Last week, I looked at the top receivers and the quarterbacks who threw it to them. Today, we flip that question around and look at which receivers the top quarterbacks threw to. I used the exact same methodology from the previous post, so please read that for the fine details.
For Peyton Manning, 20% of his career passing yards came via Marvin Harrison, and another 16% came from Reggie Wayne. Both of those numbers will decline the longer Manning plays, of course, but for now, those players dominate his list (Dallas Clark is third at seven percent). That’s a pretty stark departure from other quarterbacks such as say, I dunno, Tom Brady. For the Patriots signal caller, Wes Welker is his top man (13%), followed by Deion Branch (9%), Troy Brown (7%), Rob Gronkowski (7%), and then Randy Moss (5%).
The table below lists the top 7 receivers for each of the 200 quarterbacks with the most passing yards since 1960. The list is sorted by the quarterback’s career passing yards, and I have removed the percentage sign from the table to enable proper sorting. For example, here’s how to read Brett Favre’s line. He’s the career leader in passing yards, and played from 1992 to 2010. His top receiver was Donald Driver (9%), followed by Antonio Freeman (9%), Robert Brooks (6%), Sterling Sharpe (5%), Bill Schroeder (5%), Ahman Green (4%), and William Henderson.
As always, the table is fully sortable and searchable. You can also change the number of quarterbacks show by selecting a different option in the dropdown box. One searching tip: if you know a player’s PFR code, you can type that in, too (searching for “SmitSt01” or “YounSt00” might save you some time).
Some non-Manning/Brady takeaways:
- The narrative on Dan Marino/John Elway is that Marino had a pair of great receivers and Elway never had much. This analysis doesn’t disprove that idea, but I’m not sure how much it supports it, either. Sure, the Marks brothers were responsible for 28% of Marino’s yards, but Marino’s next best receiver was O.J. McDuffie. No other receiver picked up even 2500 yards with Marino. Elway had Shannon Sharpe and little else, but the results here are closer than you might think.
- At the other end of the spectrum, Matthew Stafford and Andy Dalton lead with having 1/3 of their production come from one receiver. Among retired quarterbacks, Frank Tripucka (Lionel Taylor) relied the most on one receiver; among retired quarterbacks in the top 150, it’s Scott Mitchell (Herman Moore). Look at the top 100, and Aaron Brooks (Joe Horn) edges out Jake Delhomme (Steve Smith) for the greatest reliance on one man; go down to the top 50, and Troy Aikman (Michael Irvin) takes that top spot.
- If you want to say a quarterback was hurt by his receiver, your man isn’t Elway or Brady, but Fran Tarkenton. This site has already been pro-Tarkenton this summer, but his numbers are arguably even more impressive considering his rotating cast of receivers. Of the 200 quarterbacks on the list, only Trent Dilfer and Tarkenton failed to have at least one receiver catch at least 6.8% of their receiving yards. In that light, Tarkenton’s accomplishments look even more amazing.
- Continuing on the Phil Simms may be underrated train, the man he threw the most receiving yards to was… Lionel Manuel. For Donovan McNabb, his leading receiver was running back Brian Westbrook.
- Hines Ward is the only player to be the number one man for three different top-200 (judged solely by passing yards) quarterbacks. That’s less impressive, I suppose, when it’s Tommy Maddox and Kordell Stewart joining Ben Roethlisberger. Jerry Rice is the only receiver to be the top target for two different top-30 quarterbacks. And the only receiver to be the top receiver for two different top-50 quarterbacks is… Chad Johnson. Yes, Ochocinco was the main man not just for Carson Palmer, but for Jon Kitna. Expand things to the top 75 passers, and Terance Mathis becomes the third receiver to star for two quarterbacks (Chris Chandler, Jeff George).
Post your fun takeaways from the table in the comments.