The Denver Broncos have quietly been one of the most successful franchises in NFL history. The team has been to a whopping eight Super Bowls, winning three of them (1997, 1998, 2015) in the process. Few teams have managed to get to multiple Super Bowls, let alone eight of them.
Along the way, the Broncos have been powered by some pretty good quarterbacks, defenders and running backs. When looking back through the annals of Broncos history, several names have carved out a place in team history as the best running backs in Denver Broncos history.
The Best Denver Broncos Running Backs of All-Time
It was actually quite tough narrowing down the list of the best Denver Broncos running backs of all-time. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty and find out who makes the cut as the best to ever do it in the history of the Denver Broncos.
1.) Terrell Davis
There is little question as to who the greatest running back in Broncos history is. Davis had unparalleled cutting ability and vision, giving him the perfect combination especially when paired up with the vaunted zone blocking scheme that the Broncos employed.
In addition to being the leading rusher in franchise history, Davis is the only Broncos running back to win the NFL MVP. At the time of his accomplishment, he was just the fourth back ever to hit the 2000-yard mark, turning in one of the greatest seasons in NFL history.
If for nothing else, Davis is known for bringing the Broncos to the mountaintop. He was Super Bowl MVP in the team’s first Super Bowl win, playing an integral role as well in their repeat the year after. For his efforts, Davis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) September 17, 2023
2.) Floyd Little
Until Davis stormed to the top of the list, Floyd Little was the unquestioned greatest running back in Denver Broncos history. The Hall of Famer more than earned his eventual nickname: “The Franchise.” That’s what he was during his time in the Mile High City.
Little was the franchise leader in rushing yards before Davis came along, earning five Pro Bowl invites and a First-Team All-Pro award. Twice Little led the league in rushing yards per game, leading the league in yards outright in 1971. His 43 rushing touchdowns are also second in franchise history.
Little was just the second player in franchise history to have his bust enshrined in Canton. Additionally, he was just the third Bronco to have his number retired, cementing his status as one of the very best to ever do the job.
#DENvsMIA WEEK — Dec. 7, 1969 — The Denver Broncos ultimately lost a closely contested game 24–27 to the Dolphins at the Orange Bowl. Hall of Famer Floyd Little (RIP) and George Burrell both made tremendous plays with a 67-yard screen pass TD and a 38-yard pick-six, respectively. pic.twitter.com/yHc8V1rapd
— Mile High Moments (@MileHighMoments) September 21, 2023
3.) Otis Armstrong
Armstrong brought what would be an unfortunately familiar trait to the table. His career was extremely promising during the 1970s but would ultimately be cut short due to injury. The same happened to Davis and other talented Broncos running backs.
Armstrong is a bit unsung in the history of Broncos running backs, but he is responsible for the third-best rushing season in the franchise’s history. During the 1974 season, he led the NFL with 1,407 rushing yards in just 14 games. He also led the league in yards per game, yards per carry, total yards from scrimmage, and yards per touch. He finished as the runner-up for Offensive Player of the Year while earning First-Team All-Pro honors.
— DenverBroncos QBClub (@BroncosQBClub) April 13, 2022
4.) Clinton Portis
Portis played just two seasons in Denver, which might make it seem weird that he’s here. That said, he turned in two great seasons before he was ultimately traded in a move that worked out in the long run, acquiring Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey in the process.
In two years, Portis managed to finish 8th in rushing yards, 6th in touchdowns, and the highest yards per game total (106.9) in franchise history. He rushed for more than 1,500 yards in each of his two seasons, even winning Offensive Rookie of the Year his first year. Who knows where he would have landed if he’d have played out his time in Denver.
Happy Birthday, no. 2⃣6⃣ @TheRealC_Portis! The Denver Broncos drafted Clinton Portis in the 2002 2nd round. Portis was the 2002 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. In 29 games as a Bronco, he amassed a whopping 3,099 rush. yds. and 29 rush. TDs, plus 678 yds. rec. and 2 rec. TDs! pic.twitter.com/AJUNiITymf
— Mile High Moments (@MileHighMoments) September 1, 2023
5.) Mike Anderson
Anderson is a story of perseverance and effort. He didn’t get a shot until he was 27 years old, but the “Marine” overcame pain and injury to leave his mark on the franchise. He had almost 1,500 yards as a rookie, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Unfortunately, injuries plagued his next several years. Four years later, he would top the 1,000-yard mark, setting the record for the longest time between 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He may have had brief major success, but Anderson will be remembered for his contributions for a long time.
Mike Anderson Denver Broncos 2000-2005 pic.twitter.com/b9QYnfATa9
— Matt Deanda (@MattyD_303) July 22, 2023
6.) Sammy Winder
Winder may not have had the high-end success that the others on this list had, but he was solid and had a nose for the end zone. With more than 5,000 career rushing yards, he is third in team history in that regard.
His 39 touchdowns are also third and played an important part in the success of the team in the 1980s. Winder played a key role in the three Super Bowl appearances the Broncos enjoyed throughout the decade.
— Dustin Fuller (@fullerdustin) July 16, 2023
7.) Bobby Humphrey
It looked like Humphrey was on his way to a truly memorable career. After one Pro Bowl appearance, a contract dispute would lead to major disappointment. It is a move that would haunt both sides.
The two would agree to terms after a long holdout. Humphrey unfortunately came back overweight and a shadow of his former self. After one dynamic year, he left his mark but created a greater “What if?” than perhaps any other running back in Broncos’ history.
— Old Time Football 🏈 (@Ol_TimeFootball) August 23, 2023
As you can see, there have been some serious threats to come out of the backfield in Denver. Terrell Davis had the biggest impact on the franchise for the simple fact that he was a major reason for back-to-back championships in Denver, the first two in the history of the franchise.
Who knows what major running backs could be on the horizon for the Broncos? Let’s see what the team from Colorado can do under the new owners.