My Fantasy playing days date back to the fall of 1989, well before Kurt Warner’s career and right at the end of Curt Warner’s career.
Because I was a packrat and a weirdo, I kept most of the Fantasy Football magazines I used back then (that’s what we used before the Internet, kids!). So every now and then, I like to go back and read some of those old magazines, just to see how strategy and player values have changed through the years. Last year, I took a look back at the 1992 Fantasy Football Rankings, which is the earliest magazine I still own.
The year 1996 is pivotal for Fantasy Football owners because from the start of 1996 to the end, the number of computers connected to the Internet went from one million to 10 million.
This was the beginning of the end for Fantasy magazines.
For today, though, I thought we’d go back 20 years, and look at the 1996 Fantasy rankings. Let’s put all of this into perspective, first, and point out what 1996 was all about.
In the year 1996:
- Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” began, with Craig Kilborn as host
- “Macarena” was the No. 1 song on Billboard
- “Happy Gilmore” made Adam Sandler a movie star
- A gallon of gas cost $1.22
- A bomb explodes in Centennial Olympic Park during the ’96 Atlanta Olympics
- Major League Soccer began its first season
- “Everybody Loves Raymond” was getting ready to debut
- Tom Cruise starred in the first “Mission: Impossible” and “Jerry Maguire”
- Prince Charles and Princess Diana were officially divorced
- DVDs launched in Japan
But what was happening in the NFL before 1996!?!
- Carolina and Jacksonville entered their second seasons
- Both former L.A. teams (Raiders and Rams) just played their first seasons in Oakland (again) and St. Louis
- The Browns were ready to start their first season as the Baltimore Ravens
- Barry Switzer and the Dallas Cowboys beat the Pittsburgh Steelers for the Super Bowl XXX win
- Peyton Manning threw 22 TD passes and 4 INT … in his sophomore season with the Tennessee Volunteers
- 1996 was going to be the first NFL season without Don Shula as a head coach since 1962
- Terrell Davis went from sixth-string rookie in Broncos training camp to the starter in Week 1 (he’d go on to be the No. 1 pick in 1997)
Now that you have your head wrapped around the mid-‘90s, let’s take a look at the top 20 Fantasy players of 1996!
1996 Fantasy Rankings: Top 20 Players Before the Season
Remember that back then, players were ranked for Basic Touchdown leagues, which meant leagues scoring points for passing, rushing and receiving yards was still uncommon. In 1996, this was the first year that the “Fantasy Football Index” magazine ranked players for both Basic TD leagues and for yardage leagues. We put the ranking for yardage leagues in parentheses.
1. (1) Emmitt Smith, RB, Dallas Cowboys
- Emmitt was the highest scoring Fantasy player in 1995, after scoring a record 25 rushing touchdowns
2. (2) Steve Young, QB, San Francisco 49ers
- Led the NFL in passing touchdowns in three straight years before injuries got him in ’95 and ‘96.
3. (3) Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay Packers
- From ’95 to ’97, Favre led the NFL with 112 touchdown passes thrown. He was the high Fantasy scorer in 1996.
4. (4) Jerry Rice, WR, San Francisco 49ers
- Rice was coming off one of the greatest fantasy seasons by a WR up to that point (1,848 rec yards and 15 rec TDs)
5. (5) Curtis Martin, RB, New England Patriots
- It’s crazy to think Martin spent just three seasons with the Patriots (1995-97) before following Bill Parcells to the Jets
6. (10) Carl Pickens, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
- Pickens had a career year in 1995, with 17 TD catches, but he fell off considerably after 1996
7. (9) Chris Warren, RB, Seattle Seahawks
- Like Pickens, Warren had his best year in 1995, then never had another 10-TD season again
8. (6) Herman Moore, WR, Detroit Lions
- See Pickens and Warren. The Lions had two WRs with 100 or more receptions for an NFL first.
9. (13) Scott Mitchell, QB, Detroit Lions
- The former Orlando Thunder MVP threw 32 touchdown passes in the Lions’ run’n shoot in ’95.
10. (14) Robert Brooks, WR, Green Bay Packers
- 1995 had to be the Year of the Career Year!
11. (12) Jeff Blake, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
12. (7) Marshall Faulk, RB, Indianapolis Colts
- No. 28 had not yet met Mike Martz at this point.
13. (8) Ricky Watters, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
14. (11) Barry Sanders, RB, Detroit Lions
- From ‘92-94, Sanders scored just 21 TDs in 43 NFL games, then he blew up with 33 TDs in 48 games from ’95-97.
15. (22) Rashaan Salaam, RB, Chicago Bears
- Get used to reading about career years yet? The Heisman winner had a 10-TD/1,000-yard season in his rookie season of ’95.
16. (20) Jeff George, QB, Atlanta Falcons
17. (25) Dan Marino, QB, Miami Dolphins
- Six quarterbacks in the first 20 picks? Yeah, even then that was silly.
18. (17) Cris Carter, WR, Minnesota Vikings
19. (16) Tim Brown, WR, Oakland Raiders
20. (15) Isaac Bruce, WR, St. Louis Rams
Did these 1996 Fantasy rankings live up to everything you thought they’d be? Do you suddenly feel really old? Would you like to borrow my walker?