Who Is Atlanta Falcons Greatest Running Back Player In History? – Atlanta Falcons Best Running Backs Of All-Time
The Atlanta Falcons have had their ups and downs over the years as a club. Even in the darkest times, however, standout running backs were a constant. The best five Atlanta Falcons running backs of all time are discussed.
5. Jamal Anderson (’94-’01)
The Numbers – 5,336 yards, 34 TDs, 1,645 receiving, 7 TDs
Jamal Anderson is fifth on the list. Anderson, nicknamed “Phat Phat” for his massive legs, quietly broke 1,000 yards in 1996 and 1997 while the Falcons finished 3-13 and 7-9, respectively.
But it was the 1998 season, when Anderson set an NFL record most carries in a season and led Atlanta to a 14-2 record and the team’s first Super Bowl berth, that made Anderson famous.
Anderson’s 1,846 running yards was a franchise record at the time, which he still holds today.
Anderson’s knee gave up in the second game of the season in 1999, but he came back the next year to rush for 1,024 yards. His career was terminated when he tore the ACL in his other knee in the beginning of 2001.
4. Warrick Dunn (’02-’07)
The Numbers – 5,981 yards, 30 TDs, 1,635 receiving 8 TDs
Dunn did not begin his professional career with the Falcons. Before relocating to Atlanta, he was a starting running back and two-time Pro Bowler with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Dunn lasted six seasons with the Falcons, and he seemed to get better with age, much like a fine wine. Dunn had his greatest season as a player when he was 30 years old, in 2005. He rushed for 1,416 yards and added another 220 yards catching.
Dunn was inducted into the Ring of Honor of the Atlanta Falcons earlier this year. His Warrick Dunn Charities has constructed almost 200 homes for low-income people.
3. Michael Turner (’08-’12)
The Numbers – 6,081 yards, 60 TDs, 457 receiving, 1 TD
Turner, a two-time Pro Bowler with the Falcons, had been LaDainian Tomlinson’s backup in San Diego before being sent to Atlanta. Turner carried for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns in his debut season as a full-time starter, which was a smart move by the Falcons.
Turner had the best five-year run of any Atlanta running back, racking up 6,081 yards and 60 touchdowns in the process. Every season he played for Atlanta, he scored double digit touchdowns.
Turner’s fall and exit came quickly. He saw a drop-off in production in 2012, and he was released by the Falcons after that season.
2. Gerald Riggs (’82-’88)
The Numbers – 6,631 yards, 48 TDs, 1,284 receiving
Gerald Riggs is the all-time leading rusher for the Atlanta Falcons. Riggs was the Falcons’ lone bright point during a bleak period. During his seven seasons with Atlanta, the team went 35-68, with the sole winning season being a strike-shortened 5-4 record in 1982.
He rushed for 1,486 yards and 1,719 yards in 1984 and 1985, respectively. The latter is the franchise’s second-highest total, trailing only Anderson’s 1,846 in 1998.
After the 1985, 1986, and 1987 seasons in Atlanta, Riggs was named to the Pro Bowl three times. He deserved it more in 1984 with 1,486 yards than he did in 1987 with 875 yards.
From 1984 through 1986, his output dropped substantially as a result of 1,093 carries, and he was traded to the Washington Redskins.
He only carried for 1,557 yards in three seasons with Washington, but he was a short yardage specialist in 1991, scoring 11 touchdowns on 78 carries. That year, Washington won the Super Bowl, and Riggs announced his retirement.
Riggs’ career highlights include 201 receptions for 1,516 yards and no receiving touchdowns.
1. William Andrews (’79-’86)
The Numbers – 5,986 yards, 30 TDs, 2,647 receiving, 11 TDs
Andrews, a third-round draft pick out of Auburn, made an immediate impact with the Falcons as a rookie.
To begin his career, he recorded three straight seasons of 1,000 yards. Only the 1982 strike was able to slow him down. He had already surpassed 500 yards rushing and receiving in nine games that season.
Andrews’ ability to be a weapon out of the backfield is what propels him to the top of the list. With 8,633 yards from scrimmage, he is the Falcons’ all-time leading rusher.
Andrews recorded 1,567 yards rushing and 609 yards receiving in his final healthy season with Atlanta in 1983. Andrews is Atlanta’s all-time leading receiver out of the backfield, not Dunn or Devonta Freeman.
Andrews was a Pro Bowl pick in four of his first five seasons in the NFL, but after a knee injury wiped out his whole 1984 and 1985 seasons, he was never the same.
In 1986, he returned to the Falcons, but his opportunities were limited by health and Riggs. He only had 52 carries for 214 yards.
Andrews resigned from the NFL after the 1986 season, but he is one of four players whose jerseys have been retired by the Falcons. The other three are Steve Bartkowski, Jeff Van Note, and Tommy Nobis.