This month marks the 60th anniversary of the birth of fantasy football, so it’s the perfect time to look back and find out who are the greatest players in fantasy football history.
This analysis could go the way of looking at players since 1962 when Bill Winkenbach and co. compiled the first rules of fantasy football, but why most omit careers of players like Jim Brown or Johnny Unitas or exclude the dominant players from the first half century of NFL history? Why not go back to the beginning of the NFL and give everyone a chance to make this list?
It’s an ambitious mindset well worth the effort, but it requires putting together a fair system that can standardize the performance of fantasy scoring and measure players against their era. This era-adapted scoring setup is the only way to give fantasy contestants who played fewer games, and did so in less offense-friendly eras, a reasonable shot at competing against contemporary players in today’s wide-open era.
Since we’re measuring fantasy performance, the system needs to have a truly fantasy-centric approach, such that players are rewarded with a career point if their full-season score has made them a fantasy starter (era adjusted, see below). They also get bonus career points if they’re a quality starter (one of the better players in their respective position), a hit starter (think QB1 Caliber, WR1 Caliber, etc.), or an elite starter (one of the great seasons). any times).
Players receive one Career Point for sending a Starter Caliber Season. You get one more career point for a quality starter season. An Impact Starter campaign earns 1.5 Career Points, while an Elite Season awards 2 additional Career Points. Players are measured in both non-PPR and full PPR point systems, giving them two chances to earn career points.
Career Points are also stacked, so a player who releases an Elite Season earns 1 Career Point for being a starter, 1 Career Point for a quality starter campaign, 1.5 Career Points for a successful starter, and 2 Career Points for an Elite Season, or overall 5.5 career points for that point performance (or 11 if they do it in both non-PPR and PPR in a single year).
These career point totals are reflected in the top player ratings, as shown below with Jerry Rice’s career point totals in each category.
|player||Starter||quality||influence||elite||PPR-Str||PPR Qual||PPR impact||PPR Elite||career points|
(Note: Pro Football Reference deserves kudos for this as their Stathead tool was instrumental in compiling this analysis).
Fantasy starters and position guidelines over the years
Another factor in evaluating historical fantasy scores is that the number of teams in the NFL has changed a lot over the years. Fewer teams would also result in smaller starting rosters in fantasy football. So here’s a quick guide to how the system measured the number of fantasy starters in previous eras.
|epoch||positions||# teams||fantasy teams||Fantasy starter|
|1920-45||All players are flexible||changeable||6||Five flexes|
|1946-49||Backs, ends and QBs||18||10||QB, 2 RB, 2 END, Flex|
|1950-59||Backs, ends and QBs||12||8th||QB, 2 RB, 2 END, Flex|
|1960-61||Backs, ends and QBs||21, 22||12||QB, 2 RB, 2 END, Flex|
|1962-2021||QB, RB, WR, TE||22+||12||QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, TE, Flex|
From 1920 to 1949, the NFL consisted mostly of two platoons, meaning players started on both offense and defense. Even as the league began to move, there was very little positional consistency with the way players were listed in boxing results. Had fantasy football existed back then, every player would likely have been listed as a flexible candidate, and fantasy teams would likely have had about five players per team, so this system measures fantasy performance using that structure.
The combination of the addition of the All-America Football Conference as a rival league to the NFL in 1946-49 and some positional variation in box scores would have allowed fantasy football executives of the time to field a 10-team, one-QB league. two RBs, two ends and one flex position, although team volume drops to eight from 1950-59.
This general starting lineup holds true in this system from 1962 (to date) when enough players were listed as tight ends to consider the addition of this position. At this point, a standard fantasy team would contain a QB, two RBs, two WRs, a TE, and a flex, with ending position eliminated after the position split between wide receiver and tight ends.
The start of the AFL in 1960 brought the number of fantasy teams in a standard league to 12.
No kickers or D/ST
With all due respect to kickers, this review will take a Jake Ciely-esque approach and not include them as kickers are afterthoughts. D/STs were excluded for similar reasons.
The greatest fantasy football players for each team
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Kansas City chiefs
Las Vegas robbers
Chargers from Los Angeles
New York Giants
Green Bay packers
Saints of New Orleans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Los Angeles Rams
San Francisco 49ers
(Photo above: Focus on Sport via Getty Images)