1984: The Worst Year in Fantasy Football History To Have Pick No. 5

  • David Gonos


The season of spring usually means baseball, Masters golf, and March Madness, but for me – it means writing some articles for some Fantasy Football magazines. Since it’s before the NFL Draft happens, the articles I wrote were actually more to do with the history of the hobby – which brings us to this piece!

In my research, I came across the 1984 NFL season, and started looking a little closer at the final regular season statistics of the best players. What I found blew my mind – and I thought we’d discuss my blown mind, and hopefully blow yours! (I said “blow” way too much.)

1984 Fantasy Football Season: Three No. 1 Overall Picks (…. Almost 4!)

What I learned, by checking out the Fantasy Football pages of each season over on ProFootballReference.com, is that the 1984 NFL season was the best year ever to have the No. 2, 3 and 4 pick in your Fantasy draft!

This was just two years after the NFL’s strike shortened the 1982 season, and very few people were playing Fantasy Football, and even fewer used yardage in their scoring system like we do today. But looking back, it’s amazing how close the top four players were that season.

FootballGuys.com’s Joe Bryant devised the “Value-Based Draft” method of ranking players before a Fantasy draft, based on projections. But that method can also be used at the end of the regular season to determine the true Fantasy value of players compared to others – both at their position and overall.

ProFootballReference.com uses that VBD method to rank players in each NFL season. So the top player in VBD would be considered the best Fantasy Football player that season. If you went back in time, he would be the top overall pick.

I looked at the post-year VBD of all players over the past 50 years or so, and it was rare to see two players really close in value – and extremely rare to see three players that close. As a matter of fact, there were FOUR players tightly packed for the VBD race in 1984, which is unreal.

There were THREE players in 1984 tied with a 180 VBD, and one had a 176 VBD. In 2004, there were two players tied with 149 VBD (much less value) and a third had a 142 value. In 1996, three players were within seven VBD spots, and in 1979, three were within nine spots.

2004 VBD Elite

  • 149 VBD – Shaun Alexander, RB, Seattle (307 Fantasy points)
  • 149 VBD – Daunte Culpepper, QB, Minnesota (381 Fantasy points)
  • 142 VBD – Tiki Barber, RB, N.Y. Giants (300 Fantasy points)

1996 VBD Elite

  • 155 VBD – Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay (318 Fantasy points)
  • 152 VBD – Terry Allen, RB, Washington (281 Fantasy points)
  • 148 VBD – Terrell Davis, RB, Denver (277 Fantasy points)

1979 VBD Elite

  • 148 VBD – Walter Payton, RB, Chicago (294 Fantasy points)
  • 147 VBD – Earl Campbell, RB, Houston (293 Fantasy points)
  • 139 VBD – Wilbert Montgomery, RB, Philadelphia (285 Fantasy points)

But what about that 1984 NFL season? The fifth-best player was Walter Payton!

Top 4 Fantasy Football Players In 1984

But those top four players mark the closest range, and the top-three players were all tied with the highest VBD numbers that season! Can you figure out who they were? Let’s discuss!

Photo Credit: Andy Hayt, Getty Images

David Gonos

David Gonos has been writing about sports online since 2001, including CBSSports.com, FoxSports.com, NFL.com, MLB.com and SportsIllustrated.com.