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Single-season Leaders in Receiving Yards per Team Pass Attempt

by Chase Stuart on August 11, 2013

in Receiving, Statistics

Smith likes ranking receivers by yards per team attempt

Smith likes ranking receivers by yards per team attempt.

When I wrote my ode to Steve Smith earlier this week, I discovered an incredible stat. In 2008, Smith played in 14 games and gained 1,421 receiving yards. But the more incredible part is that the Panthers passed only 352 times in 2008, meaning Smith averaged an absurd 4.04 yards per team pass attempt. At this point, we all know that passing yards is a meaningless way to measure quarterbacks: yards per attempt is a much better indicator of talent. It’s much easier to throw for 4,000 yards on 600 attempts than it is on 500 attempts, and it’s silly to pretend otherwise. But most analysts don’t make the same adjustment when dealing with the man catching those passes. But it’s much easier to gain 1,500 receiving yards on a team that passes 700 times than it is to do it on a team that passes only 500 times. Hence my interest in Yards per Team Pass Attempt as a statistic.

So, how absurd was Smith’s 4.04 Yards per attempt average? We have individual player game logs going back to 1960, so I went through and measured every game each receiver “played” in each season since then. I use that word in quotes, because it’s possible that a receiver was active in a game but did not record any statistics, and therefore he may not show up in our game logs. That caveat aside, the table below shows the single-season leaders since 1960 in Receiving Yards per Team Pass Attempt (minimum 170 passes, so I could bring in Paul Warfield), with only the games in which the player “played” counting in the attempts column. As always, the table is sortable and searchable, and you can click the arrows at the bottom to scroll to the next names on the list (the table contains the 138 receivers to average 2.75 Yd/Att.)

Rec Yds
1Steve Smith2008CAR1414213524.04
2Lance Alworth1965SDG1416024014
3Charley Hennigan1961HOU1317464673.74
4Bob Hayes1970DAL118892473.6
5Duriel Harris1979MIA97982253.55
6Buddy Dial1963PIT1412953683.52
7Cliff Branch1976OAK1311113173.5
8Lance Alworth1966SDG1313833973.48
9Steve Smith2005CAR1615634493.48
10Bill Groman1960HOU1314734243.47
11Wes Chandler1982SDG810322983.46
12Sonny Randle1960STL118932583.46
13Eddie Brown1988CIN1512733703.44
14Otis Taylor1966KAN1412973773.44
15Buddy Dial1962PIT129812863.43
16Buddy Dial1960PIT129722853.41
17Paul Warfield1971MIA149962933.4
18Red Mack1963PIT76181823.4
19Bucky Pope1964RAM97862323.39
20Lance Alworth1963SDG1412053573.38
21Elbert Dubenion1964BUF1311393403.35
22Bobby Mitchell1963WAS1414364303.34
23R.C. Owens1961SFO1210323103.33
24Raymond Berry1960BAL1212983923.31
25Otis Taylor1971KAN1411103373.29
26Mike Ditka1961CHI1310763303.26
27Cliff Branch1974OAK1410923353.26
28Del Shofner1962NYG1211333483.26
29Buddy Dial1961PIT1310473223.25
30Michael Irvin1995DAL1616034943.24
31Bobby Mitchell1962WAS1413844283.23
32Frank Clarke1962DAL1210433233.23
33Harold Jackson1973RAM148742713.23
34Lance Alworth1964SDG1212353833.22
35Ron Sellers1969BOS97052193.22
36John Gilliam1973MIN139072823.22
37Roger Carr1976BAL1311123473.2
38Roddy White2008ATL1613824343.18
39Herman Moore1992DET129663043.18
40Henry Ellard1989RAM1413824353.18
41Don Maynard1969NYJ109382963.17
42Don Maynard1967NYJ1314344533.17
43Homer Jones1967NYG1312093823.16
44Max McGee1961GNB138832793.16
45Don Maynard1968NYJ1312974113.16
46Paul Warfield1974MIA95361703.15
47John Stallworth1984PIT1613954433.15
48Andre Johnson2007HOU98512713.14
49Randy Moss2003MIN1616325203.14
50Willie Gault1990RAI159853163.12
51Yancey Thigpen1997PIT1513984493.11
52Brandon Marshall2012CHI1615084853.11
53Paul Flatley1969ATL138342693.1
54Gary Ballman1964PIT139353023.1
55Santana Moss2005WAS1614834813.08
56Jerry Rice1989SFO1614834833.07
57Ken Burrough1975HOU1410633473.06
58Jimmy Smith1999JAX1616365353.06
59Homer Jones1968NYG1310573463.05
60Ken Burrow1971ATL127412433.05
61Michael Irvin1991DAL1615235003.05
62Marvin Harrison1999IND1616635463.05
63Gene A. Washington1970SFO1311003623.04
64David Boston2001ARI1615985263.04
65Wesley Walker1978NYJ1611693883.01
66Paul Warfield1970MIA107032343
67Gary Clark1991WAS1613404473
68Lee Evans2006BUF1612924313
69Bob Hayes1965DAL1310233422.99
70Bob Hayes1966DAL1412324132.98
71Jackie Smith1967STL1312054052.98
72Don Maynard1960NYT1312654262.97
73Eric Moulds1998BUF1613684612.97
74Dave Parks1965SFO1413444542.96
75Carroll Dale1968GNB128182772.95
76Art Powell1963OAK1413044422.95
77Nat Moore1976MIA96252122.95
78Paul Warfield1968CLE1410673632.94
79Drew Pearson1974DAL1310873702.94
80Cris Collinsworth1983CIN1411303852.94
81Jerry Rice1994SFO1614995112.93
82Gary Garrison1970SDG1210063442.92
83Marvin Harrison2002IND1617225912.91
84Carroll Dale1969GNB138793022.91
85Randy Moss2000MIN1614374952.9
86Glenn Bass1964BUF108973092.9
87Carlos Carson1987KAN1210443602.9
88Mike Quick1983PHI1614094862.9
89Andre Johnson2012HOU1615985542.88
90James Lofton1984GNB1513614742.87
91Warren Wells1969OAK1412604392.87
92Jerry Rice1995SFO1618486442.87
93Jerry Rice1993SFO1615035242.87
94Terry Barr1963DET1310863792.87
95Frank Pitts1968KAN116552292.86
96Homer Jones1965NYG107092492.85
97Michael Irvin1992DAL1613964912.84
98Ben Hawkins1967PHI1412654452.84
99Eric Crabtree1969CIN138553012.84
100Andre Johnson2008HOU1615755552.84
101J.D. Hill1974BUF105722022.83
102Paul Warfield1964CLE139203252.83
103Michael Irvin1996DAL119623402.83
104Red Phillips1961RAM1410923862.83
105Art Monk1984WAS1613724852.83
106Torry Holt2003STL1616966002.83
107Plaxico Burress2004PIT116982472.83
108Henry Ellard1994WAS1513974952.82
109Max McGee1960GNB127872792.82
110Isaac Bruce1995STL1617816322.82
111Art Powell1964OAK1313614832.82
112Rod Smith2000DEN1616025692.82
113Rod Smith2001DEN1513434782.81
114Hines Ward2004PIT1610043582.8
115Michael Irvin1993DAL1613304752.8
116Andre Reed1989BUF1513124692.8
117Laveranues Coles2002NYJ1512644522.8
118Terrell Owens2000SFO1414515192.8
119Harold Jackson1972PHI1410483752.79
120Gene Washington1969MIN118212942.79
121Terrell Owens2001SFO1614125062.79
122Herman Moore1995DET1616866052.79
123Tony Martin1998ATL1611814242.79
124Torry Holt2000STL1616355872.79
125Charlie Brown1983WAS1512254402.78
126Isaac Bruce1996STL1613384812.78
127Lance Alworth1968SDG1413124722.78
128Hines Ward2005PIT159753512.78
129Pat Studstill1966DET1412664562.78
130Bob Trumpy1969CIN138353012.77
131Del Shofner1963NYG1411814262.77
132Sterling Sharpe1992GNB1614615272.77
133Nat Moore1977MIA127652762.77
134Michael Irvin1994DAL1612414482.77
135Roy Jefferson1969PIT1410793912.76
136Steve Largent1987SEA139123312.76
137Carroll Dale1966GNB148763182.75
138Roy Green1984STL1615555662.75

You have to scroll all the way down to Michael Irvin at #30 to find a receiver since 1990 not named Steve Smith, and Roddy White at 38 for someone since 2000. This is a rate stat, so it’s far from perfect (I don’t like how low Jerry Rice ranks, but this also forms the basis of my career rankings, which Rice dominates. Still, it’s always interesting to look at rate stats, and it’s kind of crazy how far Smith’s 2005 and 2008 seasons were compared to his contemporaries.

What if we use Adjusted Catch Yards per attempt instead of receiving yards per attempt? For those unfamiliar, Adjusted Catch Yards is defined as 5 * Receptions + Receiving Yards + 20 * Receiving Touchdowns.

Rec Yds
1Sonny Randle1960STL1162893152585.83
2Lance Alworth1965SDG14691602144015.55
3Steve Smith2008CAR1478142163525.49
4Steve Smith2005CAR161031563124495.16
5Charley Hennigan1961HOU13821746124675.13
6Bob Hayes1970DAL1134889102475.1
7Lance Alworth1966SDG13731383133975.06
8Cliff Branch1976OAK13461111123174.99
9Cliff Branch1974OAK14601092133354.93
10Harold Jackson1973RAM1440874132714.92
11Wes Chandler1982SDG849103292984.89
12Bill Groman1960HOU13721473124244.89
13Paul Warfield1971MIA1443996112934.88
14Randy Moss2003MIN161111632175204.86
15Lance Alworth1963SDG14611205113574.85
16Andre Johnson2007HOU96085182714.84
17Mike Ditka1961CHI13561076123304.84
18Frank Clarke1962DAL12471043143234.82
19Buddy Dial1963PIT1460129593684.82
20Buddy Dial1961PIT13531047123224.82
21Bucky Pope1964RAM925786102324.79
22Brandon Marshall2012CHI161181508114854.78
23Michael Irvin1995DAL161111603104944.77
24Raymond Berry1960BAL12741298103924.77
25Duriel Harris1979MIA94279832254.75
26Buddy Dial1960PIT124097292854.74
27Buddy Dial1962PIT125098162864.72
28Del Shofner1962NYG12531133123484.71
29Lance Alworth1964SDG12611235133834.7
30Eddie Brown1988CIN1553127393704.64
31Otis Taylor1966KAN1458129783774.63
32Jerry Rice1989SFO16821483174834.62
33Chris Burford1962DTX1145645122414.61
34Bobby Mitchell1962WAS14721384114284.59
35Nat Moore1977MIA1252765122764.58
36Max McGee1961GNB135188372794.58
37Elbert Dubenion1964BUF13421139103404.56
38Otis Taylor1971KAN1457111073374.55
39John Stallworth1984PIT16801395114434.55
40R.C. Owens1961SFO1255103253104.54
41Marvin Harrison1999IND161151663125464.54
42Jerry Rice1994SFO161121499135114.54
43John Gilliam1973MIN134290782824.53
44Roddy White2008ATL1688138274344.52
45Art Powell1963OAK14731304164424.5
46Marvin Harrison2002IND161431722115914.5
47Homer Jones1967NYG13491209133824.49
48Bobby Mitchell1963WAS1469143674304.47
49Roger Carr1976BAL13431112113474.46
50Rod Smith2001DEN151131343114784.45
51Gene A. Washington1970SFO13531100123624.43
52Terry Barr1963DET13661086133794.42
53Red Mack1963PIT72561831824.41
54Don Maynard1967NYJ13711434104534.39
55Hines Ward2005PIT1569975113514.39
56Bob Hayes1966DAL14641232134134.39
57Ron Sellers1969BOS92770562194.38
58Paul Flatley1969ATL134583462694.38
59Bob Hayes1965DAL13471023123424.38
60Jerry Rice1987SFO12651078224214.38
61Jerry Rice1993SFO16981503155244.38
62Dave Parks1965SFO14801344124544.37
63Don Maynard1969NYJ104793862964.37
64Jimmy Smith1999JAX16116163665354.37
65Henry Ellard1989RAM1470138284354.35
66Terrell Owens2001SFO16931412165064.34
67Gary Ballman1964PIT134793573024.34
68Don Maynard1968NYJ13571297104114.34
69Santana Moss2005WAS1684148394814.33
70Lee Evans2006BUF1682129284314.32
71Lynn Swann1978PIT1461880113264.31
72Yancey Thigpen1997PIT1579139874494.31
73Michael Irvin1991DAL1693152385004.3
74Sterling Sharpe1992GNB161081461135274.29
75Paul Warfield1968CLE14501067123634.29
76Carroll Dale1968GNB124281882774.29
77Ken Burrough1975HOU1453106383474.29
78Randy Moss2000MIN16771437154954.29
79Jerry Rice1995SFO161221848156444.28
80Herman Moore1992DET125196643044.28
81David Boston2001ARI1698159885264.27
82Herman Moore1995DET161231686146054.27
83Gary Garrison1970SDG12441006123444.26
84Marvin Harrison2001IND161091524155574.25
85Terrell Owens2000SFO14971451135194.23
86Gary Clark1991WAS16701340104474.23
87Ken Burrow1971ATL123374162434.22
88J.D. Hill1974BUF103257262024.22
89Art Monk1984WAS16106137274854.21
90Torry Holt2003STL161171696126004.2
91Paul Warfield1964CLE135292093254.18
92Paul Warfield1974MIA92753621704.18
93Isaac Bruce1995STL161191781136324.17
94Randy Moss2007NWE16981493235864.17
95Paul Warfield1973MIA1229514112114.17
96Ken Burrow1973ATL93156772074.16
97Andre Johnson2008HOU16115157585554.16
98Lionel Taylor1960DEN12921235124664.15
99Hines Ward2004PIT1680100443584.15
100Mike Quick1983PHI16691409134864.14
101Roy Green1983STL16781227144604.12
102Andre Reed1989BUF1588131294694.12
103Paul Warfield1970MIA102870362344.12
104Steve Largent1987SEA135891283314.11
105Jackie Smith1967STL1356120594054.11
106Homer Jones1968NYG1345105773464.11
107Nat Moore1976MIA93362542124.1
108Dwayne Bowe2010KAN15721162154444.1
109Red Phillips1961RAM1478109253864.1
110Willie Gault1990RAI155098533164.1
111Don Maynard1960NYT1372126564264.1
112Bill Groman1961HOU12501175174314.1
113Terrell Owens2007DAL15811355155044.09
114Muhsin Muhammad2004CAR16931405165364.09
115Eric Moulds1998BUF1667136894614.08
116Roy Jefferson1969PIT1467107993914.08
117Gene Washington1969MIN113982192944.07
118Fred Biletnikoff1971OAK146192993484.06
119Wes Welker2009NWE14123134845034.06
120Art Powell1964OAK13761361114834.06
121Terrell Owens2002SFO141001300135084.06
122Gary Collins1965CLE1450884103294.05
123Carroll Dale1969GNB134587963024.05
124Cris Collinsworth1983CIN1466113053854.05
125Glenn Bass1964BUF104389773094.05
126Del Shofner1961NYG14681125114164.05
127Reggie Wayne2007IND161041510105514.05
128Wesley Walker1978NYJ1648116983884.04
129Warren Wells1969OAK14471260144394.04
130Andre Johnson2012HOU16112159845544.04
131Frank Pitts1968KAN113065562294.04
132Charlie Brown1983WAS1578122584404.03
133Michael Irvin1993DAL1688133074754.02
134Tommy McDonald1961PHI14641144134294.02
135Don Maynard1965NYJ14681218144594
136Laveranues Coles2002NYJ1589126454524
137Kyle Rote1960NYG1142750102904

Perhaps we’ll have to do a retrospective on Sonny Randle, but for now, Smith has two of the top four seasons on the list. For a look at career rankings using a similar method, check out this post from June.

Finally, here’s a list of the single-season leaders in Adjusted Catch Yards per Team Pass Attempt (minimum 250 attempts):

Rec Yds
2012Brandon MarshallCHI161181508114854.78
2011Wes WelkerNWE16122156996123.85
2010Dwayne BoweKAN15721162154444.1
2009Wes WelkerNWE14123134845034.06
2008Steve SmithCAR1478142163525.49
2007Andre JohnsonHOU96085182714.84
2006Lee EvansBUF1682129284314.32
2005Steve SmithCAR161031563124495.16
2004Hines WardPIT1680100443584.15
2003Randy MossMIN161111632175204.86
2002Marvin HarrisonIND161431722115914.5
2001Rod SmithDEN151131343114784.45
2000Randy MossMIN16771437154954.29
1999Marvin HarrisonIND161151663125464.54
1998Eric MouldsBUF1667136894614.08
1997Yancey ThigpenPIT1579139874494.31
1996Isaac BruceSTL1684133874813.95
1995Michael IrvinDAL161111603104944.77
1994Jerry RiceSFO161121499135114.54
1993Jerry RiceSFO16981503155244.38
1992Sterling SharpeGNB161081461135274.29
1991Michael IrvinDAL1693152385004.3
1990Willie GaultRAI155098533164.1
1989Jerry RiceSFO16821483174834.62
1988Eddie BrownCIN1553127393704.64
1987Jerry RiceSFO12651078224214.38
1986Jerry RiceSFO16861570155823.95
1985Art MonkWAS1591122624743.63
1984John StallworthPIT16801395114434.55
1983Mike QuickPHI16691409134864.14
1982Wes ChandlerSDG849103292984.89
1981Steve WatsonDEN15601244134553.96
1980Tony HillDAL1560105584233.58
1979Wes ChandlerNOR1565106963963.82
1978Lynn SwannPIT1461880113264.31
1977Nat MooreMIA1252765122764.58
1976Cliff BranchOAK13461111123174.99
1975Ken BurroughHOU1453106383474.29
1974Cliff BranchOAK14601092133354.93
1973Harold JacksonRAM1440874132714.92
1972Gene A. WashingtonSFO1246918123483.99
1971Paul WarfieldMIA1443996112934.88
1970Gene A. WashingtonSFO13531100123624.43
1969Paul FlatleyATL134583462694.38
1968Don MaynardNYJ13571297104114.34
1967Homer JonesNYG13491209133824.49
1966Lance AlworthSDG13731383133975.06
1965Lance AlworthSDG14691602144015.55
1964Lance AlworthSDG12611235133834.7
1963Lance AlworthSDG14611205113574.85
1962Frank ClarkeDAL12471043143234.82
1961Charley HenniganHOU13821746124675.13
1960Sonny RandleSTL1162893152585.83

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Kibbles August 11, 2013 at 12:52 pm

You know you can’t post a list like this without me popping in and pointing out just how absurdly dominant Lance Alworth was back in the day.


Dave August 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm

The caveat to this formula is you are somewhat penalized by being on a team with two good WR’s

Though you don’t have targets going way back I like this formula

((Yards Per Target- Replacement Yards per Target)*Targets)/Team Targets


Tim Truemper August 12, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Along with doing a post on Sonny Randle, I think the story of Bucky Pope is interesting too. Insofar the dominance of Lance Alworth, it remains to be seen he would have duplicated those numbers against the NFL. I appreciate his marvelous ability and I think he would have excelled, but still….


Kibbles August 13, 2013 at 1:23 am

It remains to be seen whether Hutson would have duplicated his dominance had most of the league’s talent not been busy fighting a war overseas. It also remains to be seen whether Jerry Rice would have been as dominant without Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, and Steve Young. A lot has to go right for a player to put up seasons that many standard deviations above the mean.


Tim Truemper August 12, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Also, another interesting player to feature as a wide receiver is Homer Jones. Since there is so much talk about Paul Warfield, it might be good to detail his background as there history is linked in an interesting way.


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