Continuing in our series of ranking the greatest New York Giants by position, this week, we’re counting down the top ten running backs ever to suit up for Big Blue, beginning with a name that will hopefully be mentioned more often in 2021.
10. Saquon Barkley, 2018-present
Even with only two full seasons under his belt, 2018’s second overall pick out of Penn State has done enough to crack the top ten.
Barkley’s rookie season alone gets him onto the list: his 1,307 rushing yards shattered the Giants’ rookie record. He’s coming off a torn ACL that kept him sidelined for most of last season.
If he can regain his 2018 form, he won’t be 10th on this list for much longer.
9. Alex Webster, 1955-64
Webster is perhaps better remembered as the Giants’ head coach from 1969 to 1973. Before his coaching career, however, the North Carolina State alum was one of the most imposing figures of New York’s great 50s and 60s offenses. How many other backs stand at 6’3”?
8. Ron Johnson, 1970-75
One of the only bright spots of the Giants’ mediocre early-70s teams was this Michigan running back initially drafted by Cleveland in 1969.
Given the Browns’ surplus of running backs in this era, Johnson was a much better fit in New York. In 1970 and ‘72, he ran for 1,000 yards, back when this was a significant accomplishment, particularly in 1970, when Johnson and Washington’s Larry Brown were the only two 1,000-yard rushers in the NFL.
7. Ahmad Bradshaw, 2007-12
The biggest draft steal on this list is Ahmad Bradshaw, a seventh-round choice out of Marshall in 2007. Taking on the starting role during the 2010 season, Bradshaw ran for 1,000 yards twice. Of course, his crowning moment was in 2011, when he scored the winning touchdown to beat New England in Super Bowl XLVI.
6. O.J. Anderson, 1986-92
In terms of statistics, Anderson’s best seasons were with the St. Louis Cardinals, but he’s best remembered for his timely contributions to the Giants. The University of Miami running back became a fan favorite in 1989 and 1990, capping off the latter season with Most Valuable Player honors in the Giants’ Super Bowl XXV win over Buffalo.
5. Rodney Hampton, 1990-97
While the former Georgia back didn’t play for the greatest teams in Giants history, Rodney Hampton still put together some terrific numbers. He and Tiki Barber are the only two Giants running backs ever to rush for 1,000 yards in five different seasons.
Hampton did so in five consecutive years, 1991 to ‘95. In this regard, he was a lot like Ron Johnson: the only playmaker in an otherwise dull offense.
4. Frank Gifford, 1952-64
Admittedly, Gifford’s ranking is not because of any statistics. It’s because of the era that the USC halfback represents. Just seeing a photo of No. 16 on the worn-out turf of Yankee Stadium brings back waves of memories for those old enough to remember. To be a successful athlete in New York, it helps to look the part. In this case, Frank Gifford was right out of central casting.
3. Joe Morris, 1982-88
Even though Morris was an All-Pro and a Super Bowl champion in 1986, it’s hard to top the scoring statistic that the Syracuse alum tallied in 1985: twenty-one rushing touchdowns.
In this current era where the pass reigns supreme, that number is mind-boggling. At the time, Morris was only the second player ever to run for 20 touchdowns in a single season, after Washington’s John Riggins had done so two years earlier.
2. Brandon Jacobs, 2005-11
Much like Bradshaw, Jacobs is undoubtedly considered a steal, being chosen in the fourth round of the 2005 draft out of Southern Illinois.
I never thought of him in terms of statistics, but the numbers beg to differ: believe it or not, Jacobs’ 60 rushing touchdowns are the most in Giants history.
1. Tiki Barber, 1997-2006
Barber is a rare instance of a player peaking towards the end of his career. In 2005, his second-to-last season, the Virginia back ran for a career-high 1,860 yards. He has the most rushing yards for a Giant by far, the only player in franchise history to reach 10,000.
The only regret New York fans have is that wasn’t able to earn a ring. Despite this, the case can still be easily made that Tiki Barber is the best running back in Giants history.