Ranking the Greatest Running Back Groups in Packers History

The Green Bay Packers have had some elite running backs on their team. Ahman Green, Jim Taylor and John Brockington were all star players during their tenures in Titletown.

This year, the Packers have the potential to have a very deep group of running backs with returning 1,000-yard rusher Aaron Jones, a versatile complimentary back in Jamaal Williams and the power of second-round pick A.J Dillon all potentially available to help move the sticks.

But how will this group stack up with the best Packers running back units in franchise history? We look back and rank the best units, top to bottom throughout the Packers 101 year existence. Rankings are based on talent, depth and productivity.

7. 1985: Eddie Lee Ivery, Jessie Clark, Gerry Ellis, Gary Ellerson, Harlan Huckleby

The 1985 Packers did not feature a thousand-yard rusher but the team had remarkable depth at the running back position with three runners gaining over 500 yards and each of them averaging more than 4.3 yards per rush.

Fullback Jessie Clark led the team with 633 yards on the ground and tied for the team lead with five rushing touchdowns. Former first-round pick Eddie Lee Ivery added 636 yards and averaged 4.8-yards per attempt while Gerry Ellis rushed for 571 yards and averaged an impressive 5.5-yards per rush.

Backups Gary Ellerson and Harlan Huckleby both averaged more than five yards per carry on a team that averaged 4.7-yards every time they ran the football.

6. 2014: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, John Kuhn,

Eddie Lacy enjoyed his best season with the Packers in 2014, rushing for 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging a healthy 4.6-yards per carry. Lacy also caught 42 passes for 427 yards and four more scores.

While Lacy was a load, backup James Starks was a steady contributor who added 333 yards and was still capable of carrying the load if Lacy got tired.

Fullback John Kuhn was a short-yardage specialist and an excellent blocker who was voted to the Pro Bowl and named All Pro that season.

This strong running game complimented Aaron Rodgers and the passing game and helped the Pack reach the NFC Championship Game.

5. 1996: Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens, William Henderson, Travis Jervey

The Packers won the Super Bowl in 1996 behind Brett Favre and a strong defense but the running game was often overlooked.

Edgar Bennett led the Pack in rushing that season with 899 yards gained mostly between the tackles. Bennett was tough, reliable and sure with the football.

Backing him up was Dorsey Levens who added 566 yards and averaged 4.7-yards per rush a year before he assumed the role as the team’s primary ballcarrier.

Fullback William Henderson was an outstanding lead blocker and a reliable safety valve out of the backfield. In fact, all three of these backs could catch the football with Bennett and Levens grabbing 31 passes each and Henderson following with 27.

Speedy Travis Jervey was a standout on special teams and averaged 4.1 yards per carry that season.

In the playoffs, the Packers turned more to the run on offense and helped ground out victories over the 49ers and Panthers before defeating the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.

4. 1971: John Brockington, Donny Anderson, Dave Hampton

Most Packers fans remember the duo of John Brockington and MacArthur Lane but in Brockington’s rookie season, he was teamed with Donny Anderson, a holdover from the late Lombardi era.

The duo was highly effective with Brockington winning NFC Rookie of the Year after gaining 1,105 yards and averaging an impressive 5.1-yards per haul. Brockington also earned Pro Bowl honors and was named All Pro.

Anderson added 757 yards on the ground and averaged 4.1-yards per carry in his final season with the Packers. He was also third on the team with 26 catches for 306 more yards and a touchdown.

Dave Hampton was a solid third back for the Packers. He averaged 4.6-yards per carry and gained 307 more yards. A year later, the Packers traded Hampton to the Atlanta Falcons where he eventually became a 1,000-yard rusher.

The 1971 Packers finished fourth in the NFL in rushing yards despite enduring a 4-8-2 record in Dan Devine’s first season as coach.

3. 1972: John Brockington, MacArthur Lane, Perry Williams, Bob Hudson, David Kopay

The Packers won the NFC Central Division in 1972 behind a strong defense and a running game that featured a pair of outstanding backs.

John Brockington had his second straight season with more than 1,000 yards and led the team with eight rushing touchdowns. Newly acquired MacArthur Lane added 821 yards on the ground and averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Both Lane and Brockington were big, physical backs who blocked well for each other. They were also the team’s two leading receivers that season.

The team also had depth in this unit with both Perry Williams and Bob Hudson averaging more than four yards per carry and former Redskin Dave Kopay adding depth and contributing on special teams.

This unit was so good that the Packers won 10 games despite ranking next to last in the NFL in passing yards and dead last in passing touchdowns.

2. 2003: Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport, Tony Fisher

The 2003 Packers finished third in the NFL in rushing yards and won the NFC North title behind the best season of Ahman Green’s career.

Green gained a franchise-record 1,883 yards rushing while averaging 5.3-yards per rush and scoring 15 touchdowns. He also caught 50 passes with five of them going into the end zone.

Big Najeh Davenport was the change of pace back. He added 420 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. The former University of Miami (Florida) star weighed 247 pounds and presented opposing defenses with a completely different set of problems than the nimble Green.

Tony Fisher served as the third down back. He averaged five yards per rush while gaining 200 yards on the ground, but he was also a consistent receiver out of the backfield, providing Brett Favre with a reliable outlet receiver when his wideouts were covered downfield.

The Packers were a successful, run-oriented offense in 2003 and Green’s monster season was the biggest reason why.

1. 1961: Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Tom Moore, Elijah Pitts

The Packers led the NFL in points and rushing yards in 1961 behind this diverse and talented group.

Taylor made the Pro Bowl after rushing for 1,307 yards and 15 touchdowns in a 14-game season. He was second in the league in yards rushing, trailing only Jim Brown.

Hornung missed a couple of games but was still named All-Pro after gaining 597 yards rushing and scoring eight rushing touchdowns and a pair of receiving touchdowns.

Tom Moore was the third back and he averaged 5.0-yards per attempt while gaining 302 yards while starting two games.

Rookie Elijah Pitts was next on the depth chart. Pitts only carried 23 times in his first campaign in the NFL but would go on to become a steady contributor for Lombardi’s Packers for the rest of the decade.

The Packers won the NFL title game in 1961, crushing the New York Giants 37-0 at City Stadium. The Pack rushed for 181 yards and a touchdown in that game, giving Vince Lombardi his first of five NFL championships.

Both Taylor and Hornung are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and for good reason. That helped make this the Packers best running back group of all-time.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (31)

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PatrickGB's picture

May 21, 2020 at 12:17 pm

I think that this year we have another elite group of running backs. And they can catch too!

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GilMartin's picture

May 21, 2020 at 01:08 pm

On paper I think you're right. Now they have to go out and prove it on the field. Thanks for commenting, PatrickGB.

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Since'61's picture

May 21, 2020 at 12:29 pm

I agree with the 1961 RB group as the #1 Packers RB group. It was the most versatile due to Paul Hornung who could run, receive, block like a guard and throw the option pass. Plus he kicked FGs, PATs and could kickoff. Also, the 1961 RB group ran behind the best OL of all time.

I would put the 1972 group into the #2 spot. It was great watching Lane and Brockington run over and through people. They were both devastating runners and blockers and carried their team to the division title.

Nothing against the 2003 group I just enjoyed watching the 1972 group more. Thanks, Since ‘61

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GilMartin's picture

May 21, 2020 at 01:10 pm

I also enjoyed the 72 group more and they did it all without an established passing game. But I couldn't ignore the amazing season Green had in 2003 and the diverse backups he had behind him. Thanks for commenting.

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packerbackerjim's picture

May 21, 2020 at 04:29 pm

I am in complete agreement, Since ‘61. Watching Lane execute crushing blocks was a thing of beauty. The best, and maybe only, thing Devine did right. Besides leaving, that is.

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GilMartin's picture

May 21, 2020 at 05:04 pm

Lane's blocking and running were outstanding. After leaving the Packers, he was a great receiving back for the Chiefs for a few more years. As for Devine, yeah, it wasn't an easy time except for 1972. Thanks for commenting, packerbackerjim.

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Stroh's picture

May 21, 2020 at 06:05 pm

No way the '72 group should be ahead of '03. Hell, any year that Ahman was in his prime should be #2 - 5. They had some dominant running teams lead by Ahman, not just '03.

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greenandgoldguy's picture

May 21, 2020 at 12:40 pm

I'm still in awe of John Brockington. The reason why i became obsessed with the Packers. I still can't stop watching JB run the ball, I youtube him now and then still. He was my idle, I still have posters of him and still search the internet for pics of him. God i loved that guy!

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GilMartin's picture

May 21, 2020 at 01:11 pm

He was the best player on the team when I became a Packers fan and he was incredible to watch. Always be a Brockington fan. Thanks for the comment greenandgoldguy.

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greenandgoldguy's picture

May 21, 2020 at 12:42 pm

He was once described as "trying to tackle a wet fish"

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GilMartin's picture

May 21, 2020 at 01:12 pm

LOL

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Tundraboy's picture

May 21, 2020 at 05:00 pm

Thanks for the memories of '71 . Brockington's great season and Donny Anderson too. That was fun.

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GilMartin's picture

May 21, 2020 at 05:05 pm

Anderson had a great final season in Green Bay that year. The team should have done better than 4-8-2 with both Brockington and Anderson carrying the ball. Thanks for the comment, Tundraboy.

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GilMartin's picture

May 22, 2020 at 02:59 pm

They definitely lacked a passing game in those days.

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Tundraboy's picture

May 21, 2020 at 10:50 pm

Thumbs up!

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Brandip's picture

May 21, 2020 at 05:13 pm

I am wearing a Lacy Jersey as I read this, so I might be a little biased. I guess it's time to buy a new jersey.

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GilMartin's picture

May 21, 2020 at 05:19 pm

Hey, it's all good. I still have a Brockington jersey. Thanks for commenting, Brandip.

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Stroh's picture

May 21, 2020 at 05:30 pm

Ahman Green was hardly what you would refer to as a nimble RB. He had good feet no doubt, but he was a 220 lb punishing RB. He didn't take the easy way out of bounds when near the sideline either (like Jones does), he would punish the last tackler and never went down easy. He was a VERY physical RB who happened to have great feet and Bo Jackson type speed. Nothing was mentioned of Ahman's receiving ability either. He once had over 70 rec and had over 40 or 50 every year in his prime. He was also an excellent blocker.

I have to wonder if they author ever even saw him play?! I figure that "03 would rank 2nd, but any year w/ Ahman in the backfield, whoever he shared it with, was far superior to #3, #4 or #5 on this list.

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GilMartin's picture

May 21, 2020 at 05:43 pm

I definitely saw Green play and really loved watching him. You're right that he didn't avoid contact and didn't mean to imply otherwise when I said he was nimble, just saying he could move well to make tacklers miss. Thanks for the comment and for supporting the Packers all-time leading rusher, Stroh.

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Stroh's picture

May 21, 2020 at 06:28 pm

I'll admit to some bias here. Ahman is my All time favorite Packer. But have to think at least one of the other years in his prime would be among the top 5.

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GilMartin's picture

May 21, 2020 at 06:47 pm

I understand and he's a very worthy choice. I did put 2003 second on the list. I didn't put the other seasons he was featured in because the cast wasn't that different and that would make the article repetitive. I could have had Hornung and Taylor on the list 3 or 4 times also, but I wanted to get different groups on there to compare them and tried to pick their best seasons. Thanks for commenting, Stroh.

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PeteK's picture

May 21, 2020 at 07:09 pm

I started rooting for the Pack in 1966 so most of the RBs were not in their prime. However, The Gold Dust Twins, Anderson and Grabowski were supposed to be the new great tandem. I especially became an Anderson fan and always wore a 44 jersey. In my opinion, no RB can compare to Green's speed, power, and receiving ability. He had a minor fumbling problem as some hard runners do (Peterson) . One game in particular against the Bears, he was going in for a score to make it 14 zip ,but fumbled which was returned for a TD.

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PhantomII's picture

May 21, 2020 at 10:58 pm

I remember watching a game Madden was commenting how green had on these shiny slick sleeves over his elbows after a fumble and a few plays later GB replaced them with an old school elbow pad and from then on I don't believe he had as much of an issue with it. Another time I saw Brett hand off to Green and he went around the left end and hit the gas and Favre mouthed WOW!!! Pretty funny when you were thinking the same thing. Great size speed combo. Very rare.

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GilMartin's picture

May 22, 2020 at 03:02 pm

Always amazing to make your QB say "wow", especially Favre who had already been in the league a decade or more when that happened. Thanks for sharing, PhantomII.

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GilMartin's picture

May 22, 2020 at 03:01 pm

Green was a unique back and there's a reason he's the Packers all-time leading rusher. His 2003 was the best in Packers history. Loved watching him run. Thanks for the comment.

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Ryan3468's picture

May 21, 2020 at 08:28 pm

I’d love to know how many big time first downs Tony Fischer was a part of. Had Davenport been able to stay healthy those three could have won even more games.

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Flow49's picture

May 22, 2020 at 01:30 am

Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson don’t make the cut? They had some pretty good years. Ahman was my favorite to watch, but I have no arguments with #1.

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johnwick7057's picture

May 22, 2020 at 06:17 am

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crayzpackfan's picture

May 22, 2020 at 02:47 pm

1988- Kieth Woodside and Brent Fullwood. Juuuuuust kidding. Was the year I graduated.

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GilMartin's picture

May 22, 2020 at 03:51 pm

LOL. Good year although not for the Packers. Thanks for the comment.

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