3 Best NFL Running Backs to Come Out of Michigan

By michael obermuller
Tyrone Wheatley Sr. is one of the top running backs to ever come out of Michigan.
Tyrone Wheatley Sr. is one of the top running backs to ever come out of Michigan. / Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
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The Michigan Wolverines have had some famed NFL alumni, including Tom Brady, Brian Griese and Jim Harbaugh. In terms of the running back position, the Big Ten school has produced its fair share of NFL success stories as well.

These three Michigan players are the top NFL running backs to ever come out of the university, despite what they may have done in college.

3. Anthony Thomas (2001-07)

A former National Champion, Anthony Thomas was selected in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. He was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year that season. Thomas when on to total 3,891 rushing yards and 756 receiving yards while playing with four different franchises. Leroy Hoard, a close fourth on this list, compiled more yardage during a longer NFL career, but Thomas was more dynamic during his time in the pros, with 44.7 yards per game (which is third highest all-time for Michigan alum).

2. Ron Johnson (1969-75)

An All-American for the Wolverines, Ron Johnson was a first-round draft pick (20th overall) for the Cleveland Browns in 1969. He didn't last long on the Browns however, as contract disputes and disappointing numbers both contributed to Johnson's inclusion in a trade with the New York Giants just one year later. Johnson then went on to have his only All-Pro season in 1970, for his new team. He then rushed for a career-high 1,182 yards in 1972. The Giants running back averaged 53.2 yards per game during his NFL career, the most out of any Michigan graduate to date.

1. Tyrone Wheatley Sr. (1995-2004)

Not to be confused with his son, Tyrone Wheatley Jr., who has played for Michigan in recent years, Tyrone Wheatley Sr. was known for a long NFL career that spanned a decade in the league. Based on sheer longevity and overall numbers, Wheatley is the most accomplished NFL running back to ever come out of Michigan. He was drafted 17th overall in the '95 NFL Draft by the New York Giants, and later played as an Oakland Raider. Although he only had one 1,000-yard season, and despite never being too much of a receiver out of the backfield, Wheatley racked up 4,962 rushing yards in his career, which is 654 more than any other Wolverine.


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Michael Obermuller is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Michael also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username king_mizzard. 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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