When it comes to the 10 most exciting players in NFL history, then list understandably includes a virtual who’s who of acrobatic skill position players that shook, juked, shimmied and feinted their respective ways into the undeniable annals of NFL lore.
Now, thanks to this fun-filled look at my top 10 most exciting players in NFL betting history, you too can remember some of the magical moments that each of these superstars brought to the gridiron on a weekly basis.
No. 10 John Jefferson
You may not remember former San Diego Chargers and Green Bay Packers wide receiver John Jefferson because his career only last eight seasons, but I sure do. The 14th overall pick in the 1978 NFL Draft is one of my favorite players of all-time and one that I believe should be remembered for his routinely astonishing catches.
The acrobatic former Arizona State star was a four-time Pro Bowl selection (1978-80, 1982), three-time All-Pro and co-MVP of the 1982 Pro Bowl and no matter how brief his career was, I still believe John Jefferson was one of the most exciting players in NFL history.
Check out Jefferson’s signature catch right here!
No. 9 Earl Campbell
The top pick in the same 1978 NFL Draft that produced the aforementioned Jefferson, Earl Campbell was an absolute monster of a man that possessed a rare combination of size, speed, power and elusiveness that has rarely been seen in the annals of NFL history.
Not only was Earl Campbell a five-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time First Team All-Pro, but Campbell also won the 1978 Offensive Rookie and Player of the Year award.
Campbell finished his career with 9,407 yards and a 4.3-yards-per-carry average by running over, through and around dazed, would-be tacklers and I’ll likely go to my grave believing that he was one of the 10most exciting players in NFL history. If you don’t believe me…just check out these clips of the incomparable Earl Campbell.
No. 8 Randall Cunningham
Looking back, I now realize just how fortunate I was to have had the privilege of getting to see former superstar quarterback Randall Cunningham up close and personal when we were both plying our respective crafts in Philadelphia two decades ago.
Cunningham, the 37th overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft, virtually ushered in a new era of athletic quarterbacks and basically changed the way the position would be played by incorporating a unique scrambling and running ability to go along with his howitzer of a right arm.
Cunningham was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time First-Team All-Pro and earned the adoration of millions of football for his highlight reel-making forays in which he weaved, leapt and sped by stunned defenders.
Check out my man Randall right here!
No. 7 Bo Jackson
The No. 1 overall pick in the 1986 NFL Draft, Bo Jackson was an absolute ‘monster running back that possessed that same rare combination of speed, power and agility that the aforementioned Earl Campbell, though Jackson was undoubtedly much faster than Campbell.
Anyway, Jackson was a virtual highlight machine each and every time he touched the ball and could use a variety of moves to run over, around or through dazed defenders…or maybe you never saw how Jackson ran all over Brian Bosworth in a nationally-televised Monday Night Football matchup over a decade ago.
Not only is Jackson one of the 10 most exciting players in NFL history, but at one time, Jackson was also arguably the unofficial title-holder to claim as the world’s best athlete.
No. 6 Fran Tarkenton
Former Minnesota Vikings signal-caller Fran Tarkenton was the third overall draft pick of the 1961 NFL Draft and it didn’t take long for him to become one of the league’s brightest superstars, thanks to his unmatched scrambling ability and capability to extend plays well beyond any normal length of time.
While several other quarterbacks are remembered for their title-winning heroics or ability to lead their team back from certain defeat, I think football fans everywhere would do well to remember that Fran Tarkenton is arguably the most exciting quarterback to ever play the position.
Oh…and just so you know… if you think Tarkenton’s scrambling was all for naught and that he was just a mediocre passer – think again. At the time of his retirement, Tarkenton had set an all-time NFL record for career passing yards with a stunning 40,007.
Check out Fran the Man’s scrambling ability right here!
No. 5 O.J. Simpson
Whether O.J. Simpson was leaping over luggage in a Hertz car rental commercial or whizzing past dazed defenders, there haven’t been many running backs in league history that could shake, shimmy and slip past would-be tacklers like the once-beloved O.J. Simpson could. Forget all of his post-career ‘drama’ and look at a clip like this one and you’ll be able to easily see why O.J. Simpson remains to this very day, one of the most exciting players in NFL history.
No. 4 Walter Payton
There has never been – nor will there ever be – another Walter Payton. The aptly named “Sweetness” was, in my mind, the greatest running back to ever lace up a pair of cleats in NFL history.
The fourth player chosen in the 1975 draft, the 5-10 Payton retired with 16,726 total yards and 10 seasons with 1,000 or more rushing yards. The man that carried the Bears for more than a decade also rushed for 275 yards rushing in one game against Minnesota in 1977 while compiling a whopping 77 games with more than 100 yards rushing and 110 rushing touchdowns. Payton was a touchdown machine that finished his legendary career with an eye-popping 750 points on 125 touchdowns – in an era when offenses weren’t nearly as potent – or explosive.
Payton possessed the strength of a back far bigger than his size ever suggested and often laid the boom on unsuspecting defenders that were expecting him to go down easily. Payton could leap over defenders in a single bound and was faster than a speeding bullet. Maybe it’s me, but it sounds like Payton should have probably worn a cape during his Hall of Fame career and gone by a different name – like Superman!
No. 3 Gale Sayers
Sure, there are other running backs whose numbers are far more impressive than Gale Sayers,’ but I genuinely believe that Sayers was – and remains – one of the most exciting players in NFL history.
As he was fond of saying about his running style, Sayers only needed a single inch of daylight and – boom – he was gone, leaving a wake of defenders either laid out on the ground or grabbing nothing but thin air. Don’t believe me? Then check out this run by the legendary Gale Sayers.
No. 2 Jim Brown
There has never been a running back in NFL history like Jim Brown and there never will be. I could talk about his 12,312 rushing yards and 15,459 combined net yards, but that would not do Brown’s excitement factor any justice whatsoever.
The fact of the matter is that, Brown was the first ‘big’ back to possess the uncommon combination of speed, power and agility and he used those gifts to absolutely destroy opposing defenses – that were all gearing up to stop him.
Brown was a unanimous first-team All-NFL pick eight times and played in nine Pro Bowls in nine years. Brown was unanimously named the Rookie of the Year in 1957 and earned league MVP honors four times (1957, 1958, 1963, and 1965).
Amazingly, Brown never missed a single game in his nine years of routinely making defenses look as foolish. Make no mistake about it, Jim Brown remains one of the most exciting players in NFL history – and he would have gotten my top spot were it not for…
No. 1 Barry Sanders
I have no doubt that former Detroit Lions superstar running back Barry Sanders is the most electrifying ball-carrier in NFL history.
Sanders rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his 10 seasons with the Detroit Lions (1989-1998) and was also just the third player in NFL history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season in 1997, the same season he set another league record by rushing for more than 100 yards in an incredible 14 consecutive games.
Still, it’s not his career yardage total that makes Sanders the most exciting player in NFL history. It’s his unmatched ability to make would-be tacklers miss with the greatest of ease.
“He makes you miss so bad, you kind of look up in the stands and wonder if anybody’s looking at you,” Atlanta Falcons cornerback D.J. Johnson once remarked. “You’ve got 60,000 people in there and you wonder if anyone saw you miss that tackle.”
‘Elusive’ is a word that does the legendary Barry Sanders absolutely no justice at all – seeing as how he’s the most exciting player in NFL history.