The Heaviest Running Backs In NFL History
In 2018 the top 20 running backs averaged a weight of 220.7 pounds and a height of 5’11”. That’s a lot of average height, stout fellows leading the way with Elliott, Barkley and Gurley as top rushers with the main outliers coming from Phillip Lindsay (5’8″, 190) and Derrick Henry (6’3″, 247). Running backs need to be durable, quick, agile and able to elude all sorts of defenders, so it’s not surprising the weights that they have. Since 1948 (and looking at the top 20 backs), the average weight has increased by 23 pounds, while height has stayed at a steady average of 5’11”. Our backs are getting thicker, more powerful and speedier, so it’s easy to forget that there have been some behemoths that were able to wow us by moving large amounts of mass in productive ways. Below we’ve compiled a list of the heaviest running backs in the NFL. Primary criteria is that they were primarily listed as an RB and had over 100 carries in their career. We’ll hand out a few honorable mentions for the biggest of the big that had 10+ carries.
The Hefty Chonker Running Backs – The Best of the Beef
Jerome Bettis – 5’11”, 252 lbs.
Nicknamed “The Bus”, Bettis is probably the most well known of the hefty running backs. Spending a majority of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bettis carried for over 1,000 yards in seven of his thirteen seasons. In total, Bettis bruised his way to 13,662 yards and 91 touchdowns. Bettis also threw for three touchdowns in his career, the last of which came in 2004. After winning Super Bowl XL (fitting, right?), Bettis retired. The Bus was inducted in to the Hall of Fame in 2015 and hasn’t done much football-wise since retiring, but was recently mentioned as a potential candidate to take the Steelers Running Backs coaching vacancy. Fun fact: In 2004 he helped lead the Steelers to a 24-21 victory over the Raiders. His statline was 5 carries, 1 yard and 3 touchdowns. No one stops The Bus at the goal line.
Jamal Lewis – 5’11”, 240 lbs.
Lewis is near and dear to my heart because he is the last Cleveland Browns running back with back-to-back thousand yard seasons (2007-08). The only other backs to do so for the Browns were Mike Pruitt (1979-81), Greg Pruitt (1975-77), Leroy Kelly (1966-68), and Jim Brown (1958-61, 1963-65). Lewis’ biggest season came in 2003 with the Ravens where he scampered for 2,066 yards and 14 touchdowns. That was also the only year he was ever voted to the Pro Bowl. Seven 1,000-yard seasons put Lewis at 10,607 yards in his career with 4.2 yards per carry. Lewis isn’t in the Hall of Fame, but does sit in the Ravens’ Ring of Honor (inducted 2012). After suffering several concussions in 2009, Lewis began to experience severe headaches and vision problems and decided it was time to retire.
Craig Heyward – 5’11”, 280 lbs.
The late father of Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward, Craig “Iron Head” Heyward was larger than life in many ways. His punishing ground game got him 30 touchdowns, 4,301 yards and a 4.2 YPC average on 1,031 carries. In the offseasons, Heyward’s weight would increase to well over 300 pounds, but he generally trimmed down to 280 or 250 by the time the season rolled back around. Heyward steamrolled for over 1,000 yards with the Falcons in 1995 and earned himself a trip to the Pro Bowl. He was also a Heisman finalist while attending Pitt.
Natrone Means – 5’10”, 245 lbs.
Natrone Means is not quite the bruiser that we’ve come to expect with heftier running backs. He’s quick, nimble and just happened to be 245 pounds. While his nickname of “Refried” didn’t stick around for long, Means had his best seasons when he was with the San Diego Chargers. His 1,350 yards in 1994 helped the Chargers get to the Super Bowl and cemented his spot in the Pro Bowl. Means is now the Offensive Coordinator and Running Backs Coach for Winston-Salem State University.
Le’Ron McClain – 6’0″, 260 lbs.
More geared toward being a fullback, McClain’s second year (2008) with the Ravens was his best. Used as the feature back, his 902 yards (long of 82) and 10 touchdowns got him a Pro Bowl selection. After that, the Ravens used him primarily as a fullback to pave a path for Ray Rice. McClain bounced to the Chiefs in 2012 and ended his career with the Chargers in 2014. McClain wrote an excellent piece for the Player’s Tribune in 2015 about his experience.
CJ Anderson – 5’8″ – 225 lbs.
Anderson is one of the more rotund short guys and hes been nailing it during the 2018 season with the Rams as Todd Gurley’s backup. He racked up over a thousand yards in 2017 for the Broncos before they released him. Anderson has had some trouble with his weight and during the summer of 2014, weighed 243 pounds. Regardless of weight, his stature and attitude are helping the Rams get deeper into the playoffs.
Absolute Units – Big, But Not Great
Cookie Gilchrist – 6’3″, 251 lbs.
Leon Hart – 6’5″, 257 lbs.
Mike Tolbert – 5’9″, 243 lbs.
Jonathan Stewart – 5’10”, 240 lbs.
Ron Dayne – 5’10”, 250 lbs.
Pete Johnson – 6’0″, 252 lbs.
Eddie Lacy – 5’11”, 250 lbs.
Oh Lawd He Comin’ – Gigantic, But Under 100 Attempts
Jorvorskie Lane – 5’11”, 277 lbs.
J-Train Lane is one of the heftiest fellows to ever get the ball in his hands. At a portly 277 pounds, he is the heaviest back on our list. Although he was mainly a fullback in Miami and Tampa Bay, he hit it big on one run for 54 yards. While he wasn’t able to get much done in the NFL he had 2,193 career rushing yards and 49 touchdowns at Texas A&M. After a three-year NFL career, he had amassed 71 yards rushing on 17 carries and 95 yards receiving on 14 receptions. While his initial weight was listed as 277, by not eating late and watching his carb intake, Lane eventually got down to the 250s.
Jeremi Johsnon – 5’11”, 265 lbs.
Andrew Pinnock – 5’10”, 260 lbs.
Robert Thomas – 6’1″, 270 lbs.
Jalston Fowler – 5’11”, 261 lbs.
Mega Chonkers – Honorable Mentions:
Wes “Express” Ours: 6’0″ 300 lbs. No NFL carries, but one reception and a decent career in Arena Football