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Top 25 fantasy players since 1995


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Top 25 fantasy players since 1995

You might not know it, but there are fewer than 70 days left before the start of the 2015 preseason! So, what better time to make a little historical venture and take a look at the top 25 fantasy players of the last 20 years? Based on a standard scoring system, this list includes non-active players (1995-2014) and is based on production, consistency and opinion.

1. Marshall Faulk, RB, Colts/Rams
Faulk was the first fantasy football superstar at a time when interest in the game had started to increase. During our time frame, he ranked third in scrimmage yards and scored the fifth-most total touchdowns. From 1997-2001, Faulk ranked in the top seven in fantasy points among running backs every single year. In 1999, he had 1,000-plus yards as both a runner and a receiver. Imagine getting those totals now!

2. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers/Jets
This was a close call between Faulk and Tomlinson. In fact, you could argue that this battle of fantasy superstars is a tie. Over the last 20 years, no running back has recorded more scrimmage yards or scrimmage touchdowns than the TCU product. Tomlinson also had the best fantasy season of all time in 2006, when he totaled 2,323 scrimmage yards and 31 total touchdowns. L.T. even had two scoring passes that year.

3. Randy Moss, WR, Vikings/Raiders/Patriots/Titans
Moss was an athletic and statistical freak all rolled into one fantasy superstar. Over the past 20 seasons, he had the second-most receiving yards and the most touchdown catches among wideouts. Furthermore, he led the entire NFL in touchdowns five different times. Moss had his best fantasy campaign in 2007 while a member of the Patriots, putting up 1,493 yards and an NFL-record 23 touchdown catches.

4. Brett Favre, QB, Packers/Jets/Vikings
Favre was one of the faces you would see on the cover of fantasy football magazines (remember those?) all the time, and for good reason. He's thrown for more yards and more touchdowns than any other non-active quarterback since 1995. The old gunslinger also finished as the top fantasy player at his position in consecutive seasons from 1995-1997, so Favre was productive and consistent on the gridiron.

5. Marvin Harrison, WR, Colts
Harrison wasn't a diva or a talker like some of his other positional brethren, but the fantasy numbers he recorded spoke volumes. Over the last 20 years, he recorded the fifth-most receiving yards and the third-most touchdowns among all players at his position. Harrison also ranked in the top 10 in fantasy points among wideouts from 1999-2006, and finished No. 1 overall four different times during that span.

6. Shaun Alexander, RB, Seahawks/Redskins
Alexander ranked a modest 16th in rushing yards among non-active backs since 1995, but he was an absolute touchdown machine. In fact, he's one of just two runners (Tomlinson) to rush for at least 100 scores in the last 20 years. A top-10 back each season from 2001-2005, Alexander had his best fantasy year at the end of that streak (2005) with 1,880 rushing yards and what was a then-record 27 touchdowns.

7. Terrell Owens, WR, 49ers/Eagles/Cowboys/Bills/Bengals
Owens is sometimes remembered more for his off-the-field foolishness, but he was also an awesome fantasy football player. During our time frame, he is fourth in scrimmage yards (No. 1 among wideouts) and third in scrimmage touchdowns. A top-10 fantasy wideout eight different times from 1998-2008, T.O. led the league in touchdown catches three times and scored in double-digits eight times during his NFL career.

8. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Chiefs/Falcons
There might not be a better fantasy tight end ever than Gonzalez. Since 1995, he put up the third-most receiving yards and the fourth-most touchdowns among all players (he led his position in both categories). Amazingly, the California product ranked in the top 10 in fantasy points among tight ends in 12 consecutive seasons, including four No. 1 finishes. He'll be found in the halls of Canton in the near future.

9. Edgerrin James, RB, Colts/Cardinals/Seahawks
James came of out Miami (FL) and made an instant impact, posting 4,442 scrimmage yards and 35 total touchdowns in his first two seasons at the pro level. Over the last 20 years, he ranks sixth in scrimmage yards and is tied for 11th in scrimmage touchdowns among non-active participants. Overall, Edge had six top-10 finishes from 1999-2007 including finishing No. 1 among all fantasy running backs as a rookie.

10. Curtis Martin, RB, Patriots/Jets
Martin was one of the best and most talented running backs in fantasy football during his career. He rushed for 1,000-plus yards in each of his first 10 seasons at the pro level, while scoring 100 scrimmage touchdowns from 1995-2005. A top-20 fantasy runner in all but his final season, Martin put up 371 carries for 1,697 yards with 14 total scores and finished second at his position in 2004 at the age of 31.

11. Torry Holt, WR, Rams/Jaguars
The "Greatest Show on Turf" in St. Louis was loaded with fantasy superstars. In fact, three of them made this list. Holt is the second, as he ranks sixth in receiving yards and ninth in touchdown catches among non-active receivers. Holt also finished as a top-15 fantasy wideout every season from 2000-2007. He ranked No. 2 at his position in 2003, when he recorded 1,696 yards and visited the end zone 12 times.

12. Cris Carter, WR, Vikings/Dolphins
Carter's receiving yards don't even rank him in the top 20 among non-active players since 1995, but he makes up for it in touchdowns. In fact, the Hall of Famer scored 81 times from 1995-2002. He also recorded 1,000-plus yards and double-digit touchdowns in five consecutive seasons from 1995-1999. If you participated in a PPR or touchdown-only format, Carter was even more valuable to your fantasy football roster.

13. Shannon Sharpe, Broncos/Ravens
There's no question about the top fantasy tight end in our 20-year time frame (Gonzalez), but no one would argue that Sharpe is the clear-cut second-best. A top-five fantasy tight end in all but three of his NFL seasons (one of which was shortened due to injuries), Sharpe still ranks second in receiving yards and fourth in touchdown receptions among all non-active players at his position during our time frame.

14. Tiki Barber, RB, Giants
The start of Barber's pro career was, well, modest at best. In fact, he rushed for 1,000-plus yards once in his first five seasons. Of course, the Virginia product became a fantasy superstar in his final five campaigns. During our 20-year time frame, Barber would rank an impressive fifth in scrimmage yards among non-active players. He also ranked no worse than 15th among fantasy running backs from 2000-2006.

15. Emmitt Smith, RB, Cowboys/Cardinals
Smith would be ranked much higher if this list were based on a player's entire career, but we started our research at 1995. Still, he ranks 15th in scrimmage yards and is tied for eighth in scrimmage touchdowns among non-active players over the last 20 years. The NFL's all-time leader in rushing yards, Smith also ranked seventh in that category during our time frame. He was almost always a fantasy first rounder.

16. Ricky Watters, RB, Eagles/Seahawks
Watters was never the "sexiest" fantasy player, but he always got the job done in the stat sheets. A versatile runner, Watters produced more than 7,800 rushing yards, 2,798 receiving yards and a combined 58 touchdowns during our time frame. From 1995-2000, he ranked as a top-10 fantasy runner every single year. That includes a 1996 campaign where he had over 1,800 total yards and 13 visits to the end zone.

17. Priest Holmes, RB, Ravens/Chiefs
From 2001-2003, Holmes had one of the greatest statistical stretches in fantasy football lore. In fact, he scored 373 fantasy points in two of those campaigns back-to-back. The reason he isn't ranked higher is that Holmes was invisible in the stat sheets in three of his first four NFL years and broke down during the final three seasons of his career. When Holmes was good though, he was absolutely awesome.

18. Jimmy Smith, WR, Jaguars
Smith was one of the most reliable wideouts in fantasy football during his career. While he never scored a ton of touchdowns (his single-season best was just eight), he did record 1,000-plus yards nine different times in his career. A top-25 fantasy wideout on nine occassions, Smith ranks an impressive seventh in receiving yards (12,287) among all non-active players during our 20-year time frame.

19. Daunte Culpepper, QB, Vikings/Dolphins/Raiders/Lions
When Culpepper was on the field and playing at 100 percent, he was an absolute fantasy-point scoring machine. In fact, he finished in the top two among quarterbacks four times during a five-year stretch. That was due to a rocket right arm and his skills as a runner. In fact, Culpepper ranks fourth in rushing yards (2,652, 5.1 YPC) and third in rushing touchdowns (34) among non-active field generals since 1995.

20. Barry Sanders, RB, Lions
I needed to include Sanders as a show of respect. While he did most of his statistical damage before 1995, he still rushed for over 6,500 yards and scored a combined 41 touchdowns during our time frame. That includes a 1997 campaign where he finished with 2,053 rushing yards, 14 total touchdowns and filled the top spot among all fantasy running backs. Who knows what else he could achieved had he not retired.

21. Clinton Portis, RB, Broncos/Redskins
Portis would have ranked higher on this list, but three of his best fantasy seasons came from 2002-2004. During our time frame, he rushed for over 1,200 yards three times and scored a combined 80 touchdowns. Portis also finished among the top-12 in fantasy points among running backs six different times from 2002-2008, including two campaigns where he ranked as the fourth-best fantasy player at his position.

22. Terrell Davis, RB, Broncos
Much like Holmes, Davis would be much higher on this list had his career not been cut short. From 1995-1998, the Georgia product put up over 6,400 rushing yards and found the end zone a combined 61 times. That includes a 1998 campaign that saw him rush for 2,008 yards and 21 scores. Unfortunately, the 336 carries he averaged during this time caused him to break down and fall off the fantasy football radar.

23. Isaac Bruce, WR, Rams
Some would call Bruce a "compiler" because he played for so long, but take a look at his high-end numbers. He produced 1,000-plus yards eight different times in his career, including a personal-best 1,781 yards in 1995. The Memphis product ranked among the 25 best fantasy football wideouts 10 times overall, and remained a legitimate starting option even once Holt took over as the No. 1 wideout in St. Louis.

24. Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles
Most of the best fantasy quarterbacks on this list are still active (and thus ineligible), but McNabb needs to have his name mentioned regardless. That's because he's fourth in passing yards and second in touchdowns passes among non-active quarterbacks in the last 20 years. A versatile athlete, McNabb is second in rushing yards (3,469) and ranks fourth in rushing touchdowns (29) at his position as well.

25. Ahman Green, RB, Packers/Texans
You might have forgotten, but Green was one heck of a fantasy runner in his salad days. From 2000-2006, he rushed for 1,000-plus yards six different times. Green also finished in the top three in fantasy points twice during that time while scoring a combined 67 touchdowns. His best fantasy campaign came in 2003, when Green totaled an stellar 2,250 scrimmage yards and scored 20 total touchdowns. 20 total touchdowns.​