Analysis Opinion

Top 5 running backs in Chiefs history

Unlike the QB position, the Kansas City Chiefs have a long list of great talent at the RB position.

For years the Chiefs offense had been carried by the RB position with the instability at the QB position. This puts an emphasis on how important and crucial RBs have been for the Chiefs.

Let’s dive into the top five RBs in Chiefs history.

5. Larry Johnson (2003-2009)

Larry Johnson may not have the best image in Chiefs fans eyes, but his play and accomplishments on the field are truly unforgettable.

Johnson was drafted in first round of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Chiefs following an explosion of a senior year at Penn State.

In his senior year, Johnson erupted for 2,087 yards on the ground and another 349 yards through the air, totaling 2,436 yards and 23 touchdowns. His tremendous play earned him a 2002 Consensus All-American selection and the winner of the Doak Walker Award, Maxwell Award, and Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.

With injuries to Priest Holmes derailing his career, Johnson showed promise in 2004 with multiple 100-yard games in 2004. In 2005, Johnson took over the starting role and dominated as a starter.

In his first two seasons as starter, Johnson rushed for over 1,700 yard search season. He became the second RB ever with back-to-back 1,700 yard rushing seasons, joining Erick Dickerson. In 2005 and 2006, Johnson totaled an impressive 4,292 total yards and 40 touchdowns.

Johnson was the definition of a workhorse RB and proved it in his first two seasons. In those two seasons, Johnson was selected to both Pro Bowls and a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2006. However, the 2006 seaosn would prove to do more damage than good on the rest of his career.

Johnson declined tremendously over the next few years as he rushed for only 1,810 yards combined over the next three season with the Chiefs, before his release. this was in part due to injuries and frustration with the team.

Regardless, Johnson’s-two year stretch was incredible and belongs in the NFL history books. He finished his career with the third-most rushing yards all-time in Chiefs history with 6,015 yards.

4. Christian Okoye (1987-1992)

Christian Okoye, a.k.a. the “Nigerian Nightmare” is one of the most popular Chiefs of all time. Okoye had a unique path to the NFL. At the age of 21, he moved from Nigeria to Los Angeles, to attend Azusa Pacific University as a track athlete.

After two years of stardom in track and field with seven national titles, Okoye decided to give football a try, following omittance from the Nigerian National Olympic Team in 1984.

Okoye possessed terrific speed, running a 4.45 40-yard dash, that paired with his insane size for a running backs, standing at 6’1″ and 260 pounds. His rare athletic ability and size hooked Kansas City as they drafted him in the second round of 1987 NFL Draft.

Once the Chiefs gave him a shot, the legend of the “Nigerian Nightmare” blew up. His ability to run around and evade defenders, which paired with his power through and trucking ability made him opposing defense’s worst nightmare.

Okoye’s production blew up when the “Marty Ball” offensive philosophy came to KC. Head coach Marty Schottenheimer’s offensive attack was heavily focused on the run game and Okoye benefitted drastically.

Over his four years in “Marty Ball” offense, Okoye average over 900 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns per season. In those four seasons, Okoye was named to his two Pro Bowls.

The best season of his career came in 1989. Okoye led the league in carries (370), rushing yards (1,480), and yards per game (98.7). Along with his league-best stats, Okoye added 12 rushing touchdowns, earning his first Pro Bowl selection and his one First-Team All-Pro selection. He also broke the franchise record for most rushing yards in a single season.

Okoye became the first Chiefs RB to rush for over 1,000 yards in multiple seasons and currently ranks fourth all-time in Chiefs history in career rushing yards with 4,897.

3. Abner Hayes (1960-1964)

Abner Haynes was one of the first superstar players in Texans/Chiefs franchise history and the AFL. Haynes grew up in Dallas, Texas, and become one of the first African American players to ever suit up for the North Texas State football team.

After a strong senior season, rushing for over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns, Haynes was drafted in the fifth round of the 1960 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, he was drafted in the firs round of the 1960 AFL Draft by his hometown team, the Dallas Texans.

Haynes had to choose between the NFL and AFL. He ultimately chose the AFL to stay home and play for his hometown team. In his first season, Haynes made his mark on the AFL.

In his first season, Haynes totaled 1,451 total yards and 12 touchdowns, including an AFL-leading 875 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground. He also led the AFL in carries (156), touches (211), and yards per game (62.5). in 1960, Haynes won the AFL Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year awards.

His success continued throughout his career, becoming a star player for the Texans and Chiefs when they moved to Kansas City.

Haynes continued to dominate on the ground, leading the AFL in rushing touchdowns in 1961 with 9, and in 1962 with 13. Along with his league-leading 13 rushing touchdowns in 1962, he also led the AFL in total yards (1,622) and total touchdowns (19). He capped off that season with his first All-AFL First-Team selection.

Over his five seasons with DAL/KC, Haynes averaged over 1,300 total yards and 11 touchdowns each year.

Over his career, Haynes was a three-time AFL All-Star and three-time AFL All-Team selection. He holds nine franchise records, including most total touchdowns in his rookie season. Hayes is also a member of the Chiefs Ring of Honor.

2. Priest Holmes (2001-2007)

Priest Holmes is one of the most dominant RBs in Chiefs history. He went undrafted out of the University of Texas, playing behind Heisman Trophy winner, Ricky Williams.

The Baltimore Ravens gave Holmes his chance and signed him in 1997. He would get his chance and make the most of it a year later. In that year, 1998, Holmes made a name for himself rushing for 1,008 yards and seven touchdowns. However, his success in Baltimore would falter.

Following the 1998 season, Holmes production fell off as he he would rush for 1,094 yards and 3 touchdowns the next two seasons, being replaced by future All-Pro, Jamal Lewis. Fortunately, Holmes would get a second chance in Kansas City with the Chiefs.

Following the 2001 season, the Chiefs signed Holmes, and well, the rest is history. In his first season with Kansas City, Holmes exploded behind one of the best offensive lines in franchise history. He rushed for 1,555 yards and eight touchdowns while adding an additional 614 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Holmes was named to his first Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro selection. In the next two seasons, Holmes would dominate even more.

In 2002, Holmes set career-highs and franchise records with 1,615 yards rushing and 21 rushing touchdowns. He also gained an additional 672 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Holmes led the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns while playing only 14 games. Holmes produced an astonishing 163 yards per game. He was named to his second Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro selection.

In 2003, Holmes would take it up another level and have the most dominant season for a RB in Chiefs history. He would break his own record and rush for 27 touchdowns that year with 1,420 yards on the ground. He would also set a career-high in receiving yards with 690.

The 2003 season marked Holmes’ third straight season with a Pro Bowl selection and third straight First-Team All-Pro selection. It was also his third straight season with over 1,400 rushing yards, 2,000 total yards, It was Holmes’ second straight season with at least 20 rushing touchdowns, joining Emmit Smith as the second running back ever to reach that fate.

In 2007, Holmes broke the franchise record for the most rushing yards in Chiefs history with 6,090. His three year stretch from 2001-2003 is the most dominant stretch by a RB in Chiefs history. Holmes was inducted into the Chiefs Ring of Honor in 2014.

1. Jamaal Charles (2008-2016)

Jamaal Charles holds an extremely special place in the hearts of the Chiefs franchise and Chiefs fans. The Chiefs drafted Charles in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, after a successful three seasons with Longhorns of the University of Texas.

The Chiefs didn’t know what they were getting at the time of the draft, but they were drafting the best RB in franchise history and one of the most dynamic in the NFL for years.

From 2009 to 2014 (excluding 2011 where he missed the last 14 games due to injury) Charles averaged 280 touches for just under 1,700 total yards and 16 touchdowns. During this stretch, was four time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro selection.

Charles put up those stats with worse teams and even worse offensive lines compared to Priest Holmes. Charles is the Chiefs all-time leading rusher with 7,260 yards, beating out Holmes by a commanding 1,190 yards, and doing so with only 11 more carries than him. Charles is also currently first all-time in yards per carry by a RB in the modern era with 5.4 yards per carry.

Despite being the main focus for opposing defenses as he was the spotlight of bad teams, Charles was unstoppable and dominant in every single year he was heealthy, outside of his rookie year.

Jammal Chales is the number one RB in Chiefs history because with far worse teams, he remained the spotlight and no defense could put a stop to him.

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