Adjusted Rushing Yards Since 1991

Earlier this week, I looked at Adjusted Catch Yards from the last quarter century. Today, I’ve turned my focus to the players who got it done on the ground. I’ll be using data from the last 25 years of NFL history to find Adjusted Rushing Yards for single seasons and whole careers. The formula for Adjusted Rushing Yards is simple:

ARY = Yards + 11*Touchdowns + 9*First Downs – 25*Fumbles1

To find Marginal ARY/A, I simply find the ARY/A of the rest of the rushers in the league and subtract that number from the player in question. To find Marginal ARY, I multiply MARY/A by the number of rushes. So, if a back had 6.5 ARY/A and the rest of the league had 5.0 ARY/A, his MARY/A would be 1.5. If he had 250 carries, his MARY would be 375 (1.5*250).

You will also notice that I figured each runner’s total Adjusted Rushing Yards per league game. Because we are only going back to 1991, we are using 16 game seasons for everyone.2 This rewards backs for playing full schedules and penalizes backs for missing games. If two rushers averaged 150 ARY per game, but Player A did it in 16 games while Player B did it in 14 games, Player A gets rewarded for his extra effort.3

After finding those basic adjusted stats, I accounted for era. To do so, I found the league average ARY/G for each year (simply total ARY divided by every league rushing attempt). I then found the average ARY/G for the entire timeframe of 1991-2015. That ended up being 162.7, or 2012052 ARY on 339866 attempts. Then, for each individual year, I found the ratio of that year and 162.7. For example, 2015 saw a pedestrian leaguewide average of 156.7 ARY/G, whereas 2008 featured a high 171.5 ARY/G. So for those years, our quotients are 0.96 (156.7/162.7) and 1.05 (171.5/162.7). I didn’t want to adjust too harshly for era, so I took the average of the numbers from the previous step and one and divided that number into each player’s ARY per league game. The result is an era-adjusted ARY per 16 games. The last step is to just multiply by 16 to find an era-adjusted total value.

Single Season Adjusted Rushing Yards Since 1991

The following table displays the top 250 seasons since 1991 as measured by era-adjusted ARY. It also includes all players who weren’t in the top 250 by that stat but were in the top 20 in any of the other columns starting with ARY and moving to the right. The result is 277 unique player seasons for your viewing pleasure. Read the table thus: in 1998 Terrell Davis rushed 392 times for 2008 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 100 first downs. He also had one fumble.4 This results in 3114 ARY at 7.94 per attempt. This was 2.25 better than average, giving him 880 marginal ARY for the year. He gained 194.6 ARY per league game, which increases to 195.0 after adjusting for era. His total era-adjusted season value is 3120, tops in the last 25 years.

YearPlayerTeamAttYdsTD1stFUMARYARY/AMARY/AMARYARY/LGEra/LGEra
1998Terrell DavisDEN392200821100131147.942.25880194.6195.03120
2005Shaun AlexanderSEA370188027107530158.152.37876188.4188.13010
1997Barry SandersDET33520531185228898.622.97996180.6182.12914
1995Emmitt SmithDAL377177325107728367.521.84693177.3180.42887
2012Adrian PetersonMIN34820971285329198.392.26787182.4179.52872
2009Chris JohnsonTEN35820061479327967.811.74623174.8172.72763
2006LaDainian TomlinsonSD34818152881228028.052.11735175.1171.82749
1997Terrell DavisDEN36917501599427067.331.65611169.1170.62730
1992Emmitt SmithDAL37317131891226807.181.48553167.5170.42726
2005Larry JohnsonKC33617502097527188.092.30773169.9169.62713
2014DeMarco MurrayDAL39218451385326786.830.82320167.4169.42711
1994Barry SandersDET3311883772026087.882.53839163.0169.22707
2003Jamal LewisBAL38720661483827677.151.18458172.9169.12706
1994Emmitt SmithDAL368148421101125997.061.70626162.4168.62698
2006Larry JohnsonKC41617891791227456.600.62260171.6168.32693
1998Jamal AndersonATL41018461490526856.550.81332167.8168.12690
2003Ahman GreenGNB35518831596727377.711.75623171.1167.32677
2002Priest HolmesKC313161521100127218.692.56803170.1166.22659
2000Edgerrin JamesIND38717091399526186.760.90350163.6164.32628
2002Ricky WilliamsMIA38318531689726556.930.77294165.9162.12594
2005Tiki BarberNYG3571860972125827.231.42509161.4161.12577
2004Curtis MartinNYJ37116971290225896.981.02377161.8159.12545
2002LaDainian TomlinsonSD37216831490225976.980.82304162.3158.62538
2010Arian FosterHOU32716161689325187.701.64536157.4156.52504
2008Michael TurnerATL37616991784325676.830.62233160.4156.22499
1991Barry SandersDET34215481691025437.441.21413158.9155.02479
1997Jerome BettisPIT3751665794624386.500.80300152.4153.72459
2005Edgerrin JamesIND36015061394224456.790.97350152.8152.52441
2003Priest HolmesKC32014202788124847.761.80577155.3151.82430
1992Barry FosterPIT39016901186823856.120.38148149.1151.62426
1996Terrell DavisDEN34515381392523846.911.36470149.0151.22420
2003LaDainian TomlinsonSD31316451381224677.881.92602154.2150.82413
2004Shaun AlexanderSEA35316961677524406.910.95334152.5149.92399
2013LeSean McCoyPHI3141607979123927.621.55487149.5148.82381
2012Alfred MorrisWAS33516131383424037.171.01339150.2147.82364
2004Corey DillonNE34516351281423966.940.98338149.8147.22355
1999Stephen DavisWAS29014051784322737.842.33675142.1147.12354
2001Priest HolmesKC3271555880223137.071.40458144.6147.12353
1999Edgerrin JamesIND36915531379622576.120.57212141.1146.12338
2007LaDainian TomlinsonSD31514741575023147.351.50472144.6145.82332
1999Curtis MartinNYJ3671464584122506.130.59216140.6145.72331
1991Emmitt SmithDAL36515631277023886.540.29106149.3145.52328
1996Barry SandersDET30715531179422857.441.90584142.8145.02319
2008Adrian PetersonMIN36317601081923746.540.32118148.4144.42311
2001Curtis MartinNYJ33315131077222666.801.13375141.6144.12305
2003Clinton PortisDEN29015911476323548.122.16627147.1143.92302
2006Tiki BarberNYG3271662578323447.171.20394146.5143.72300
1995Curtis MartinNE36814871480522366.080.35128139.8142.22276
2005Rudi JohnsonCIN33714581279122766.750.93314142.3142.02272
2000Marshall FaulkRAM25313591878022598.933.10784141.2141.72268
1999Emmitt SmithDAL32913971185421836.641.10363136.4141.32261
2011Maurice Jones-DrewJAX3431606875322946.690.49167143.4140.72252
2000Eddie GeorgeTEN40315091478522405.56-0.34-136140.0140.52249
2008DeAngelo WilliamsCAR27315151866023078.452.27620144.2140.42246
2005LaDainian TomlinsonSD33914621871222496.630.81275140.6140.32245
2000Mike AndersonDEN29714871576422367.531.68499139.8140.32245
2006Steven JacksonRAM34615281374222876.610.63219142.9140.32244
1995Barry SandersDET31415001170222017.011.30409137.6140.02240
1994Chris WarrenSEA3331545971521586.481.10366134.9140.02240
1998Emmitt SmithDAL31913321389222266.981.24397139.1139.42230
2006Frank GoreSF3121695868522707.281.31409141.9139.22227
1992Thurman ThomasBUF3121487978421887.011.30405136.8139.12225
2005Clinton PortisWAS35215161174322286.330.50176139.3139.02224
2002Clinton PortisDEN27315081579522598.272.13582141.2138.02207
1996Terry AllenWAS34713532171221736.260.70242135.8137.92206
2004Tiki BarberNYG32215181377522296.920.95307139.3137.02191
2012Marshawn LynchSEA31515901168422237.060.89281138.9136.72187
2011LeSean McCoyPHI27313091784122278.161.98542139.2136.62186
1998Garrison HearstSF3101570770421777.021.29400136.1136.32181
2012Arian FosterHOU35114241578322166.310.1346138.5136.32180
1993Emmitt SmithDAL2831486974421517.602.01569134.4136.32180
1993Jerome BettisRAM2941429779321427.291.69496133.9135.72171
2003Fred TaylorJAX3451572677522066.390.40140137.9134.92158
2003Deuce McAllisterNOR3511641869622006.270.2897137.5134.52152
2003Shaun AlexanderSEA32614351479422006.750.77250137.5134.52152
1994Natrone MeansSD34313501279520686.030.64218129.3134.22147
2000Fred TaylorJAX29213991273221387.321.47428133.6134.12146
1995Chris WarrenSEA31013461577421046.791.08333131.5133.92142
2015Adrian PetersonMIN32714851171620956.410.40131130.9133.42134
2014Le'Veon BellPIT2901361873021067.261.25362131.6133.22132
2001Marshall FaulkRAM26013821270220948.052.39622130.9133.12130
2008Clinton PortisWAS3421487975321866.390.1759136.6133.02128
2004Edgerrin JamesIND3341548973621546.450.47157134.6132.32117
1996Jerome BettisPIT32014311176620866.520.96307130.4132.32117
1996Ricky WattersPHI35314111373520865.910.34118130.4132.32117
2004Rudi JohnsonCIN36114541273421435.94-0.05-20133.9131.72107
2009Maurice Jones-DrewJAX31213911568221186.790.69215132.4130.82093
2010Jamaal CharlesKC2301467570221029.143.09711131.4130.62090
2007Brian WestbrookPHI2781333773020677.441.59441129.2130.22083
2010Michael TurnerATL33413711271220926.260.1756130.8130.02080
2006Willie ParkerPIT33714941370621176.280.30100132.3129.82077
2000Robert SmithMIN2951521763420657.001.14336129.1129.62073
2009Adrian PetersonMIN31413831874620976.680.58181131.1129.52072
1999Marshall FaulkRAM2531381765219937.882.36598124.6129.02064
2009Thomas JonesNYJ33114021464220826.290.1859130.1128.62058
2000Jerome BettisPIT3551341871120435.75-0.13-48127.7128.22051
2013Matt ForteCHI2891339974220547.111.03296128.4127.82044
2012Doug MartinTB31914541158120726.500.32102129.5127.42039
2001Stephen DavisWAS3561432574620035.63-0.08-29125.2127.42038
2014Marshawn LynchSEA28013061365120097.181.16325125.6127.12034
2003Stephen DavisCAR3181444869320786.530.55174129.9127.02032
1998Barry SandersDET3431491463320275.910.1552126.7126.92031
2010Adrian PetersonMIN28312981270120357.191.11315127.2126.52023
1997Dorsey LevensGNB3291435768519996.080.36119124.9126.02016
1996Eddie GeorgeHOO3351368867319845.920.35117124.0125.92014
2000Corey DillonCIN3151435766420066.370.49155125.4125.92014
1995Ricky WattersPHI33712731176419785.870.1446123.6125.82013
2000Stephen DavisWAS33213181171320036.030.1550125.2125.72011
2005Warrick DunnATL2801416365120097.181.36380125.6125.32005
2012Stevan RidleyNE29012631282420337.010.84245127.1125.02000
1995Errict RhettTB33212071176219625.910.1859122.6124.81997
2010Maurice Jones-DrewJAX2991324575220046.700.62184125.3124.51993
1991Thurman ThomasBUF2881407762020427.090.85245127.6124.41991
1996Emmitt SmithDAL32712041275219616.000.42139122.6124.41991
2004LaDainian TomlinsonSD33913351768520095.93-0.06-22125.6123.41975
2002Deuce McAllisterNOR32513881365420166.200.026126.0123.11970
2012Jamaal CharlesKC2851509562519977.010.84239124.8122.81965
1992Lorenzo WhiteHOO2651226775219287.281.56414120.5122.61961
2003Edgerrin JamesIND31012591183520026.460.47145125.1122.41958
2013Jamaal CharlesKC25912871272419677.591.52394122.9122.41958
2001Corey DillonCIN34013151069519215.65-0.06-20120.1122.11954
2001Shaun AlexanderSEA30913181461419216.220.52161120.1122.11954
2015Doug MartinTB2881402661419176.660.66189119.8122.11953
2007Adrian PetersonMIN23813411262419318.112.27541120.7121.61946
1992Barry SandersDET3121352968619136.130.39123119.6121.61946
1996Curtis MartinNE31611521476319156.060.49155119.7121.51944
2002Tiki BarberNYG30413871167519866.530.36108124.1121.31941
2003Ricky WilliamsMIA3921372968419835.06-0.97-379123.9121.21939
1999Eddie GeorgeTEN3201304966518725.850.3095117.0121.21939
2009Steven JacksonRAM3241416461219596.05-0.07-23122.4121.01936
2003Travis HenryBUF33113561076719755.97-0.03-11123.4120.71932
1997Eddie GeorgeTEN3571399661419145.36-0.37-133119.6120.71931
2005Thomas JonesCHI3141335961219336.160.32100120.8120.61930
2014LeSean McCoyPHI3121319567319026.100.0618118.9120.31925
2008Thomas JonesNYJ29013121363219726.800.59170123.3120.01920
2010Chris JohnsonTEN31613641155219306.110.012120.6119.91919
2013Marshawn LynchSEA30112571268319266.400.3091120.4119.81917
2005Willis McGaheeBUF3251247571119165.900.0517119.8119.51913
2002Travis HenryBUF325143813721119546.01-0.18-58122.1119.31909
2011Michael TurnerATL30113401162319446.460.2576121.5119.31908
2001Ahman GreenGNB3041387957518746.160.47142117.1119.21907
2010Rashard MendenhallPIT32412731361219155.91-0.19-63119.7119.01904
2009Ryan GrantGNB28212531161019236.820.72203120.2118.81900
1998Ricky WattersSEA3191239973418955.940.1858118.4118.71899
1995Terry AllenWAS33813091066618635.51-0.23-78116.4118.51896
2000Jamal LewisBAL3091364662418886.110.2371118.0118.51895
1993Thurman ThomasBUF3551315670618615.24-0.41-144116.3117.91886
2011Ray RiceBAL29113641252219146.580.37109119.6117.41879
1998Curtis MartinNYJ3691287869518715.07-0.71-263116.9117.21875
1998Marshall FaulkIND3241319662318685.770.001116.8117.01872
1994Marshall FaulkIND31412821158518005.730.33103112.5116.81868
1995Rodney HamptonNYG30611821074518335.990.2679114.6116.61866
2006Rudi JohnsonCIN34113091267618945.55-0.45-153118.4116.21858
2001LaDainian TomlinsonSD33912361067518245.38-0.33-113114.0116.01856
2014Justin ForsettBAL2351266856118337.801.79421114.6116.01856
1992Rodney HamptonNYG25711411461118197.081.36349113.7115.61850
1992Reggie CobbTB3101171969318165.860.1135113.5115.41847
2002Corey DillonCIN3141311769518846.00-0.19-60117.8115.11841
2007Jamal LewisCLE2981304958418256.120.2574114.1115.01839
2009Ray RiceBAL2541339754218527.291.20304115.8114.41830
1998Fred TaylorJAX26412231458318246.911.17309114.0114.21828
1998Eddie GeorgeTEN3481294572718225.24-0.54-188113.9114.11826
2012Frank GoreSF2581214867218557.191.02264115.9114.11825
2013Adrian PetersonMIN27912661059318326.570.47132114.5114.01823
2008Steve SlatonHOU2681282960218716.980.77207116.9113.81821
2008Matt ForteCHI3161238863118685.91-0.32-101116.8113.71819
2013Eddie LacyGNB28411781161118236.420.3292113.9113.41815
2010Steven JacksonRAM3301241660118225.52-0.59-196113.9113.21812
2000Curtis MartinNYJ3161204961218025.70-0.19-59112.6113.11809
2002Shaun AlexanderSEA29511751661218506.270.0926115.6113.01808
2001Anthony ThomasCHI2781183757017736.380.69191110.8112.71804
2007Joseph AddaiIND26110721265017896.850.99259111.8112.71803
1996Adrian MurrellNYJ3011249665517755.900.3297110.9112.61802
2004Clinton PortisWAS3431315565518305.34-0.67-230114.4112.41799
2007Clinton PortisWAS32512621161617825.48-0.41-132111.4112.31796
2011Marshawn LynchSEA28512041263318286.410.2159114.3112.11794
1999Corey DillonCIN2631200561317296.571.04272108.1111.91791
2000James StewartDET33911841065417795.25-0.65-222111.2111.61786
2009Cedric BensonCIN3011251657118056.00-0.12-36112.8111.51784
2000Lamar SmithMIA30911391462317765.75-0.14-44111.0111.41783
2002Eddie GeorgeTEN34311651261118215.31-0.90-308113.8111.21779
1999Olandis GaryDEN2761159759217176.220.68187107.3111.21778
2006Brian WestbrookPHI2401217760118097.541.57377113.1110.91775
2014Arian FosterHOU2601246852217526.740.71185109.5110.91774
2004Reuben DroughnsDEN2751240669518026.550.57158112.6110.71771
2015Devonta FreemanATL26410611167217356.570.57150108.4110.51768
1994Thurman ThomasBUF2871093762117035.930.53153106.4110.51768
2006Thomas JonesCHI2961210661118006.080.0927112.5110.41766
2000Ahman GreenGNB26311751061317596.690.82215109.9110.41766
1992Terry AllenMIN26612011365817296.500.77205108.1109.91759
2001Garrison HearstSF2521206453017276.851.17294107.9109.81757
2004Domanick WilliamsHOU30211881356217855.91-0.08-24111.6109.71755
1999Jerome BettisPIT2991091764216945.670.1133105.9109.71755
1997Robert SmithMIN2321266645017377.491.79416108.6109.51752
2013Ryan MathewsSD2851255654217576.160.0618109.8109.31749
2002Jamal LewisBAL3081327663717855.80-0.40-123111.6109.01744
2000Emmitt SmithDAL2941203965617375.910.027108.6109.01744
1997Corey DillonCIN23311291057117277.411.72400107.9108.91742
2004Willis McGaheeBUF28411281364317726.240.2572110.8108.91742
2001Antowain SmithNE28711571258417115.960.2675106.9108.81741
2008Chris JohnsonTEN2511228954117887.120.92230111.8108.81741
2000Ricky WattersSEA2781242760517346.240.36100108.4108.81741
1996Abdul-Karim al-JabbarMIA30711161164417135.580.00-1107.1108.71739
2002Fred TaylorJAX2871314847217756.180.000110.9108.41734
1993Leonard RussellNE3001088766217095.700.0619106.8108.31732
2013Alfred MorrisWAS2761275757517406.300.2157108.8108.21732
1994Errict RhettTB2841011770216685.870.47134104.3108.21731
1994Rodney HamptonNYG3271075658016635.09-0.33-109103.9107.91726
2010Ray RiceBAL3071220551017345.65-0.46-142108.4107.81724
2011Arian FosterHOU27812241058417566.320.1130109.8107.71724
2003Curtis MartinNYJ3231308253217575.44-0.57-185109.8107.41718
1999Charlie GarnerSF2411229451316576.881.34323103.6107.31716
1996Thurman ThomasBUF2811033866116906.010.44124105.6107.21715
2001Ricky WilliamsNOR3131245658616835.38-0.34-105105.2107.01712
1997Napoleon KaufmanRAI2721294654616966.240.52142106.0106.91711
2014Eddie LacyGNB2461139958316856.850.83203105.3106.61706
2007Willis McGaheeBAL2941207756416885.74-0.14-42105.5106.31701
1993Erric PegramATL2921185365516785.750.1133104.9106.31701
1999Duce StaleyPHI3251273450516425.05-0.52-169102.6106.31701
2012C.J. SpillerBUF2071244652217288.352.20455108.0106.31700
2010BenJarvus Green-EllisNE22910081362017097.461.39317106.8106.21699
2011Frank GoreSF2821211853217266.12-0.09-26107.9105.91694
1998Jerome BettisPIT3161185358216905.35-0.43-134105.6105.81693
2013DeMarco MurrayDAL2171121959217017.841.76383106.3105.81693
2014Jeremy HillCIN2221124961416727.531.52337104.5105.81693
2007Willie ParkerPIT3211316249416795.23-0.67-214104.9105.81692
1991Christian OkoyeKC2251031967017337.701.47330108.3105.61690
1999Ricky WattersSEA3251210549316315.02-0.55-180101.9105.61689
2002Ahman GreenGNB2861240754317286.04-0.15-42108.0105.51689
1992Harold GreenCIN2651170252016606.260.53140103.8105.51688
2010Ahmad BradshawNYG2761235861716976.150.0514106.1105.51687
1996Anthony JohnsonCAR3001120658216585.53-0.06-17103.6105.21683
2007Edgerrin JamesARI3241222752416675.15-0.75-244104.2105.01680
1995Craig HeywardATL2361083664316506.991.28302103.1105.01680
2005Mike AndersonDEN23910141262116797.031.20287104.9104.81676
1993Rodney HamptonNYG2921077563216495.650.013103.1104.51671
2014Lamar MillerMIA2161099857216507.641.63351103.1104.41670
2006Joseph AddaiIND2261081766217027.531.56353106.4104.41670
2014Matt ForteCHI2661038663116466.190.1540102.9104.11666
1995Marshall FaulkIND28910781168716365.66-0.08-22102.3104.11665
2002Michael BennettMIN2551296547316996.660.49124106.2103.81660
2008LaDainian TomlinsonSD29211101152016995.82-0.41-121106.2103.41654
2005Cadillac WilliamsTB2901178654316555.71-0.14-40103.4103.31652
2006Edgerrin JamesARI3371159659316814.99-1.03-346105.1103.11649
2012Ray RiceBAL2571143951116766.520.3488104.8103.11649
1991Rodney HamptonNYG25610591058016916.610.3590105.7103.01649
1995Harvey WilliamsRAI2551114959516196.350.62159101.2103.01648
2008Brandon JacobsNYG21910891557316927.731.53334105.8103.01647
1998Robert SmithMIN2491187646116426.590.85211102.6102.81645
2003Tiki BarberNYG2781216266616826.050.0515105.1102.81645
2013Frank GoreSF2761128955316475.97-0.14-38102.9102.51639
2009Jonathan StewartCAR22111331054316547.481.39308103.4102.21635
2006Chester TaylorMIN3031216653416595.48-0.53-160103.7101.71628
2004Kevin JonesDET2411133557216516.850.88211103.2101.41623
2002Curtis MartinNYJ2611094754016576.350.1743103.6101.21619
2009Jamaal CharlesKC1901120754216338.592.51478102.1100.91614
2006Maurice Jones-DrewJAX1669411346114738.872.9248492.190.31445
2006Mike VickATL12310392554145611.845.9072591.089.31429
2004Mike VickATL1209023493130110.844.8958781.379.91279
2011Cam NewtonCAR12670614512126910.073.8949179.377.91246
2010Brandon JacobsNYG147823939212238.322.2433076.476.01216
2014Russell WilsonSEA1188496455119510.134.1248774.775.61210
2006Marion BarberDAL1356541446012229.053.0941776.474.91199
2011Jonathan StewartCAR142761447112038.472.2832475.273.81181
2015Cam NewtonCAR1326361056411508.712.7236071.973.21172
2012Cam NewtonCAR127741849411709.213.0638873.171.91151
2002Mike VickATL1137778445113610.053.9044171.069.41110
2008Pierre ThomasNOR129625943110868.422.2128667.966.11057
1997Steve McNairTEN1016748507103710.274.5846264.865.41046
2013Cam NewtonCAR111585645110319.293.2135664.464.11026
2010Mike VickPHI1006769384101710.174.1041063.663.21011
2012Robert Griffin IIIWAS120815740910278.562.3928764.263.21010
2007Ronnie BrownMIA11960243909978.382.5230062.362.81005
1992Derrick FennerCIN11250074219308.302.5828958.159.1946
2014Cam NewtonCAR10353954539248.972.9530457.858.5935
2005Mike VickATL10259764159078.893.0731356.756.6905
2009Willis McGaheeBAL109544122819038.282.1923856.455.8892
2002Daunte CulpepperMIN106609104699088.572.4025456.855.5887

terrell davisTerrell Davis checks in with the number one season on the list, and he adds the eighth rated season for good measure. He wasn’t flashy, and he didn’t have a long career, but he spent at least two seasons as the best back in a league that also featured Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin, and Jerome Bettis. If these stats included playoff performance, it’s safe to say Davis’s numbers would outstrip the opposition by a significant margin.

Shaun Alexander rarely receives the respect you’d expect to see for a running back who had a stretch of years like his 2001-2005 campaign. Heck, I’ve even said that Walter Jones was Seattle’s real MVP that year. Alexander wasn’t a highlight reel specialist, and he even seemed boring at times, but he was a model of consistency for five years. He topped off his spectacular run with a historic 2005 performance that saw him reach the endzone 27 times on the ground and pick up 80 additional first downs.

If you like efficiency from rushers, then you probably are partial to scrambling quarterbacks. By ARY/A, the top nine seasons belong to passers. With all due respect to Otto Graham, Fran Tarkenton, and Steve Young, Michael Vick is the greatest pure running quarterback the game has ever seen. He had vision, moves, and speed that were (and still are) unprecedented at the position. Cam Newton doesn’t possess the raw rushing talent that Vick did, but he has the body of a linebacker and has used it to score more rushing touchdowns than any quarterback in NFL history.

Career Adjusted Rushing Yards Since 1991

The table below includes all of the same information as the first table, but for careers (since 1991) instead of individual seasons.

PlayerAttYdsTD1stFUMARYARY/AMARY/AMARYARY/LGEra/LGEra
Emmitt Smith41681741815396238268096.430.672797119.7120.827069
Curtis Martin3518141019072527209415.950.15527119.0119.521032
LaDainian Tomlinson31741368414568221208926.580.601894118.7117.420664
Jerome Bettis3479136629173038202835.830.0929797.598.320451
Marshall Faulk28361227910066730186326.570.83234397.097.918795
Barry Sanders2527124957257419179787.111.413562140.5142.018170
Edgerrin James3028122468066537181866.010.10297103.3103.018136
Adrian Peterson2381116759755433169037.101.012409117.4116.516776
Frank Gore2702120407054135168046.220.1540395.594.816686
Corey Dillon2618112418258027166886.370.521365104.3104.316681
Steven Jackson2764114386954018166076.01-0.06-16186.585.616438
Fred Taylor2534116956651021164866.510.57145079.378.716380
Ricky Watters2622106437855540154965.910.2463096.998.415743
Eddie George2865104416852235150125.24-0.59-1678104.3104.715070
Thomas Jones2678105916850225152325.69-0.33-89579.378.515067
Warrick Dunn2669109674945720151195.66-0.24-63178.778.415048
Tiki Barber2217104495548932146556.610.70154491.690.814532
Jamal Lewis2542106075846735145735.73-0.28-706101.299.914392
Clinton Portis223099237549026145086.510.491101100.899.314300
Shaun Alexander2187945310049529142836.530.61132699.298.414164
Ricky Williams2431100096649145140295.77-0.20-47979.779.213940
Marshawn Lynch210789487444418133086.320.2246492.491.913228
Ahman Green205692056045728132786.460.51105469.268.513156
Thurman Thomas210186524646621128276.110.3981180.281.112974
Chris Johnson209394425438617130856.250.13264102.2101.312964
Priest Holmes178081728647113130327.321.45257790.590.012963
Terry Allen215286147342931125035.810.1327778.179.412707
Matt Forte203586024541213124806.130.011497.596.812394
Willis McGahee209584746544226125175.97-0.06-12278.277.412381
Stephen Davis194580526543522121326.240.4179768.969.212185
Maurice Jones-Drew184781676842316123226.670.57105685.684.612178
Terrell Davis165576076041318115346.971.302152103.0104.111658
LeSean McCoy166476874739313114166.860.771277101.9101.511373
Garrison Hearst183179663037926110576.040.2647069.169.411098
DeAngelo Williams163277535734212111586.840.75122069.769.111055
Chris Warren172674314937524107456.230.60104367.268.510960
Michael Turner163973386634916108056.590.4675775.073.910641
Jamaal Charles132072204234921102987.801.71226380.580.010240
Charlie Garner153770973932616100606.550.78119257.257.610144
Rodney Hampton17156442473621199425.800.0814588.889.910068
Antowain Smith17846881543432499625.58-0.27-47469.269.29969
Arian Foster14546472543341497226.690.5783086.886.29657
Robert Smith1411681832272993936.660.96135673.474.39513
Brian Westbrook1385633541315395466.890.90124166.365.59434
James Stewart14785841483011387535.920.1319868.469.08832
Rudi Johnson15175979493101589335.89-0.07-10879.878.78819
Larry Johnson12955846553061388806.860.90116361.760.98775
Deuce McAllister14296096492921888136.170.1318568.967.68647
Ray Rice1430618037255886826.07-0.08-11390.489.38568
Mike Vick8736109363424185589.803.78330441.140.78457
Cedric Benson16006017322932085065.32-0.79-126766.565.78404
Travis Henry14886086382943183755.63-0.35-52074.873.98272
Jonathan Stewart12835814362791782966.470.3645864.864.48247
Fred Jackson13055746302791582126.290.1822957.056.58140
Mike Alstott13595088583242380675.940.1520445.846.18117
Natrone Means14095215452941679565.650.034571.072.48110
Duce Staley14305785242731780815.65-0.20-28356.156.28091
Ronnie Brown12755387382851380456.310.2733950.349.77959
Brandon Jacobs11415094602891879056.930.8597154.954.37817
DeMarco Murray11275228342711077916.910.8494297.497.57798
Michael Pittman13925627252652277375.56-0.38-53144.043.77688
Marion Barber1156478053292977666.720.6777369.368.67682
Jamal Anderson13295336342621876185.73-0.01-1059.560.07675
Dorsey Levens12434955362641374025.950.2126042.142.47468
Adrian Murrell13755199232601873425.34-0.34-47351.051.77441
Reggie Bush12745493352422674065.81-0.29-37146.345.87325
Tyrone Wheatley12704962402602271925.66-0.14-17645.045.27227
Darren McFadden12775336282261772535.68-0.44-55956.756.47225
Willie Parker12535378242211672315.77-0.21-26975.374.67162
Marcus Allen10624286482901570496.640.99105262.963.97160
Lamar Smith13224853382491671125.38-0.44-58744.544.77153
Ahmad Bradshaw10834928362581871966.640.5256050.049.57125
Joseph Addai1095445339256770116.400.3538673.072.36940
Julius Jones12685038222281370075.53-0.48-60662.661.86926
Alfred Morris10784713292201167376.250.16171105.3105.16729
Errict Rhett1174414329236764115.46-0.15-17457.258.76569
Chester Taylor11604740262181466385.72-0.29-33941.541.06559
Napoleon Kaufman9784792122031264516.600.9088267.268.16536
Ryan Mathews10294600292141764206.240.1111666.966.56385
BenJarvus Green-Ellis1008391442234563576.310.1515566.265.46279
Gary Brown10324300212221561545.960.3131548.148.76236
Mike Anderson9194067372221161976.740.8880855.355.36194
Edgar Bennett1115399221222760465.42-0.23-25254.054.96153
Rashard Mendenhall10814236372071361815.72-0.42-45564.463.76116
Leonard Russell11643973292371560505.20-0.56-65263.063.66105
Bam Morris9713801352221558095.980.3735560.561.75923
Ryan Grant955414327186659646.250.1211962.161.45891
Shonn Greene9934110241981059065.95-0.20-20461.560.95843
Ron Dayne983372228217658335.930.022352.152.05826
Chris Ivory8834031241981158026.570.5044060.460.65819
Pierre Thomas829379728203358577.070.9478240.740.25791
Harold Green1068401212198957015.34-0.42-45044.545.05759
Cadillac Williams1055403821196958085.51-0.52-54551.951.35749
Kevan Barlow10223984301871057475.62-0.34-34859.959.15674
LaMont Jordan897373428199756586.310.3531439.339.05611
Barry Foster8793740251951055206.280.5952186.387.75610
Earnest Byner992374920183455165.56-0.28-27549.349.55548
Steve McNair6693590372773955158.242.43162726.526.75544
Cam Newton5993207432461455449.263.17189969.369.15530
Harvey Williams10213952201841654285.32-0.37-37342.443.05510
Leroy Hoard9303743332082354035.810.1716237.538.35508
Anthony Thomas1008381123172854125.37-0.59-59048.347.95370
Knowshon Moreno876361627184853696.130.01755.955.55324
Doug Martin868380620158652986.100.011282.882.95307
Justin Forsett733359918172352707.191.1282547.147.25285
LeGarrette Blount8043695291631052316.510.4032354.554.45221
Abdul-Karim al-Jabbar976331632186951175.24-0.43-42564.064.75176
Maurice Morris867364813179752276.03-0.02-1832.732.35165
Reuben Droughns9293602191991751775.57-0.36-33146.245.85129
Marion Butts910327726175550135.51-0.24-21862.763.35066
Herschel Walker7993398251761149826.240.4435244.544.85019
Reggie Cobb9143263231871049495.41-0.36-33051.652.04997
Craig Heyward779316424189949046.300.6248038.339.04989
Kevin Faulk8643607161671150115.80-0.16-14024.123.94965
Mario Bates8413048381861148655.780.1512343.444.34960
Mark Ingram748319526167349096.560.4735161.461.54918
Donovan McNabb6163459292193349247.992.06127023.723.64906
Dominic Rhodes8143286261811149266.050.119238.538.34903
DeShaun Foster9273570111721249395.33-0.63-58451.451.04894
Lorenzo White759307617184547946.320.6146559.960.84860
Michael Bush809325029160449096.07-0.10-7951.150.44838
Sammy Morris736305326189848406.580.5540825.224.94781
Rashad Jennings749317920161447486.340.2619849.549.64765
Johnny Johnson812315216174846945.780.042973.374.24751
Steve Young5022922332132047029.373.65183132.733.04748
Erric Pegram8463375121691446785.53-0.18-15341.842.34740
Ladell Betts8213326151721047895.83-0.18-14433.332.84720
Michael Bennett8153639131391147585.84-0.13-10633.032.74711
Eddie Lacy717307523158745756.380.3323695.396.04607
Justin Fargas827336910155946495.62-0.43-35341.541.04597
Kordell Stewart5602874382092645238.082.30128825.725.94552
T.J. Duckett717281444172946216.440.4331141.340.64549
Kevin Jones7953176241551045855.77-0.18-14257.356.84541
Domanick Williams770319523142546015.980.032195.994.54536
Greg Hill772321812134644065.710.097045.946.84497
Terry Kirby7612875271631343145.670.021527.027.44389
C.J. Spiller7043433121311443946.240.128145.845.34351
Stevan Ridley685290722160843896.410.2819054.954.44349
Le'Veon Bell647277719148142936.640.5937989.490.24328
Lamar Miller638293019135442546.670.6239366.567.04288
Correll Buckhalter6552944211461042396.470.4932137.837.54204
Darren Sproles577286720134441937.271.1767426.226.04168
Mark Higgs716264014163541365.78-0.09-6364.664.84145
Donald Brown695282918129141635.99-0.13-9237.236.94134
Peyton Hillis6962832231531241625.98-0.17-11837.236.74112
Chris Brown7223024191361341325.72-0.22-16143.042.74099
Brad Baxter655238929159440396.170.3422350.550.84061
Felix Jones617291211139840846.620.4729342.542.04031
Anthony Johnson810293691391539114.83-0.86-69824.424.83962
Mike Tolbert595228833158639236.590.4728230.630.43896
Laurence Maroney618250421138538526.230.2313948.247.83823
Daunte Culpepper5142652342024038447.481.5278021.821.63810
Tatum Bell569277316120738546.770.8246948.247.63808
Derrick Ward551262812129438216.930.8647239.839.33774
Raymont Harris674248716127736315.39-0.24-16545.446.13687
Tim Hightower6192429281351037025.98-0.15-9646.345.93669
Tim Biakabutuka611253014107634975.720.00236.437.03550
LenDale White628234924124635795.70-0.33-20855.955.43546
Aaron Rodgers4342175211601235468.172.0689320.120.03526
Russell Wilson4112430121371334708.442.3897854.254.43483
Beanie Wells6252471241161035295.65-0.52-32355.154.43479
Rod Bernstine528224817128534626.560.7238043.343.33466
Bernie Parmalee5672179171391033675.940.3419323.424.03453
Derrick Fenner578209617144933545.800.105829.930.33397
James Allen67024974114833675.03-0.88-58942.142.23376
Zack Crockett507169636158733396.590.7538219.019.03336
Kevin Smith598234617110533985.68-0.50-29842.541.73333
Larry Centers615218814117532705.32-0.36-22015.715.93317
James Starks55523619120933155.97-0.13-7534.534.53311
Joique Bell5612235221201132825.85-0.23-12951.351.43292
Steve Broussard452217115116732057.091.3360025.025.33233
Mewelde Moore50722676112432416.390.3618322.522.23197
Mark Brunell5132421151623631446.130.3618414.014.23179
Ricky Ervins55421148112331355.66-0.10-5639.239.63166
Danny Woodhead484206615111231806.570.4622328.428.33165
Jeff Garcia4682140261622931596.750.8338817.917.93144
Rich Gannon4652152201291731086.680.8539414.915.03125
Giovani Bernard49221051298130946.290.2411764.565.03122
Troy Hambrick53621799114631545.88-0.08-4539.439.03120
Kimble Anders4952261998730676.200.5225821.321.63114
Ronald Moore600210713113930425.07-0.50-29831.732.43110
Brian Mitchell373188611115130178.092.4691815.716.03070
Leon Washington48622701685431116.400.3316224.324.03068
Marcel Shipp6052197111161031125.14-0.88-53438.938.23057
Amos Zereoue553213710108530945.59-0.41-22627.627.33057
Tony Richardson429172715135330327.071.2553811.811.93057
Kenneth Davis468200918117930356.490.6932547.447.73051
Donnell Bennett529194117112729615.60-0.06-3023.123.63018
Olandis Gary496199811102329625.970.2512237.037.73013
Shawn Bryson5282144699330265.73-0.18-9327.026.93010
Moe Williams435182621117430106.920.9842823.523.22973
Jeremy Hill445191820106729176.560.5423991.292.52961
Jim Harbaugh4422065101371929336.640.8939218.318.52959
Earnest Graham47720471597529606.210.199023.123.02941
David Garrard3801746171571529717.821.7666823.222.92935
Neal Anderson568197515108729375.17-0.74-42061.261.12934
Rodney Thomas53219731298528625.38-0.35-18525.626.02906
Stacey Mack465175123111528786.190.3114436.035.92875
Fred Lane502200113101928285.63-0.07-3658.959.72866
Jerious Norwood3992056787128917.251.2047930.129.82857
Lewis Tillman49618621194227795.600.00034.735.42834
William Green568210991021128515.02-1.07-60544.543.72794
John L. Williams48118789101527615.74-0.15-7034.534.62772
Jeff Blake4182027141412927256.520.7932813.113.32761
Ben Tate421199210102927956.640.4820458.257.52758
Darick Holmes476176111109627135.700.02842.442.92748
Terrell Fletcher52618711097627045.14-0.62-32721.121.32722
Trent Richardson58319271786727134.65-1.49-86956.556.22698
Ronnie Hillman45318451295726575.87-0.20-9041.541.92680
Alex Smith421194481131526746.350.2912416.716.72678
Ryan Fitzpatrick4051869131312126666.580.4719016.716.62650
Derek Loville45916081694225805.62-0.08-3823.023.42623
Najeh Davenport39218141398826396.730.7629923.623.32614
Steve Slaton43518761392726726.14-0.04-1741.840.82613
Barry Word46517491094426055.60-0.29-13554.354.22603
C.J. Anderson33816071383224477.241.2241451.051.72483
Vince Workman420153911108724575.850.114625.625.82480
Jake Plummer4281853171443524615.75-0.12-5315.415.32451
Christian Okoye36914791598224766.710.6624577.476.42445
Kenny Watson3581651988424426.820.8229430.530.32423
Cleveland Gary4331674992923765.49-0.32-13837.137.52399
Eric Bieniemy38715891185523506.070.4316616.316.62395
Tommy Vardell40314271892423535.840.187218.418.62386
Toby Gerhart3971675786623765.98-0.14-5524.824.62363
Reggie Brooks4371726779823145.30-0.28-12036.236.82356
Bilal Powell4021609783323585.87-0.24-9829.529.42354
Rashaan Salaam470168213901323104.91-0.79-37048.148.92348
Blair Thomas3911549587223375.980.02729.229.12331
Richard Huntley364170111781022746.250.5519923.724.22320
Gaston Green4221685664023275.51-0.56-23772.772.02304
Colin Kaepernick306183211871922617.391.3140128.328.32265
Aaron Stecker3861526883422615.86-0.06-2514.114.12251
Le'Ron McClain354131013102322966.490.3010620.520.12250
Jason Snelling3631420889222596.220.103820.220.02236
Kevin Mack37613021586022415.96-0.05-2046.746.42227
Curtis Enis4561497480421614.74-0.92-41945.046.12211
Mike Bell37914471485522415.91-0.15-5628.027.62206
Andre Ellington3641601965421856.00-0.06-2345.545.82199
Jerome Harrison3251590771422066.790.6922323.022.72180
Ronnie Harmon2971413778121677.301.4743519.319.42175
Amp Lee3881512772421375.51-0.17-6614.815.12171
John Elway3691474191242721245.760.02916.616.72140
Charles Way33713561080321116.260.5719126.426.72132
Dave Meggett3481403880520865.990.3411716.316.62119
Latavius Murray3481490867420815.98-0.05-1665.066.12116
Tashard Choice30313711075121317.030.8826522.221.82096
Robert Delpino37712481783321075.59-0.42-15843.943.62092
Devonta Freeman32913091276320506.230.227264.165.22087
Jamel White3691403971220915.67-0.27-9921.821.72079
Brett Favre6021844141535420253.36-2.42-14556.76.82061
Eric Metcalf3631511562420245.58-0.09-3214.114.32059
Nick Goings4001470670420665.17-0.80-32018.418.22040

emmitt smithTo the utter shock and surprise of exactly no one, Emmitt Smith comes out on top of the list. He was a rookie in 1990, and he consequently doesn’t have the stats from that year included in the table, but that’s not a big deal for him in this case. As far as yards go, his 937 as a rookie are tied for the worst he ever gained in a season he started more than five games. Sure, losing those 11 touchdowns hurts, but he’s still the all time leader in rushing scores without them.

The most shocking rank on the list might be Barry Sanders down in sixth place. Keep in mind, however, that the four non-Emmitt players ahead of him played their entire careers after 1991. Sanders, on the other hand, loses two seasons to the cutoff. These aren’t just any seasons; he averaged 1387 yards and 13.5 touchdowns in those years. I don’t have the first down info available, but I’m confident he gained enough of them to move comfortably into second place behind Smith were we to measure his entire career.5 He doesn’t have the longevity to match Emmitt, but his per game average is the best in the NFL by leaps and bounds.

If you arrange the columns by ARY/A, you’ll see a whose who of rushing quarterbacks, all purpose yardage monster Brian Mitchell, and two Chiefs standouts in Jamaal Charles and Priest Holmes. You’ll also note that dual-purpose backs Darren Sproles and Ronnie Harmon rate very highly. This may mean nothing, but it appears to suggest that certain types of backs are used in a manner than produces a high average in this metric.

It’s not shocking to see Sanders rate so highly in ARY per league game. After all, he retired in his prime and never added any filler seasons to his career. He also stayed relatively healthy, having missed just six of 128 possible games during the seasons in this study. Smith shouldn’t come as a surprise either. Aside from 2003, he almost never missed games. He also produces both yards and first downs at a high level for most of his long career.

The guy that probably catches you off guard here is Curtis Martin. Martin wasn’t particularly fast or quick, and he didn’t wow fans with ESPN-worthy runs. However, he was about as consistent as it got from day one till the end of his eleven year career. He often gets the “boring compiler” moniker attached to him, but the fact of the matter is that he almost always produced. In 168 regular season games, he rushed for 50 or more yards 135 times. That 80.4% mark is ahead of Hall of Fame contemporaries such as Smith (76.5%) and Bettis (66.1%), and is close behind Sanders (83.7%).6

  1. Keep in mind here that, since all touchdowns are officially considered first downs, I have lowered the normal 20 yard bonus for touchdowns down to 11 in order to account for that.
  2. In other words, strike seasons and shorter schedules prior to 1978 don’t apply here.
  3. Here, Player A has 2400 (150*16) ARY, while Player B has 2100 (150*14) ARY. When we divide these both by the number of scheduled league games, Player A keeps his 150 ARY/G average, while Player B’s average drops to 131.25 ARY/G. Pretty simple.
  4. Note that I do not have fumbles separated by play type prior to 1992, so I didn’t include any fumbles for 1991. I don’t blame you for disagreeing with that choice.
  5. Consider that the Lions gained 112 rushing first downs in 1990 and 117 in 1989. In 1990, he had 255 of Detroit’s 366 rush attempts (69.7%). In 1989, he had 280 out of 421 (66.5%). Estimating based on those numbers, Sanders would have 129 non-TD first downs in those years. With his other numbers taken into account, he’d have an estimated 4125 ARY for those two years. Added to his total, that comes to 22103, well ahead of current runner-up Curtis Martin.
  6. Active phenom Adrian Peterson boasts an 84.2% rate, while GOAT Jim Brown has an absurd 87.8% rate. Note that none of the players with higher rates than Martin played long enough to reach the significant decline phase of his career.