrimmage in seven postseason games with the Giants. Barber had 177 in a playoff loss to the 49ers in 2002 and 152 in a playoff loss to the Eagles in 2006.
- Earnest Byner (2,095 carries, 512 receptions) had six seasons of over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. His best season was in 1985 with the Cleveland Browns when he had 1,462 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns. Byner had 73 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in a Super Bowl win with the Washington Redskins in 1991.
- Marcus Allen (3,022 carries, 587 receptions) had just three 1,000 rushing yard seasons, but made up for that with 11 seasons with 1,000 yards from scrimmage. He had seven straight with the Los Angeles Raiders from 1982-1988 and four straight with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1993-1996. He led the NFL in ’82 with 1,098 yards from scrimmage for an average of 122 in nine games and again in ’85 with 2,314. Allen also averaged 117 yards from scrimmage in 16 career playoff games.
- Bobby Mitchell (513 carries, 521 receptions) spent four seasons in the same backfield as Jim Brown with the Browns from 1958-1961. 423 of his carries came with the Browns and he went over 1,000 yards from scrimmage twice and had 11 touchdowns in 1960. He became a wide receiver with the Redskins and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
- Keith Byars (865 carries, 610 receptions) had his best year was in 1988 with the Eagles when he had 10 touchdowns and 1,222 yards from scrimmage. Byars had 137 yards from scrimmage in a playoff loss to the Bears. He also did damage as a tight end with the Patriots in 1996 and helped them make the Super Bowl.
- Darren Sproles (671 carries, 525 receptions) had his best season in 2011 with the New Orleans Saints when he had 1,313 yards from scrimmage on 87 carries and 86 receptions. Sproles’ best moments came in the playoffs. He had 256 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in two postseason games with the Chargers in 2008 and 206 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in ’11 with the Saints.
- Eric Metcalf (630 carries, 541 receptions) went over 1,000 yards from scrimmage twice with the Browns and had 10 touchdowns as a rookie in 1989. Metcalf did it a third time, but after becoming a wide receiver with the Falcons.
- Ronnie Harmon: (615 carries, 582 receptions) had his best season in 1992 when he had 1,149 yards from scrimmage with the San Diego Chargers. Harmon put up 78 yards from scrimmage in the Super Bowl against the 49ers.
John Williams (1,245 carries, 546 receptions) had his best season in 1988 with the Seattle Seahawks when he had 1,528 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns. He had four consecutive seasons of over 1,000 yards from scrimmage with the Seahawks until 1992.
Larry Centers (615 carries, 827 receptions) is the most memorable fullback ever. He had two seasons with 1,000 yards from scrimmage with the Arizona Cardinals. Centers had 101 catches in 1995 and nine touchdowns in 1996.