It’s always interesting to see a wide receiver go off in fantasy football as they can be a huge variable. Very few times do you see a player consistently get the ball and break off long touchdowns, but it does happen from time to time.
Then, there are cases where it happens three or more times per game and a receiver adds enough yardage to score well over 40 fantasy points. Here are the five best single-game fantasy football performances ever from a wide receiver where that exact situation happened.
Note: For this list, we used standard scoring instead of PPR (points-per-reception).
5. Jimmy Smith (47.1)
In just about every record-setting fantasy performance, the player that’s breaking new milestones is on the winning team. That wasn’t the case for wide receiver Jimmy Smith in 2000, however, as his Jacksonville Jaguars lost 39-36 to the Baltimore Ravens. It was not Smith’s fault the Jags lost, though, especially in the first half.
Smith had touchdowns of 45 yards and 43 years in the first quarter alone. With less than two minutes left, Smith added a third to put the Jaguars ahead before Shannon Sharpe won the game for Baltimore. Still, Smith finished with 291 yards on 15 catches and three touchdowns, giving him 47.1 fantasy points.
4. Jerry Rice (47.9)
Of course, the greatest wide receiver of all time is on the single-game fantasy football list, and this isn’t the only time he’s on the list. The first time comes from his performance against the visiting Minnesota Vikings. The 49ers were rolling in with a 10-4 record and headed to the playoffs, and Rice made sure they got in.
During the 37-30 shootout, Rice exploded for 289 yards on 14 catches, missing on just two targets. Rice also found the end zone three times, putting up a long of 52 yards. Rice even had 10 rushing yards during the game, bringing his fantasy total to 47.9 points. Quarterback Steve Young also had himself a fine day with 425 yards, three touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown.
3. Harold Jackson (47.8)
The Los Angeles Rams were on a roll to start the 1973 NFL season, and they extended their record to 5-0 thanks to a massive first half against the visiting Dallas Cowboys. Wide receiver Harold Jackson dominated early on, scoring touchdowns of 63 and 16 yards in the first quarter. He then added a 67-yarder and a 36-yarder in the second quarter.
All four of Jackson’s touchdowns came in the first half, as did most of his yardage. Jackson finished the day with 238 yards total, giving him a final fantasy tally of 47.8 points. His quarterback John Hadl had just 41 yards throwing to receivers that weren’t Jackson that day.
2. Jerry Butler (50.7)
Early on in the 1979 season, the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets were going head-to-head in an AFC East matchup. The Jets struggled through the air, but that wasn’t the case for the home team. The Bills threw early and often, mostly to Jerry Butler. Out of quarterback Joe Ferguson’s 19 completions, more than half (10) went to Butler.
Butler would rack up 255 yards on those 10 catches, including a 75-yard touchdown. That was one of the four touchdowns that Butler scored during the game. The Bills would ultimately win 46-31, getting back to .500 at 2-2 while Butler added another 12 yards rushing to bring his total to 50.7 fantasy points.
1. Jerry Rice (52.5)
Earlier we mentioned that Jerry Rice would make another appearance on the list, and naturally, it’s at the very top. The 49ers were looking to improve their perfect record against the Atlanta Falcons in 1990 and would wind up winning the game in a shootout, 45-35. Rich would be the biggest piece of that puzzle for the 49ers’ offense, too.
Rice hauled in 13 catches that day against the Atlanta defense, which was good for 225 yards and a whopping five touchdowns. Overall that would give him 52.5 points, all without having a single carry or a reception of at least 30 yards. As for his quarterback, Joe Montana had one of the greatest fantasy days for a QB with 476 yards and six touchdowns.