The demand for running backs in the NFL Draft has changed. It was once one of the most prioritized positions, and many teams would use high first-round draft picks on potential superstar running backs. In recent years, teams have found it more valuable to take them a bit later in the draft.
Regardless of the draft position, elite running backs can be absolute game-changers for the teams they play for. The best ones are often hard to find, but specific years in NFL Draft history have produced exceptionally talented running backs. Here are three of the best running back classes in draft history.
Best running back classes in NFL Draft history
#1 - 1995 Draft Class
The 1995 draft class is the only one in NFL history since the merger with the AFL to produce two running backs in the Hall of Fame. Terrell Davis and Curtis Martin are legendary running backs, but their career paths to the Hall of Fame look very different.
Davis' prime lasted just four years before his career was cut short by injuries, but he had arguably the best four-year stretch of any running back, including being selected as an All-Pro in all of them. On the other hand, Martin has consistently turned in productive seasons for his long and successful career, eclipsing 1,450 scrimmage yards in ten straight seasons.
#2 - 1990 Draft Class
Emmitt Smith highlights a deep 1990 draft class for running backs. He is the all-time leader in career rushing yards, touchdowns, and carries, making him one of the best running backs in NFL history.
Three running backs in addition to Smith also have first-team All-Pro selections in their careers, including Brian Mitchell, Barry Foster, and Larry Centers. Joining the four All-Pro backs are seven other Pro Bowl running backs, with 11 total being the most by any draft class ever.
#3 - 2017 Draft Class
The 2017 draft class is loaded with many of the top running backs currently active in the NFL. The impressive list includes Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon, Leonard Fournette, James Conner, Aaron Jones, Kareem Hunt, and Chris Carson. The group has already combined for 15 total Pro Bowl selections across just five years.