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NFL Rushing Yardage Leaders By Year—1990s

Updated on February 25, 2008

Emmitt Smith

Barry Sanders

Terrell Davis


In the 1990s, NFL running backs who dominated were Dallas' Emmitt Smith and Detroit's Barry Sanders, with a few others having great years later on in the decade. Here is a complete list of NFL rushing leaders in the ‘90s:

1999-Edgerrin James, Indianapolis Colts (1553)

1999 was the first of two straight seasons that Edgerrin James led the NFL in rushing, as he was a rookie and part of a young Colts' offense that was really talented. That season, James carried 369 times for an NFL-best 1553 yards and 13 touchdowns. He added 62 receptions for 586 yards and four more TDs as a receiver.

1998-Terrell Davis, Denver Broncos (2008)

In 1998, the Broncos won their second straight Super Bowl, and one reason was running back Terrell Davis, who led the NFL in rushing with 2008 yards. Davis carried the ball 392 times and had an NFL-leading 21 rushing touchdowns. He added 25 catches for 217 yards and 2 more TDs.

1997-Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions (2053)

Barry Sanders played a relatively short time in the NFL, but when he did play, he put up some monster numbers and monster seasons. 1997 may have been Sanders' best year, as he carried 335 times for a league high 2053 yards with 11 touchdowns. Sanders also caught 33 passes for 305 yards and three more TDs.

1996-Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions (1553)

Though not as great a season as he had in 1997, Barry Sanders still led the NFL in rushing with 1553 yards in 1996, on 307 carries. He tallied 11 rushing touchdowns, adding 24 catches for another 147 yards.

1995-Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys (1773)

Emmitt Smith is the NFL's all-time leading rusher, and his first few years in the league were his best as he was helping the Cowboys to three Super Bowl wins. In 1995, Smith carried 377 times for an NFL-best 1773 yards with 25 touchdowns (also an NFL high). He also caught 62 passes for 375 yards.

1994-Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions (1883)

1994 was Barry Sanders' second-best season yardage-wise, as he carried the ball 331 times for a league-high 1883 yards with 7 TDs. Sanders added 44 catches for another 283 yards with one touchdown out of the backfield.

1993-Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys (1486)

In 1993, Emmitt Smith carried the ball 283 times for a league-high 1486 yards with 9 TDs. He added 57 catches for 414 yards and one more touchdown.

1992-Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys (1713)

It may all seem redundant here, but Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders were pretty awesome in the ‘90s. In 1992, Smith carried 373 times for an NFL-best 1713 yards and a league-high 18 TDs. He added 59 catches for 335 yards with one more touchdown as a receiver.

1991-Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys (1563)

1991 was the first of four seasons in the decade that Emmitt Smith led the NFL in rushing, as he carried 365 times for 1563 yards with 12 touchdowns. Smith added 49 catches for 258 yards with one more TD out of the backfield.

1990-Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions (1304)

In just his second NFL season, Detroit's Barry Sanders led the NFL in rushing with 1304 yards on 255 carries and 13 TDs. He added 36 receptions for 380 yards and 3 more touchdowns as a receiver. It was the first of four times that Sanders would lead the NFL in rushing in the decade.


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