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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4. Edgerrin James, 2000-2009
Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks

Now we’re getting into “already Hall of Famer” or “clear future Hall of Famer” territory. Edgerrin James already has his bust in Canton based on what he did this decade. Some might give his credit to playing with Peyton Manning, but James helped Manning early in his career as much as Manning helped James. That actually helps his Hall of Fame case. 

James second season was in 2000, and he rushed for more than 1,700 yards. That led the league at a time when there were so many great running backs. He added 13 touchdowns and, probably the most impressive, 100 of his runs went for first downs. He finished the season second in Offensive Player of the Year voting. James made Manning’s life cake early in his career. He had pieces that helped him build his legacy and gain confidence. 

He never really slowed down except for the occasional injury. From 2003 to 2007, James broke 1,100 yards each season. Two of those seasons were in Arizona, which is a franchise that is still considered one of the worst at the time. James went there after life in Indianapolis, and he excelled. 

James finished his career with more than 12,000 yards rushing, which is good today for 13th in league history. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020, and there wasn’t any pushback at the time. James is now known as a legend in Indy and possibly the main reason Manning is considered one of the best at his position.