Fantasy football is like an amazing cream cheese icing on top of the world's greatest cake. The NFL is entertaining enough, but fantasy offers fans, from the die-hard fanatic to the part time enthusiast, another way to further their enjoyment of the game. Whether money is involved or a league is simply about bragging rights, fantasy football is just one more reason to watch the NFL every week.
One of the amazing aspects of fantasy football is that a lineup of great regular producers on one's team can easily be out shined any week by a single player who dominates in an opponent's lineup. This list will detail the greatest single game performances, from a fantasy point of view, since 1960.
The reason for 1960 being the date used is twofold. First, there are numerous stories accounting for the first fantasy football league and each claim that fantasy football leagues started popping up in the early 60's. While many have come to believe that the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators' League was the first true fantasy football league, there are many other tales of the origins of FF, but each argues that it was started in the early 1960's. The second reason for starting in the early 60's is that statistical data from prior to the 60's is somewhat inconsistent. If there is disagreement regarding my choice of starting year, feel free to bash my life choices in the comments section.
Since everyone and their neighbor has their own method of scoring in fantasy leagues, I will use the ESPN standard scoring method. In ESPN Standard a touchdown pass is four points, a rushing or receiving score is six, as well is kick or punt return touchdown. Ten yards rushing or receiving gives a player a single point, while 25 passing yards equals a point for passers. Fumbles and interceptions each amount to a loss of two points. I have also not rounded down or up, and have used each yard as a tenth of a point to provide accuracy. If this is offensive to any readers, or there are objections to my use of ESPN Standard because it is "unfair" to quarterbacks, please attack me personally in the comments section.
Our list starts off with the three-way tie between a quarterback, a running back and a receiver at 48.7 points.
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20 T18. Priest Holmes: 2002 - 48.7 Points
Starting off the list is the Kansas City Chiefs' all-time touchdown leader. Priest Holmes lit up the Seattle Seahawks, racking up three total touchdowns, with 197 rushing yards and 110 receiving. One might think that an effort like that would win a game, but the Seahawks were able to pull off the win that day, with a great game through the air by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
19 T18. Art Powell: 1963 - 48.7 Points
Powell played for five different teams during his ten years in the league, but his best performance came in 1963 while playing for the Oakland Raiders. He started his career returning kicks and playing as a backup defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1959 but was switched to wide receiver in 1960 when he was picked up by the New York Titans. In December 1963, playing the Houston Oilers, Powell caught for 247 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
18 T18. George Blanda: 1961 - 48.7 Points
Blanda deserves a lot of credit in any article or list discussing fantasy football. While there is some speculation about the history of FF, the legend that claims the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League invented the contest, also claims that Blanda was the first pick ever.
He holds several records to this day, including being tied for most passing touchdowns in a game with seven, having played 26 seasons in the league and being the oldest player to play in a game, having done so at age 48. Brett Favre can dream all he wants, but there is no way he will step back on the field in three years.
While playing for the Houston Oilers in 1961, taking on the New York Titans, he threw seven touchdowns for 418 yards. Additionally, he kicked the point after attempts for each. His total would have been higher but he missed one field goal and threw one interception.
17 Fred Taylor: 2000 - 48.8 Points
Throughout his thirteen injury ridden years in the league, Fred Taylor was able to rack up over 11,000 rushing yards and 74 total touchdowns. His best game occurred in November 2000 when his Jacksonville Jaguars took on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Taylor ripped through Pittsburgh's defense, rushing for a total of 234 yards, with 14 receiving yards on three catches. He had three rushing touchdowns and one receiving.
16 Barry Sanders: 1991 - 49.1 Points
The number three rusher of all time had tons of memorable games throughout his ten years with the Lions. Unfortunately, he played for the Lions.
He was a Pro Bowl selection in each of those ten seasons and still holds several professional football records, including most seasons over 1,400 yards and having led the NFL in rushing four times. He is widely considered to be the third or fourth best running back of all time, depending on one's views on Jim Brown, Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith.
In November 1991, against the Minnesota Vikings, he scored four rushing touchdowns with a total of 220 yards on the ground. His 31 receiving yards added 3.1 points to his already phenomenal day.
15 Michael Vick: 2010 - 49.3 Points
Many like to argue that Michael Vick's best years happened before his incarceration. While it is easy to make such a case, his greatest single game (from a fantasy perspective) came in 2010 while playing for the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 2010 against the Redskins, Vick tossed four touchdown passes and ran for two. He threw for 333 yards on the day and rushed for another 80. For the time being, he is the starter for the Jets, but unfortunately for Jets fans, he does not look like he has the same speed and arm that he once did. With that said, he could lose a leg and still be better than Geno Smith.
14 Larry Brown: 1973 - 49.5 Points
Playing a short eight year career, Larry Brown was a tough running back who played for the Washington Redskins from 1969 to 1976. The four-time Pro Bowl selection had his best fantasy performance in 1973 while facing the Philadelphia Eagles late in the season. He rushed for 150 yards and caught for 105 yards. He hauled in three touchdown catches and scored once on the ground.
13 Mike Anderson: 2000 - 49.6 Points
If it wasn't for injuries, he might be a more renowned player, but unfortunately, the Marine-turned-running back is mostly known for two good seasons over the course of eight injury riddled NFL seasons. After being drafted in the 6th round by the Broncos out of the University of Utah, Anderson ran for 1487 yards in 2000, earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
His best game of the season saw him trample the New Orleans Saints, rushing for four touchdowns on 251 yards and five receiving yards.
12 Jerry Butler: 1979 - 50.7 Points
Butler played 7 years in the late 70's and 80's for the Buffalo Bills. In his 1979 rookie year, he earned just four touchdowns all year. Despite making catches in every game that year and going for 834 yards, 255 of those and all four touchdowns came in week four against the Jets. He added one rush for twelve yards to bring his total over the 50 point threshold. He'd make one Pro Bowl in 1980 and was a decent player for the Bills.
11 Doug Martin: 2012 - 51.2 Points
I took Doug Martin as one of my backup running backs in a fantasy pool this year. He has been almost as much of a disappointment during the 2014 campaign as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have as a team. However, back in 2012 he was a rookie Pro Bowl selection who ran for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns. He added 472 receiving yards that year.
In week 8 of the 2012 season, Martin rushed for 251 yards and caught four passes for 21 yards. He made the Oakland Raiders' defense look downright silly, totaling four touchdowns on the day. Now that we've been reminded of his fantastic rookie year, Martin's former fantasy owners (myself included) can all go back to hitting our heads against walls.
10 Jamaal Charles: 2013 - 51.5 Points
On a cheerier topic than Doug Martin's gradual downfall, Jamaal Charles is a regular producer in the NFL who has made the Pro Bowl three times and rushed for 1000+ yards four times throughout his seven years in the league. While 2011 saw Charles sidelined due to an ACL tear, he bounced back, being selected to the Pro Bowl in both 2012 and 2013.
Last season, in week 15, he rushed eight times for just 20 yards and a single touchdown. Fortunately he can catch, which he did to the tune of 195 yards and four touchdowns. The Chiefs' opponent that day? None other than the Oakland Raiders.
9 9. Corey Dillon: 1997 - 51.6 Points
Number seventeen in all-time rushing yards, Corey Dillon played ten years in the NFL, first for the Cincinnati Bengals and then with the New England Patriots. The four-time Pro Bowler won a Super Bowl with the Patriots, but arguably his best single game performance occurred in his rookie year with the Bengals.
In week 14 of the 1997 season, the Bengals took on the Tennessee Titans, with whom they wiped the floor, 41-14. Dillon himself rushed for 246 yards, while catching for 30 more yards. He ran for four touchdowns on the day.
8 Jerry Rice: 1990 - 52.5 Points
A football list isn't much of a list without mentioning Jerry Rice. Widely considered to be the greatest of all time, he leads all NFL wide receivers in receptions, touchdowns and yards. The 13 time Pro Bowl selection and three time Super Bowl winner caught five touchdowns with 225 yards in week five of the 1990 season, during the 49ers' offensive battle against the Atlanta Falcons. The Niners won that game 45-35, thanks to Rice's outburst.
7 Jim Brown: 1961 - 52.9 Points
Jim Brown is widely considered to be one of the greatest running backs of all time. He played for the Cleveland Browns between 1957 and 1965, achieving over 12,000 rushing yards, 106 touchdowns and 20 receiving touchdowns.
He was technically a fullback, but played the position in a far different league with a different offensive dynamic than exists in today's game. Possibly his best game was played back in 1961 when the Browns faced Philadelphia in a late November game. He ran for 237 yards and caught for 52 yards in a winning effort. He earned four touchdowns that afternoon, bringing his total to 52.9 points.
6 Shaun Alexander: 2002 - 53.1 Points
Shaun Alexander had an impressive career for the Seattle Seahawks in the early to mid-2000's. After his rookie year in 2000, he had several increasingly impressive seasons culminating in 2005, where he rushed for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns, setting a new rushing touchdown record that would be beaten just a year later by LaDainian Tomlinson.
Alexander's 2002 performance against the Minnesota Vikings was the best of his career from a fantasy point of view. He rushed for 139 yards and four touchdowns and caught three passes for 92 yards and a single score.
5 Abner Haynes: 1961 - 54.2 Points
Playing in the AFL from 1960 until 1967, Haynes competed for the Dallas Texans and then for the Kansas City Chiefs after the team moved from 1960 until 1964. Fro 1965 to 1967 he played for the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and finally the New York Jets.
To this day, he is still known as one of the most dynamic runners in the history of the league. Not only was he a gifted runner, but he also possessed capable hands and was able to contribute returning kicks and punts in addition to at the line of scrimmage.
In 1961 against (again) the Oakland Raiders, he managed to rush for 158 yards and got 84 yards through the air. He ran for four touchdowns and caught one.
4 Cookie Gilchrist: 1963 - 54.3 Points
Until 1961, Cookie Gilchrist played in the CFL, but after one Grey Cup win and several years in that league, he was brought into the AFL to play for the Buffalo Bills. Late into his second year with the Bills, the fullback hammered through the New York Jets' defense for a total of 243 rushing yards. His five rushing touchdowns on the day won the game for the Bills.
He is a member of the AFL All-time team and was the first AFL player to ever rush for 1000 yards in a season.
3 Clinton Portis: 2003 - 55.4 Points
After being drafted in the second round of the 2002 draft out of Miami by the Denver Broncos, Portis achieved 1,500 yards in each of his first two seasons in the league. In the 2003 season, Portis' week 14 performance against the Kansas City Chiefs earned him number three on our list.
He is the youngest player in NFL history to score five touchdowns in a game, which he did on December 7th, 2003. He tore through the Chiefs' defense for 218 yards on the ground and 36 yards through the air. Each of his touchdowns came on rushes.
2 Gale Sayers: 1965 - 56.2 Points
The Kansas Comet, Gale Sayers was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame back in 1977 after a seven year career playing for the Chicago Bears. He was a versatile running back whose hands were roughly as useful as his feet and could also return punts and kicks.
In 1965, his rookie season, Sayers and the Bears ruthlessly violated the San Francisco 49ers in week 13, by a score of 61-20. In this game, Sayers scored six total touchdowns. Four were rushing attempts, while he also caught one and returned a punt for a score.
1 Billy Cannon: 1961 - 63 Points
Cannon played 11 years in the AFL/NFL, playing running back in his first few years and tight end for much of his later career. Known for his amazing balance of strength and speed, he was selected first overall in the 1960 draft. His first four seasons were spent with the Houston Oilers, while the remainder of his career was spent in Oakland.
The most impressive single game fantasy score in pro football since 1960, occurred in week 13 of 1961. Cannon and the Oilers were facing the New York Titans. Cannon's versatility was central to the 48-21 win, as he was able to rush for three touchdowns and catch two passes to score. His yardages totaled 216 on the ground and 114 through the air.
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