While the importance of the wide receiver feels like it has exploded in the last 10 years, a number of the performances that merited the most fantasy football points in a single game by a WR came prior to that offensive explosion. That pattern represents how NFL offenses have gone from largely operating through a featured WR to playing with a more spread-out style. Let’s examine which WRs sit among the top 10 for the most fantasy points scored in a single game and which score sits atop the list.
As part of making this list and keeping it consistent, we set the cut-off date as the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Prior to this game, the development in the sport of football was rapid, and therefore, the box scores and statistics look very different in many cases. Thus, the merger was the logical place to set the baseline as that is when the NFL as we now know it began in earnest.
Additionally, the scores listed below are of the non-PPR variety. That scoring setting was the standard for the majority of the last 50 years so it makes sense to be used here. Nevertheless, with PPR scoring becoming more common, the top 10 most fantasy points scored by a WR in a single game using PPR scoring are listed at the bottom of the article.
10) Anthony Allen | 43.5 fantasy points
Washington vs. Cardinals | Week 4 | Oct. 4, 1987
We kick off our list with a trip back to 1987 and a game between Washington and the then-St. Louis Cardinals. In a game in which Washington won 28-21, it was Anthony Allen who made the crucial difference. Allen had 255 of Washington’s 334 receiving yards on just seven receptions. He also scored three of the four Washington touchdowns to rack up over 40 fantasy points on the day.
Amazingly, Allen’s 255 receiving yards and three touchdowns were both more than he would post in either category in any of the other four years of his career. Even in 1987 itself, Allen would only post 337 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 13 receptions in a three-game season. This game against the Cardinals would contribute almost a third of Allen’s career receiving yards and more than a third of his career TDs.
9) Qadry Ismail | 43.8 fantasy points
Ravens at Steelers | Week 14 | Dec. 12, 1999
The ninth-placed performance on our list of most fantasy points in a single game by a WR was another stand-out game in a career that had otherwise not provided much spark before. Entering 1999, Qadry Ismail had posted just 1,856 receiving yards with 12 touchdowns on 118 receptions across his first six years in the league. In the previous two years, Ismail managed zero receptions with the Dolphins and Saints.
He kick-started the second half of his career with the Ravens in 1999. This 258-receiving yard and three-touchdown day was a major part of that. Ismail reeled in all three of his TDs in a third quarter that saw the Ravens turn a 17-10 deficit into a 31-17 lead. The three TD passes alone accounted for 189 yards and 36.9 fantasy points.
8) Steve Largent | 44.1 fantasy points
Seahawks at Lions | Week 6 | Oct. 18, 1987
At the tail end of a Hall of Fame career, Steve Largent gave fantasy managers one more day of excitement in Week 6 of the 1987 season. In an exhilarating first quarter, Largent scored three touchdowns to give the Seahawks a 21-0 lead at the end of the quarter. While he would not find the end zone again, Largent would finish with 15 receptions for 261 yards and the three scores.
7) Ja’Marr Chase | 44.6 fantasy points
Bengals vs. Chiefs | Week 17 | Jan. 2, 2022
Our most recent performance on the list of most fantasy points by a WR in a single game belongs to Ja’Marr Chase, who took the league by storm as a rookie. Chase saved his very best for a Week 17 matchup with the Chiefs, which likely turned into fantasy championships. He found the end zone twice, including two plays of 60+ yards.
Chase’s first TD came with the Bengals down 14-0, his second with them down 21-7, and his third with them trailing 28-17. In a 34-31 victory, his performance would be crucial for the Bengals and fantasy managers. Chase finished the day with 266 yards and three touchdowns on 11 receptions.
6) Tyreek Hill | 44.9 fantasy points
Chiefs at Buccaneers | Week 12 | Nov. 29, 2020
While Tyreek Hill was on the other sideline for Chase’s performance, he had his own headline-making performance for the Chiefs just over a year prior. Hill scored two first-quarter touchdowns that went for a combined 119 yards. He would not find the end zone again until the middle of the third quarter but was by no means invisible between those scores. He finished with 13 receptions for 269 yards and three touchdowns.
5) Jerry Rice | 45.9 fantasy points
49ers vs. Vikings | Week 16 | Dec. 18, 1995
Now we come to our first appearance of Jerry Rice on the list of the most fantasy points by a WR in a single game. The first such appearance may very well be the most important WR performance ever for fantasy managers. Coming in fantasy championship weekend, Rice posted 289 yards on 14 receptions with three touchdowns. His three scores came in the first half as the 49ers raced out to a 27-10 lead over the Vikings.
4) Jimmy Smith | 47.1 fantasy points
Jaguars at Ravens | Week 2 | Sept. 10, 2000
The fourth spot on this list sees us find our first performance in a losing effort. Despite a 15-reception, three-touchdown, and 291-receiving yard day for Jimmy Smith, the Jaguars would go down 39-36 to the Ravens.
Smith scored twice in the first quarter to open a 17-0 lead for Jacksonville. He then scored again inside two minutes to give the Jaguars a 36-32 lead. However, despite three touchdowns of more than 40 yards, he could not drag the team to a victory in Week 2 of the 2000 NFL season.
3) Harold Jackson | 47.8 fantasy points
Rams vs. Cowboys | Week 5 | Oct. 14, 1973
This is the oldest performance on the list of most fantasy points in a single game by a WR. Harold Jackson’s performance came in yet another close game, but this time his Rams came out on top. Jackson scored an amazing four touchdowns in the first half, two of which went more than 60 yards. He would finish the day with 238 yards and the four scores on just seven receptions.
2) Jerry Butler | 50.7 fantasy points
Bills vs. Jets | Week 4 | Sept. 23, 1979
While the performance from Jackson set his team on the right path early, Jerry Butler’s performance in 1979 turned the game around for his team. Before Butler scored his first touchdown, the Bills were trailing 17-6. After he scored four touchdowns on either side of halftime they were leading 33-24 and would never look back.
How many fantasy managers benefited from this 10-reception, 255-yard, four-touchdown performance is debatable. As a fifth-round selection in the 1979 draft, Butler was not an unknown quantity. Yet, he had put up a one-star performance that season and struggled in two other games. Would managers have stuck with the rookie or had a one-reception, 14-yard performance in Week 3 led him to their bench?
Which WR has scored the most fantasy points in a single game?
1) Jerry Rice | 52.5 fantasy points
49ers at Falcons | Week 6 | Oct. 14, 1990
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the honor of scoring the most fantasy points by a WR in a single game belongs to the greatest receiver to ever play the game, Rice. This performance from Rice is simply jaw-dropping. In a 45-35 victory, Rice scored five of the 49ers’ six touchdowns and racked up 225 yards on 13 receptions.
Fantasy managers from that time will have several fond memories of Rice’s impact on their team. However, this Week 6 performance will likely not be forgotten for quite some time.
Most PPR fantasy points by a WR in a single game
10. Flipper Anderson | LAR vs. NO | 54.6
T-8. Harold Jackson | LAR vs. DAL | 54.8
T-8. Terrell Owens | SF vs. CHI | 54.8
7. Ja’Marr Chase | CIN vs. KC | 55.6
6. Tyreek Hill | KC @ TB | 57.9
5. Steve Largent | SEA @ DET | 59.1
4. Jerry Rice | SF vs. MIN | 59.9
3. Jimmy Smith | JAX @ BAL | 62.1
2. Jerry Butler | BUF vs. NYJ | 62.7
1. Jerry Rice | SF @ ATL | 65.5