Decades month continues here at NFL Media, as we look back at the history of this country's passion and some of the best players and moments on the gridiron. Following our examination of the top fantasy stars of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s it's time to move forward in the NFL's version of the "Back to the Future" DeLorean and examine a memorable decade when fantasy football started to gain popularity ... the 1990s.
Using as close to a standard scoring system as possible (minus penalties for offensive turnovers), here are the seven players and one defensive unit that would make the most productive starting fantasy lineup during this period.
Quarterback - Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers: The top fantasy quarterbacks of the 1960s, '70s and '80s have all had at least some skills as scramblers and runners. The 1990s is no different, as Young was one of the greatest running signal-callers of all time. Not only did he finish sixth in passing yards and tied for second in passing touchdowns for the decade, but he also rushed for a ridiculous 3,081 yards and 33 touchdowns. His best season came in 1998, when he recorded 4,170 passing yards, 454 rushing yards and 42 total touchdowns. That was good for 368.2 fantasy points, which would have ranked him second at quarterback last season behind Peyton Manning.
Running back - Emmitt Smith, Dallas Cowboys: The NFL's all-time leader in rushing yards and one of the most impressive runners ever, Smith was an absolute superstar both on the field and in fantasy football. During the course of the 1990s, he led the league in rushing yards (13,963), scrimmage yards (16,691), rushing touchdowns (136) and scrimmage touchdowns (147). Smith's best statistical campaign was 1995 when he rushed for 1,773 yards with 25 touchdowns, which equated to just over 364 fantasy points. Had he produced those numbers a season ago, Smith would have been the top-scorer runner in fantasy land with 50-plus more points than Kansas City's Jamaal Charles.
Running back - Barry Sanders, Detroit Lions: Sanders might have been the league's all-time leading rusher, but he decided to retire after the 1998 season at the age of 30. He was an absolute beast in the stat sheets in the Motor City during the 1990s, finishing second in rushing yards (13,799), scrimmage yards (16,438), rushing touchdowns (85) and scrimmage touchdowns (95). Amazingly, he did it all despite playing in one fewer season than Smith during the decade. Sanders produced his best fantasy season in 1997, when he rushed for 2,053 yards and found the end zone a total of 14 times. His 319.80 points would have also put him ahead of Charles last season.
Wide receiver - Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers: The greatest wide receiver of all time, Rice would have been the lone player at his position to be worth a first-round pick in the 1990s. He led all wideouts in both receiving yards (12,078) and touchdown catches (103) during the decade, as Rice and Steve Young formed one of the most lethal quarterback-wide receiver combinations in fantasy land. His top statistical season of the decade was 1995, when Rice recorded a career-best 1,848 yards with 16 total touchdowns. Had he posted those totals in 2013, the Hall of Famer would have been first in points among fantasy wideouts with 284.2 ... 56.8 more than Josh Gordon.
Wide receiver - Cris Carter, Minnesota Vikings: An absolute touchdown machine during his Hall-of-Fame career, Carter ranks fourth all time in end-zone visits (130) among wide receivers. He was one of the top wideouts in fantasy land during the 1990s, as he ranked third in receiving yards (10,238) and second in touchdowns catches (95) at the position. Carter, who had seven 1,000-yard campaigns in the decade, produced his best fantasy season in 1995 when he recorded a career-best 1,371 yards and 17 touchdown receptions. Those totals would have been good for just under 240 fantasy points and a first-place finish at his position had he been in the NFL last season.
Tight end - Shannon Sharpe, Denver Broncos: One of the most productive tight ends in NFL history, Sharpe was an elite fantasy player in the 1990s. Despite the fact that he caught just 29 passes in his first two pro seasons, Sharpe still finished first in receiving yards (6,983) and second in touchdown receptions (44) among tight ends for the decade. Furthermore, he had over 1,500 more yards than the next best player, Ben Coates. His most productive fantasy campaign was in 1996, when Sharpe caught 80 passes for 1,062 yards and what was a career-best 10 touchdowns. Those totals would have been good enough to finish second in points behind Jimmy Graham in 2013.
Kicker - Gary Anderson, Pittsburgh Steelers/Philadelphia Eagles/San Francisco 49ers/Minnesota Vikings: Anderson, who played for four different teams in the 1990s, was the top kicker in fantasy land during the decade. Not only did he lead the position in field-goal conversions (253), but he was also No. 1 in extra points made (371). In 1998, Anderson didn't miss a single field-goal attempt (35-of-35) and nailed all 59 of his extra points for the Vikings.
Defense - Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles defense of the early 1990s was loaded with superstars like Reggie White, Jerome Brown and Clyde Simmons and a terror for opposing offenses. Philadelphia ranked third in total defense (294.2 YPG), second in sacks (443), second in interceptions (199) and third in takeaways (343) during the decade. In 1991, this unit scored well over 200 fantasy points and would have been better than the Kansas City Chiefs of 2013.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to **@Michael_Fabiano** or send a question via **Facebook**!