NFL running backs are some of the most well-known, talented, and reliable players in the league. A member of the offensive backfield, running backs need a wide array of skills–running the ball, catching passes, blocking tackles, etc.–to perform at the highest level. Some of the NFL’s greatest running backs include Franco Harris (12,120 rushing yards, 4x Super Bowl champion), Emmitt Smith (18,355 rushing yards, 164 rushing touchdowns), Walter Payton (16,276 rushing yards, 9x Pro Bowler), Barry Sanders (15,269 rushing yards, 10x Pro Bowler), and Jim Brown (12,312 rushing yards, 3x NFL MVP). In today’s NFL, a number of running backs are also some of the highest-paid players in the league. Below is a list of the top five highest-paid NFL running backs in 2014 in order of base salary.
5. Matt Forte – $5.95 million
Since being picked in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft, Matt Forte has been a force to be reckoned with in the Chicago Bears’ backfield. The Tulane University alum has been a critical asset to the Bears’ ground attack and passing game, recording 1,933 all-purpose yards and 1,339 rushing yards last season–second-most in the NFL that year and the ninth-most in franchise history.
4. Marshawn Lynch – $6.00 million
Picked by the Buffalo Bills in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Marshawn Lynch was traded to the Seattle Seahawks in 2010 where last season he rushed for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns while recording three 100 yard games. In college, Lynch became the University of California’s second all-time career rusher and recently helped the Seahawks to a Super Bowl win.
3. LeSean McCoy – $7.65 million
Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean “Shady” McCoy was drafted in the in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft and rushed for 637 yards his rookie season. In 2010, McCoy took over as the Eagles’ starting running back and ran for over 1,000 yards. Last season, he led the league in rushing with 1,607 rushing yards and shattered the team’s 34-year-long rushing record.
2. Jamaal Charles – $8.30 million
Drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, Jamaal Charles became a breakout star in his second season, rushing for 1,120 yards over the course of only 10 games. Charles is currently the NFL’s all-time leader in yards-per-carry average with 5.79 and recently inked a new deal making him the second highest-paid running back in the league.
1. Adrian Peterson – $11.75 million
Drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 2007, Adrian Peterson has become the NFL’s best and highest-paid running back. In college, Peterson played for the University of Oklahoma and set the NCAA freshman rushing record with 1,925 yards. Over the course of his NFL career with the Vikings, Peterson has been named a 2x MVP, 6x Pro Bowler, and 2x NFL Rushing Leader. Last season, he became the third fasted player in NFL history to reach 10,000 rushing yards.
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images