On Tuesday, The Ringer unveiled its Fantasy Football Hall of Fame, honoring 25 past and present NFL players as the greatest fantasy stars ever. We’re celebrating the guys who won us championships over the years, from Emmitt Smith to Drew Brees. You can see the full list of our choices here—and yes, we’re fully prepared to argue about them.
In fantasy football, players are often judged by their season-long body of work. In 2018, for instance, Patrick Mahomes put together one of the greatest fantasy performances of all time, setting a new record for the quarterback position with an NFL-best 417 fantasy points. Mahomes represented incredible value after being drafted 118th on average, and carried his teams into the fantasy postseason and beyond; he was the foundational piece to more championship squads than everyone not named Christian McCaffrey. But if we narrow our focus to the fantasy playoff stretch that runs from Week 14 to Week 16, the dynamic Chiefs signal-caller wasn’t quite the NFL’s top dog in 2018: He ranked 10th in PPR points in that stretch, finishing as the QB3 while trailing, among others, his teammate Damien Williams, Jets receiver Robby Anderson, and, perhaps most shocking of all, Titans running back Derrick Henry. (And we’ll come back to Henry in a minute.)
Rams running back Todd Gurley’s playoff drop-off in 2018, meanwhile, was far more dramatic: Through 13 weeks, he trailed only Mahomes in PPR points, averaging 27.4 points per game. Over the next three weeks, though, Gurley’s production cratered: He scored just 8.8 PPR points in Week 14 and was held out of the lineup in Week 16, ultimately finishing 54th among all players in fantasy postseason PPR points. Gurley ended the year fourth among all players in PPR points, but for the fantasy managers he’d carried into the postseason, it was an unmitigated disaster.
The moral of that story is that fantasy teams need a cadre of consistent, reliable scorers if they hope to make the postseason—but once the more-condensed playoffs stretch hits, anything can happen. Championship-winning squads often need just one or two players to go off over the last few weeks of the fantasy season to rise above their competitors. Accounting for differences between PPR and standard scoring, let’s take some time to look back and appreciate what I think are the 13 greatest—and in a few cases, most shocking—fantasy football playoff performances of the past decade.
13. Eagles RB LeSean McCoy, 2013
McCoy was, at least at first, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Chip Kelly experiment in Philly. In Kelly’s first year with the Eagles, the then-25-year-old McCoy carried the ball a league-high 314 times for an NFL-best 1,607 yards while scoring nine touchdowns on the ground and adding 52 catches for 539 yards and two scores through the air. He rewarded fantasy managers with a massively productive fantasy postseason, too; in three games, he posted 388 yards and four scores on the ground, plus 12 catches for 101 yards through the air in a three-game stretch. Two out of those three games were his highest-scoring games of the year.
The performance that stands out the most came in the first round (Week 14), when he dropped a league-best 35.1 fantasy PPR points in a snowy win over the Lions. He totaled 217 yards and two scores, breaking away from the Detroit defense on two big fourth-quarter touchdown runs.
McCoy racked up another 34.2 PPR points in the Week 16 championship round (second among all players), rushing for 133 yards and two touchdowns. He scored a total of 84.9 PPR fantasy points in that three-week fantasy postseason (weeks 14 to 16), the 12th-best mark among all players in that stretch going back to 2009.
12. Jaguars QB Blake Bortles, 2015
A handful of quarterbacks—Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Andy Dalton, and Michael Vick—came in a bit higher than Bortles on the list of best fantasy playoff performances of the past decade. But in terms of shock factor, the former Jaguars passer definitely takes the cake. Bortles’s 79.2-point fantasy playoffs performance from 2015 comes in 11th in standard formats in the past decade—one spot ahead of the league MVP and overall top points scorer that year, Cam Newton. Bortles tossed eight touchdowns and ran for two more in that stretch, displaying the type of moxie and downfield accuracy that … uh, pretty much disappeared shortly thereafter.
Bortles’s late-season run helped him finish as the overall QB4 in 2015, easily the apex of his career in Jacksonville.
11. Saints QB Drew Brees, 2011
Brees’s passing numbers have tended to wane late in the season over the past few years, but his 82.1-point standard-league performance from weeks 14 to 16 in 2011 ranks sixth among all players over the past decade. The future Hall of Famer tossed 11 fantasy postseason touchdowns—most since 2009—and racked up 1,056 yards through the air.
That late-season explosion helped him finish second, behind only league MVP Aaron Rodgers, among quarterbacks in fantasy points that season.
10. Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell, 2017
Hold on, we’ll get to Bell in a sec …
9. Redskins TE Jordan Reed, 2015
The Redskins offense caught fire toward the end of the 2015 season, scoring 97 points in the three-game fantasy playoff stretch. Reed, who scored 88.3 fantasy points in that stretch with 25 catches for 333 yards and five touchdowns, sits at no. 9 on the list of top-scoring fantasy postseasons (PPR) in the past decade. And we’ll get to the guy who was throwing him passes in a second …
8. Texans WR Andre Johnson, 2009
Johnson finished with 89.3 PPR points during the 2009 fantasy postseason—eighth most in the last decade—and his 460 receiving yards in that three-game fantasy playoffs stretch ranks second among all players in the past 10 years. Oh, and by the way, if you had Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall on your team that year, too, you probably came away with the trophy: Marshall caught 36 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns in that stretch, setting NFL records in Week 14 with 28 targets and 21 catches.
7. Redskins QB Kirk Cousins, 2015
Getting back to Washington’s flourish of a finish in 2015, Cousins threw for 984 yards and nine touchdowns from Week 14 to Week 16, an 89.4-point output that puts him seventh overall in fantasy playoff-scoring (PPR) in the past decade.
If you stacked Cousins and Reed that year, you probably mopped up in your fantasy playoffs.
6. Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell, 2014
Just keep scrolling, we’ll get to Bell in a bit …
5. Titans RB Derrick Henry, 2018
Henry’s late-season surge last year was one of the most impressive and completely unpredictable fantasy football explosions in recent memory. The massive Titans back rumbled and tumbled for 492 yards and seven touchdowns from Week 14 to Week 16—both more than any player in that three-week stretch in the past decade—scoring 94.2 PPR points along the way (fifth most).
The only problem was, of course, that he was probably on your bench for his massive 47.8-point explosion in Week 14, when he carried the ball 17 times for 238 yards and four touchdowns. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Henry was in the starting lineup in just 14.3 percent of leagues. You couldn’t really blame managers for that, considering he’d averaged just 7.9 points per game and scored only 95.5 fantasy points in the 12 games prior, which ranked 144th in the NFL.
4. Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell, 2016
Finally it’s time to talk about Bell, an absolute late-season monster. Bell isn’t in The Ringer’s Fantasy Football Hall of Fame, but maybe he should be: The former Steeler owns three of the top-10 scoring outbursts in the fantasy postseason over the past 10 years. Bell’s 2016 fantasy playoffs explosion (98.6 PPR points) ranks fourth among all players since 2009; he totaled 451 yards and four touchdowns on 81 totes while adding 12 catches for 115 yards and another score in that stretch.
His best game came in the opening week of the fantasy postseason, when he carried fantasy owners into the next round of the playoffs with a massive 51.8-PPR-point output in snowy Buffalo—16.9 more points than any other player. He finished the game with 236 yards and three scores plus four catches for 62 yards through the air.
He scored a solid 18.1 points the next week (23 rushes for 93 yards plus five catches for 38) then added another 28.7 points the next week (rushing for 122 yards and a score while adding another touchdown through the air).
As noted above, Bell was also a fantasy playoffs hero in 2014 (when he averaged 30.2 PPR points, including a Week 14 explosion for 47.5 PPR points—the most any player scored that fantasy postseason) and 2017 (with a 29.2-point average). Bell’s incredible fantasy playoffs performances should be remembered more than the damage his season-long holdout did to fantasy drafters in 2018.
3. Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr., 2014
Beckham’s rookie fantasy playoff performance was unbelievable. The then-Giant caught 31 passes for 421 yards and six touchdowns in that three-game stretch, racking up 108.0 PPR fantasy points—third most going back to 2009. His six fantasy playoff touchdown grabs is tied for best in the past decade. His best game came in New York’s Week 15 matchup with the Redskins, when he caught 12 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns.
That’s a nice postseason payoff for a guy who was going as a 15th-round pick to start the year.
2. Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles, 2013
Watching running backs like Gurley, Bell, Alvin Kamara, and Christian McCaffrey over the past couple seasons can make it easy to forget just how explosive and smooth Charles was in his prime. The former Chiefs superstar posted his most prolific season in 2013 (Andy Reid’s first year with the team), rushing for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns while adding 70 catches for 693 yards and another seven touchdowns through the air. He finished the season with a bang—racking up eight total touchdowns while helping deliver championship trophies to plenty of his fantasy squads.
Charles notched scores of 29.8 PPR points in Week 14 (11th overall) and 25.4 PPR points in Week 16 (12th overall), but his 59.5-fantasy-point performance in Week 15 was one for the ages—the single-greatest fantasy playoff output of the past decade. He scored 24 points more than the next closest player. Charles scored five times—once on the ground and four times through the air, and racked up 215 yards from scrimmage.
1. Rams RB Todd Gurley, 2017
Gurley’s fantasy playoffs collapse in 2018 was shocking not only because he’d spent most of the season at or near the top of every fantasy leaderboard, but because of its stark contrast to his 2017 fantasy run—which may be single-greatest fantasy postseason performance of all time. It’s no exaggeration to say that Gurley put his fantasy teams on his shoulders and almost single-handedly carried them to championships; if you had Gurley in your roster during the 2017 fantasy playoffs, it was like you were given a cheat code.
Gurley scored eight times in three games, collecting 366 yards and five touchdowns on the ground to go with 16 catches for 225 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He looked like he was playing at a different speed than everyone else on the field—particularly in the Week 15 and Week 16 matchups with the Seahawks and Titans. In L.A.’s 42-7 blowout win over Seattle, Gurley scored an NFL-best 45.0 PPR points while collecting four total scores. The next week, which was the championship round for many leagues, Gurley scored 49.6 PPR points—17.3 more than any other player—rushing for 118 yards while racking up 10 catches for 158 yards and two scores, including an 80-yard catch-and-run TD.
Gurley totaled 123.1 PPR points—a 41-point average—in those three weeks combined, easily the most for that late-season stretch over the past decade. For context, the lowest-end RB1 in that stretch was Cowboys running back Rod Smith, who scored 51.7 points in that three-week stretch, less than half of what Gurley totaled. Gurley lapped the field.