The seasons when players put up so many points it didn't seem real
This week, NFL Network released the documentary “Peyton Manning’s Summer School,” showing Manning’s preparation before his record-breaking 2013 campaign with the Denver Broncos. That was a special year for Manning, the Denver Broncos (once they got over the Divisional Round game against the Ravens in January) and Peyton Manning’s fantasy football owners. The documentary got me feeling nostalgic about the Broncos QB’s torrential downpour of passing touchdowns and 300-plus yard games in the greatest fantasy football season ever by a quarterback. Over the course of NFL history, which players (in which season) would form the Super Fantasy Team alongside Peyton? Let’s take a look. (Your league’s format may vary; the players included here should be at or near the top according to any scoring system).
Denver Post via Getty ImagesJohn Leyba
Quarterback: Peyton Manning (2013)
Manning’s competition for this spot was Tom Brady’s post-Spygate, run-the-score-up season when the Patriots’ weekly point spreads grew from two scores into the 20s (Brady threw for 4,806 yards, 50 touchdowns and 8 interceptions). Also Dan Marino’s sophomore season in 1984 is only slightly less mind-blowing (5,084 yards, 48 touchdowns, 17 interceptions) and perhaps more impressive considering the era he played in was less friendly to offenses. But the top honor goes to Manning who went full Pinball Wizard with 5,477 yards (averaging 342.3 weekly) with 55 touchdown passes against only 10 interceptions (also 5 fumbles lost) plus a rushing touchdown to boot. Awarding four points per passing TD and one for every 20 yards in the air, that’s 484.8 points or 30.3 per game. If you managed to miss the playoffs in your league in 2013 with Manning, you were either drunk or a child.
Getty ImagesScott Halleran
Running back: LaDainian Tomlinson (2006)
As a LaDainian Tomlinson owner in 2006, I renamed my fantasy team to “LaDainian Tomlinson.” There were other players on the team but it only took C+ or B- efforts from the supporting cast to earn a win. In Tomlinson’s great Pointsplosion of 2006, the 27-year-old amassed 1,815 rushing yards, 28 rushing touchdowns, 56 receptions and 508 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. And adding insult to an already obscene amount of points, he converted two halfback passes for touchdowns. Based on a format awarding 6 points per rushing and receiving touchdown, 0.5 points per reception and a point per 10 yards, Tomlinson scored about 446 points or 27.89 per week.
Getty ImagesRobert B. Stanton
Running Back: Marshall Faulk (2000)
One of the NFL’s greatest do-everything running backs (including pass blocking), Faulk enjoyed three statistical seasons during St. Louis’ Greatest Show on Turf era in which his rushing and receiving totals -- separately -- would have ranked him among the league leaders. Combined, the Hall of Famer was a one-man fantasy wrecking crew. In 1999, Faulk tallied 2,429 yards from scrimmage but the subsequent season he found paydirt twice as often. Faulk’s 2000 totals: 1,359 rushing yards, 18 rushing touchdowns, 81 receptions, 830 receiving yards and 8 receiving scores. That’s 415 fantasy points or 25.9 per week.
AFP/Getty ImagesJEFF HAYNES
Wide receiver: Jerry Rice (1995)
Montana to Rice was absolutely dominant but Rice reached the height of his fantasy football powers in 1995 when a combination of Steve Young and Elvis Grbac (five games started) fed 176 passes to Rice, who caught 122 of them for 1,848 yards and 15 touchdowns. The yardage total is now the third highest (Calvin Johnson caught 1,964 in 2012 and Julio Jones 1,871 in 2015), but combined with those scores, no one can touch Rice -- who managed at least 100-plus yards or one touchdown (usually both) in all but one week that season. He also rushed for 36 yards and one score. The haul translates to 345 points or 21.5 per game.
Wide receiver: Randy Moss (2007)
Thanks to Tom Terrific, Moss broke Rice’s single-season receiving touchdown record in 2007 with 23 scores (Rice caught 22 in 12 games in the strike-shortened 1987 season). Together with his 1,493 yards and 98 catches, Moss totaled 336 points or 21 per game. It’s close, but that dominant season eclipses Moss’ 2003 campaign in Minnesota, when he reeled in 111 catches for 1,632 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Sporting News via Getty ImagesBob Leverone / Sporting News
Wide receiver: Isaac Bruce (1995)
Back to 1995, when Jerome Bettis was a Ram and the team made its debut in St. Louis, “The Reverend” Isaac Bruce had a sophomore season for the ages. With Chris Miller and Mark Rypien under center in a West Coast-style attack, the 23-year-old Bruce caught 119 balls for 1,781 yards and 13 touchdowns for 316 total points and 19.75 per game. Not quite what Rice managed that same season, but close.
Getty ImagesRick Stewart
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Flex: Priest Holmes (2003)
Holmes went from undrafted free agent in 1997 to a 1,000-plus yard campaign in 1998 to Jamal Lewis’ backup for the Super Bowl champion Ravens in 2000. In the next phase of his career from ages 28 to 30, when most mortal running backs show signs of descent, he became a fantasy football legend in Kansas City, amassing 1,555 rushing yards and 8 scores in 2001, plus 62 receptions for 614 yards. Holmes became a top fantasy pick in most leagues in 2002-2003 and the lottery winners got handsomely rewarded. He averaged 115.4 rushing yards per game in 2002 but missed the final two games (fantasy playoffs), so the edge here goes to his equally monstrous 2003 campaign in which he rushed for 1,420 yards with 27 touchdowns and caught 74 passes for 690 yards, amounting to 410 points or 25.6 per game. And then Larry Johnson took over.
Getty ImagesRonald Martinez
Tight end: Rob Gronkowski (2011)
Tony Gonzalez wins for longevity and consistency, but Gronk, still only 26 years old, broke the single-season records for tight end receiving yards (1,327) and touchdowns (17) in 2011. Toss in his 90 catches for a total of 279.7 points, or 17.5 per game, which is mammoth production from a tight end. (Despite what Yahoo! fantasy allowed in 2006-2007, Marques Colston was not a tight end.)
Boston Globe via Getty ImagesBoston Globe
Defense/Special teams: Chicago Bears (1985)
In this case, the numbers match the notoriety. The Bears pitched two shutouts in ‘85 (plus two more in the playoffs), held opponents to 7 points or fewer in 6 games (and 10 or fewer in 11 games). Chicago intercepted 34 passes and forced 24 fumbles, for a total of 58 turnovers. Throw in 64 sacks (led by Richard Dent’s 17), two kick-return touchdowns and three safeties, and you’ve got about a bazillion points. Da Bears, Da Bears, Da Bears!
Getty ImagesJonathan Daniel
Kicker: David Akers (2011)
The lowly kicker: one of the last guys you should draft (otherwise you’re doing it wrong) but indeed he does matter and can put up some large scores. In 2011, Akers registered an incredible 166 points, thanks largely to 44 field goals made on 52 attempts (7 from 50-plus yards), plus a perfect 34-34 on extra points (the 19-yard variety). On the all-time list for points scored in a season, Akers’ 166 ranks behind only Tomlinson in 2006 (186), Paul Hornung in 1960 (176) and Shaun Alexander in 2005 (168). Without crediting for bonus points for 50-plus yarders, the 166 translates to a plentiful 10.4 per game. Not bad for a kicker.