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Who are the top 5 greatest Fullbacks of all-time?


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Who is the # 1 greatest FB of all-time?  

29 members have voted

  1. 1. Who is the # 1 greatest FB of all-time?

    • Jim Brown, CLE (1957-1965)
    • Jim Taylor, GB (1958-1967)
    • Franco Harris, PIT (1972-1984)
      0
    • Roger Craig, SF/RAI/MIN (1983-1993)
      0
    • John Riggins, NYJ/WAS (1971-1985)
      0
    • Larry Csonka, MIA/NYG (1968-1979)
    • John Williams, SEA/PIT (1986-1995)
      0
    • Cookie Gilchrist, BUF/DEN/MIA (1962-1967)
      0
    • Marion Motley, CLE/PIT (1946-1955)
      0
    • Matt Snell, NYJ (1964-1972)
    • John Brockington, GB/KC (1971-1977)
      0
    • Mike Alstott, TB (1996-2006)
    • John Henry Johnson, SF/DET/PIT/HOU (1954-1966)
      0
    • Robert Newhouse, DAL (1972-1983)
      0
    • Larry Centers, PHO/AZ/WAS/BUF/NE (1990-2003)
      0
    • Alex Webster, NYG (1955-1964)
      0
    • Keith Byars, PHI/MIA/NE/NYJ (1986-1998)
      0
    • Keith Lincoln, SD/BUF (1961-1968)
      0
    • OTHER (Specify in thread)
      0
  2. 2. Who is the # 2 greatest FB of all-time?

    • Jim Brown, CLE (1957-1965)
    • Jim Taylor, GB (1958-1967)
    • Franco Harris, PIT (1972-1984)
    • Roger Craig, SF/RAI/MIN (1983-1993)
    • John Riggins, NYJ/WAS (1971-1985)
    • Larry Csonka, MIA/NYG (1968-1979)
    • John Williams, SEA/PIT (1986-1995)
      0
    • Cookie Gilchrist, BUF/DEN/MIA (1962-1967)
      0
    • Marion Motley, CLE/PIT (1946-1955)
    • Matt Snell, NYJ (1964-1972)
      0
    • John Brockington, GB/KC (1971-1977)
      0
    • Mike Alstott, TB (1996-2006)
      0
    • John Henry Johnson, SF/DET/PIT/HOU (1954-1966)
      0
    • Robert Newhouse, DAL (1972-1983)
      0
    • Larry Centers, PHO/AZ/WAS/BUF/NE (1990-2003)
      0
    • Alex Webster, NYG (1955-1964)
      0
    • Keith Byars, PHI/MIA/NE/NYJ (1986-1998)
      0
    • Keith Lincoln, SD/BUF (1961-1968)
      0
    • OTHER (Specify in thread)
      0
  3. 3. Who is the # 3 greatest FB of all-time?

    • Jim Brown, CLE (1957-1965)
    • Jim Taylor, GB (1958-1967)
    • Franco Harris, PIT (1972-1984)
    • Roger Craig, SF/RAI/MIN (1983-1993)
    • John Riggins, NYJ/WAS (1971-1985)
    • Larry Csonka, MIA/NYG (1968-1979)
    • John Williams, SEA/PIT (1986-1995)
      0
    • Cookie Gilchrist, BUF/DEN/MIA (1962-1967)
      0
    • Marion Motley, CLE/PIT (1946-1955)
    • Matt Snell, NYJ (1964-1972)
      0
    • John Brockington, GB/KC (1971-1977)
      0
    • Mike Alstott, TB (1996-2006)
    • John Henry Johnson, SF/DET/PIT/HOU (1954-1966)
      0
    • Robert Newhouse, DAL (1972-1983)
      0
    • Larry Centers, PHO/AZ/WAS/BUF/NE (1990-2003)
    • Alex Webster, NYG (1955-1964)
      0
    • Keith Byars, PHI/MIA/NE/NYJ (1986-1998)
      0
    • Keith Lincoln, SD/BUF (1961-1968)
      0
    • OTHER (Specify in thread)
      0
  4. 4. Who is the # 4 greatest FB of all-time?

    • Jim Brown, CLE (1957-1965)
    • Jim Taylor, GB (1958-1967)
    • Franco Harris, PIT (1972-1984)
    • Roger Craig, SF/RAI/MIN (1983-1993)
    • John Riggins, NYJ/WAS (1971-1985)
    • Larry Csonka, MIA/NYG (1968-1979)
    • John Williams, SEA/PIT (1986-1995)
      0
    • Cookie Gilchrist, BUF/DEN/MIA (1962-1967)
    • Marion Motley, CLE/PIT (1946-1955)
    • Matt Snell, NYJ (1964-1972)
    • John Brockington, GB/KC (1971-1977)
      0
    • Mike Alstott, TB (1996-2006)
    • John Henry Johnson, SF/DET/PIT/HOU (1954-1966)
      0
    • Robert Newhouse, DAL (1972-1983)
      0
    • Larry Centers, PHO/AZ/WAS/BUF/NE (1990-2003)
      0
    • Alex Webster, NYG (1955-1964)
      0
    • Keith Byars, PHI/MIA/NE/NYJ (1986-1998)
      0
    • Keith Lincoln, SD/BUF (1961-1968)
      0
    • OTHER (Specify in thread)
      0
  5. 5. Who is the # 5 greatest FB of all-time?

    • Jim Brown, CLE (1957-1965)
    • Jim Taylor, GB (1958-1967)
    • Franco Harris, PIT (1972-1984)
    • Roger Craig, SF/RAI/MIN (1983-1993)
    • John Riggins, NYJ/WAS (1971-1985)
    • Larry Csonka, MIA/NYG (1968-1979)
    • John Williams, SEA/PIT (1986-1995)
      0
    • Cookie Gilchrist, BUF/DEN/MIA (1962-1967)
    • Marion Motley, CLE/PIT (1946-1955)
    • Matt Snell, NYJ (1964-1972)
      0
    • John Brockington, GB/KC (1971-1977)
      0
    • Mike Alstott, TB (1996-2006)
    • John Henry Johnson, SF/DET/PIT/HOU (1954-1966)
      0
    • Robert Newhouse, DAL (1972-1983)
    • Larry Centers, PHO/AZ/WAS/BUF/NE (1990-2003)
    • Alex Webster, NYG (1955-1964)
      0
    • Keith Byars, PHI/MIA/NE/NYJ (1986-1998)
    • Keith Lincoln, SD/BUF (1961-1968)
      0
    • OTHER (Specify in thread)


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Leading up to the start of the season, I'll be posting a thread once every day or so devoted to determine the top 5 all-time at each position, as voted on by JN.

I am using football-reference.com's AV (Approximate Value) metric to help compare across eras.  The "Peak AV Average" means the average "score" for each player's among their top 5 performing years in the league, to help establish which players had the high peaks and which players were more of the "compilers" over a long career.  Utilizing a "peak AV" also allows for players with careers shortened by injury to be included.

Also note that AV only goes back so far, so some players from the earliest days in NFL history (primarily the 30s, 40s and early 50s) are, unfortunately, excluded.

 

Yesterday, JN voted on 4-3 Middle Linebackers:

 

 

 

Today, we vote on Fullbacks!

Below are the candidates and their resumes, ranked in the order weighted by AV/Peak AV:

 

1.  Jim Brown, CLE (1957-1965)

  • Career AV:  122
  • Peak AV Average:  21
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  8
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  9
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  106

2.  Jim Taylor, GB (1958-1967)

  • Career AV:  97
  • Peak AV Average:  15
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  1
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  5
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  83

3.  Franco Harris, PIT (1972-1984)

  • Career AV:  136
  • Peak AV Average:  13
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  1
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  9 
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  91

4.  Roger Craig, SF/RAI/MIN (1983-1993)

  • Career AV:  115
  • Peak AV Average:  13
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  1
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  4
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  56

5.  John Riggins, NYJ/WAS (1971-1985)

  • Career AV:  120
  • Peak AV Average:  11
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  1
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  1
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  104

6.  Larry Csonka, MIA/NYG (1968-1979)

  • Career AV:  91
  • Peak AV Average:  12
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  2
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  5
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  64

7.  John Williams, SEA/PIT (1986-1995)

  • Career AV:  78
  • Peak AV Average:  11
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  0
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  2
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  18

8.  Cookie Gilchrist, BUF/DEN/MIA (1962-1967)

  • Career AV:  45
  • Peak AV Average:  11
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  3
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  4
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  37

9.  Marion Motley, CLE/PIT (1946-1955)

  • Career AV:  0*
  • Peak AV Average:  N/A
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  2
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  1
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  31

* AV recorded in pro-football-reference.com database beginning in 1960 season

10.  Matt Snell, NYJ (1964-1972)

  • Career AV:  51
  • Peak AV Average:  10
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  1
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  3
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  24

11.  John Brockington, GB/KC (1971-1977)  

  • Career AV:  59
  • Peak AV Average:  10
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  1
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  3
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  30

12.  Mike Alstott, TB (1996-2006)

  • Career AV:  59
  • Peak AV Average:  8
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  3
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  6
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  58

13.  John Henry Johnson, SF/DET/PIT/HOU (1954-1966)

  • Career AV:  45*
  • Peak AV Average:  8
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  0
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  4
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  48

* AV recorded in pro-football-reference.com database beginning in 1960 season

14.  Robert Newhouse, DAL (1972-1983)

  • Career AV:  53
  • Peak AV Average:  8
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  0
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  0
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  31

15.  Larry Centers, PHO/AZ/WAS/BUF/NE (1990-2003)

  • Career AV:  69
  • Peak AV Average:  7
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  1
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  3
  • Career Receiving Touchdowns:  28

16.  Alex Webster, NYG (1955-1964)

  • Career AV:  31*
  • Peak AV Average:  8
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  0
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  2
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  39

* AV recorded in pro-football-reference.com database beginning in 1960 season

17.  Keith Byars, PHI/MIA/NE/NYJ (1986-1998)

  • Career AV:  76
  • Peak AV Average:  6
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  0
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  1
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  23

18.  Keith Lincoln, SD/BUF (1961-1968)

  • Career AV:  54
  • Peak AV Average:  7
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  2
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  5
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  19

19.  Tom Rathman, SF/RAI (1986-1994)

  • Career AV:  46
  • Peak AV Average:  7
  • 1st Team All-Pro Selections:  0
  • Pro Bowl Selections:  0
  • Career Rushing Touchdowns:  26

 

Just missed the cut:  Merril Hoge, Bo Jackson, Tony Richardson, Daryl Johnston, William Floyd, Richie Anderson

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7 minutes ago, Bocajetfan said:

Matt Snell should at least be on the list . 

You're right.  I neglected to include him because he was only listed in the database as a FB for 4 years, but he belongs all the same.  

Edited!

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1 hour ago, Gastineau Lives said:

16 seasons. Three Pro Bowls. Blocked for 9 straight 1000 yard rushers. Tony should be on the list.

 

Screenshot_20220601-225310_Messages.jpg

 

^^^ This picture is what ensured that he would NOT make the list.  

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21 hours ago, Beerfish said:

Some of those guys don;t seem like fullbacks to me.  What is the definition of a fullback vs a half back?

To me, this should be two separate lists - pre-1980s fullbacks were often the primary ball carrier. 

Past 1980s they were primarily blocking backs. Tony Richardson belongs in that conversation, but not the first one

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Serious question:  Was Brown a FB?  He wasn't a TB?

Same for Riggins.

When I think Fullback, I immediately think of Alstott, Centers, guys like that.

I don't really think of old school "FB" who were really just ball-carrying Tailbacks.

hence why I voted Alstott #1 over Brown.  Brown is CLEARLY better, but was he really a FB?  Was he blocking lead for another RB or for the QB that much?  I admit, I don't know, it's before my time.

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Brown was a true fullback as was Riggins. The systems used them differently in much the same way the lb was a big stout run stuffer once, but the position has changed due to the game's development. A fullback in years past wasn't just a lead blocker, but a running back positioned closer to the LOS who was expected to break the the first tackle and run to daylight. Thus the phrase "three yards and a cloud of dust" .  Later the fb was a blocker with good receiving skills that eas expected to catch swing passes and middle screens (Tony Richardson style).  Eventually it was phased put on favor of the H back, a TE sized rb who could also catch and run. The H back was a lousy fad, though imo, because TEs are trained to block in space, not between the tackles, and they are useless running the ball and protecting it in traffic. I think the fb position was lost due to copy cat oc's trying to reinvent the wheel.  

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Who in the world said Jim Brown was not the greatest fullback of all time?

You could argue he was the greatest football player of all time, 9 seasons, 8 rushing titles.  It took decades for his records to be passed.

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3 minutes ago, chirorob said:

Craig was a fullback 1st, then converted to tailback.

He moved to fullback at Nebraska to make room for Rozier, but they ran the triple option so he was really still a halfback. 
He was called a fullback at the draft, but was a rb from day 1.

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46 minutes ago, Jimmy 2 Times said:

He moved to fullback at Nebraska to make room for Rozier, but they ran the triple option so he was really still a halfback. 
He was called a fullback at the draft, but was a rb from day 1.

His 1st year or 2, Wendell Tyler was the half, Craig played fullback, although they both got carries, Wendell got more.

But yes, all his numbers, 2000 yard seasons were as a halfback.

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On 7/31/2022 at 5:15 PM, Beerfish said:

Some of those guys don;t seem like fullbacks to me.  What is the definition of a fullback vs a half back?

The running fullbacks of the past were the primary ball carriers.   I don't think you can seperate Jim Brown from Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson or Curtis Martin or any number of HOF running backs.  Today FB is a speciality position.  They are not the primary ball carrier.  

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Just now, Biggs said:

I think he was listed as the fullback at the time.   They ran a lot of 1 back O.

I imagine so, but the PFR database likely retroactively decided he was really a RB rather than a FB.  

It's kind of a vague situation in terms of what the FB position has been over the decades but I chose to trust the database on this, in addition to all questions related to other positions.

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Just now, Jetsfan80 said:

I imagine so, but the PFR database likely retroactively decided he was really a RB rather than a FB.  

It's kind of a vague situation in terms of what the FB position has been over the decades but I chose to trust the database on this, in addition to all questions related to other positions.

I went back and looked.  He  was listed as a fullback in College when he was drafted into the NFL from Texas.   You're right they have him listed as an RB in the data base. 

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5 minutes ago, Jetsfan80 said:

The race for the # 2 spot ended up very interesting.  2-5 were all very close to each other.

Top 5 results:

 

1) Jim Brown

2) Larry Csonka

3) John Riggins

4) Franco Harris

5) Jim Taylor

Csonka and Riggins both missed a year in the middle of their careers, Csonka to go to the WFL, Riggins to go live in a shed.

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