The 10 Best Fantasy Football Seasons in NFL History

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2020

The 10 Best Fantasy Football Seasons in NFL History

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    LaDainian Tomlinson
    LaDainian TomlinsonPeter Brouillet/Getty Images

    Fantasy football is a challenging game, but a historic season from a single player can carry a team to a championship.

    Although NFL teams are scoring at the highest collective level in league history, most of the best individual fantasy seasons happened in the early 2000s. Three running backs each recorded two of the 10 highest-scoring years ever.

    One important qualifier is that the data is based on fantasy leagues with a points-per-reception (PPR) format. While that makes running backs the most valuable players, a couple of quarterbacks still made the cut with a Hall of Fame wide receiver just on the outside.

    The list includes all seasons since 1970, when the AFL and NFL officially merged into one league. All data is from Pro Football Reference.

Honorable Mentions

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    Chris Keane/Associated Press

    25. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants: 385.8 points (2018)

    24. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: 386.9 points (2014)

    23. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: 388.2 points (2015)

    22. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers: 389.1 points (2015)

    21. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: 390 points (2007)

    20. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans: 392 points (2010)

    19. Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans: 392.9 points (2009)

    18. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints: 393.6 points (2011)

    17. Edgerrin James, RB, Indianapolis Colts: 395.3 points (2000)

    16. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers: 397.4 points (2011)

    15. Marshall Faulk, RB, St. Louis Rams: 399.9 points (1999)

    14. David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals: 407.8 points (2016)

    13. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos: 412 points (2013)

    12. Jerry Rice, WR, San Francisco 49ers: 414 points (1995)

    11. Emmitt Smith, RB, Dallas Cowboys: 414.8 points (1995)

10. Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams (2006)

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Points: 415.4

    Though the St. Louis Rams mustered an 8-8 record in 2006, Steven Jackson piled up a league-best 2,334 yards from scrimmage and totaled 16 touchdowns.

    Most impressively, he pulled in 90 receptions. At that point, only four other running backs had ever reached 90.

    Jackson finished the year with 1,528 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, earning his first of three career Pro Bowl trips.

9. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens (2019)

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Points: 415.7

    Critics are quick to point out Lamar Jackson's poor playoff showings, but the MVP-winning quarterback showed in the 2019 regular season just how dangerous he can be.

    Jackson threw for 3,127 yards and an NFL-high 36 touchdowns while scampering for 1,206 yards and seven more scores. He set the league record for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in a season, passing Michael Vick's total of 1,039 yards in 2006.

    Had the Baltimore Ravens not already clinched home-field advantage for the postseason and rested Jackson in Week 17, he surely would've eclipsed the only quarterback above him on the list.

8. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs (2018)

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    Colin E. Braley/Associated Press

    Points: 417.1

    In his first season as a starter, Patrick Mahomes became the most prolific quarterback in fantasy football history. Oh, and he also took home league MVP honors.

    Not a horrible debut!

    Mahomes joined Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the only players to throw 50-plus touchdowns in a season. Along with his 5,097 yards through the air, he added 272 yards and two scores as a runner. That rushing output helped him surpass Manning's previous mark for fantasy points (412) by a quarterback, which was set in 2013.

7. Marshall Faulk, RB, St. Louis Rams (2001)

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    Focus On Sport/Getty Images

    Points: 419.7

    As the St. Louis Rams showcased The Greatest Show on Turf, the offense featured a future Hall of Famer in Marshall Faulk.

    Two years earlier, the versatile Faulk had joined Roger Craig as the only running backs to ever collect 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. In 2001, he totaled 2,147 scrimmage yards and 21 touchdowns for the eventual NFC champions.

    Faulk actually enjoyed a more productive year between 1999 and 2001, but more on that shortly.

6. Priest Holmes, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (2002)

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Points: 440.7

    Although his NFL peak lasted only a few seasons, Priest Holmes had an absolutely incredible three-year run from 2001-03.

    After posting a league-high 2,169 scrimmage yards in 2001, he inched up to 2,287 the next season. More noticeably, however, Holmes soared from 10 total touchdowns in 2001 to 24 in 2002. He paced the NFL with 21 rushing scores and caught 70 passes for 672 yards.

    Holmes earned AP Offensive Player of the Year honors, but as you'll see momentarily, he wasn't finished quite yet.

5. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers (2003)

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    MATT YORK/Associated Press

    Points: 443.8

    LaDainian Tomlinson tallied eight consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons to begin his career, but he achieved an even rarer feat in 2003. In addition to his four-digit rushing yards, LT also had 100 receptionsonly the second running back to ever hit that benchmark.

    Did it help that the San Diego Chargers went 4-12 and needed to throw a lot? Sure. Fantasy owners aren't worried about team wins, though.

    Tomlinson ended the campaign with 1,645 rushing yards, 725 receiving yards and 17 total touchdowns.

4. Priest Holmes, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (2003)

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Points: 445

    Following his outstanding 2002 season, Holmes secured his third straight All-Pro honor and 2,000-yard output from scrimmage.

    He powered his way to 1,420 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns, adding 74 catches for another 690 yards through the air. Though he didn't record a single receiving score, Holmes' 27 total touchdowns still passed Faulk's 26 from 2000 as the most in a single season.

    Unfortunately for Holmes, knee and spine injuries in 2004 and 2005 ended up cutting short a thriving career. Nevertheless, he remains a fantasy football legend.

3. Marshall Faulk, RB, St. Louis Rams (2000)

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    DAN LEVINE/Getty Images

    Points: 459.9

    Sandwiched between Super Bowl appearances in 1999 and 2001, the Rams put together a 10-6 season with an early playoff exit.

    Faulk, though, shattered the fantasy scoring record.

    Heading into the 2000 campaign, Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith held the PPR record at 414.8 points in 1995. Faulk racked up 459.9 points as he collected 2,189 yards from scrimmage, made 81 receptions and scored 26 touchdowns.

2. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers (2019)

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    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    Points: 471.2

    While the Carolina Panthers navigated a season played largely without Cam Newton, the game plan was simple: Get the ball to Christian McCaffrey.

    The Stanford product joined Craig and Faulk as the only running backs with 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in a single season. He scampered for 1,387 yards and caught a position-record 116 passes for 1,005 yards, totaling a league-high 19 touchdowns.

    During the ensuing offseason, the Panthers rewarded McCaffrey with a four-year, $64 million contract extension. Good thing he doesn't cost anywhere close to that in fantasy auction drafts.

1. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers (2006)

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    Denis Poroy/Associated Press

    Points: 481.1

    In the previous season, Seattle Seahawks star running back Shaun Alexander clipped Holmes' record with 28 total touchdowns. Tomlinson leaped past Alexander and just kept going.

    While the Chargers soared to a 14-2 record, Tomlinson led the league with 1,815 yards and 28 scores on the ground. He chipped in 56 receptions for 508 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first player to hit 30 total scores and ending with 31.

    Taking home MVP and Offensive Player of the Year trophies must've been nice, but the future Hall of Famer enshrined himself in fantasy history with the greatest individual year of all time.

    We know our priorities.