Fantasy Football History in the Making

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Fantasy Football is the quest to find that player.  The player that you believe in that no one else does.  The player that will do what no one believes is possible.  The player that will do something that has never been done before.  These special players who perform on a level heretofore unseen are the stuff of NFL and fantasy football legend.  In this article, we will celebrate the impressive start that some players have gotten off to in the first quarter of 2018.  But we will also pay homage to those who came before, the Mount Rushmore of the NFL record books.

Let’s start with some single-season records that are untouchable.

Rushing Yards

Eric Dickerson, Los Angeles Rams, 1984
2,105 rushing yards
It doesn’t get any better than E.D. when it comes to running the football.  In just his second season, Dickerson became the only the second player to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season and was the first to do so in the NFL’s 16-game format.  En route, Dickerson had 12 games with over 100 rushing yards.  For reference, Ezekiel Elliott leads the NFL in rushing through 4 games this season.  He’s on pace for just 1,704.  He would need nearly 4 extra games at this pace to catch Eric Dickerson.

Touches

James Wilder, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1984
492 touches
There was something magical going on in the NFL in 1984.  Not only did Eric Dickerson set the rushing record, but Dan Marino threw for a then NFL record 5,084 passing yards.  The unsung hero of 1984, however, was workhorse RB, James Wilder.  Wilder was an ironman, playing in all 16 games while carrying the ball 407 times and catching 85 receptions.  This was a PPR scoring dream season.  Modern day NFL players will not sniff this record, as Todd Gurley leads the NFL in touches through 4 games and is on pace for just 376 on the year.

Rushing/Receiving TDs

LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers, 2006
31 rushing/receiving TDs
If you played fantasy football in the LT years, it is likely that your league now has rules in place to prevent keepers from being kept indefinitely.  Most leagues have enacted rules where the cost to keep player X rises with each consecutive year or something to protect against what Tomlinson was doing to fantasy leagues.  If you had LT on your roster, you likely won the league.  A huge part of his success was his penchant for finding painted turf.  In 2006 LT averaged double-digit fantasy points per game in TD only leagues.  Let that sink in for a second.  He was scoring 1.94 TDs per game!  No one in the league this year is even close.  Calvin Ridley, Alvin Kamara, and Todd Gurley are on pace for 24 TDs, which is nothing to scoff at, but it pales in comparison to the king of TDs, LT.

Enough with the untouchables, let’s talk about here and now.  “What have you done for me lately?” is the mantra fantasy football players live by.  So here are the players this season who are on pace to shatter NFL records.

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Passing Yards

NFL Record: 5,477 passing yards, Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, 2013
Potential Record Breaker: Ben Roethlisberger
Pace: 5,656 passing yards

The NFL has evolved over the years.  Innovative play calling combined with NFL rules changes that are designed to promote scoring have resulted in the meteoric rise of passing offenses.  So it should come as no surprise that the NFL passing record is feeling the heat.  Roethlisberger, with the help of Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster, has racked up 1,414 passing yards through just 4 games.  And he’s doing it without the best pass catching RB in the league, Le’Veon Bell.  Once Bell returns, it is possible that Big Ben puts up even bigger numbers.  The only thing that could slow down this passing attack is the weather in the AFC North.  Winters are not kind to passing the ball, especially in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.
Others in the Hunt: Jared Goff (5,624), Kirk Cousins (5,548), Derek Carr (5,492)

Passing TDs

NFL Record: 55 (FIFTY FIIIIIVE!) TDs, Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos, 2013
Potential Record Breaker: Patrick “Showtime” Mahomes
Pace: 56 TDs

While Peyton Manning has several passers in his rearview mirror coming after his passing yardage record, his passing TDs record enjoys the rarified air.  Through the quarter pole in 2018, only one passer has the mustard to challenge Manning for the throne.  Pat Mahomes, the sophomore gunslinger in Kansas City has thrown for 14 scores in his first 4 games.  Incredibly, 10 of these 14 TDs came in weeks 1 and 2.  Already losing steam, it appears that Mahomes will fall short of Mannings mark when all is said and done.  But in the meantime, he sure is fun to watch.

Receptions

NFL Record: 143 receptions, Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis Colts, 2002
Potential Record Breaker: Michael Thomas
Pace: 168 receptions

One of the most iconic QB-WR pairings in history was the aforementioned Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison in the early 2000s.  This duo was unstoppable as evidenced by the 143 connections made in 2002.  Unfortunately, for Manning’s running mate, the uptick in NFL passing means that Harrison is facing some competition too.  Michael Thomas has been a sensation in the early going.  The Saints WR grabbed 16, 12 and 10 footballs in weeks 1 through 3 respectively.  It is because of this monster start that he is still comfortably ahead of Harrison’s pace despite only catching 4 passes in Week 4.   I think Thomas’ potential to break the record is strong.  He plays in a dome with a hall of fame QB of his own, he has a real shot, so long as his teammate Alvin Kamara (who is on pace for 140 receptions) doesn’t sap too many opportunities.
Others in the Hunt: Adam Thielen (160)

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Receiving TDs

NFL Record: 23 receiving TDs, Randy Moss, New England Patriots, 2007
Potential Record Breaker: Calvin Ridley
Pace: 24 receiving TDs

On this list, Ridley might be the best example of the “on pace” fallacy.  Anyone can string together a couple amazing performances, but doing it on a season-long schedule is something entirely different.  Calvin Ridley, the rookie WR for the Atlanta Falcons has gotten to this point with just 15 targets.  His TD% when targeted is 40% for crying out loud.  Hall of Famer, Randy Moss was only “Mossing” people on 14.4% of his targets in 2007.  Ridley is a great story and is getting off on the right foot for an amazing career in the NFL, but this record is safe.


What do you think?  Will 2018 be the year that the history books are re-written?  Does your fantasy team hold the players capable of slaying the fantasy football gods?  If so, congrats!  You are well on your way to a #FootClanTitle.