How much does the NFL draft matter for fantasy football? It seems like a simple question, but the answer varies from year to year. Below, you will find both the best game and the best season from the past decade for each current NFL first-round draft slot. For you longtime fantasy managers, I’ve also included the best season from each slot — the GOAT, if you will — in an effort to stir up nostalgia. Have fun reminiscing about the older games and marvel at the lack of fantasy options in some draft slots. In addition, feel free to let me know on Twitter if you think there’s a player in the 2020 draft class who will make this list if I write something similar in five or 10 years.
No. 1 pick
Game of the decade: Michael Vick, Eagles, 49.3 points (2010 at Redskins)
Season of the decade: Peyton Manning, Broncos, 410 points (2013)
GOAT season: Peyton Manning, Broncos, 410 points (2013)
There is obviously no shortage of quarterbacks on this list, yet Manning is the only former top overall pick since 2010 with a 30-point game that featured negative rushing yards, and he did it five times! Manning will go down as one of the best to do it and he does have the best fantasy season from a top pick, but he isn’t dominating the leaderboard like you might assume. In fact, there are five different names occupying the top seven seasons by a No. 1 pick (Manning twice, Cam Newton twice, O.J. Simpson, Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford).
No. 2 pick
Game of the decade: Calvin Johnson, Lions, 50.9 points (2013 vs. Cowboys)
Season of the decade: Saquon Barkley, Giants, 385.8 points (2018)
GOAT season: Marshall Faulk, Rams, 459.9 points (2000)
Barkley has the upside to impact this list moving forward, but for the past decade, it’s Johnson’s world. Megatron recorded eight of the top 11 games and four of the top eight seasons from the No. 2 spot during that stretch. Peak Faulk was something to see, for those of you not old enough to witness his greatness. He averaged 426.5 points per season from 1999 to 2001, with those three seasons ranking as the top three ever by a second overall pick in the NFL draft.
No. 3 pick
Game of the decade: Andre Johnson, Texans, 49.9 points (2013 vs. Colts)
Season of the decade: Matt Ryan, Falcons, 355 points (2018)
GOAT season: Matt Ryan, Falcons, 355 points (2018)
Over the past decade, the single-game performances leaned the way of Hall of Fame receivers (Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are responsible for eight of the top 10), but Ryan had three of the top four (and four of the top six) seasons in that span, including his 2018 campaign (4,924 passing yards and 39 total touchdowns) that grades out as the best ever by a No. 3 pick.
No. 4 pick
Seven of the top nine games from the 4-slot over the past decade came from either a Cowboy or a Raider, with Cooper making the list as a member of both teams. As for the greatest fantasy season of all time by a No. 4 pick, James broke Walter Payton’s mark in 1999 with 369.9 points (topping Payton’s 1977 season by 45.8 points) and then topped that the following season with another 2,000-plus-yard season that saw him score 18 times.
No. 5 pick
Game of the decade: Justin Blackmon, Jaguars, 36.6 points (2012 at Texans)
Season of the decade: Mark Sanchez, Jets, 237.3 points (2011)
GOAT season: LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers, 481.1 points (2006)
Fun fact as you travel down memory lane: Blackmon is just 30 years old. Other than flashes from Blackmon, we really haven’t seen much recently from the 5-spot. Will that change in the decade ahead with the Dolphins potentially looking at Tua Tagovailoa? When it comes to the all-timers from this draft slot, there’s zero debate about the best to ever do it. LT2 not only is the Mount Rushmore of fantasy production from the 5-spot with the top four seasons ever, he is the architect of the darn thing, as he also has the fifth-best season ever (all of which came within a six-season stretch).
No. 6 pick
Game of the decade: Julio Jones, Falcons, 50.8 points (2017 vs. Buccaneers)
Season of the decade: Julio Jones, Falcons, 375.1 points (2015)
GOAT season: Julio Jones, Falcons, 375.1 points (2015)
Torry Holt dominated the production from the 6-spot over the decade prior and Jones picked up right where Holt left off during the past 10 seasons. Not only was Jones responsible for the top five games and the top seven seasons, he accounted for 55.8% of all fantasy points from this draft slot during that stretch. And while Jones has the top season among a group of No. 6 picks that includes the legendary Jim Brown, he also owns the fifth-best season, in 2018.
No. 7 pick
Evans, Peterson and Josh Allen accounted for each of the top 14 seasons over the past decade. If you dig back into the archives, Sterling Sharpe was a fantasy monster from this slot (four of the top six seasons ever), but Peterson’s just-off-of-a-torn-ACL 2012 topped Sharpe’s best season by 16.5 points. As impressive as that season was, I’d argue that this is the more impressive feat: Peterson has a pair of seasons that rank top 15 on this list that are eight seasons apart from each other (2008 and 2015). That just doesn’t happen at the running back position.
No. 8 pick
Game of the decade: Christian McCaffrey, Panthers, 47.7 points (2019 vs. Jaguars)
Season of the decade: Christian McCaffrey, Panthers, 471.2 points (2019)
GOAT season: Christian McCaffrey, Panthers, 471.2 points (2019)
With all due respect to David Boston, Joey Galloway and the other players picked eighth overall in the history of the NFL, McCaffrey is a fantasy man among boys. Not only are his 15 rushing touchdowns last season five more than any other eighth pick has ever recorded in a single season, he (by the age of 23) also has the top two receptions seasons from this spot. Yes, it’s a different era now than even 15 seasons ago, but what McCaffrey has accomplished the past two seasons is all sorts of special. Ottis Anderson is the owner of three top-12 performances by a No. 8 pick. In those three seasons, the best of his career, he totaled 839.1 PPR points. In just the past two seasons, CMC has amassed 856.7. Whoa.
No. 9 pick
Game of the decade: C.J. Spiller, Bills, 37.7 points (2011 vs. Dolphins)
Season of the decade: C.J. Spiller, Bills, 255.3 points (2012)
GOAT season: Fred Taylor, Jaguars, 306.4 points (1998)
Spiller had the strong 2012, but it was Matthew’s guy Ted Ginn Jr. who is responsible for the second-, third- and fourth-best seasons over the past decade. Quickness has been a recent prerequisite to be drafted here, as Spiller, Ginn and John Ross III all flashed game-breaking potential. The best season by a No. 9 pick came from a rookie, though. Taylor’s 1998 season was nothing short of amazing, as he tied Jamal Anderson for the second-most rushing scores that season (14) despite making just 12 starts. He was also ahead of his time as a pass-catcher, ranking fifth among running backs with 44 receptions that season.
No. 10 pick
The safe money is on Mahomes dominating from this spot for the upcoming decade, but since 2010, Gurley produced three of the top four games and all came in 2017, with two of them coming in consecutive weeks during the fantasy playoffs (two-game totals of 456 yards and six touchdowns). We’ve been spoiled of late, as three of the seven 300-point seasons from the 10-spot have occurred in the past three seasons (Marcus Allen had three of the other four in the 1980s).
No. 11 pick
Game of the decade: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, 44.8 points (2014 vs. Colts)
Season of the decade: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, 341.9 points (2018)
GOAT season: Daunte Culpepper, Vikings, 371.3 points (2004)
The top non-Roethlisberger game from this draft slot since 2010 was a 27.6-point effort from Jay Cutler in 2010, a total Big Ben beat 17 times in that span. For the best season ever, it’s easy to forget how ahead of his time Culpepper was. In that 2004 season, he completed 69.2% of his passes for 4,717 yards, averaging 12.45 yards per completion in the process. You want the list of QBs with a season like that in the past three years in our pass-happy game of today? Zip, zero, not a one. Michael Irvin’s 1995 season deserves a mention, as it is the only 300-point performance from a non-QB drafted 11th overall.
No. 12 pick
This has been a popular spot in the past, as four of the top five seasons during the past decade came from different players: Watson, Beckham, Marshawn Lynch and Knowshon Moreno. Taking a step back, Foreman’s season in 1975 was something to see: 1,070 rushing yards, 691 receiving yards and 22 total touchdowns in the 14-game season (12 starts). Foreman either ran for 100 yards or caught for 75 yards in nine straight games during this dominant season in a far less offensive-minded NFL.
No. 13 pick
Game of the decade: Tony Gonzalez, Falcons, 38.9 points (2013 vs. Patriots)
Season of the decade: Tony Gonzalez, Falcons, 234 points (2012)
GOAT season: Eric Metcalf, Falcons, 290.2 points (1995)
Gonzalez had two of the top three games from 2010 to 2019, but it’s Michael Floyd’s name that shows up the most (four times) on the list of the top eight games over that stretch. The larger picture at this draft slot is dominated by tight ends (Gonzalez and Chargers great Kellen Winslow own seven of the top 10 all-time seasons), but it is the versatile Metcalf who holds the top spot thanks to a season in which he added 25.3 points as a runner and returner in addition to catching 104 balls in his first season with June Jones and the Falcons.
No. 14 pick
Game of the decade: DeVante Parker, Dolphins, 34.9 points (2019 vs. Eagles)
Season of the decade: DeVante Parker, Dolphins, 246.2 points (2019)
GOAT season: Eddie George, Titans, 334.2 points (2000)
The top three games from the 14-slot since 2010 have come from Parker … and all came in December of 2019. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that peak Eddie George holds three of the top four seasons in the history of the No. 14 pick, as he topped 1,400 total yards and scored at least 13 touchdowns three times in a four-year span (1999-2002).
No. 15 pick
Game of the decade: Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 36.1 points (2016 vs. Titans)
Season of the decade: Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 288.1 points (2017)
GOAT season: Jim Taylor, Packers, 289 points (1962)
As good as Gordon has been, his top two fantasy seasons combined saw him rack up 18 rushing touchdowns, a total that Taylor eclipsed in 1962 alone. Taylor didn’t show the versatility of Gordon (just 22 receptions), but up to this point, even after a pair of strong attempts, his mark still stands after nearly 60 years.
No. 16 pick
Game of the decade: Santana Moss, Redskins, 27.1 points (2010 at Cowboys)
Season of the decade: Santana Moss, Redskins, 235.9 points (2010)
GOAT season: Jerry Rice, 49ers, 414 points (1995)
Moss and EJ Manuel were the only offensive skill guys to record points from this pick number over the past decade. When it comes to the best to ever play the game, regardless of draft spot, Rice is on everyone’s short list. While Rice’s 1995 campaign stands out by even his lofty standards (1,848 receiving yards, 15 touchdown receptions, a rushing score and a 41-yard touchdown pass!, it’s not as if his other seasons fell down the list. The GOAT went over 302 PPR points seven times in a decade (1986-1995). Those are the top seven fantasy seasons to come from a No. 16 selection.
No. 17 pick
Game of the decade: Josh Freeman, Buccaneers, 31.8 points (2010 vs. Seahawks)
Season of the decade: Josh Freeman, Buccaneers, 258.4 points (2010)
GOAT season: Emmitt Smith, Cowboys, 414.8 points (1995)
Here’s another pick that has been lacking in terms of recent fantasy production. Sebastian Janikowski accounted for eight of the top 11 seasons during the past decade and was even accountable for the fifth-best game! But, much like the 16th pick, we had a Hall of Famer carry things in the 1990s. Eerily similar to Rice and his legacy, Smith is the owner of the top seven all-time seasons from this draft slot, with his 2,148-yard, 25-touchdown 1995 season proving to be the standard. In fact, from the beginning of the 1994 season through the 1995 season, Smith totaled 779.3 fantasy points, a cool 166.5 more than RB2 Barry Sanders in that span.
No. 18 pick
Game of the decade: Joe Flacco, Ravens, 32.2 points (2014 at Buccaneers)
Season of the decade: Joe Flacco, Ravens, 262.4 points (2014)
GOAT season: Art Monk, Redskins, 286 points (1984)
Shout-out to our very own Bobby Carpenter for posting the best fantasy game by an 18th overall pick not named Joe Flacco during the past decade (a 34-yard pick-six was all it took). Hard to call this a prime fantasy landing spot, as Flacco’s rather ordinary 2014 (QB13 in total points that season) was the best season from 2010 to 2019 and the second best all-time. Monk’s 1984 season does stick out, though, as he caught 106 passes after averaging 59 catches per 16 games in his career prior to that.
No. 19 pick
Game of the decade: Jeremy Maclin, Eagles, 42.7 points (2014 at Cardinals)
Season of the decade: Jeremy Maclin, Eagles, 276.8 points (2014)
GOAT season: Marvin Harrison, Colts, 384.2 points (2002)
As far as offensive options go, it’s been just Maclin, O.J. Howard and Kyle Boller since 2010, but prior to this recent slump, a pair of fantasy stars graced the No. 19 slot. Harrison (five times) and Shaun Alexander (four) eclipsed the 300-point plateau nine times from 1999 to 2006. Those are the only nine occasions in which a player picked 19th in the NFL draft has scored 300 PPR points in a season.
No. 20 pick
Game of the decade: Brandin Cooks, Saints, 37.6 points (2016 at Cardinals)
Season of the decade: Brandin Cooks, Saints, 253.6 points (2015)
GOAT season: Javon Walker, Packers, 295.2 points (2004)
Cooks has the top four seasons for a player drafted 20th overall since 2010, and they’ve come while wearing three different uniforms (though six of his top seven games came while playing for the Saints). Cooks has been great, but even at his best, he has fallen considerably short of the first full season in which the Packers unleashed Walker. After totaling 64 catches for 1,035 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first 32 NFL games, Walker exploded for an 89-1,382-12 stat line in 2004. That season, Walker outscored the likes of Torry Holt, Marvin Harrison and Chad Johnson on his way to the greatest fantasy season we’ve seen from a 20th pick.
No. 21 pick
The 21st overall pick has had a connection to health issues recently, but this pick slot did give us one of the great all-time fantasy producers in Moss. Prior to 2007, Moss was already the owner of the top five seasons by a No. 21 pick, but his work wasn’t done. In that historic season, Moss was 75.9 points better than any other receiver and caught multiple touchdown passes eight times (no other two players in the NFL combined for eight such games that season).
No. 22 pick
Game of the decade: Demaryius Thomas, Broncos, 42.6 points (2014 vs. Cardinals)
Season of the decade: Demaryius Thomas, Broncos, 340.9 points (2014)
GOAT season: Demaryius Thomas, Broncos, 340.9 points (2014)
The 2014 season saw Thomas post the three best games of his career. The only other 22nd pick since 2010 with a 27-point fantasy game was Percy Harvin; the short list is thanks in large part to the QB position consistently busting (Brandon Weeden, Rex Grossman, Johnny Manziel and Brady Quinn). Thomas has three of the top four seasons from the 22-spot, with Andre Rison’s 1993 campaign (86-1,242-15) being the lone exception.
No. 23 pick
Game of the decade: Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs, 48 points (2010 at Seahawks)
Season of the decade: Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs, 278.6 points (2010)
GOAT season: Deuce McAllister, Saints, 326.7 points (2003)
Bowe held off Rashard Mendenhall in 2010 for the best season of the decade, as both No. 23 picks produced what proved to be career years. As good as both were that season, neither was much of a challenge to McAllister in his prime. Deuce was on the loose in 2002 when he burst onto the scene with an RB8 finish in his second NFL season. His encore performance was even better, concluding a nice two-year run that often gets overlooked during the Priest Holmes/LaDainian Tomlinson era.
No. 24 pick
Game of the decade: Aaron Rodgers, Packers, 45.9 points (2011 vs. Broncos)
Season of the decade: Aaron Rodgers, Packers, 397.4 (2011)
GOAT season: Steven Jackson, Rams, 415.4 points (2006)
This has been a sneaky-productive spot when it comes to fantasy production. During the past decade, Rodgers is the name of note, but there were 14 non-Rodgers instances in which a 24th overall selection scored 30 fantasy points in a game (Dez Bryant eight times, Chris Johnson four times, Steven Jackson once and DJ Moore once). Speaking of Jackson, his career year in 2006 is often overlooked given what Tomlinson was busy doing (31 touchdowns), but let it be forever known that it was Jackson who actually led the NFL in scrimmage yards that season (2,334 to 2,323).
No. 25 pick
Game of the decade: Santonio Holmes, Jets, 31.6 points (2010 vs. Texans)
Season of the decade: Tim Tebow, Broncos, 199.2 points (2011)
GOAT season: Stanley Morgan, Patriots, 293.1 points (1986)
This past season, Marquise Brown was the first No. 25 pick since Jason Campbell in 2013 to reach 80 fantasy points in a season, so that tells you a little bit about the fantasy quality of this draft spot lately. The later picks are typically made by playoff teams looking for a glue piece as opposed to a game-changer, so it shouldn’t be shocking that you often have to be patient before seeing a fantasy prime. Morgan posted a career year during his 10th season with the Patriots, a season in which he racked up 1,491 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, essentially the same stat line that it took him 28 games to produce in the two years prior (1,469 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns).
No. 26 pick
Game of the decade: Calvin Ridley, Falcons, 40.5 points (2018 vs. Saints)
Season of the decade: Calvin Ridley, Falcons, 206.8 points (2018)
GOAT season: Greg Bell, Rams, 259.6 points (1988)
While Ridley has dominated both leaderboards since 2010, Breshad Perriman did take two of the top five spots in the single-game category this past December. Ridley has the best season by a No. 26 pick during his lifetime, but before he was born, it was Bell who set the standard from this draft slot. From 1984 to 1989, Bell gave us four of the top six seasons by a 26th pick, including the all-timer in 1988 when he rushed for a score in 14 of 16 games.
No. 27 pick
Game of the decade: DeAndre Hopkins, Texans, 44.8 points (2014 vs. Titans)
Season of the decade: DeAndre Hopkins, Texans, 333.5 points (2018)
GOAT season: Larry Johnson, Chiefs, 370.9 (2006)
As good as Hopkins is, it’s actually Roddy White who led the way with three of the top six games from this draft slot during the past decade (Hopkins has two and DeAngelo Williams the other). Dan Marino held the top season by a No. 27 pick for 20 years before Johnson broke his record in 2005 and improved upon that the following season. In 2006, LJ touched the ball 457 times, a figure that hasn’t been reached since and might not be for quite some time (even with a 17-game regular season in our future).
No. 28 pick
Game of the decade: Mark Ingram II, Ravens, 35.5 points (2019 at Chiefs)
Season of the decade: Mark Ingram II, Saints, 278 points (2017)
GOAT season: Mark Ingram II, Saints, 278 points (2017)
This pick has rarely been used on immediate-impact offensive talent. Kelvin Benjamin is the only player from the 28-spot over the past decade to score 100 fantasy points as a rookie. Benjamin has largely underwhelmed, so the fact that he owns the fifth-best season from this slot — Ingram has the top three and Paul Warfield’s 1968 checks in at No. 4 — tells you all you need to know.
No. 29 pick
Game of the decade: Hakeem Nicks, Giants, 37 points (2010 at Texans)
Season of the decade: Hakeem Nicks, Giants, 250.2 points (2010)
GOAT season: Derrick Alexander, Chiefs, 281.6 points (2000)
Nicks seems likely to hold both marks (since 2010) for a while, as the players with the best NFL résumés currently playing from the 29-spot are David Njoku and Cordarrelle Patterson. Alexander didn’t have a very long career and he caught more than 65 passes only once, but the one time he was able to start all 16 games was that standout 2000 season: 78 catches for 1,391 yards and 10 scores for a 7-9 Chiefs team that wasn’t afraid to throw it with Elvis Grbac.
No. 30 pick
Game of the decade: Jahvid Best, Lions, 50.2 points (2010 vs. Eagles)
Season of the decade: Reggie Wayne, Colts, 280.5 points (2010)
GOAT season: Reggie Wayne, Colts, 309.4 points (2007)
Wayne outscored Best by 111.9 points in the other 15 games of 2010, but Best had his moment in the sun by producing 25.6% of his season total in Week 2 (a game the Lions lost, by the way). That 2010 season was the third best of Wayne’s career and the third best by a 30th pick. During his prime, few did it better than Wayne, as he was the WR2 in total points from 2007 to 2010 (Larry Fitzgerald topped him by 23.1 points for WR1 honors). Fun fact: The top 10 fantasy seasons by a 30th overall pick all came courtesy of the Colts (Wayne with seven and Joseph Addai with three).
No. 31 pick
Game of the decade: Doug Martin, Buccaneers, 55.2 points (2012 at Raiders)
Season of the decade: Doug Martin, Buccaneers, 311.6 points (2012)
GOAT season: Dalton Hilliard, Saints, 336 points (1989)
Martin’s rookie campaign was ultra-impressive, but he just missed out on the all-time mark due to Hilliard recording 31.2 more points as a receiver than the Muscle Hamster (it’s my article and I love the nickname, so I’m using it). Unfortunately, Hilliard injured his knee the next season and was never quite the same after that.
No. 32 pick
Jackson crashed the Brees party at the top of this all-time list, as the veteran held the top nine seasons by a No. 32 pick prior to 2019. Brees has eight seasons with 300-plus fantasy points. Will Jackson top that number in his career? Let me know the answer to that, along with players you think will crack this list in the years to come.