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Friday, September 6, 2013
Top fantasy performances since 2000

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

What a way to start a season: with an among-the-all-time-greats fantasy performance.

Peyton Manning's 46-point fantasy effort in the 2013 season-opening game not only gave his owners an outstanding chance of opening-week victory, but also put him, statistically speaking, among the greatest individual-game performers in NFL history. (According to ESPN's standard scoring.)

Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning's 46 fantasy points were the second-best by a quarterback since 2000 and the top opening-week outing among all players since 1960.

Manning's seven passing touchdowns tied the league's single-game record, but most importantly by our standards, it gave him the second-best fantasy day by a quarterback since 2000, the 11th-best fantasy day overall during that span, and the No. 5 fantasy day by a quarterback since 1960. It was also the greatest opening-week fantasy performance since 1960 … and that's among all positions.

As we've done for several other historic fantasy performances in recent seasons -- Doug Martin's 51-pointer during Week 9 last year is the most recent one to crack this list -- let's update the list of greatest fantasy days since 2000. Here is the updated top 14:

1. Clinton Portis, 2003 Week 14, 54 fantasy points: This one meant about as much to his Denver Broncos as it did to his fantasy owners; without this win versus the eventual division-winning Kansas City Chiefs, the Broncos probably wouldn't have reached the playoffs in 2003. It was his fifth 100-yard rushing effort in a streak of six to conclude the season, and in the process, he upstaged an even bigger (at the time) fantasy stud, the Chiefs' Priest Holmes (44 rushing yards, two touchdowns).

2. Shaun Alexander, 2002 Week 4, 52: Ah, a Sunday night football classic. Surely you remember this one? In only the second game at Qwest Field (then Seahawks Stadium), Alexander set an NFL record with five touchdowns in the first half, establishing his reputation as a premier prime-time performer. He played 14 night games in his career, totaling 13 touchdowns.

3. Doug Martin, 2012 Week 9, 51: Though he had placed himself firmly in the class of fantasy studs with a 32-point breakout outing a week earlier against the stingy Minnesota Vikings defense, the "Muscle Hamster" affirmed himself as 2012's top rookie rusher thanks primarily to this game, during which he became the first player in NFL history to score three rushing touchdowns of 45 yards or longer (per ESPN Stats & Information). And if you're looking to toss cold water on the effort due to an "easy matchup," know this: There were actually four defenses that allowed more fantasy points per game to opposing running backs than the Oakland Raiders in 2012.

4. (tie) Mike Anderson, 2000 Week 14, 49: Huh? Who? You might remember this name as another product of the Mike Shanahan running back juggernaut; each season, it seemed the theme was "new back, same stats." Anderson snuck in there with one monster season sandwiched between the best from Terrell Davis and the aforementioned Portis, and on this day, Anderson was a record setter -- a rookie rushing record with 251 yards versus the New Orleans Saints.

4. (tie) Michael Vick, 2010 Week 10, 49: On the day that then-Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb celebrated signing a five-year contract extension, it was the opposing quarterback, Vick, who lit up the fantasy scoreboard. Vick had three passing and two rushing touchdowns in the first half, becoming the first player to do that, routinely lighting up the Redskins' secondary en route to the NFL's first-ever performance of at least 300 passing yards, 50 rushing yards, four passing and two rushing scores. Vick would finish the 2010 season as fantasy's leading scorer.

6. (tie) Priest Holmes, 2002 Week 12, 48: Holmes went for more than 100 yards both rushing (197) and receiving (110), making him one of only eight players in the past 20 years to do that. Sadly, Holmes' Chiefs lost 39-32 to the Seattle Seahawks as Matt Hasselbeck starred for the Seahawks (362 passing yards, three touchdowns).

6. (tie) Fred Taylor, 2000 Week 12, 48: Boy, he was lucky to manage that many fantasy points all last season. Still, flash back nearly a decade, before Taylor had truly earned the label "injury-prone player," and he was a productive running back. On this date, he carved up the Pittsburgh Steelers' run defense -- as you know, historically one of the game's best almost every season -- for 234 yards, the most that franchise has ever allowed to a single player in a single game.

8. (tie) Marshall Faulk, 2002 Week 7, 47: So many Seahawks games from 2002 on this list … this, Alexander's and Holmes' entries all involved the team from Seattle, and this was the second in which the damage was done to the Seahawks' bottom-ranked run defense. Faulk beat up on the Seahawks for 235 total yards and four scores in this one, serving as a fitting preview for the team that a week later would allow Emmitt Smith to break the all-time NFL rushing record.

8. (tie) Jerome Harrison, 2009 Week 15, 47: Hard to believe, right? In a late-season cameo as the featured running back for the Browns, Harrison carried 34 times for 286 yards and three touchdowns, plus two catches for 12 yards, against the helpless Chiefs. Apparently the Browns weren't too impressed; just a few games into the 2010 season, they dealt Harrison to Vick's Eagles.

8. (tie) Jimmy Smith, 2000 Week 2, 47: He caught 15 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns, and his Jacksonville Jaguars raced to a 17-0 first-quarter lead over the Baltimore Ravens … a lead the Jaguars would promptly blow in the second half. It's the most receiving yards for any player in a game since 1989, and what's most amazing about the feat is that the Ravens in that season allowed the fewest points of any NFL team (165) en route to a Super Bowl championship.

11. (tie) Peyton Manning, 2013 Week 1, 46.

11. (tie) Adrian Peterson (the Viking), 2007 Week 9, 46: You might remember this one ... ADP's big performance from his rookie season might linger in your brain because in this game versus the San Diego Chargers, he set the NFL's single-game rushing record with 296 yards. He stole the headlines from fellow record setter and Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown, the longest play in NFL history, as time expired at the half. From that point forward, Peterson scampered for 253 yards and two of his three scores.

13. (tie) Chris Johnson, 2009 Week 2, 45: Johnson became the first player in NFL history to record a 90-plus-yard rushing touchdown (91 yards), 50-plus-yard rushing touchdown (57) and 60-plus-yard receiving touchdown (69) in a game, ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky reports. Johnson finished with 284 total yards and three touchdowns.

13. (tie) Aaron Rodgers, 2011 Week 4, 45: It was games like this one that earned Rodgers a place atop the all-time, single-season fantasy leaderboard; his 385 points in 2011 set a new standard for quarterbacks. In this contest, he became only the fifth quarterback since 1960 to throw for four or more touchdowns while rushing for two or more.

13. (tie) LaDainian Tomlinson, 2002 Week 13, 45: Hey, he had to be on this list somewhere, right? Overtime helped Tomlinson pad his stats in a division game versus the Denver Broncos, but to be fair, he did the bulk of his damage with three touchdowns in an 11-minute span in the second quarter. Most impressive about LT2's outing: He had totaled only 262 yards in his first three career games against the Broncos, but in this meeting alone he had 271.

Since you might be curious about some of the older standout outings in fantasy football (and NFL) history, the chart below highlights the 32 players since 1960 (who managed a total 33 instances) who have amassed at least as many as 45 fantasy points (ESPN standard scoring).