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JUMbotron: All-Time Best Fantasy Performances
John U. Miller
August 18, 2010
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I compiled the 25 best single-game fantasy football performances over the last 15 years.  I chose 1995 because that’s really when FF first started to get a foothold. Computers! The internet took shape with WebCrawler, the first search engine. We old-schoolers put down the USA Today paper and bought a Pentium Pro (or our parents bought it).

This list is awesome. I know you remember many of these – and hopefully you started them that day too. Clinton Portis holds the all-time fantasy mark with 55 points on December 7th, 2003: 218 rushing yards, 36 receiving yards, 5 TDs against the Chiefs. On that day he stole the spotlight from the current fantasy alpha dog, Priest Holmes. The very next day Portis celebrated by purchasing not one but two Mercedes. You know, if this list doesn’t get you in the fantasy mood then nothing will. I’ve also shared some great memories of these juggernauts below…

Fantasy Points are rounded up:
   4 pts per pass TD
   6 pts per rush/rec TD
   1 pt per 20 yds passing
   1 pt per 10 yds rush/rec
   No penalty for fumble/INT
   * JUMbo commentary below

JUMbotron: 25 Best Single-Game Fantasy Performances Since 1995

Rnk Pos Year  Player Pass Yd Rush Yd Rec Yd Total TDs FP
1 RB 2003  Clinton Portis   218 36 5 55
2 RB 2002  Shaun Alexander *   139 92 5 53
3 RB 1997  Corey Dillon *   246 30 4 51
4 RB 2000  Mike Anderson   251 5 4 50
5 RB 2007  Adrian Peterson   296 19 3 50
6 RB 2000  Fred Taylor *   234 14 4 49
7 RB 2002  Priest Holmes *   197 110 3 49
8 RB 2002  Marshall Faulk   183 52 4 48
9 WR 1995  Jerry Rice *   10 289 3 48
10 WR 2000  Jimmy Smith *     291 3 47
11 RB 2009  Chris Johnson *   197 87 3 46
12 QB 2001  Peyton Manning 421 26   5 46
13 RB 2001  Shaun Alexander   266 7 3 45
14 RB 2005  L. Tomlinson * 26 192 28 4 45
15 RB 2002  L. Tomlinson   220 51 3 45
16 RB 2002  Clinton Portis   130 75 4 45
17 QB 2004  Billy Volek * 492 1   5 45
18 QB 2007  Carson Palmer 401 10   6 45
19 RB 2000  Marshall Faulk   220 41 3 44
20 QB 2004  Peyton Manning 472     5 44
21 RB 2006  Tiki Barber *   234 24 3 44
22 QB 2003  Jeff Garcia 252 32   6 44
23 WR 1999  Qadry Ismail     258 3 44
24 QB 2004  Donovan McNabb 464     5 43
25 QB 2000  Gus Frerotte 462     5 43

JUMbo Memories

2. Shaun Alexander – 53 points (9/29/02): Two things stand out from this one. 1) Alexander scored all five TDs in the first half. I know because I started him, and actually had the nerve to be *upset* when he went scoreless in the second half. 2) I actually lost that week. Yep, 53 from one player and I lost. My opponent had Tomlinson who had the first huge fantasy game of his career that day. 36 points. Then he had Todd Heap who scored 20 points on MNF and I lost by one freakin’ point.  Alexander’s 5-TD game is the reason I hate head-to-head fantasy leagues. You draft a guy #2 overall, he goes out and rolls 53 points for you… and it’s like a tree fell in the forest.  It’s like it didn’t even happen. No, it did happen, but I actually have a bad memory of the second greatest fantasy day ever. That’s why my league plays total points instead of head-to-head.  But I’ll save this rant for another article…   

3. Corey Dillon – 51 points (12/04/97): I had Dillon in this one too. The Bengals beat the Tennessee Oilers 41-14. Dillon’s 246 yards set the NFL rookie rushing record and I doubt any rookie will ever top it. He was awesome. I always felt he was a poor man’s Walter Payton, lugging huge yardage for bad teams most of his career. In fact, Dillon and O.J. Simpson are the only two backs in history to rush for more than 245 yards twice (Dillon popped 287 yards vs. Denver in the 2000 season). Off topic a bit: Cincinnati swiped Dillon at pick #51 in the ’97 draft, one spot ahead of Miami. I wonder if Dan Marino might have finally snagged a ring if he had Dillon in the backfield in his last three years. Remember how Terrell Davis put John Elway over the hump?

6. Fred Taylor – 49 points (11/19/00): Sigh. I didn’t have Taylor that year but I had him just about every other year. I was one of those Taylor addicts for sure. Early in his career there was not one RB with a better muscle-vision-speed combination. But he tore his groin off the bone vs. the Titans in 2001 and so began the legend of Fragile Freddy. His injuries never stopped me from drafting him though. I kept going back to Taylor no matter what. It was similar to why I keep watching Diane Lane in Under The Tuscan Sun on TNT every month, hoping she’ll behave like she did in Unfaithful …but I was always let down.

7. Priest Holmes – 49 points (11/24/02): Boy he was the man for a couple years. Absolute fantasy delight. It seemed like your league’s Holmes-owner won the trophy going away, no matter who else was on his roster. This 49-point job was constructed from 23 carries, 197 rush yds, 2 rush TDs, 110 rec yds (off 7 receptions), & 1 rec TD. Get this, the Chiefs actually led the NFL in scoring in both 2002 (467 points) and 2003 (484). Holmes’ hip injury in 2004 was a total bummer. This hobby was more fun with him in it.

9. Jerry Rice – 48 points (12/18/95): 1995 was the best season of his 20-year career with 122 catches for 1,848 yards and 15 TDs. But this 14-289-3 explosion vs. the Vikings wasn’t even his best fantasy game – back in 1990 he vaporized Atlanta for 13-225-5. Yep, five touchdowns. That’s 52.5 fantasy points. By the way a young Falcon named Deion Sanders chased Rice around that day, totally exasperated.

10. Jimmy Smith – 47 points (9/10/00): Here’s all you need to know about this performance vs. the Baltimore Ravens. They allowed 165 points all season – tops in the NFL – and Jimmy scored 18 of them. It was an old-fashioned shootout. Let me just quote from the ESPN.com recap of that game: “Smith caught 45- and 43-yard touchdown passes to give Jacksonville an early 17-0 lead. After the Ravens fought back to take a 32-29 lead in the fourth quarter, Mark Brunell found Smith for a 40-yard touchdown to give Jacksonville the lead with 1:45 remaining. The Ravens regained the lead on a Shannon Sharpe touchdown and won 39-36.”  Holy Cow, what a game!

11. Chris Johnson – 46 points (9/20/09): Week 2 vs. Houston, his coming-out party as the league’s most explosive weapon. This run in the first quarter started it all.  Later in the game he had a 69-yard TD catch and 91-yard TD run. The thing is, many fantasy leagues offer the RB/WR a three-point bonus for every 100 yards… so his 197 and 87 yardage totals were just a few touches away from another handful of points! I said it before and I’ll say it again: “CJ2K is All-World, All-Pro, All-In.” He’s the best running back in the game and I’ll take him with the #1 pick 10 times out of 10.

14. LaDainian Tomlinson – 45 points (9/25/05): This was Tomlinson at his awe-inspiring peak.  He actually had 3 rush TDs and a TD pass in this 45-23 win over the Giants, one of his 3 TD passes that season. Unfortunately I never owned Tomlinson in my long-running local league. For that reason I feel a slight disconnect from L.T., almost like we’re enemies (?). Regardless I could go on and on about L.T.’s numbers but my favorite is this one: 93 total rush/rec/pass TDs from 2004 to 2007. That’s just 4 seasons. Gulp. 

17. Billy Volek – 45 points (12/19/04): It’s weird to see Volek but then again Gus Frerotte’s up there too. I honestly don’t remember Gus doing that (?), but anyway… Here’s the deal with Volek.  That year when the Titans dropped to 4-8, Jeff Fisher knew they were toast, so like a good “player’s coach” he decided to let Volek and Drew Bennett try to cash some huge incentives in their contracts. In a three-game stretch the Titans attempted three onside kicks, called 153 pass plays, and Voila! Volek and Bennett went crazy. Bennett caught 8 TDs in those 3 games for the love of Pete! 

21. Tiki Barber – 44 points (12/30/06): Tiki doesn’t get enough credit. He was the ultimate dual-threat back from 2002-2006 battling Tomlinson yard for yard after Marshall Faulk faded away. In that five-year stretch Tomlinson had 10,473 yards from scrimmage; Barber had 10,274. Barber is also the 3rd back ever to reach 10,000 rush yds/5,000 rec yds along with Faulk and Marcus Allen. That is just huge. L.T. is only at 3,955 rec yards and won’t make it into that club.

Just missed the top-25

QB – 2009 – Tom Brady – 380 pass yards – 6 TD passes = 43 points
This was the 59-0 shredding of Tennessee last year. Two things about this game: 1) It's the only time in Jeff Fisher's tenure with the Oilers/Titans that his team gave up on him. 2) Chris Johnson actually didn't give up, he rushed for 128 yards on 17 carries. By the way, the only reason Brady doesn't make the top-25 grid above is because his total is 43.0. McNabb and Frerotte are 43.2 and 43.1.

QB – 2004 – D. Culpepper – 425 pass yards, 13 rush yds – 5 TD passes = 43 points
People forget Culpepper was the original beast QB of the modern fantasy era. From 2000 to 2004 Culpepper was the #1 or #2 QB four out of five years.  The only reason he wasn’t up there in 2001 was because of the Madden Curse. By the way, how many of you will avoid Brees this year?

QB – 2007 – Tom Brady – 354 pass yards – 6 TD passes = 42 points
Brady was in Madden 2007 mode, spraying it all over the place while Bill Belichick was in an awful mood, rubbing it in the opponent’s face each week. Keep in mind, if you play 6-pt TD passes instead of 4, Brady’s crazy display at Miami becomes 54 points, not 42.

QB – 2002 – M. Vick – 173 pass yds, 173 rush yds – 1 TD pass, 2 TD runs = 42 points
Back then I used to go to this sports bar called Sam’s, wearing a Vick jersey in front of whichever TV showed the Atlanta game. I was a Vickaholic. This was the Minnesota game with that insane overtime run that I believe is one of the 10 greatest plays of all time. In leagues that reward running QBs heavily Vick was the #2 fantasy QB that year.

QB – 2009 – Drew Brees – 358 pass yards – 6 TD passes = 42 points
I remember this Week 1 performance well because in my local big-money league we “franchise” or keep one player each year - and in 2008 I had both Brees and Chris Johnson. So at the draft last summer I threw Brees back and franchised CJ2K.  As you can imagine I was panicking early… but the very next week Johnson would explode as seen at #11 above. Holla!

Honorable mention right before 1995 cutoff

QB – 1994 – Dan Marino – 472 passing yards, 8 rushing – 5 TD passes = 44 points
Many of you were probably in grade school, maybe even diapers, when Marino had this opening-day shootout with New England. He and Bledsoe went at each other like Tyson and Holyfield. Bledsoe put up 37 fantasy points of his own (421 yds, 4 TDs) that day! As you can imagine Marino’s arm was quite the fantasy machine. I won’t start a lengthy Marino tribute but in his magical 1984 season (5084 yards, 48 TD passes) he averaged 28 fantasy points per game.  And that’s with absolutely zero rushing stats!

Ok, so do you think someone can crack the all-time top-25 this season?

I do. Not only could Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson hang another one up there, but I believe Andre Johnson has one of these games in him. AJ had 11 catches for 193 yards & 2 TDs last year vs. Seattle – with only one catch for nine yards in the second half! Coach Kubiak took his foot of the gas late in the third quarter, up 34-7. Johnson had 30 fantasy points at halftime.

JUM

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