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On Sunday, I discussed single-game receiving yards baselines. You can check that post to see the methodology (using Justin Blackmon as the example), but basically we just remove a certain number of receiving yards from every player in every game, and that player only gets credit for their yards above that baseline.

Based on the discussion with Brad O. in the comments, I’ve decided to use a couple of different baselines. One is a 3X baseline — that means we multiply the number of team games in the NFL (in modern times, that’s 512) by 3, and that’s the number of games in each year that are at or above the baseline. The other is a 2.5X baseline — i.e., we multiply team games by 2.5 to get the threshold number.

In 2015, the junk baseline of 3X was 32 receiving yards. For some players like Julio Jones, who had at least 32 yards in each game, that just means we remove 512 yards from his total of 1,871 receiving yards, giving him 1,359 non-junk yards last year. With a 2.5X baseline, players in 2015 only receive credit for their yards once they hit 40 yards in a game; for Jones, that means subtracting 638 yards from his total, since he had one 38-yard game last year, resulting in 1,233 non-junk yards if we use that threshold. By either standard, that ranks as the 9th best season since 1960.

I used that methodology for every player season since 1960, and pro-rated for non-16 game seasons. The best year, using either baseline, was what Charley Hennigan did in 1961. He had at least 78 yards in 13 games and 0 yards in the 14th game; that makes the calculation pretty easy. The baseline at the 2.5X level was 31 yards, so for Hennigan, we just subtract 31 yards from his total of 1,746 yards in 13 games, or 403 yards, leaving him with 1,343 yards. Then, we multiply that by 16/14 — since his Oilers played a 14-game schedule — to give him a pro-rated 1,535 yards above the baseline.

That’s the top season since 1960. You may want to downgrade him for being in the AFL, of course, but that’s another matter. The table below shows all player seasons that rank in the top 300 based on either the 2.5X measure or the 3X measure:

2.5X RkPlayerYearTeamTm G2.5X Yds3X Rk3X Yds
1Charley Hennigan1961HOU14153511654
2Wes Chandler1982SDG9138041451
3Calvin Johnson2012DET16136021468
4Lance Alworth1965SDG14135231462
5Raymond Berry1960BAL12131251408
6Jerry Rice1995SFO16130561392
7Bill Groman1960HOU14129071386
8Charley Hennigan1964HOU14126981381
9Julio Jones2015ATL16123391359
10Isaac Bruce1995STL161232111322
11Don Maynard1967NYJ141226121295
12Antonio Brown2015PIT161210101330
13Torry Holt2003STL161200141280
14Marvin Harrison2002IND161199131290
15Randy Moss2003MIN161146211217
16Torry Holt2000STL161137161227
17Bobby Mitchell1963WAS141135171225
18Herman Moore1995DET161126191222
19Jimmy Smith1999JAX161121201219
20Lance Alworth1966SDG141120181224
21Marvin Harrison1999IND161119151231
22Josh Gordon2013CLE161118231209
23Bobby Mitchell1962WAS141112221209
24Dwight Clark1982SFO91111271191
25Calvin Johnson2011DET161105241203
26Don Maynard1968NYJ141098301178
27Rod Smith2000DEN161097281187
28Art Powell1964OAK141095261199
29David Boston2001ARI161092291182
30Antonio Brown2014PIT161090251202
31Steve Smith2005CAR161085321169
32Lance Alworth1968SDG141071311175
33Rob Moore1997ARI161064341152
34Andre Johnson2008HOU161051351151
35Demaryius Thomas2014DEN161045361143
36Michael Irvin1995DAL161043371139
37Michael Irvin1991DAL161039391129
38Dave Parks1965SFO141039331158
39Andre Johnson2012HOU161033401128
39Roy Green1984STL161033471115
41Don Maynard1960NYT141030381134
42Terrell Owens2000SFO161029491107
43Lionel Taylor1960DEN141029421123
44Jerry Rice1986SFO161026431122
44Victor Cruz2011NYG161026461117
46Otis Taylor1966KAN141025441121
47Julio Jones2014ATL161023401128
48Jerry Rice1990SFO161016501099
49Ben Hawkins1967PHI141015551079
50Marvin Harrison2001IND161012481108
51Andre Johnson2009HOU161009451121
52Lance Alworth1964SDG141006521094
53Wes Welker2011NWE16992511097
54Jerry Rice1993SFO16991541087
55Pat Studstill1966DET14986531090
56Anquan Boldin2005ARI16986591064
57Art Powell1963OAK14982561074
58Warren Wells1969OAK14976571072
59Homer Jones1967NYG14971691040
60Santana Moss2005WAS16971581067
61Steve Smith2008CAR16970621061
62Buddy Dial1963PIT14968591064
63Stanley Morgan1986NWE16967641057
64Reggie Wayne2007IND16966611062
65Sterling Sharpe1992GNB16965621061
66Calvin Johnson2013DET16962661051
67Jerry Rice1989SFO16961661051
68Isaac Bruce2000STL16959651055
69Randy Moss2007NWE16949681045
70Jackie Smith1967STL14946811021
71Randy Moss2000MIN16946771027
72Sterling Sharpe1989GNB16945801023
73Antonio Freeman1998GNB16944711034
74Robert Brooks1995GNB16943721033
75Jerry Rice1994SFO16941701035
76Brett Perriman1995DET16938771027
77Cliff Branch1976OAK14937841013
78Yancey Thigpen1997PIT16934851012
79Art Powell1960NYT14934731030
80Brandon Marshall2012CHI16931741029
81Chad Johnson2005CIN16930821020
82James Lofton1984GNB16927103993
83Elbert Dubenion1964BUF14927891007
84Muhsin Muhammad2004CAR16926901006
85George Sauer1967NYJ1492596999
86Jordy Nelson2014GNB16924741029
87Mark Carrier1989TAM16923861011
87Henry Ellard1989RAM16923911004
89Bob Hayes1966DAL14920791024
89Larry Fitzgerald2007ARI1692097998
89Lance Alworth1963SDG1492098998
92Bill Groman1961HOU14918761027
93Michael Irvin1992DAL16915921003
94Johnny Morris1964CHI14913871009
95Randy Moss1999MIN16912931001
96Marvin Harrison2000IND1691099997
97Tim Brown1997OAK16909106990
98Harold Carmichael1973PHI14907108987
99Henry Ellard1988RAM1690799997
100Larry Fitzgerald2005ARI16906101996
101Del Shofner1962NYG14905111985
102Sonny Randle1962STL14904110986
103Roger Carr1976BAL14903111985
104Don Maynard1965NYJ14902831019
105Terrell Owens2001SFO16900101996
106Marcus Robinson1999CHI16899104992
106Torry Holt2005STL16899115977
108Warren Wells1968OAK14898120975
109Joe Horn2004NOR16898107988
110Chad Johnson2007CIN16896104992
111Javon Walker2004GNB16893115977
112Torry Holt2004STL16892114978
112Marvin Harrison2006IND16892121973
114Larry Fitzgerald2008ARI1689094999
115Henry Ellard1994WAS16888122972
116Anquan Boldin2003ARI16887131961
117DeAndre Hopkins2015HOU16885881009
118Wes Welker2009NWE16884122972
119Tommy McDonald1962PHI14883124971
120Mark Clayton1984MIA16882127969
121Brandon Lloyd2010DEN16881128968
122Brandon Marshall2015NYJ1687994999
122Derrick Alexander2000KAN16879119975
122Chad Johnson2006CIN16879128968
125Chad Johnson2003CIN16877138950
126Antonio Brown2013PIT16875109987
126Eric Moulds1998BUF16875130962
128Pete Retzlaff1965PHI14873113983
129George Sauer1968NYJ14872117976
130Gene Washington1970SFO14871143945
131Rod Smith2001DEN16870136954
132Buddy Dial1960PIT12868125971
132Terrell Owens2007DAL16868144945
134Torry Holt2001STL16866134956
135Odell Beckham2014NYG16863150936
136Charley Taylor1966WAS14862140950
137Jimmy Smith2001JAX16861133957
137Steve Smith2011CAR16861138950
139Tommy McDonald1961PHI14861132958
140Cliff Branch1974OAK14858166927
141Odell Beckham2015NYG16857126970
142Demaryius Thomas2012DEN16856134956
142Del Shofner1963NYG14856149938
142Drew Pearson1974DAL14856158930
145John Stallworth1984PIT16855142947
146Joe Horn2000NOR16853147940
147Otis Taylor1971KAN14853146942
148Alfred Jenkins1981ATL16852156931
149Germane Crowell1999DET16851141949
150Harold Jackson1969PHI14850155933
151Mike Quick1983PHI16849144945
152Lionel Taylor1961DEN14848117976
152Roddy White2008ATL16848137953
154Roy Williams2006DET16847162928
155Michael Irvin1993DAL16846151935
155Amani Toomer2002NYG16846160929
157Randy Moss1998MIN16845160929
158Ed McCaffrey2000DEN16844162928
158Randy Moss2002MIN16844162928
160Dez Bryant2012DAL16842154933
160Plaxico Burress2002PIT16842167926
162Miles Austin2009DAL16841169925
163Homer Jones1968NYG14840162928
164Joey Galloway2005TAM16839174923
164Steve Largent1979SEA16839185913
166Art Powell1962NYT14839153935
167Terrell Owens2002SFO16838175922
168Alshon Jeffery2013CHI16837151935
169Derrick Mason2003TEN16836190909
170A.J. Green2013CIN16834148939
171Carlos Carson1983KAN16833180917
172Gary Clark1991WAS16832171924
172Henry Ellard1990RAM16832181916
174Andre Reed1989BUF16831183915
175Charley Frazier1966HOU14830168926
176Art Monk1984WAS16828171924
176John Jefferson1980SDG16828171924
178T.Y. Hilton2014IND16827178918
179Mark Duper1984MIA16826199898
180Cris Carter1995MIN16825183915
181Eric Moulds2000BUF16824188910
181Tim Brown1995OAK16824201897
181Frank Clarke1962DAL14824202896
184Lee Evans2006BUF16822196900
185Gary Garrison1968SDG14822170925
186Kellen Winslow1982SDG9821217884
187Lance Alworth1967SDG14821227878
188Isaac Bruce2004STL16820198899
189Larry Fitzgerald2011ARI16819156931
190Lenny Moore1960BAL12816186912
190Jimmy Smith1997JAX16816194906
192Jimmy Smith2000JAX16815223881
193Roy Jefferson1968PIT14815182915
193Harold Jackson1972PHI14815208890
195Roddy White2010ATL16813190909
195Isaac Bruce1996STL16813194906
195James Lofton1981GNB16813207891
198Del Shofner1961NYG14813159929
199Andre Johnson2013HOU16812190909
199Donald Driver2006GNB16812209890
201Reggie Wayne2006IND16811202896
202Hines Ward2002PIT16810196900
203Allen Robinson2015JAX16809176921
204Irving Fryar1997PHI16808199898
204Marvin Harrison2003IND16808220882
206Charlie Joiner1976SDG14807202896
207Demaryius Thomas2013DEN16806178918
207Mark Duper1986MIA16806209890
209Calvin Johnson2008DET16805188910
210Roy Jefferson1969PIT14805206891
210Ken Burrough1975HOU14805219882
212Tim Brown1999OAK16804186912
212Drew Bennett2004TEN16804228876
214Charley Hennigan1963HOU14802243871
215Lionel Taylor1965DEN14801177920
216Torry Holt2002STL16800209890
217Terance Mathis1994ATL16799213889
218James Lofton1983GNB16798242871
219Sonny Randle1960STL12797216887
220Emmanuel Sanders2014DEN16796193908
221Mike Ditka1961CHI14794205895
221Gary Garrison1970SDG14794255862
223Jake Reed1996MIN16793214888
223Jerry Rice1988SFO16793226879
225Brandon Marshall2007DEN16792220882
226Yancey Thigpen1995PIT16791231875
227John Gilliam1972MIN14790237873
228Keyshawn Johnson2001TAM16789228876
228Gary Clark1986WAS16789238873
228Laveranues Coles2002NYJ16789239872
231Marlin Briscoe1970BUF14789250863
232Steve Watson1981DEN16788256861
233Vincent Jackson2012TAM16785209890
234A.J. Green2012CIN16784220882
234Joe Horn2002NOR16784225880
234Kellen Winslow1980SDG16784235874
234Chad Johnson2004CIN16784235874
238Roddy White2012ATL16783223881
238Reggie Wayne2010IND16783231875
238Eddie Brown1988CIN16783244868
241Herman Moore1997DET16782239872
241Andre Reed1994BUF16782258860
243Cris Carter2000MIN16780251862
244Red Phillips1961RAM14778214888
245Bob Hayes1967DAL14777297829
246Wesley Walker1978NYJ16777256861
246Randy Moss2001MIN16777269851
248Sidney Rice2009MIN16776231875
248George Sauer1966NYJ14776239872
250Tony Gonzalez2004KAN16774259858
251Lionel Taylor1963DEN14774263856
252Eric Moulds2002BUF16773249863
252Joe Horn2001NOR16773251862
254Paul Warfield1968CLE14771218883
255Reggie Wayne2012IND16771228876
255Brandon Marshall2008DEN16771251862
257Wes Welker2012NWE16770231875
258Koren Robinson2002SEA16769276841
259Herman Moore1996DET16768247864
259Steve Largent1985SEA16768259858
259Don Maynard1962NYT14768263856
259Terrell Owens2004PHI16768279840
263Buddy Dial1961PIT14767245866
264Steve Largent1978SEA16766270850
265Terry Barr1963DET14766265855
266Rob Gronkowski2011NWE16763251862
266Braylon Edwards2007CLE16763267853
266Tim Brown1994RAI16763267853
269Greg Jennings2008GNB16762246865
269Sterling Sharpe1993GNB16762259858
271Frank Lewis1981BUF16761280839
271Art Monk1985WAS16761281838
273Webster Slaughter1989CLE16760281838
274Antonio Bryant2008TAM16759262857
275Dick Gordon1970CHI14757285837
276Jeff Graham1995CHI16755274845
276DeSean Jackson2013PHI16755281838
276Andre Johnson2010HOU16755301826
279R.C. Owens1961SFO14754247864
279John Gilliam1973MIN14754326811
281Peerless Price2002BUF16752287834
282Don Maynard1969NYJ14751324813
283Steve Smith2006CAR16750298828
283John Stallworth1979PIT16750298828
285Jeremy Maclin2014PHI16749273847
285Antonio Freeman1997GNB16749281838
285Irving Fryar1994MIA16749293831
288Dave Kocourek1961SDG14749265855
288Bob Hayes1970DAL14749341800
290James Lofton1982GNB9748317820
291Jimmy Smith1996JAX16747293831
291Andre Rison1990ATL16747295830
291Gary Clark1989WAS16747301826
294Cris Collinsworth1982CIN9747318818
295James Lofton1980GNB16745306823
296Rod Smith1998DEN16744298828
296Tim Brown1993RAI16744311822
296Lance Rentzel1967DAL14744338801
299Muhsin Muhammad1999CAR16743272848
299Dez Bryant2014DAL16743276841
299Cris Carter1999MIN16743276841
299Laveranues Coles2003WAS16743321814
303Fred Biletnikoff1968OAK14741271849
309Red Phillips1960RAM12736275841
309Reggie Wayne2009IND16736290832
312Santonio Holmes2009PIT16735289833
313Randy Moss2009NWE16735290832
314Roddy White2011ATL16734290832
327Pierre Garcon2013WAS16724287834
330Golden Tate2014DET16723286835
337Jimmy Graham2011NOR16718295830
  • I have included each team in the table above, which allows for some fun searching. Brandon Marshall had a great season for the Jets last year, but it was only the 5th best using this metric. Type “NYG” into the search box, and you’ll see that of the Giants four best years, none came from 1970 to 2010: they were had by Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz recently, or Homer Jones and Del Shofner in the ’60s.
  • Could you guess the top Eagles season? I doubt it. But Ben Hawkins led the NFL in receiving yards in 1967.
  • Among the Smiths….. Jimmy has 5 seasons in the top 300, Steve has 4, and Rod has 3.  Meanwhile, Jackie has one, too.
  • The Arizona Cardinals have three top seasons, but none of them came from Larry Fitzgerald.

What stands out to you?  And check back tomorrow for a career list.

  • I was wondering why this wasn’t getting much love today — then I realized I accidentally scheduled tomorrow’s post on the career list for an hour after I scheduled this one, rather than 24 hours 🙂

    For those looking for the career list, it will be back up tomorrow. Whoops!

  • LightsOut85

    Random/fun-fact: That 1961 Charley Hennigan season also has the most receptions (82) for any season with at least 20YPC. A full 10 receptions more than 2nd place (which is 10 ahead of 10th).

  • Apart from the AFL skew, which is understandable, I think this is a pretty intuitive list. Not bad for something quick-and-dirty.

    I think Moss > Rice illustrates why I don’t like this methodology, though: it improperly emphasizes peak at the expense of consistency; there’s no floor or baseline to say that a zero performance is worse than a modest non-zero performance. There’s something to be said about junk production and replacement level, but 32 does not equal zero, and a system that treats them as equal is inevitably flawed. Gaining 30 yards in a 2015 game is not impressive or significant, but it is better than zero, and this system fails to recognize that.

    • I don’t disagree with that, but I still think this is better than pure receiving yards. And while I think Moss > Rice is not right, that’s somewhat an artifact of the artificial baselines I used to present the data. Moss has 8 seasons that rank as follows:


      Rice has 7 seasons that rank:


      Rice’s seasons are pretty clearly better: he has six top-75 seasons, compared to 3 for Moss. And his 7th season is better than Moss’s 7th best season. It’s only on the very singular look at the 8th-best season does Moss win.