We’re back for part II of the Fantasy Football One-Hit Wonders series and today we are looking at the running back position. If you missed part I and want to check out which quarterbacks are the biggest fantasy football one-hit wonders, you can do so here. With the violent nature and short lifespan of the running back position, there are a lot of guys to choose from. That being said, let’s take a look at the running backs that just missed the cut of becoming the top fantasy football one-hit wonders of all time.
Running Back Fantasy Football One-Hit Wonders
2014 Stats: 235 att – 1,266 rush yds – 8 rush TD – 44 rec – 263 rec yds – 0 rec TD
2014 Fantasy Ranks: RB: 8 / Overall: 15
1989 Stats: 344 att – 1,262 rush yds – 13 rush TD – 52 rec – 514 rec yds – 5 rec TD
1989 Fantasy Ranks: RB: 1 / Overall: 1
2006 Stats: 245 att – 1,154 rush yds – 4 rush TD – 53 rec – 445 rec yds – 1 rec TD
2006 Fantasy Ranks: RB: 10 / Overall: 35
1992 Stats: 390 att – 1,690 rush yds – 11 rush TD – 36 rec – 344 rec yds – 0 rec TD
1992 Fantasy Ranks: RB: 3 / Overall: 3
2012 Stats: 267 att – 950 rush yds – 11 rush TD – 51 rec – 367 rec yds – 1 rec TD
2012 Fantasy Ranks: RB: 9 / Overall: 17
1997 Stats: 272 att – 1,294 rush yds – 6 rush TD – 40 rec – 403 rec yds – 2 rec TD
1997 Fantasy Ranks: RB: 5 / Overall: 8
The Top Five
Drafted 18th overall in 1998 by the New England Patriots, Robert Edwards came into the NFL with a bang! He scored a touchdown in six straight games to start his career, a record that still stands to this day. He finished his rookie season strong as well finishing with over 1,400 total yards and 12 total touchdowns. Everything took a turn for the worst at the rookie flag football game during Pro Bowl week when Edwards suffered a devastating injury to his left knee. Not only did he completely tear his ACL, MCL, and PCL, but also partially tore his LCL, suffered major nerve damage, and sliced an artery in his leg. The injury was so severe that Edwards almost needed his leg amputated below the knee and was told he may never walk again.
Miraculously, Edwards was able to return to the NFL but it wasn’t until 2002 and spent most of the year in a part-time role as a third-down back for the Miami Dolphins. He was able to score a rushing and receiving touchdown in his first game back but was ultimately released at the end of the season. He did receive the Halas Award in regards to his significant comeback.
Looking back it’s incredible that Edwards was even drafted as high as he was considering the path of his college career. He started his career as a cornerback and switched to running back in his sophomore season. Edwards dealt with troubled knees and other injuries his entire college career as he never finished a full season healthy. It goes to show how much the game and draft philosophy has changed in the last 20 years, as he would never be a first-round pick today.
Edwards comes in at number five on this list as he was almost a fantasy football one-hit wonder in the truest sense, however, I couldn’t move him higher as a fantasy football one-hit wonder as he only has one other NFL season to his name. Due to the injury, his 217 fantasy points during his rookie year accounted for more than 86% of his career fantasy points and was his only season above an RB69 finish.
1998 Stats: 291 att – 1,115 rush yds – 9 rush TD – 35 rec – 331 rec yds – 3 rec TD
1998 Fantasy Ranks: RB: 9 / Overall: 13
4. Ickey Woods
From one injury-shortened career to another, Ickey Woods became a rookie sensation for the Cincinnati Bengals for both his play on the field and his “Ickey Shuffle” dance that he performed after each touchdown. After being drafted 31st overall, he set the franchise rookie records for rushing yards (1,066) and rushing touchdowns (15), the touchdown number still standing to this day. Woods also led the NFL in yards per carry (5.3) and helped lead the Bengals to a Super Bowl appearance, a game in which they lost but Woods was the game’s leading rusher (79).
Heading into the 1989 season with tons of promise, Woods’ season was pretty much over before it started when he tore his ACL in his left knee in the second week of the year against the Pittsburgh Steelers. By the time he returned in the middle of the 1990 season, he wasn’t the same and was relegated to a backup role. Woods then suffered an injury to his right knee in 1991 and retired at the end of the year.
Like Edwards, Woods’ rookie year was his only year of fantasy relevance but the similarities don’t end there. Both scored 217 fantasy points and both were the 13th overall player in fantasy during their rookie years. Woods ranked slightly higher among the running back position however and had a slightly longer career, albeit none of which was fantasy relevant, which is why I gave Woods the edge. His 217 fantasy points accounted for more than 61 percent of his career points. He finished RB97, RB46, and RB81 the rest of his career, making his rookie year RB6 finish a true fantasy football one-hit-wonder.
1988 Stats: 203 att – 1,066 rush yds – 15 rush TD – 21 rec – 199 rec yds – 0 rec TD
1988 Fantasy Ranks: RB: 6 / Overall: 13
Drafted 49th overall in 2001 by the New York Jets, Jordan spent his first four seasons as a backup to Curtis Martin before signing with the Oakland Raiders in 2005.
Jordan, now a starter with the Raiders, had a massive breakout season in 2005 with nearly 1,600 total yards and 11 total touchdowns in only 14 games. Perhaps the most surprising part of his breakout was the involvement in the passing game as he led all running backs in receptions. Jordan racked up 70 receptions despite only having 50 COMBINED through his first four years with the Jets. Even though he was in a backup role, that’s a shocking increase. The following year, Jordan was on a much worse pace before tearing his MCL about halfway through the season and he was never the same since.
Jordan’s 1,025 rushing yards and 70 receptions in 2005 were the only time he finished above 550 rushing yards and 28 receptions. His 227 points accounted for one-third of his career fantasy points and his next best total in any season was 98 points. 2005 turned out to be the only finish better than RB40 in his career and the only year he was even better than a replacement-level player allowing him to finish as one of the best fantasy football one-hit wonders of all time.
2005 Stats: 272 att – 1,025 rush yds – 9 rush TD – 70 rec – 563 rec yds – 2 rec TD
2005 Fantasy Ranks: RB: 8 / Overall: 12
2. Steve Slaton
At West Virginia, Steve Slaton formed a dynamic playmaking duo with quarterback Pat White. He immediately brought that explosiveness to the NFL after being drafted 89th overall by the Houston Texans in 2008. Slaton stepped right in and had an incredible rookie season finishing with over 1,600 total yards and 10 total touchdowns.
In the off-season, Slaton decided to bulk up a bit by putting on more than 15 pounds to his frame in preparation for an expanded role with more goal-line work. That plan ultimately backfired as he looked as though he lost a step and was far less effective in his sophomore year, so much so that he was called out publicly by coach Gary Kubiak and subsequently benched soon thereafter, never to regain a starting role again. Less than a month later he was placed on the injured reserve and he only spent one more season with Houston before being released.
Nearly 60 percent of Slaton’s career production and fantasy points came in his rookie year. He scored 226 fantasy points his rookie year, 127 points in his Sophomore year, and then 10 and 15 the next two years before finishing his career in the CFL. The RB6 finish of his rookie year was his only finish better than RB32 and his only year better than replacement level allowing him to finish as the second-best fantasy football one-hit-wonder.
2008 Stats: 268 att – 1,282 rush yds – 9 rush TD – 50 rec – 377 rec yds – 1 rec TD
2008 Fantasy Ranks: RB: 6 / Overall: 12
This one really hits home as a Cleveland Browns fan as we can never just have nice things. Hillis’ breakout is the most out-of-nowhere breakout of anyone on this list. After being drafted 227th overall in 2008, he spent the first two years as a fullback and backup running back for the Denver Broncos.
Hillis signed with the Browns in 2010 and split reps evenly in the preseason with Jerome Harrison and James Davis. Hillis didn’t even start the year as the starter but after both Harrison and Davis were injured early on, he was named the starter and never looked back, turning in a monster year with over 1,600 total yards and 13 total touchdowns. Hillis even got the honor of gracing the Madden cover. Whether it was the “Madden Curse” or general ineffectiveness, Hillis struggled which led to the Browns never even offering him a contract when his was up, despite his willingness to take a hometown discount.
Despite playing seven seasons in the NFL, nearly half of Hillis’ production came in that magical 2010 season. He scored 244 fantasy points that season and was the second-best running back in fantasy and the second-best player in the entire NFL in fantasy. Outside of 2010, he was never able to score more than 90 fantasy points in any other year, never finished better than RB40, and was below replacement level making him the biggest fantasy football one-hit wonder of all time at the running back position.
2010 Stats: 270 att – 1,177 rush yds – 11 rush TD – 61 rec – 477 rec yds – 2 rec TD
2010 Fantasy Ranks: RB: 2 / Overall: 2
Stay tuned for part three of this series when I take a look at the biggest fantasy football one-hit wonders at the wide receiver position.