Emmitt Smith says one RB has a chance to break his rushing record

Emmitt Smith had more than 300 carries seven times in his Hall of Fame career. (USATSI)
Emmitt Smith had more than 300 carries seven times in his Hall of Fame career. (Getty Images)

Adrian Peterson just finished his ninth NFL season and he is currently 17th on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 11,675 yards. That's still 6,680 yards behind Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith.

But Smith, who won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys and retired after the 2004 season, says Peterson has the best chance of breaking his record -- though the odds remain long.

"If he doesn't get it, I don't know who's going to get it," Smith told ESPN.com. "He's still got a lot of yards to go. I'm not going to lie to you."

As it stands, Steven Jackson, who played with the Patriots late in the 2015 season, is 18th on the list with 11,438 rushing yards. At 32, it's unlikely he'll play in 2016. The next active running back is Chris Johnson at No. 33 (9,442), followed by Matt Forte at No. 38 (8,602). Then there's DeAngelo Williams (No. 52, 7,753 yards), and it's not until LeSean McCoy at No. 54 (7,687) that we find a back under 30 years old.

So yeah, Smith's right. If Peterson doesn't catch fire over the next four or five seasons, it's hard to fathom who would be next in line to challenge the record.

Not helping Peterson's chances: The NFL continues to morph into a passing league. Last season, Peterson was the only running back to carry the ball at least 300 times. Smith did it seven times during his 15-year career.

"It's a reflection of the changing times in terms of how they value the running back position and how the game has changed into a running back-by-committee approach," Smith said. "It could be because of the CTE stuff, it could be because of how offenses use spread formations vs. the I-formation and it could be the way they rotate players in and out. ...

"It's somewhat sad," he continued, "because I know as a running back it's hard to get that continuity and get in the flow of the game when you're getting 15 carries a game. I didn't even get rolling until I got 15 carries a game."

Last June, Peterson said he was gunning for Eric Dickerson's single-season mark of 2,105 with plans to exceed it by a wide margin. Instead, Peterson finished with 1,485 yards, a total that led the NFL.

But even if Peterson replicates that output for the next four seasons, he'll still be 740 yards short of tying Smith's record. Which, if nothing else, reiterates how much the game has changed over the past two decades.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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