30 best NFL running backs of the 21st century

There were so many great running backs since the year 2000, but to rank them is a huge task. Who lands at number one at a position that's getting harder and harder to value?

Indianapolis Colts v Tennessee Titans
Indianapolis Colts v Tennessee Titans / Frederick Breedon/GettyImages
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21. Le’Veon Bell, 2013-2021
Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Le’Veon Bell will always be the biggest “what if” at this position during this generation. He literally missed an entire season in the middle of his prime due to a contract dispute and was never the same again. The Steelers used the franchise tag on Bell in 2018. He refused to show up to minicamp, training camp, and preseason and then he started missing games. Eventually, games turned into an entire season. 

Bell signed a four-year deal worth $52.5 million. It was ironic because the deal was worth less per year than the franchise tag. Bell thought he was changing football, but he just cost himself 10s of millions of dollars.

Still, this is about the football. Bell was the best running back at the time. By the time 2018 hit, Bell was a two-time first-team All-Pro, a second-team All-Pro, and he added two top-six finishes for Offensive Player of the Year. 

Bell looked like he could become one of the best running backs of all time before his holdout. He was 25 years old, and he looked as good as anyone at the position. We don’t know what happened during that year off, but he never recovered. The Jets were not a good fit for him, and he didn’t last two years of that five-year contract. He became an NFL journeyman, but he was usually the third or fourth-string guy when he joined these injury-riddled teams. He should have been so much higher on this list, but he lost whatever made him great during the holdout.