Ranking the Most Successful Fathers of Active NFL Players

Several NFL players, including some of the league’s best, spent the end of the 2010s and the beginning of the 2020s following in their fathers’ footsteps.

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow are among the active second-generation NFL players. Their fathers played in the league before them and are now watching them each week in the fall.

But of the various second-generation players, who can claim their father was the best? We used two major aspects as criteria. First, all of the players we considered active were on 90-man rosters on June 12, 2021.

Because lists like these are subjective, we ranked the fathers using Pro-Football-Reference’s Approximate Value statistic. Much like Wins Above Replacement in baseball, the AV method is designed to figure out how valuable a player was in a given season.

With those criteria in mind, the most successful fathers of former NFL players rank as follows:

6. Ed McCaffrey, wide receiver/Patrick Surtain, defensive back (81 AV)

The father of Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, Ed might be a surprising pick here. The longtime Broncos receiver totaled 81 AV in his career, narrowly beating out Antoine Winfield Sr., who retired after the 2012 season with 78 AV.

In 13 NFL seasons, McCaffrey hauled in 565 catches for 7,422 yards and 55 touchdowns. The three-time Super Bowl champion added 42 catches, 554 yards, and two touchdowns in 14 career playoff games.

Patrick Surtain Sr. terrorized AFC offenses for 11 seasons, and the Denver Broncos would love to see his son, Patrick Jr., do the same. The elder Surtain intercepted 37 passes and forced eight fumbles in 163 career games.

Surtain earned Pro Bowl honors every year from 2002-04 when he played for the Miami Dolphins.

5. Asante Samuel, cornerback (88 AV)

Los Angeles Chargers fans can only hope that Asante Samuel Jr. has the type of career his father had. The elder Samuel intercepted 51 passes and returned six for touchdowns in 11 NFL seasons.

A four-time Pro Bowl selection, Samuel added seven interceptions in 21 career playoff games. He brought back four of those turnovers for touchdowns.

4. Jon Runyan, offensive lineman (106 AV)

A fourth-round pick of the then-Houston Oilers in 1996, Jon Runyan Sr. is best known for the nine years he spent with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2000 through 2008. Although he only earned Pro Bowl honors after the 2002 season, the massive right tackle never missed a start with the Eagles.

The Green Bay Packers used a sixth-round pick on his son, Jon Jr., in 2020. In 16 games as a rookie, the younger Runyan played 241 total snaps across offense and special teams.

3. Howie Long, defensive end (118 AV)

Before he became a mainstay on Fox’s NFL coverage, Long was among the NFL’s premier pass-rushers. The eight-time Pro Bowl selection officially recorded 84 sacks in 13 career seasons and another four in 12 postseason games. He retired with a Super Bowl ring and entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

Long has had two sons, Chris and Kyle, play in the NFL. Chris recorded 70 sacks in 11 seasons and won two Super Bowl rings. Kyle, a three-time Pro Bowl selection with the Chicago Bears, sat out the 2020 season but will open the 2021 season with the Kansas City Chiefs.

2. Jackie Slater, offensive tackle (129 AV)

Jackie Slater is also in the Hall of Fame, and he owns a bronze bust for a reason. The seven-time Pro Bowl selection spent 20 years for the Rams and later had his No. 78 retired.

He earned second-team All-Pro honors four times and, using approximate value, is the fourth-best player in Rams history. His son, Matthew, is a longtime special teams ace for the New England Patriots.

1. Randy Moss, wide receiver (161 AV)

You knew this was coming. Moss is among the greatest receivers in NFL history and, depending on where you personally stand, might only trail Jerry Rice in that department. The four-time first-team All-Pro selection hauled in 982 catches for 15,292 yards and 156 touchdowns. He added 54 catches, 977 yards, and 10 touchdowns in 15 career playoff games.

His son, Thaddeus, was a tight end on the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster at publication. The younger Moss went undrafted in 2020 and spent the season on the Washington Football Team’s injured reserve list.

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