The importance of the RB position in fantasy football is well known, but what are the top single-season performances of all time at the position? Which player stands tall atop the list with a performance that may never be beaten? Which 40-plus-year-old outing is still on the list? Let’s take a look at the top RB fantasy performances of all time from a single season.
Top RB fantasy football seasons of all time
The RB position on our top 10 list of season performances is interesting because of the wide span of results and the relative lack of recent additions to the new list. The expectation coming into the list was that all the performances here would be from either 16- or 17-game seasons. However, one showing from a 14-game season has managed to make the list dating all the way back to 1975.
In this article, we have used non-PPR scoring as that has been the standard in fantasy football scoring for a number of years. However, with the world of fantasy shifting more towards PPR scoring, we have included that list at the bottom of the article. Additionally, in order to try to shine a light on some other fantastic performances from before the NFL’s shift to 16 or more games in a season, we have also listed the top RB fantasy football seasons of all time based on points per game at the bottom of the article.
10) LaDainian Tomlinson | 343.8 fantasy points
Fantasy managers will not be surprised to see LaDainian Tomlinson on this list or know that this is not the only time he will appear on it. Tomlinson was a fantasy star during his career, finishing as a top-10 option at the position in eight straight years and in the top three on six occasions.
However, it is his 2003 performance that is the first to make this list. Tomlinson had 1,645 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. He then added 725 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns on 100 receptions. Unfortunately for fantasy managers, 38 of those fantasy points came in Week 17, when many fantasy seasons are already over.
9) Emmitt Smith | 352.8 fantasy points
In what was a fantastic NFL career, Emmitt Smith’s 1995 performance stands out as simply incredible. Smith led the league with 1,773 rushing yards and 25 rushing touchdowns. While those numbers alone are impressive, he also added 375 receiving yards on 62 receptions for more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage.
8) Christian McCaffrey | 355.2 fantasy points
McCaffrey’s 2019 season stands alone as the only season from the 2011-2020 decade to make our list of top fantasy performances by an RB of all time. McCaffrey may have “only” rushed for 1,387 yards, but he supplemented it with 1,005 receiving yards on 116 receptions. He finished with a league-leading 2,392 yards from scrimmage and 19 combined touchdowns.
7) O.J. Simpson | 355.3 fantasy points
To make this list in a 14-game NFL season is extremely impressive and a testament to the all-around performance Simpson put together in 1975. From a rushing perspective, Simpson’s season was actually less impressive than his 1973 MVP campaign. In 1973, Simpson crossed the 2,000-yard barrier (2,003) compared to 1,817 yards in 1975.
However, it was finding the end zone where Simpson really rewarded fantasy managers. The Bills’ RB scored 16 rushing and seven receiving touchdowns. His 23 total scores and 2,243 yards from scrimmage led the league and saw him top this list for more than 20 years.
6) Terrell Davis | 356.5 fantasy points
23 years later, Terrell Davis took Simpson’s place atop the all-time top RB fantasy performances in a single season. Over the first four years of his career, Davis’ performance continued growing, culminating in 2,008 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground in 1998. He added a relatively modest 217 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 25 receptions to cap it off.
Unfortunately for fantasy managers, the slope for Davis as a fantasy contributor was a slippery one. After this record-setting year, Davis would manage a total of just 1,194 rushing yards, 99 receiving yards, and four touchdowns in the remainder of his career.
5) Shaun Alexander | 361.8 fantasy points
The early 2000s saw a fantastic run of RB performances across a seven-year period. One of those was the MVP performance from Alexander in 2005. The Seahawks RB posted 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns on the ground. The only slight flaw was that he could manage just 78 yards and one score on 15 receptions. Had those receiving numbers matched even the relatively limited 170 yards and four touchdowns from the previous season, Alexander would be second on this list.
4) Priest Holmes | 370.7 fantasy points
The consistency of Priest Holmes performances in 2002 and 2003 is simply incredible. The fantasy outputs across the two years differ by just 0.3 points! With those two incredible seasons, he occupies fourth and third on our list of all-time top RB fantasy performances in a single season.
The first in 2002 saw him rush for 1,615 yards and find the end zone 21 times on the ground. He added another 672 yards and three touchdowns in the receiving game. Holmes would finish the year with a league-leading 2,287 yards from scrimmage and 24 total touchdowns.
3) Priest Holmes | 371 fantasy points
The 2003 season would see a slight drop-off in terms of years, but an extra three TDs would see Holmes just beating out his previous year’s performance. Holmes found the end zone 27 times, all on the ground, while rushing for a “mere” 1,420 yards, with 690 receiving yards.
2) Marshall Faulk | 378.9 fantasy points
It is no real surprise that Marshall Faulk’s MVP performance from 2000 puts him on this list. In his second season after moving to the Rams, Faulk put up an incredible all-around performance. His total of 2,189 yards from scrimmage was actually less than either 1998 or 1999, but he supplemented it with a league-leading 26 touchdowns, including eight in the receiving game.
1) LaDainian Tomlinson | 425.1 fantasy points
Bookending our list of top RB fantasy football performances in a single season of all time is LaDainian Tomlinson. From a fantasy points scoring perspective, Tomlinson’s 425.1 fantasy points will be close to impossible for any RB to top. His performance on the field was recognized as he was awarded the MVP for the 2006 season.
Tomlinson would finish the year with league-leading rushing numbers of 1,815 yards and 28 touchdowns. He added another 508 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. Amazingly, his 2,323 total yards would not lead the league that season, but his 31 total touchdowns make his fantasy output simply irresistible. That is 186 fantasy points simply from scoring touchdowns!
Top RB fantasy football seasons on a per-game basis of all time
*minimum 10 games played
10) Todd Gurley, LAR | 22.36 PPG (2018)
9) Jim Brown, CLE | 22.46 PPG (1958)
8) Shaun Alexander, SEA | 22.61 PPG (2001)
7) Priest Holmes, KC | 23.19 PPG (2004)
6) Paul Hornung, GB | 23.21 PPG (1960)
5) Marshall Faulk, STL | 24.05 PPG (2001)
4) O.J. Simpson, BUF | 25.38 PPG (1975)
3) Priest Holmes, KC | 26.48 PPG (2002)
2) LaDainian Tomlinson, SD | 26.57 PPG (2006)
1) Marshall Faulk, STL| 27.06 PPG (2000)
Top PPR RB fantasy football seasons of all time
10) David Johnson, ARI | 407.8 (2016)
9) Emmitt Smith, DAL | 414.8 (1995)
8) Steven Jackson, STL | 415.4 (2006)
7) Marshall Faulk, STL | 419.7 (2001)
6) Priest Holmes, KC | 440.7 (2002)
5) LaDainian Tomlinson, SD | 443.8 (2003)
4) Priest Holmes, KC | 445 (2003)
3) Marshall Faulk, STL | 459.9 (2003)
2) Christian McCaffrey, CAR | 471.2 (2000)
1) LaDainian Tomlinson, SD | 481.1 (2006)