The Duel

3 Best NFL Running Backs to Ever Come Out of Auburn

Mike Esposito
James Brooks played RB for the San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL from 1981-82.
James Brooks played RB for the San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL from 1981-82. / Focus On Sport/Getty Images
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Bo Jackson is widely considered the greatest running back ever to grace the Auburn Tigers' football program, but a freak injury at the NFL level derailed his path to the No. 1 spot atop this list. Even still, the Tigers have sent several great running backs to the NFL outside of Jackson and these select three — thanks to their incredible body of work at the professional level — are the cream of the crop.

With that in mind, here are the three of the best NFL running backs ever to come out of Auburn.

3. Rudi Johnson (2001-08)

Rudi Johnson played RB for the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL from 2001-07.
Rudi Johnson played RB for the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL from 2001-07. / John Grieshop/Getty Images

An unheralded fourth-round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, Rudi Johnson eventually became one the best running backs that Auburn has sent to the NFL. It took two years for Johnson to make his first NFL start, but he never let the starting role go once he earned it. From 2003 to 2006, the 2004 Pro Bowler was the engine that kept the Bengals' offense running, tallying 5,178 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns over that four-season span. Wear and tear would take its toll on Johnson and he was eventually out of the league in 2009, but he finished his career with a formidable 5,979 rushing yards — good for the fourth-most yards among Auburn running backs to play in the NFL.

2. Stephen Davis (1996-2006)

Stephen Davis played RB for the Washington Redskins, Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams in the NFL from 1996-2006.
Stephen Davis played RB for the Washington Redskins, Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams in the NFL from 1996-2006. / Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

It took a bit of time for Stephen Davis to put the NFL on notice, but once he found his bearings, he was one of the best running backs the league had to offer. Named the Washington Redskins' starting running back for the 1999 season, Davis ran roughshod over the league over the next five years, racking up 6,418 rushing yards and 48 rushing touchdowns, the three-time Pro Bowler would ultimately slow down in his final three years in the league, but he will always go down as one of the best Tigers backs to grace the NFL, as he finished his 11-year career with 8,052 rushing yards — the most of any Auburn running back to play in the NFL.

1. James Brooks (1981-92)

James Brooks played RB for the San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL from 1981-82.
James Brooks played RB for the San Diego Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL from 1981-82. / John Grieshop/Getty Images

The Bengals have a fond history of Auburn running backs and James Brooks was no exception, drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 1981, Brooks played second-fiddle to Chuck Muncie in his three years with the Bolts. However, once he latched on with Cincinnati in 1984, Brooks was able to establish himself as one of the most versatile tailbacks in the league. In his six seasons with the Bengals, the former Auburn star racked up 9,459 yards from scrimmage and 64 total touchdowns from 1984 to 1981, making four Pro Bowl appearances along the way. Brooks would ultimately call it quits after the 1992 season, finishing his career with 11,583 scrimmage yards (7,962 rushing, 3,621 receiving) and 79 total touchdowns (49 rushing, 30 receiving) — both of which are the most ever recorded by an Auburn running back.


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Mike Esposito is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Mike Esposito also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username espo6891. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.

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