A Fantasy Football Review: The 1991 All-Fantasy Team

Jason TurnerCorrespondent IApril 11, 2009

29 Sep 1991:  Running back Thurman Thomas of the Buffalo Bills runs with the ball during a game against the Chicago Bears at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.  The Bills won the game, 35-20. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart  /Allsport

When I initially came up with the idea of writing an article on each of the NFL All-Fantasy teams from 1989-2008, I didn't take into account that it was going to mean so much research. The task has been a bit more daunting than I thought it would be, but I must grind it out for all six of my readers.

As much work as it has been, going over statistical leaders from so many years ago has also been a lot of fun. Players long ago forgotten have made their way back into my memory bank.

Names such as Curtis Duncan, Gaston Greene, John L. Williams, Stephonne Paige, and Anthony Carter remind me of fantasy seasons and players long forgotten.

Looking back, I also can see how much not only the players and names have changed, but also how much this game of fantasy football has evolved as well.

Back in 1991, we didn't live in a world of instant informational gratification. Only the die-hard fantasy geeks had the focus and stamina to keep a fantasy league going. 

Back in those days, we fantasy owners watched the few games available in our given area. We stayed glued to halftime shows and live game break-ins for glimpses of our players. We changed the channel straight from the last three o'clock game to ESPN's NFL Primetime to find out how our squad performed that day.

Even then, we were not sure of a win or loss in most cases.  

We picked up a paper on Monday morning, and did the league's scores instead of paying attention in Algebra class. Our records were kept in notebooks that were the one thing we would grab if the house caught on fire. Trades and transactions were done by phone.

But even without the technology of up-to-the-second fantasy scoring, Internet sites, and the Sunday Ticket, fantasy football was entering what I consider to be its golden age back in 1991. Looking at the players and leaders from that era is to scan season stats of a who's who of NFL stars and Hall of Fame inductees.

Thurman, Barry, and Emmitt were all in their prime. The quarterbacks of that period included names like Elway, Marino, Young, Moon, Kelly, and Aikman. And Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, Art Monk, Tim Brown, Sterling Sharpe, and Cris Carter were just a few of the game's top wide receivers. 

But I'm proud to say that I am one of those early 90's fantasy football geeks. I'm proud to say that, at one time or another, all of these players spent time on my fantasy rosters. I'm proud to say that I played fantasy football back in the "good old days," when the greatest of the greats were applying their craft. 

So without further ado, here is the 1991 NFL All-Fantasy Team.


Jim Kelly (BUF), 362.3 points

The Bills' no-huddle offensive juggernaut was led by one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Jim Kelly.

Kelly had his best season, with career highs of 3,844 passing yards and 33 touchdown passes in 1991. He also added a touchdown and 45 yards rushing. He was named to his third Pro Bowl and was a first team All-Pro selection.


Honorable Mentions

Warren Moon (HOU), 344.4 points; Dan Marino (MIA), 318.0 points


Running Backs

Thurman Thomas (BUF), 337.8 points

Thurman is becoming a mainstay on these All-Fantasy teams, but this is his the first time he has been the top running back in a season. Thomas' abilities as a dual threat runner and pass catcher are what make him so valuable.

In 1991 Thurman turned in 1,407 yards rushing and 631 receiving off of 62 catches. Thurman recorded 12 total touchdowns; seven on the ground and five in the air.


Barry Sanders (DET) - 328.5 points

In 1991 Barry Sanders was in his third of ten great seasons as an NFL and fantasy running back. He rushed for more than 1,100 yards every year and was without question the most entertaining runner to watch in the game.

In this campaign, Barry had a career high 16 rushing touchdowns and ran for 1,548 yards. Sanders also added 41 pass receptions for 307 yards and another TD.


Honorable Mentions

Robert Delpino (RAMS),  245.5 points; Rodney Hampton (NYG), 237.2 points


Wide Receivers

Michael Irvin (DAL), 293.3 points

Due to various injuries, Michael Irvin only started 23 of 48 games in his first three NFL seasons. In his first healthy season though, "The Playmaker" exploded onto the NFL scene, making Irvin one of the greatest fantasy sleepers ever.

In 1991 Michael Irvin had 93 catches for 1,523 yards and eight touchdowns. This would be the second highest yardage total in a career that would see the Dallas wideout eventually find himself in Canton.


Jerry Rice (SF), 284.8 points

I'm beginning to run out of things to say about Jerry Rice. He's been on the All-Fantasy team every year so far, and I've already extolled this man's greatness to the limits of my vocabulary.

In '91, Rice had another stellar year, with 80 grabs for 1,206 yards and 12 touchdowns. He did it better, longer, and more consistently than any fantasy receiver ever, period.


Andre Reed (BUF), 265.9 points

This season marked the fourth of what would end up being seven consecutive Pro Bowl seasons for Buffalo receiver Andre Reed. Although he never had that unbelievably amazing statistical season, he had some really good ones non-the-less.

In 1991 Andre Reed made the All-Fantasy team by collecting 81 passes for 1,113 yards. Reed had a career high ten touchdowns receiving to go with 12 carries for 136 yards on the ground.


Honorable Mentions

Gary Clark (WAS), 264.0 points; Haywood Jeffries (HOU), 260.1 points


Emmitt Smith, RB (DAL), 309.1 points

In only his second season in the NFL, the running back who was too short, too small, and too slow at the NFL combine led the league in rushing.

This season would mark the beginning of an era in fantasy football where owners everywhere would do anything they could to get their hot little hands on Emmitt Smith.

In 1991 Emmitt Smith catapulted to the top of fantasy wish lists with 1,563 rushing yards, 49 snags for 258 yards receiving, and 13 total touchdowns. A perennial fantasy star was born.



Chip Lohmiller was fantasy football's elite kicker of 1991. He hit 19 field goals inside the 40 yard line, 10 between 40 and 49 yards, and added a couple beyond 50 yards away. The fact that he played for the high-scoring Redskins helped him to 56 extra points, and made Chip far and away the best fantasy kicker of the year.


1991 NFL Fantasy MVPThurman Thomas 

I went back and forth comparing the fantasy seasons of Thomas and Buffalo teammate Jim Kelly, but I had to side with Thurman. I ended up looking at it as a tie, so I sided with Thurman based on his lifetime achievement. Besides, he was becoming the Susan Lucci of this MVP race.


Other Notables

Any Redskin was a good Redskin for fantasy owners in 1991. Mark Rypien, Earnest Byner, Gerald Riggs, Gary Clark, Art Monk, Ricky Sanders, and Chip Lohmiller were all among the leaders at their position.


Stay tuned for the 1992-2008 NFL All-Fantasy teams and check my profile to catch up with every season from 1989.  


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