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He gained 120+ yards pretty frequently

He gained 120+ yards pretty frequently

Yesterday, I posted a list of the career leaders in receiving yards after removing “junk” yards gained on an individual game basis. I’ve defined junk games as somewhere between 32 and 40 yards in 2015, and a lower threshold in less pass-friendly eras. You can view the Justin Blackmon example here.

While I presented the career list yesterday, I thought it would make sense to plot the career yards after removing junk yards (using 2.5x as the baseline) against each receiver’s plain career receiving yards (in both cases, since 1960). That’s what I’ve done in the graph below, with actual career receiving yards on the X-Axis and career yards after removing junk yards on the Y-Axis. Jerry Rice is literally off the chart (22,895; 13,786) because including him would require using a much broader (and less helpful) chart. Let’s just ignore Rice and focus on the other 99 receivers:

junk yds car yds

Players who are up high and to the left are the ones that benefit from this methodology. Two names that quickly stand out are Lance Alworth and Don Maynard. With Alworth, it’s because he did little in his first or last season, and was only serviceable in his second- and third-to last final seasons. In other words, it was the middle 7 seasons that turned him into an inner circle HOF wide receiver. Like Maynard, he benefits from the era adjustment, too; both were dominant receivers even though their numbers simply don’t quite hold up to today’s standards.


  • Among all receivers from 1960 to 2015, Maynard ranks 26th in receiving yards and Alworth ranks 42nd.
  • Among that same set, Maynard ranks just 41st in games with at least 40+ yards, and Alworth ranks 69th.   In other words, lots of receivers have had 40+ yards in a game very frequently, pushing those two down the career lists.
  • Bump the number to 60+ yards, and they still struggle: Maynard is 37th, and Alworth is 60th.
  • At 80+ yards, tho, things change: Maynard is now 17th, Alworth 30th; that’s higher than both fared in raw receiving yards.
  • How about at 100+ yards? Maynard is 6th, and Alworth is 18th.
  • And at 120+ yards? Alworth is tied for 3rd, Maynard is tied for 10th.

Some other AFL receivers, particularly guys who dominated in the early years like Art Powell and Charley Hennigan, fare much better once we remove junk yards and make era adjustments, too.  But to look at some NFL players, I’ll note that Bob Hayes and Harold Jackson also stand out by this methodology.

Hayes ranks 48th in yards after removing junk seasons (using a 2.5X baseline); meanwhile, he ranks 101st in receiving yards from 1960 to 2015. Hayes, like Alworth, had a somewhat short peak: he was excellent from ’65 to ’71, but did almost nothing after that. From ’65 to ’71, Alworth had 7,405 yards, Maynard had 6,660 yards, Hayes had 6,617 yards… and no other player was within 1,000 yards of Hayes.  He was a dominant player during that stretch and arguably the premier NFL wide receiver of the late ’60s.

Jackson also benefits from the era adjustments; in particular, he played during the truly dead ball era of the early ’70s.  He ranks 40th in career receiving yards, but 25th by these metrics.  Unlike Alworth and Hayes, Jackson had a very long career: he just benefits from putting up very solid games that don’t look quite as impressive now.  For example, his 1972 season ranked 193rd among all seasons since 1960, using a 2.5X baseline even though he gained “only” 1048 yards. Conversely, Allen Robinson and his 1400-yard season last year ranked 203rd.  A 1,048-yard season may not strike you as incredible, but Jackson led the league in receiving yards that year.

The table below shows the information on the graph above, but in table form:

2.5x RkReceiverYards Above 2.5X ThresholdCareer Receiving Yards
1Jerry Rice1378622895
2Terrell Owens938615934
3Randy Moss907515292
4Isaac Bruce874115208
5Marvin Harrison872914580
6Don Maynard851111750
7James Lofton833814004
8Andre Johnson819814100
9Torry Holt806213382
10Tim Brown801614934
11Reggie Wayne786114345
12Lance Alworth784010266
13Steve Smith780413932
14Steve Largent777813089
15Henry Ellard759713777
16Cris Carter754013899
17Jimmy Smith736512287
18Michael Irvin728411904
19Larry Fitzgerald725813366
20Anquan Boldin719213195
21Tony Gonzalez707915127
22Calvin Johnson694911619
23Andre Reed691713198
24Charlie Joiner688412146
25Harold Jackson667010372
26Art Monk656712721
27Rod Smith636311389
28Stanley Morgan632410716
29Brandon Marshall626811273
30Chad Johnson624111059
31Irving Fryar622712785
32Derrick Mason615912061
33Hines Ward607012083
34Gary Clark607010856
35Art Powell59308046
36Keenan McCardell587811373
37Muhsin Muhammad587311438
38Charley Taylor58699110
39Joey Galloway575910950
40Wes Chandler57418966
41Roddy White568010863
42Paul Warfield56028565
43Keyshawn Johnson558710571
44Fred Biletnikoff55118974
45Cliff Branch55038685
46Andre Rison532310205
47Eric Moulds52469995
48Bob Hayes52457414
49Harold Carmichael51988985
50Herman Moore51789174
51Gary Garrison51317538
52Bobby Mitchell51257472
53Charley Hennigan51226823
54Drew Hill51079831
55Wes Welker51009924
56Carroll Dale50618277
57Marques Colston50239759
58Santana Moss501510283
59Rob Moore50079368
60Otis Taylor49857306
61Antonio Gates496610644
62John Stallworth49638723
63Mark Duper49608869
64Donald Driver495110137
65Terry Glenn49338823
66Wesley Walker49178306
67Lionel Taylor49127195
68Shannon Sharpe489110060
69Jason Witten487711215
70Joe Horn48528744
71Jackie Smith48437918
72Sterling Sharpe48348134
73Roy Green48208965
74Anthony Miller47999148
75John Gilliam47937056
76Drew Pearson47467822
77Mark Clayton47428974
78Roy Jefferson47107539
79Tony Hill46787988
80Amani Toomer46339497
81Tony Martin46139065
82Haven Moses45938091
83Vincent Jackson45208907
84Gene Washington44626856
85Tommy McDonald44356733
86Plaxico Burress44128499
87Laveranues Coles43838609
88Ken Burrough43277102
89DeSean Jackson42487814
90Jeff Graham42418172
91Isaac Curtis42417101
92Johnnie Morton42038719
93Mark Carrier41998763
94Raymond Berry41585916
95Antonio Brown41177093
96Anthony Carter40857733
97Greg Jennings40818291
98Mel Gray40676644
99Eddie Kennison40518345
100Jimmy Orr40186400

While some players are helped out, obviously other players fare worse here.  The most obvious examples are modern tight ends, like Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, and Jason Witten. That’s not too surprising.  Perhaps less-expected, tho, is Irving Fryar.  From ’60 to ’15, he ranks 19th overall; meanwhile, he ranks only 31st once you remove junk seasons.  One reason: he has the 3rd most games (85) of between 30 and 60 yards.  Fryar was a great player, but he also hung around for a long time and had a lot of non-memorable games that added to his career numbers. He had about 2500 more career receiving yards than Alworth, but Alworth ranks 235th with just 36 games of between 30 and 60 yards.

What stands out to you?

  • sacramento gold miners

    Roy Jefferson had a remarkable two year run with bad Steelers teams in 1968-69, gaining over 1000 yards each season. It’s surprising to see he never approached that kind of impact after being traded to the Washington Redskins.

  • Josh Sanford

    Looks like it was a smart move to pull Rice out of the chart–but can you tell us is he above, on or below the trend line?

    • He was above – hard to get a sense of scale, but not far behind Maynard and Alworth.

  • Josh Sanford

    Interestingly, to get Alworth to sort to the top of the list, you need to raise the single game yardage total to 167 yards–it’s at that point that he has more “big games” than Rice. http://pfref.com/tiny/Rqep4

    • Unless you count playoff games, where Rice really pulls ahead of Alworth. I think he has ten playoff games with more yards than Alworth’s highest total.

      • Josh Sanford

        #ouch But now you are basically begging Chase to redo the Big Receiving Game tally from 3 years ago, “Post Season Edition.” Right? My two cents: TDs should be 30 yards in post-season games, not 20. There should be some sort of bonus multiplier (1.25?) for Super Bowl/championship games. Once again, we will see that Jerry Rice is “literally off the chart.”

        • I’d like to see a fumble penalty and first down bonus. Unfortunately, we don’t have that info. We really are just leaving the dark ages.

    • Good info.