NFL: Decade's best single-season fantasy performances
Tom Brady's 2007 season is the best fantasy performace of the decade
Tony Gonazalez's 2004 season is arguably the greatest by a tight end
Daunte Culpepper threw for 4,717 yards and 39 touchdowns in 2004
In a decade of record-breaking fantasy football performances, the following seasons stand out as the best of the best.
Top 10 performances
1. QB Tom Brady, Patriots
Rationale: Sure, we could've gone with LaDainian Tomlinson and his mind-blowing 2006 campaign, but there's a certain coolness about 50 touchdowns in one year -- especially when the quarterback in question helmed the greatest one-year offense in NFL history. But there is some sadness to report in Bradyland: Not only does the quarterback fail to make the rest of this countdown, but he also doesn't even register twice on our list of the best single seasons of fantasy QBs from 2000-2009.
2. RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers
Rationale: There's not much to debate on this one. LT had arguably the all-time greatest single season by an NFL rusher.
3. QB Peyton Manning, Colts
Rationale: Was there ever any doubt that Manning would break Dan Marino's 20-year-old record for TD passes back in '04? His assault on the record books (pre-Brady, of course) was equal parts steady and stellar: multiple touchdown passes in the first 13 games -- including three five-touchdown outings and a six-touchdown performance on Thanksgiving Day against the sad-sack Lions. Interestingly, Manning's season finished with a whimper, as he threw for only 638 yards and three touchdowns in Indy's final three games.
4. WR Randy Moss, Patriots
Rationale: Strange but true: Moss caught three or more touchdown passes only once during the Patriots' 16-0 run of '07 (four against Buffalo in Week 11). But how about this: He failed to score only three times. Think about that for a moment. But Moss' greatness wasn't merely reserved for the red zone -- he had 98 catches during the season.
5. Shaun Alexander, Seahawks
Rationale: It's stunning that Alexander made just one All-Pro team in his career despite amassing 8,850 total yards and 98 touchdowns between 2001 and 2005. But we're here to focus on the '05 season in which Alexander captured the NFL rushing title, MVP trophy and the lone Super Bowl appearance for the Seahawks' franchise. Two games stand out: His 140-yard, four-touchdown performance against Arizona in Week 3 and a four-touchdown peforrmance against Houston in Week 6.
6. Daunte Culpepper, Vikings
Rationale: This mega-season best represents Culpepper's star-crossed career. His 39 touchdowns became a footnote in NFL history since it was the same year that Manning broke Marino's touchdown record. Perhaps even more painful: Culpepper threw five touchdowns three times in the Vikings' first five games -- all victories -- but couldn't keep pace with Manning because of a mild slump midway through the year. On the bright side, Culpepper recorded at least one touchdown pass in every game, and his 4,717 passing yards and 39 TDs are franchise records.
7. LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers
Rationale: On the surface, Tomlinson's third year in the pros doesn't seem extra special. But a closer look brings forth two revelations: His 2,370 total yards are the gold standard of his Hall of Fame career, and he pulled down 100 catches that season, good for 51st all time among pass catchers for one season and third all time among running backs. Throw in 17 scores, and Tomlinson in '03 could easily make the case for having the greatest points-per-reception-league season of the 21st century.
8. Marvin Harrison, Colts
Rationale: Speaking of once-in-a-lifetime PPR seasons, Harrison's 143-catch campaign is not only an NFL record but it also has a solid chance of standing the test of time. Harrison broke double digits in receptions six times in '02 and finished below six catches only once (Week 1 against Jacksonville). We're not just talking dink-and-dunk passes, either: Harrison racked up 11 scores (his fifth-best total) and eclipsed the 100-yard mark an eye-popping 10 times (which doesn't even include the 99-yard effort in Week 9).
9. Tony Gonazalez, Chiefs
Rationale: We had to break out the calculator to figure out the razor-thin differential between Gonzo's two best seasons (2004, 2008) and the best two years from Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (2004, 2005). Gonzalez emerged the winner by mere fractions. That's not to take away from his '04 campaign, which likely stands as the greatest statistical season by any tight end in NFL history, even if it was boosted by 25 catches and two TDs in Weeks 16 and 17 (and after Kansas City had been eliminated from the AFC playoff picture).
10. Drew Brees, Saints
Rationale: The fantasy masses will always appreciate Brees for his 5,000-yard season, but they may not remember that the Saints' quarterback finished one excruciating incomplete pass away from breaking Marino's single-season record (5,084 in 1984). But we digress, and happily reminisce about a year that included 10 300-yard games and six three- or four-touchdown outings. If we're lucky, Brees might fare even better in 2009.
Best Of The Rest
Priest Holmes, Chiefs -- 2,110 total yards/27 TDs (2003)