Decades month continues at NFL Network and NFL.com, and it's time to move forward in the NFL version of the "Back to the Future" DeLorean and examine the rough and reckless 1970s. Forget about penalties for hitting a quarterback too low or hitting a defenseless receiver -- the 1970s were all about machismo and punishing the opposition. It was also a decade that saw a long list of statistical superstars who would have been drafted and adored had fantasy football been as popular back then as it is now.
Using as close to a standard scoring system as possible (minus penalties for offensive turnovers), here are the seven players and one defense that would make the most productive starting fantasy lineup.
Quarterback: Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys: Staubach didn't lead the NFL in passing yards (he was third) or passing touchdowns (second) in the 1970s: Those accomplishments went to Fran Tarkenton. Where he was better than "Frantic Fran," though, was as a running quarterback. The former naval supply officer was a tremendous playmaker on the ground, rushing for 2,204 yards and 19 touchdowns. That's more than double the yards (1,002) Tarkenton accrued with his feet. Overall, Staubach led the league in passing touchdowns (1973) once, and recorded the highest passer rating four times (1971, 1973, 1978, 1979) during the course of the decade. The six-time Pro Bowl selection was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
Running back: O.J. Simpson, Buffalo Bills: Simpson would have been in the mix as the No. 1 overall pick had fantasy football been popular back in the 1970s. He was an absolute statistical killer, leading the NFL in both scrimmage yards (12,338) and rushing yards (10,539) during the decade. Simpson also rushed for what was then an NFL record 2,003 yards in 1973, and he did it when the league played just 14 regular-season contests. Of course, Simpson is now better known for being acquitted of the 1994 murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. He would later be found guilty of armed robbery and kidnapping in Nevada and sentenced to nine to 33 years in prison.
Running back: Franco Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers: If Simpson was the top fantasy running back of the 1970s, then Harris was the clear-cut No. 2. He was second in rushing yards (8,563), second in scrimmage yards (9,874) and first in rushing touchdowns (72), and he did it all in just eight of 10 seasons. Overall, the bruising runner out of Penn State rushed for 1,000-plus yards seven times in the decade. Harris also joined Rocky Bleier in 1976 as only the second pair of running backs on the same team to rush for 1,000-plus yards. He finished his illustrious career in 1984 after a one-season stint with the Seattle Seahawks and was inducted into Canton in 1990.
Wide receiver: Harold Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles/Los Angeles Rams/New England Patriots: Jackson played for three teams in the 1970s, and he was quite a playmaker in the pass attack for all of them. In fact, no wideout had more receiving yards (7,724) or touchdown receptions (61) during the course of the decade than the Jackson State product. In his time with the Eagles, Jackson led the NFL in both receptions (62) and receiving yards (1,048) in 1972 and in touchdown catches (13) in 1973. Later in the 70s, he teamed with Stanley Morgan to create a terrific duo with the Patriots. When he retired, Jackson was second to just Don Maynard in career receiving yards in the NFL.
Wide receiver: Gene Washington, San Francisco 49ers/Detroit Lions: Washington's numbers during the decade were just a bit better than Harold Carmichael's, who would also have been a star fantasy wideout at this time. Playing most of his career with the Niners, Washington finished the 1970s third in receiving yards (6,145) and tied for second in touchdown catches (57) at his position. He led the league in receiving yards in 1970, and his impressive yards-per-reception totals proved his skills as a playmaker in the vertical attack for coach Dick Nolan. A four-time Pro Bowl pick and three-time first-team All-Pro, Washington retired after 1979 after one season with the Lions.
Tight end: Rich Caster, New York Jets/Houston Oilers: During a decade that featured the likes of Dave Casper and Raymond Chester, it might be a surprise to see that Caster led all tight ends in terms of fantasy production. However, the Jackson State product would have been a star at his position: He was second in both receiving yards (4,989) and touchdown catches (42) among tight ends in the 1970s. Caster also put up 500-plus yards four different times, which was quite a feat at a time when tight ends were not offensive superstars. After playing eight seasons with the Jets, Caster moved on to the Oilers in 1978 before retiring after joining the Washington Redskins in the 1982 campaign.
Kicker: Garo Yepremian, Miami Dolphins/New Orleans Saints: Yepremian might be best known for throwing one of the ugliest-looking passes in Super Bowl history, but he would have been quite a solid fantasy kicker during his career. Yepremian was second in field-goal conversions (177) during the decade behind only the great Jan Stenerud, while also leading his position in extra points (374). He also led the league in field-goal conversion percentage three times (1970, 1975, 1978).
Defense: Pittsburgh Steelers: Sacks weren't recorded as an official statistic until 1982, so the best gauge of fantasy value among defensive units comes in the categories of interceptions, total defense and turnovers. The Steel Curtain dominated in all three. Pittsburgh ranked third in total defense, allowing an average of 260.6 yards per game during the decade, while leading the NFL in takeaways (440) and interceptions (264).