Who Is the Greatest Fantasy Football Player of the Super Bowl Era?

For decades now, fantasy football has become wildly popular and, for many, is the highlight of every NFL season. Year after year, millions upon millions of people construct their team (or teams) with the hope of accumulating enough points to win their league title.

For some, it’s merely a small hobby — just something to pass the time. For others, it’s much more. Come on, every single person reading this knows that person who participates in 10 or 12 leagues.

We’re obviously into football — and fantasy football — around here at Sportscasting, and we recently had a thought — we do that from time to time — who has scored the most fantasy football points in history?

Now, this wasn’t an easy task. Obviously, not all leagues use the same scoring system. So we kept it simple and went with your typical PPR scoring.

But there was also the matter of where to start. While NFL history spans more than a century, we chose to only stick with the Super Bowl era, which began with the 1966 season.

Sadly, that means you won’t see Jim Brown. But we’re OK with it as he was the only player from the pre-Super Bowl era with even a remote chance to crack the top 20.

So without further ado, here’s a look at the all-time leaders in fantasy football PPR points.

Pretty sweet, right?

Let’s quickly break this thing down by decade.

1960s

At the top of the leaderboard at the outset is wide receiver/halfback Charley Taylor, who played 13 NFL seasons, all in Washington. The Arizona State product led the NFL in receptions in 1966 and 1967, but he quickly lost his No. 1 spot to Jim Brown’s replacement in Cleveland, running back Leroy Kelly.

Kelly, who played his entire 10-year career with the Browns, led the league in rushing yards and touchdowns in 1967 and 1968. His stats dipped a bit in 1969, but the six-time Pro Bowler held on to the top spot as the decade turned.

1970s

Quickly rising up the leaderboard as we get into the 1970s is Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who played 18 NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants. The nine-time Pro Bowler takes over the top spot in 1974 and holds it for the remainder of the decade.

With five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, including the NFL’s first-ever 2,000-yard season, O.J. Simpson climbs as high as No. 2, as does legendary Raiders wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff. Still, neither is able to overtake Tarkenton as the decade ends.

It certainly didn’t hurt that Tarkenton threw for a career-high 3,468 yards and 25 touchdowns in 1978, his final NFL season.

1980s

Tarkenton maintained his lead for the first few years of the 1980s, but Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton, who rushed for 1,200 or more yards in 10 of his 13 NFL seasons, finally knocked the Vikings legend off his perch in 1983.

As the ’80s rolled on, underrated Chargers wideout Charlie Joiner inches up the list, as does Seahawks superstar Steve Largent. Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett climbs as high as No. 3.

You’ll notice that as the decade comes to a close, four-time Super Bowl champ Joe Montana makes his first appearance on the list.

1990s

By the time 1990 rolls around, Montana had reached the No. 4 spot, but that’s the highest he’d get as his career wound down. Payton still held the lead when the decade changed, but some contenders began to creep their way up the leaderboard, specifically Dan Marino and Jerry Rice.

After a dozen years, Sweetness finally loses the No. 1 spot in 1995 to Rice, who set a career high in receiving yards that season with 1,848.

With 1,549 receptions for 22,895 yards and 197 receiving touchdowns — all the most in NFL history — throughout his 20-year career with the 49ers, Raiders, and Seahawks, Rice holds the lead for a long time, close to a quarter-century.

2000s

While Rice maintained his No. 1 spot throughout the 2000s, a couple of Hall of Fame running backs made their way up the leaderboard in Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, and Marshall Faulk.

You’ll also notice the rise of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre in the middle of the decade. In 2006, the three-time NFL MVP passed Marino to take the No. 3 spot and then overtook Emmitt at No. 2.

As the decade nears its end, you start to see the rise of the dynamic Colts duo of Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, who connected for more touchdowns than any quarterback-receiver combo in NFL history. Terrell Owens also sneaks into the top five.

2010s

The early 2010s mark the first appearances on the list of Tom Brady and Drew Brees, who vault up the leaderboard as the decade rolls on.

In 2013, Manning passed Favre for the No. 2 spot behind Rice, but his retirement following the 2015 season opened the door for Brees and Brady to bypass him. Brees was the first to do so, but Brady wasn’t far behind.

In 2019, Rice finally relinquished the top spot as both Brady and Brees passed him with TB12 at No. 1, and Brees at No. 2. Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Ben Roethlisberger, and Philip Rivers all made their way into the top 10 during the 2010s as well.

2020s

Things obviously haven’t changed much in the 2020s, as we’ve only had two NFL seasons thus far this decade. Brady, the career leader in passing yards (84,520) and touchdowns (624), remains in the No. 1 spot and will only increase his lead as he’s still active.

Brees, who ranks second in each of the above-mentioned categories, sits at No. 2, while Rice, Manning, and Favre round out the top five.

Here’s how the entire top 20 shakes out.

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Jerry Rice
  4. Peyton Manning
  5. Brett Favre
  6. Aaron Rodgers
  7. Ben Roethlisberger
  8. Larry Fitzgerald
  9. Philip Rivers
  10. Matt Ryan
  11. Emmitt Smith
  12. Terrell Owens
  13. Dan Marino
  14. Tony Gonzalez
  15. Randy Moss
  16. Marshall Faulk
  17. LaDainian Tomlinson
  18. Marvin Harrison
  19. Walter Payton
  20. Cris Carter

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference, Bar-chart race made with Flourish

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