Kick returns, deep passes, incredible rushing plays. We don’t really care how they did it; what we’ve got here are the 10 most electric players in NFL history. These guys aren’t just fast; they’re the fastest. They aren’t just exciting; they’re the most exciting players in the history of the game. With the ball in their hands, the end zone is always the limit. We’ve got quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and even cornerbacks. Of course, we couldn’t include all of the great players the NFL has seen over the years, and we’ve only chosen ones here who make you hold your breath whenever they hold the ball, but buckle up, because these guys are taking you for a ride.
10. Michael Vick
Yeah, we know there’s a lot of controversy that’s followed Mike Vick over the years. Arrested for dog fighting during his prime years in Atlanta (and after signing an $100 million dollar contract extension, some of which he was forced to pay back), Vick spent two years in prison before returning to the NFL, never regaining his pre-conviction form. That pre-conviction form was absolutely spectacular though, and for the first six years of his career, Vick was an incredibly dynamic on the field performer who ushered in a new era of mobile quarterback in the NFL, a type of player capable of making highlight reel plays from behind center. While he never fully realized his potential as a passer in the NFL, and his career will forever be marred by the truly reprehensible acts he committed, Vick remains one of the most unique and intriguing players the NFL has ever seen.
9. Eric Dickerson
Eric Dickerson, who still holds the NFL record for rushing yards in a season (2,105 yards, a record which has stood since his historic season in 1984), was an absolute monster in the NFL. A large man (6’3″, 220 pounds) with incredible acceleration, Dickerson gave new meaning to the words “running angry.” An athletic precursor to Adrian Peterson, Dickerson played for the Los Angeles Rams (prior to their move to St. Louis) for the majority of his career, but also logged seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, the Los Angeles Raiders (prior to their move to Oakland) and the Atlanta Falcons. A six-time Pro Bowler and a five-time All-Pro, Dickerson is remembered as one of the most dominant and overbearing running backs in the history of the game, and certainly a necessary addition to this list.
8. Deion Sanders
If logic follows, you can’t earn a nickname like “Primetime” without doing some extraordinary things; a list like this wouldn’t be complete without former cornerback Deion Sanders, affectionately known by most as the aforementioned “Primetime.” The man with the distinction of being the only defensive player on this list, Deion Sanders was drafted fifth overall in 1989, and went on to play for the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens in his 16 year career. A wildly charismatic man whose off-field antics were exceeded only by his stellar play on the field, Sanders maintains a reputation as arguably the greatest defensive back in the history of the league, and also one of the most dangerous kick returners of all time. An athlete so incredible he actually managed to play baseball in the major leagues as well (although not to much success), Sanders is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining and exciting players in the history of the league.
7. Devin Hester
Speaking of electric kick returners, Devin Hester is absolutely the greatest in the history of the NFL. Hester, who holds the NFL records for punts returned for touchdowns and combined kicks (kickoffs and punts) returned for touchdowns, was drafted in the second round (57th overall) out of Miami as a cornerback, although he never took to the position and eventually transitioned to the offensive side of the ball. A human highlight reel with spectacular open field vision, Hester has failed to make the same impact on offense as he has on special teams; his receiving numbers are mediocre, despite several conscious efforts to feature him. Still, Hester remains the greatest returner in the history of the league, one whose efforts are not likely to be repeated with return specialists being phased out in favor of more offensively inclined talent. Hester has played with both the Bears and the Falcons during his time in the NFL.
6. Marshall Faulk
Every so often, a player comes along and redefines the potential of a position on the football field; Marshall Faulk, the former running back for the Indianapolis Colts and the St. Louis Rams, was one of those players. While catching passes has always been part of a RB’s job, it was never supposed to be the thing they were best at. Marshall Faulk, who is the only player in NFL history to amass 10,000 rushing yards and 6,000 receiving yards, was an exceptional receiver, often making play after play in the receiving game (including plays deep down the field, a revelation at the position). Since Faulk’s dominant seasons in the “Greatest Show on Turf,” receiving ability has become an extremely important part of an NFL back’s game; now, more than ever, running backs are asked to participate in making plays outside the backfield. This is due in no small part to the success of Marshall Faulk, whose incredible highlight reels also include a staggering number of dominant runs as well.
5. Walter Payton
Walter Payton, one of the most prolific running backs in the history of the NFL, is the former record holder for most rushing yards and most overall yards in a career. The man better known as “Sweetness,” Payton earned his nickname due to his super smooth moves on the field; he had a full complement of jukes, spins, and stiff arms, ready to be deployed at any moment. Also a noted iron man (he missed only one game in thirteen seasons for the Chicago Bears), Payton was inducted into the Pro Hall of Fame in 1993. Payton died an untimely death at the age of 45 due to a rare liver disease; his legacy is defined by his ability to make people miss, and for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, which is given to a player in the NFL who contributes heavily to both charity and their community.
4. Jim Brown
There’s a lot of adjectives used to describe Jim Brown and his dominant play for the Cleveland Browns in the 1950s and 1960s. A man who led the NFL in rushing a record eight times, Brown made a career out of physically imposing himself on the opposing defense; there are few players in the history of the game (perhaps even none) who can lay claim to the same combination of size, speed and power of Jim Brown, and even fewer who can claim they made the most of that potential. Brown, who was named by Sporting News as the greatest professional football player ever, retired after only nine seasons, at which point he already held the NFL’s career rushing record (he’s since been passed on that list by numerous individuals, currently ranking ninth overall in career rushing yards). A bad, bad man, Brown retains a legacy as one of the angriest, most determined and most electric runners in the history of football.
3. Bo Jackson
Bo Jackson might be the most athletic man to ever step foot on an NFL football field. A legendary workout warrior, Jackson was drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1986, after winning the Heisman trophy in his final college season. While Jackson would never play a game for the lowly Bucs (he famously chose to play professional baseball instead), he would be re-drafted in the seventh round of the 1987 draft by the Los Angeles Raiders, the team he would spend the majority of his pro career with. While Jackson never fully realized his potential on the football field, as he very rarely played entire seasons (choosing instead to divide his time between the NFL and MLB), he remains one of the most electric players to ever take handoffs in the NFL; at 6’1″ and 230 pounds, Jackson ran a reputed 4.19 forty yard dash (the fastest ever recorded by an NFL player), and his speed is evident in most every highlight reel ever assembled that includes him.
2. Randy Moss
If there is one man in the history of the NFL who could run down Bo Jackson, it might just be Randy Moss, the former wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots. Drafted out of Marshall in the first round in 1998, Moss quickly became one of the NFL’s premier receivers, with an emphasis placed on the incredibly acrobatic catches he’d often make. A true burner who could run past most defensive backs at half-speed, Moss became legendary for his ability to torch most anyone who would line up to cover him, so long as Randy felt like trying that day (effort issues were reputed to plague him throughout his career). The holder of innumerable NFL receiving records (if he doesn’t have it, Jerry Rice does…they’re #1 and #2 at the position all time), Randy Moss is a notable addition to this list for all the reasons mentioned above and more.
1. Barry Sanders
There really couldn’t be anyone else atop this list, as Barry Sanders is the man who gave new meaning to the word “game breaker.” Make some popcorn, go to YouTube and click on any Barry Sanders highlight reel; we guarantee you’ll come away astounded by some of the things this man was able to do on the football field. There’s nobody that could make people miss like Barry, and there sure as hell hasn’t been anyone who could make something out of nothing like Barry Sanders could. Think you’ve got him for a four yard loss? Spoiler alert, he’s taking that for a touchdown, and you and your teammates are sitting around scratching your heads wondering just how this legendary running back (who retired from the NFL at age 29, severely stunting his career statistics) materialized in the end zone. The ultimate in electric players, Sanders earned his spot on this list by making incredible runs look easy.