Football Rushing Yards

Football Rushing Yards

What are Rushing Yards in Football?

Rushing yards is a statistic in football that measures how many yards a player has gained or lost when running with the ball (without receiving a pass). These “rushing yards” numbers can be counted for individual players or for teams in single plays, full games, or full seasons. Rushing is very common in football, so rushing yards is a very useful stat for both coaches and television analysts.

Calculating Rushing Yards

Counting rushing yards is based on the ball carrier’s movement. For example, if a player advances five yards by his own movement, their rushing yards number increases by five. On the opposite side, yards are taken off a player’s rushing yards total if they go back by their own motion. However, if a player is pushed back by other players, their rushing yards total will not be reduced.

Rushing Yards by Position

Running backs are usually the players who rush the most and thus have the most rushing yards per season. Other players who carry the ball, such as quarterbacks and wide receivers, also typically have significant rushing yards numbers.

In the NFL, a good rushing yards number can be considered anything above 100 yards per game, with the best running backs recording around 1,000-2,000 rushing yards per season. For example, Jonathan Taylor of the Indianapolis Colt had the highest total rushing yards during the 2021 season with 1,811 yards.

Average Rushing Yards Per Game

Average rushing yards per game is a statistic that represents the average amount of yards gained rushing by a team or player throughout the season. To calculate the average rushing yards per game, you simply take the total number of yards in the season and divide that by the number of games played by that player or team. For example, Derrick Henry played in eight games in the 2021 season and rushed for 937 yards. If you take 937 and divide it by 8, you get 117.1, which is his average rushing yards per game.

Rushing Yards vs Passing Yards

Yardage gained or lost by receivers during a game are counted in either rushing yards or passing yards, never both in the same play. As their names suggest, rushing yards are only counted when the player in possession of the ball receives it without catching a pass. Passing yards are only counted for players who do catch a pass.

In more complicated plays, such as play action plays, the quarterback may fake that they are handing off to a receiver as a distraction before they make a pass. In that situation, the receiver who caught the pass gains or loses yardage but the player who faked the handoff is not awarded nor loses any rushing yards, for they never actually took possession of the ball.

Notable NFL Rushing Yards Leaders

  • Adrian Peterson
  • Barry Sanders
  • Curtis Martin
  • Emmitt Smith
  • Eric Dickerson
  • Frank Gore
  • Jerome Bettis
  • Jim Brown
  • LaDainian Tomlinson
  • Walter Payton


What are rushing yards in football?

Rushing yards are a measurement of how many yards a player or team has gained (or lost) as a result of rushing plays. Rushing plays are a type of play in which a player runs with the football to gain yards without passing. Rushing yards can be recorded as an individual or team statistic.

What are average rushing yards for an NFL game?

In the NFL, ball carriers have an average of 60-70 rushing yards per game. For example, lower running backs in the 2021 season had around 50 yards per game while Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants had the highest average with 118 rushing yards per game. A great running back will achieve at least 5 yards per carry while a more typical running back will average about 3-4 yards per carry.

Who has the most rushing yards in a season?

Eric Dickerson set the record for most rushing yards in a single NFL season with 2,105 for the Los Angeles Rams in 1984. Multiple players have come close to eclipsing this record, and the closest was Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings in 2012, who rushed for 2,097 yards.