Best of the decade: The top single-game fantasy football performances of the past 10 years

Yahoo Sports

Whether you were on the right or wrong fantasy side of the Mike Vick game, or merely an unaffected bystander, there's a pretty good chance you remember exactly where you were on Monday, November 15, 2010 — the night Vick detonated against Washington. 

It began eight seconds after kickoff. Vick connected with DeSean Jackson for an 88-yard touchdown strike on the first play from scrimmage, the ball in the air for 60-plus yards. 

Four minutes later, Vick scrambled, juked a linebacker to the ground, then dove across the goal line for a 7-yard score. 

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Five minutes after that, it was a shovel pass to LeSean McCoy for an 11-yard TD. 

The second quarter began with a 48-yard touchdown to Jeremy Maclin, a missile to the right pylon. Ten minutes later, Vick had a 6-yard walk-in score. 

At the half, Philly led 45-14. Vick had completed his first ten pass attempts. He needed just 30 minutes to produce five touchdowns. If you were facing him in fantasy, you were wrecked

Jamaal Charles, Michael Vick and Derrick Henry delivered three of the decade's top fantasy performances. (Illustration by Paul Rosales)
Jamaal Charles, Michael Vick and Derrick Henry delivered three of the decade's top fantasy performances. (Illustration by Paul Rosales)

When all the stats were in, Vick had thrown for 333 yards and four TDs, running for 80 and another two scores. To say it was a virtuoso performance is being too generous to mere virtuosos. Vick had achieved another level entirely. His 49.3 fantasy points were the most ever produced in a single game by an NFL quarterback. (George Blanda had once scored 49.7 in an AFL game back in 1961, throwing seven touchdown passes and kicking seven extra-points.)

Vick's binge was the signature performance in an extraordinary season in which he passed for 21 touchdowns and ran for nine in only a dozen starts. He finished his year with five straight multi-TD games, carrying fantasy managers to titles. Vick, for a few weeks, was utterly unfair. 

And yet somehow the 49.3 points he dropped on Washington wasn't even the top fantasy mark of the past decade. Vick's ridiculous performance was only the third-best individual fantasy effort of the last 10 years (we’re using standard scoring here, the Yahoo default for the bulk of the decade).

Let's count 'em down ...

11. Jonas Gray, 44.1 points, Week 11, 2014 - 201 rush yards, 4 TDs

Generally speaking, a best-of-the-decade list is only gonna go ten deep. But what is even the point of this exercise if we exclude the legendary Jonas Gray game at Indianapolis on Sunday night? 

New England had battered the Colts defense with LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley in the divisional round of the playoffs a few months earlier, as the pair combined for 218 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 34 carries. Bill Belichick didn't really change up the game plan against Indy in the next meeting, except for the fact that Gray handled pretty much the entire rushing workload. He was a hammer, scoring all four of his touchdowns from short-range. He'd been a practice squad player only a month earlier. 

Jonas Gray, one-hit fantasy wonder. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
Jonas Gray, one-hit fantasy wonder. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)

Five days after Gray's monster game against the Colts, he overslept and missed practice. He didn't play a snap in Week 12, then played only 40 offensive snaps for the remainder of the season. He was inactive in the Patriots' Super Bowl win over Seattle. Thirty-four percent of Gray's career rushing yards were gained in the blow-up game against Indy. Understandably, he remains the avatar of the running-backs-don't-matter movement.

And yes, Belichick is ruthless

More: Sunday Scene, Week 11, 2014 (Behrens)

10. Drew Brees, 44.3 points, Week 8, 2015 - 505 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs

Entering the game, Brees was actually having an uncharacteristically quiet season, having tossed only eight touchdown passes over his first six games. Week 8 put him back on track, however. He connected with ten different receivers on his 50 attempts, per his usual, with five of them catching TD passes (Cooks, Colston, Watson, Snead, Spiller). Four different receivers finished with at least 70 yards. 

The Saints needed every last inch in this game, we should note, because Eli Manning was nearly as unstoppable as Brees. He finished with 350 yards and six touchdown strikes (three to OBJ), totaling 38.0 fantasy points. New Orleans needed a 50-yard field goal in the final seconds to escape with the W, 52-49. Thirteen combined touchdown passes was obviously an NFL record; Manning is one of just four quarterbacks to pass for six TDs in a loss. 

More: Week 8 Booms and Busts, 2015 (Pianowski)

9. Ben Roethlisberger, 44.8 points, Week 7, 2014 - 522 yards, 6 TDs

This game was another insane Tecmo shootout, featuring a combined 922 passing yards from Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck. Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant each caught a pair of scores as five different Steelers finished with at least 50 receiving yards. With ten minutes remaining in the third quarter, Roethlisberger had already passed for 394 yards and five TDs. Absolutely obscene. 

Seven days later, Big Ben threw another six touchdown passes in a home win against Baltimore. Those back-to-back eruptions led to one of the more remarkable full-season splits you'll ever see:

Roethlisberger at home, 2014 - 347.3 YPG, 8.8 Y/A, 23 TDs, 4 INTs

Roethlisberger on the road, 2014 - 271.8 YPG, 7.4 Y/A, 9 TDs, 5 INTs

More: Mostly NFL Notes, Week 8, 2014 (Del Don)

8. Nick Foles, 45.2 points, Week 9, 2013 - 406 yards, 7 TDs

All these years later, very little about this performance by Foles makes any sense at all. He'd had a killer matchup in his previous game against a lousy Dallas pass defense, yet had been stunningly bad: 11-for-29, 80 yards, 0 TDs. Foles may have been the very last quarterback from whom we should have expected even a two-touchdown game, let alone a record-tying seven-score outburst. But hey, when you develop a freakish mind-meld rapport with Riley Cooper, crazy things can happen. 

Cooper humiliated Oakland's secondary in this performance, converting his five catches into 139 yards and three touchdowns. DeSean Jackson finished with five receptions for 150 yards and one spike. The remaining TD catches belonged to Zach Ertz (then a rookie), Brent Celek and Shady McCoy. Foles managed to throw more touchdown passes than incompletions in this feast of a game while producing a perfect passer rating.

These days, Foles is backing up this gentleman in Jacksonville.

More: Sunday Scene, Week 9, 2013 (Behrens)

7. Aaron Rodgers, 45.9 points, Week 4, 2011 - 408 yards, 4 TDs, INT, 36 rush yards, 2 TDs

Rodgers had won the Super Bowl eight months prior, then followed by leading Green Bay to a dominant 15-1 regular season. In fact, it can be reasonably argued that his 2011 is the greatest single-season passing performance in league history. He established an all-time record in passer-rating (122.5) while averaging 309.2 yards per game, tossing 45 TD passes and leading the NFL in yards per attempt (9.2). His six-touchdown effort against Denver wasn't even an outlier performance; it was one of five separate games in which he passed for at least four TDs. He produced multiple touchdowns in each of his 15 starts that year, which is just obnoxious. 

"[Rodgers] is off the charts," said Elvis Dumervil, postgame. 

Denver's defense endeavored to take away Jermichael Finley, so Rodgers simply connected with Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Donald Driver on his TD passes. 

Incidentally, while the Broncos were being shredded by Rodgers, persistent chants of "Teeee-booow!" were audible at Lambeau. Denver made a QB switch the following week. Tebow remained at the controls of the offense for the balance of the season, leading the team to the divisional round of the playoffs. 

More: Denver Post, Oct. 2, 2011 (Klis)

6. Peyton Manning, 46.3 points, Week 1, 2013 - 462 yards, 7 TDs

Manning's record-shattering 2013 season opened, naturally, with a record-shattering Thursday night performance. He was surgical, overwhelming a Baltimore defense that was loaded with talent. In fact, after giving up seven passing scores to Manning, the Ravens would allow only 18 more over their final 15 games.

Baltimore led this game at halftime, 17-14, which seems kinda crazy. Manning had connected with Julius Thomas on a pair of second-quarter touchdown passes, but a Justin Tucker field goal put the Ravens in front heading into the break. From that point on, however, Manning was without mercy. He directed three quick scoring drives to open the third, hitting Andre Caldwell for a 28-yard TD, then connecting with Wes Welker on a pair of short touchdowns. Demaryius Thomas scored twice in the fourth. The Broncos would eventually win, 49-27. 

This performance, of course, was a harbinger. It was the first of nine games in which Manning would throw at least four TD passes, on his way to the single-season record (55). He would also set a new all-time mark in passing yardage (5477). Denver opened its season winning six straight and producing the following point totals: 49, 41, 37, 52, 51, 35. The team's offense appeared to be irresistible — that is, until Seattle thoroughly resisted them in Super Bowl XLVIII. 

More: Peyton Manning, 2013 Fantasy MVP (Pianowski)

4 (tie). Derrick Henry, 47.8 points, Week 14, 2018 - 238 rush yards, 4 TDs

Henry's monster performance, like the Manning game, occurred in a Thursday night spotlight matchup, so he had everyone's full attention. He did not, however, have the confidence of the fantasy community. Henry entered the week having reached the end zone only five times while averaging just 39.5 rushing yards per game. He hadn't reached 60 yards in any week. In the two days preceding Thursday night's tilt with Jacksonville, Henry had actually been dropped in over 11,000 Yahoo fantasy leagues. By kickoff, he was rostered in only 57% of leagues and started in 18%. We'd written him off as a fantasy bust. 

And then he did this ...

That run had a death toll. It was the second (and most violent) of his four touchdowns. By the fourth quarter, Jaguars defensive players really wanted no part of Henry. Many business decisions were made that night. 

Henry turned out not to be a one-hit-wonder, as he followed his 238-yard outburst with a two-touchdown, 170-yard effort against the Giants in Week 15. Despite rushing for only 474 yards and five TDs in his first 12 games, he would finish the year with 1,059 yards and a dozen spikes. Henry then entered 2019 as the centerpiece of Tennessee's offense, and he didn't disappoint.

More: Derrick Henry does it again (Del Don)

4 (tie). Le'Veon Bell, 47.8 points, Week 14, 2016 - 236 rush yards, 3 TDs, 62 receiving yards

Perhaps the greatest detail about this game is that it took place in snow-globe conditions in Buffalo. It was a gorgeous scene. Bell was at his absolute best on a day when Pittsburgh desperately needed him, because Roethlisberger couldn't stop giving the ball away. When Bills defenders weren't picking off Ben, they were sliding and face-planting, attempting to tackle Le'Veon. The Steelers' line was terrific, Roosevelt Nix was a punisher and Bell himself was basically an artist. He broke Willie Parker's single-game team rushing record on his way to 298 scrimmage yards. 

Bell finished the season with 1,884 total yards in just 12 games, averaging an astonishing 157.0 scrimmage yards per week. For comparison's sake, Christian McCaffrey entered Week 17 this year averaging 152.9 total YPG as the runaway No. 1 fantasy RB. 

More: Booms and Busts, Week 14 (Pianowski)

3. Michael Vick, 49.3 points, Week 10, 2010 - 333 yards, 4 TDs, 80 rush yards, 2 TDs

With all due respect to Lamar Jackson — and much respect is due — no quarterback has ever been as dominant as both a passing and rushing weapon as Vick was on this particular Monday night. If this game had not become so one-sided so early, Vick would have made a run at 60 fantasy points. He was an unstoppable force, almost superhuman. 

One of the many crazy things about that night was the fact that Donovan McNabb, the opposing quarterback, was actually the headline player entering the game. He'd just received a five-year contract extension from Washington, despite being benched in favor of Rex Grossman two weeks prior. McNabb, you might recall, had been dealt from Philly to Washington in the offseason for a second-round pick. He was benched in November, then signed to a huge multi-year deal, then benched again for Grossman in December. And he was later traded to Minnesota for a sixth-rounder. So that was a special chapter in Washington football history. 

Anyway, please enjoy some Vick highlights from an all-time Monday night performance ...

More: Michael Vick just broke some all-time fantasy records (Behrens)

2. Doug Martin, 51.2 points, Week 9, 2012 - 251 rush yards, 4 TDs, 21 receiving yards

We could never convince anyone who just started playing fantasy in the last 2-3 years that Doug Martin was once a league-winner. But at his best, he was phenomenal. Martin's rookie season was spectacular by any standard. He entered the league with plenty of fantasy buzz, then exceeded all expectations. His mid-year visit to Oakland was obviously the high point, but he'd rushed for 135 yards and one score at Minnesota the week before. 

Martin would eventually finish the year with 1,926 scrimmage yards, 49 receptions, 12 touchdowns, and five separate triple-digit rushing performances. He was excellent. And then we over-drafted him for a couple seasons; his rookie campaign was ultimately his best. 

Martin's binge at Oakland was not only the second-best of this decade but also the 11-best of any decade, in either the AFL or NFL. Just twelve players in pro football history have topped 50 standard fantasy points in a single week. All four of Martin's touchdowns against the Raiders came in the second half and three covered 40-plus yards. He became one of only a dozen backs to ever reach 250-yards rushing in a game. (He was actually at 265 before losing yardage on three final-drive carries.) 

In the days following Martin's blowup at Oakland, he appealed to fans and fantasy managers to drop the nickname he'd been stuck with since his Boise State days: "Muscle Hamster." 

"Worst nickname ever," he said at the time. 

Counterpoint: It is definitely a top-10 all-time nickname. An inner-circle Hall of Fame nickname, among the best ever. Understandably, people haven't fully dropped it.  

More: Doug Martin shipwrecks Raiders (Pianowski)

1. Jamaal Charles, 51.5 points, Week 15, 2013 - 20 rush yards, TD, 195 receiving yards, 4 TDs

Charles caught a quick screen pass on the Chiefs' first play, then turned upfield and embarrassed a few Raiders defenders on his way to a 49-yard touchdown. Kansas City never trailed; Charles never slowed down. He reached the end zone four times in the first half, scoring three touchdowns via receptions and the other on a 1-yard plunge. He was like a ghost, seemingly untouchable. Charles scored for the fifth time on a 71-yard catch near the end of the third quarter. His services were not even needed in the fourth. Knile Davis handled the backfield work as the Chiefs closed out Oakland. 

Again: Charles put up 50-plus points in three quarters. He also did it in the fantasy semifinals, carrying many of us to Championship Week. And yes, he was excellent the following Sunday, too: 144 total yards, 5 receptions, TD. Charles would finish his year with a career-high 1,980 scrimmage yards, 70 catches, and a league-leading 19 touchdowns. He was also, not surprisingly, the overall RB1 in any format. 

If you feel like Oakland has been mentioned an awful lot in this feature ... well, you're not wrong. Three of the top-eight fantasy games of the decade occurred against the 2012-2013 Raiders, including the top two. It's hard to imagine Vegas will be as generous to the fantasy community in the 2020s, but we can dare to hope.

More: Sunday Scene, Week 15 (Behrens)

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