Home Sports 7 Fastest Running Backs Throughout History of the NFL

7 Fastest Running Backs Throughout History of the NFL

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fastest running backs in nfl

Speed is the heartbeat of football. When a running back breaks past the defenders, the crowd holds its breath, knowing that could have been a game-changing moment. Throughout NFL history, a select group of running backs have left a mark with their lightning-fast speed and performances. Let’s dive into the fastest running backs ever, both past and present.

Raheem Mostert

fastest running back on miami dolphins
  • Maximum Speed: 23.09 MPH
  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.38 seconds
  • Speed Score: 111.4
  • Raheem Mostert, currently with the San Francisco 49ers, is the fastest running back currently playing in the NFL. His in-game speed of 23.09 MPH (recorded during the Next Gen Stats era) places him on top. Mostert’s journey to the NFL was unconventional—he ran for only 759 total yards throughout his entire college football career at Purdue. However, teams quickly realized how to utilize his speed and he has become a standout player in the league.

Matt Breida

fastest running back on 49ers
  • Maximum Speed: 22.3 MPH
  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.38 seconds
  • Speed Score: 103.2
  • Matt Breida, like Mostert, went undrafted but proved himself on the field. In both 2018 and 2019, he was the fastest running back in football. His 22.3 MPH maximum speed showcases explosive acceleration and incredible agility. Breida’s journey serves as a testament to determination and hard work, as he fought his way into the league despite not receiving an invitation to the NFL Combine.

Jonathan Taylor

colts fastest running back
  • Maximum Speed: 22.05 MPH
  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.39 seconds
  • Rushing TD’s: 40
  • Jonathan Taylor, a rising star for the Indianapolis Colts, combines power and speed. His 4.39-second 40-yard dash time and impressive college career at Wisconsin demonstrate his potential to be one of the fastest running backs in NFL history and his journey is only beginning.

Cordarrelle Patterson

Atlanta Falcons fastest running back
  • Average Yards Per Carry (YPC): 6.1
  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.42 seconds
  • Special Teams TD: 8
  • Cordarrelle Patterson has made an impact as both a running back and a return specialist. His versatility and breakaway speed have kept defenders on their toes throughout his career, allowing him to have a total of 1,017 rushing yards and averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Not only does Patterson play on the offensive side of the ball, but being one of the fastest running backs in the NFL, he is also used as a Special Teams returner where he has already received 8 Special Team Touchdowns.

Fastest Former NFL Running Backs:

While the current crop of running backs showcases incredible speed and talent, we must also acknowledge some legendary former players throughout NFL’s history and give them the accolades they deserve:

Bo Jackson

  • RUSH YPA (5.4) by a RB [min 500 ATT]
  • Career RUSH YPG (73.2) & RUSH YPA (5.4) [min 100 ATT] in Raiders history
  • Season RUSH YPA (6.8) [min 20 ATT] in Raiders history
  • Bo Jackson was an incredible athlete, excelling not only in the NFL but also in Major League Baseball. His combination of speed and strength made him a force to be reckoned with and will forever go down in history as one of NFL’s fastest running backs to ever play the game.

Chris Johnson

  • Maximum Speed: 22.9 MPH
  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.24 seconds
  • Rushing TD’s: 55
  • Chris Johnson’s 4.24-second 40-yard dash time remains legendary. He had several seasons of electrifying performances, including a 2,006-yard rushing season in 2009. Being able to run over 22 MPH made him one of the fastest running backs in the history of the NFL, if Johnson got into the open field, it was almost guaranteed he was getting a touchdown.

Darren McFadden

Dec 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden (20) runs with the ball during the second half against the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
  • Maximum Speed: 22.7 MPH
  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.33 seconds
  • Rushing TD’s: 28
  • Darren McFadden’s speed and agility made him a dynamic threat during his time with the Oakland Raiders. When it comes to being one of the fastest running backs in the NFL, we believe his 40-yard dash time of 4.33  solidifies him in that category.

Some people say that toughness and strength is becoming the new norm for running backs and just being one of the fastest running backs isn’t as important. However, I think history can show that speed and agility tend to outweigh strength when it comes to creating separation on the field, as well as separation on the scoreboard.