5. Edgerrin James
Well, there haven’t exactly been very many good running backs in Arizona over the past decade and a half, so somewhat by default – Edge James has to be considered the best RB of this century for this franchise. Clearly, Edgerrin James had his best years in Indianapolis where he established himself as one of the great running backs of his time. So he had pretty lofty expectations in Arizona where he spent three seasons.
In those 3 years in Cardinal red and white, Edge rushed for 2,895 yards on 794 attempts (3.6 YPC) and made 16 touchdowns as well. In the passing game, James caught 74 passes for 506 receiving yards, though he wasn’t able to catch a pass for a touchdown during his time in Arizona. Overall, these numbers aren’t great but the Cardinals haven’t had the absolute greatest running backs over the course of their franchise so you gotta give Edge the nod here.
4. Stump Mitchell
Stump Mitchell was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth round (226th pick overall) of the 1981 NFL Draft. A 5’9″, 188 pounds. running back from The Citadel, Mitchell played for the Cardinals from 1981–1989 and ended his NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1990, he made a brief comeback with the Arena Football League in 1993. His best year as a pro was during the 1985 season when he rushed for 1,006 yards and seven touchdowns; he holds the Cardinals franchise record for all-purpose yards with 11,998. Add in 32 touchdowns overall and you have your fourth best running back in team history.
3. John David Crow
The 1957 Heisman winner became the 2nd overall pick for the Cardinals in 1958. John David Crow proved to be worth the pick as he went on to be a 3-time Pro Bowler during his stint with the franchise while rushing for 3,489 yards and 33 touchdowns. He’s currently 6th in team history in rushing yardage and 3rd in rushing touchdowns. Crow was also named to the 1960’s NFL all-decade team. Oh yeah, and fun fact: he completed more passes than any other non-quarterback in history, with 33 completions, including five touchdowns. The third best RB to ever do it for the Cardinals football franchise, no doubt in my mind.
2. Charley Trippi
Hershel Walker wasn’t the first great running back to come out of University of Georgia. During Charley Trippi’s stint with the Cardinals, he rushed for 3,506 yards and 23 touchdowns, which rank 5th and 12th respectively in team history. The reason he is ahead of Crow is because of his postseason success and prodution. Trippi helped lead the Cardinals to their 2nd NFL Championship in 1947, his first year there. No, the team hasn’t won one since. Charley was so good he made the Pro Bowl as a running back in 1953, the year after he made it as a quarterback in 1952. Apparently he got tired of being great at offense because he ended up finishing his career on the defensive side of the ball. Yes, if you’re wondering he was named to the NFL 1940’s all decade team. Crazy!
1. Ottis Anderson
Ottis Anderson has to be considered the greatest running back in Cardinals history. He’s by far the team career leader in rushing yards, rushing attempts, touchdowns, and average yards per game. Rushing for almost 8,000 yards and 46 touchdowns was more than enough to mark his name down in Cardinals lore forever. He started his career off with a bang winning NFL offensive rookie of the year as well as becoming an All-Pro in his first season.
He rushed for over 1,000 yards in 5 of his first 6 seasons. Only a lockout stopped him from going 6 for 6. Eventually injuries took hold and allowed Stump Mitchell to come in and replace him as the top back on the team but Anderson couldn’t have given the team anymore than he did. Some people may see him as a Giant thanks to his two Super Bowl victories there but I’m sure Cardinal fans will always claim him as one of their own.