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All-Time NFL Fantasy Rookie Performances

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - While we wait out the legal and contractual battles between the billionaires (NFL owners) and millionaires (players), we have plenty of time, unfortunately, to dream about all of our past fantasy football triumphs and tragedies.

Today we're going to look at some of the all-time best performances by a rookie. After reading the statistics below, you'll understand why sometimes one of your fellow owners gets a little carried away by a rookie at the draft.

I was that way last summer, salivating over what I thought could be a monster season from San Diego Chargers rookie Ryan Mathews. Mathews disappointed and failed to produce as I had expected. He finished the season with just 678 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground and 22 receptions for another 145 yards. Unfortunately, he was upstaged by Mike Tolbert, who ran for 735 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Below, however, you will find 10 rookies who weren't upstaged and in fact were the center of attention throughout the league.

Eric Dickerson, Los Angeles Rams - Dickerson may have been the No.2 player drafted in 1983 (John Elway went No.1), but on the field there was no comparison. He landed in the perfect situation with a coach, John Robinson, who knew how to use a great running back. Dickerson ran a league-high 390 times for a league-leading 1,808 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also caught 51 balls for 404 yards and two more scores. All told he amassed 2,212 yards from scrimmage, was the 1983 NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year and by any NFL fantasy rankings was No.1 overall. Dickerson would actually improve on most of those numbers in 1984, but a young quarterback in Miami would take top honors as the league's leading points producer.

Edgerrin James, Indianapolis - Like Dickerson, James would come to the NFL and find himself in an ideal situation. The fourth player selected in 1999, James could both run and catch. In Indianapolis, he ran a league-high 369 times for 1,553 yards and 13 scores. He also caught 62 balls for 586 yards and four more touchdowns and finished the year No.1 overall in fantasy points.

Gale Sayers, Chicago - Not too many people were playing fantasy football in 1965, but imagine if you had Sayers on your roster. Over a 14-game season, he ran for 867 yards and 14 touchdowns, caught 29 balls for 507 yards and six more scores and ran both a punt and kickoff return for touchdowns. Sayers accounted for 22 touchdowns and 2,272 yards during that brilliant season.

Randy Moss, Minnesota - Twenty teams passed on Moss before Minnesota scooped him up at No.21 in the 1998 NFL draft, and he rewarded the Vikings handsomely with a 69-catch, 1,313-yard, 17-touchdown season. It was, by far, the best performance ever by a rookie receiver. The Vikings would go 15-1 that season as Moss' deep threat opened up the field for fellow receiver Cris Carter and running back Robert Smith.

Curt Warner, Seattle - The No.3 pick in the 1983 draft didn't get as much attention as he should have because of Dickerson's masterful performance, but Warner was pretty good too. He carried the ball 335 times for 1,449 yards and 13 touchdowns and added 42 receptions for 325 yards and a score. Warner and wideout Steve Largent carried the Seahawks to a 9-7 record and two playoff wins. A season-ending injury in the 1984 opening game ended many a fantasy owner's year almost before it began and in one of my leagues it was the impetus for playing two half seasons each year

George Rogers, New Orleans - Rogers was a workhorse in 1981 and led the league in rushing attempts (378), rushing yards (1,674) and rushing yards per game (104.6). He added 13 touchdowns and was ranked No.6 overall.

Barry Sanders, Detroit - Sanders was the third pick in 1989 behind Troy Aikman and Tony Mandarich and he didn't disappoint Lions fans or fantasy owners. Despite his small frame, he ran 280 times for 1,470 yards and 14 scores. Interestingly, the man who is remembered for some of the greatest long runs from scrimmage (he had 14 touchdowns of 50+ yards over his career), didn't score from more than 25 yards out on any of the 14 touchdowns.

Earl Campbell, Houston - The pride of Tyler, TX carried the Oilers offense from the moment he stepped onto the playing field. He led the NFL in rushing in his first three seasons beginning with a 302-carry, 1,450-yard, 13-TD effort in 1978. He was the 1978, 1979 and 1980 NFL AP Offensive Player of the Year.

Dan Marino, Miami - He didn't begin the season as the starting quarterback, that distinction belonged to David Woodley. But when Marino was installed as the starter, he excelled. In his nine games as a starter, Marino was 7-2 with 2,210 yards and 20 touchdown passes against just six interceptions. It was just a small sample of things to come as he exploded in his second season with 5,084 yards passing and 48 touchdowns, records which would last for more than 20 years.

Bob Hayes, Dallas - "Bullet" Bob Hayes changed the game in his first season because of his speed. An Olympic sprinter, Hayes averaged 21.8 yards per reception in his first season, caught a league-leading 12 touchdown passes for 1,003 yards and was named to the Pro Bowl. He finished 10th overall in fantasy points. Hayes is still the only man to win both an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring.

Just missed: Ben Roethlisberger (2,621, 17 TD, 11 INTs), Adrian Peterson (238, 1,341, 12 TD), Curtis Martin (368, 1,487, 14 TD).

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.


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