Christian McCaffrey dominated the NFL in 2019, leading countless Fantasy players to championships. He was the runaway best player in Fantasy, a consensus No. 1 overall pick for 2020, and the only question is how he'll follow it up.
Well, that's not the only question. There's also the question of where McCaffrey's 2019 season ranks among the best Fantasy seasons of all time. This week, the Fantasy Football Today team is pausing our preview content for the 2020 season to turn our sights back, looking at the history of Fantasy football.
We're starting Monday with a draft of the greatest Fantasy seasons of all time, where you'll get your answer on McCaffrey — his 2019 season was the third overall pick in our draft going back to 1997. Through the rest of the week, we'll have the greatest Fantasy seasons at each position, our team's Mount Rushmore for each position, plus the biggest busts, one-year wonders, breakouts and bounce-backs, as well as a look at the greatest Fantasy offenses and a look ahead at who we expect to be the best players of the next half-decade as well. We're going to be highlighting the players who helped us win championships throughout the years, those who made us look like fools and the ones you may have even forgotten about.
Why 1997? That's when CBS Sports first offered Fantasy football leagues online, back in the SportsLine days. We wanted to focus on the era in which Fantasy football became a significant part of football fans lives, and so that felt like a good demarcation line, though obviously, Fantasy football didn't start there.
The first Fantasy football leagues can be traced back to the early 1960s, when Bill Winkenbach created the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators league while serving as a part-owner of the Oakland Raiders. He also created some of the first Fantasy baseball and golf leagues, which is why the Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association dubbed him "the father of Fantasy sports."
Of course, scoring in that early league was quite a bit different. First off, they drafted two quarterbacks, four halfbacks, two fullbacks, four wide receivers or tight ends, plus two return men, two kickers (two kickers!), two defensive backs or linebackers, and two defensive ends — you started one QB, one fullback, two halfbacks, and two TE/WR. You were rewarded 25 points for all offensive touchdowns, 25 for a field goal, 10 for an extra point, and 200 for special teams or defensive touchdowns — which feels like a bit too much value for kickers, if you ask me.
But hey, we had to start somewhere, and considering a kicker actually managed to win the NFL MVP Award in 1982 (no, really), it's not the most overvalued kickers have ever been.
In those days, putting together your lineup and getting the results required quite a bit more work than it does these days — the commissioner would have to compile the full results from newspaper box scores and send them out to the rest of the league. My wife yelled at me last week for putting a stamp in the wrong corner of an envelope, so the idea of having to do my Fantasy league through the mail is too daunting to even consider; kudos to those early pioneers.
Things got considerably easier once the internet became involved, and the game didn't truly take off until all facets of the game were automated. And it's really taken off, with approximately 60 million people playing Fantasy sports in North America, according to FSGA research conducted in 2017. That includes 54 million in the United States, nearly two-thirds of whom play Fantasy football.
We'll be focusing on the history and the best players of the online Fantasy era, although that obviously leaves out some of the biggest stars in NFL history — Jerry Rice's massive 1987 (26.3 Fantasy points per game) and 1995 (25.4 per game) aren't featured, nor were historic seasons by Eric Dickerson or Marcus Allen; arguably the single-greatest quarterback season of all time, relative to the league, Dan Marino's 48-touchdown season in 1984 obviously doesn't make it either.
Still, there's so much for us to talk about, you'll want to subscribe and check out the Fantasy Football Today podcast all week long, plus tune in to our hour-long live specials on CBS Sports HQ at noon every day this week to follow along with everything we're talking about. It'll be a trip down memory lane for all of us.