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As always, the G.O.A.T.

As always, the G.O.A.T.

On Thursday, Neil and I introduced you to the concept of True Receiving Yards. That’s required background reading, but in a nutshell, True Receiving Yards is designed to place all receivers since 1970 into the same environment. It starts with receiving yards, but gives a bonus for receptions and touchdowns, adjusts for how frequently a player’s team passes, adjusts for the league passing environment, and adjusts for the number of games played on the NFL schedule in that season.

Neil and I listen to your comments, and we’ve made a big tweak to the methodology: we agree that True Receiving Yards, version 1.0, was a bit biased in favor of receivers on low-volume passing teams.  Based on yesterday’s research, we are now going to limit the adjustment for how frequently a player’s team passes (relative to league average) to just 50% of the old adjustment.

This now moves Cliff Branch up to #1 on the single-season list, presented below.  Let’s run through the math one time to explain it. In 1974, Branch’s 60-1092-13 stat line translates to 1,652 Adjusted Catch Yards. The Adjusted Catch Yards to Receiving Yards ratio for the entire league that season was 65.6%, so that translates to 1,083 receiving yards for Branch.  Now, the league average team that year passed 401 times, while Oakland had just 359 dropbacks. Instead of an 11.7% adjustment in Branch’s favor (as we did in TRYv1.0), he gets a 5.85% adjustment, bringing him up to 1,146 yards. Next, we multiply that by 214.54 (the average receiving yards per game over the 43-year period) and divide by 171, which represents the low-octane era of 1974; that gives us 1,436 yards. Finally, we pro-rate to 16 games, and end up with 1,641 True Receiving Yards. That’s the most in any season since 1970:

RkReceiverYearTeamRecYdsTDACYA/R RatioLg Avg TPATmPassLg Avg RY/GTm GTrue Rec Yds
1Cliff Branch1974OAK60109213165265.6%401359171141641
2Randy Moss2003MIN111163217252764%550562214161605
3Steve Smith2005CAR103156312231864.4%551477218161582
4Marvin Harrison2002IND143172211265764%577614227161558
5Wes Chandler1982SDG4910329145765.9%30735022191558
6Harold Jackson1973RAM4087413133465.5%373288159141543
7Marvin Harrison1999IND115166312247864.9%581560228161540
8Jerry Rice1995SFO122184815275864.6%593677236161522
9Torry Holt2003STL117169612252164%550643214161502
10Paul Warfield1971MIA4399611143166.6%392318174141500
11Michael Irvin1995DAL111160310235864.6%593512236161497
12Cliff Branch1976OAK46111112158165.8%403389173141496
13Otis Taylor1971KAN5711107153566.6%392372174141480
14Gene A. Washington1970SFO53110012160566.2%410391181141475
15Jerry Rice1993SFO98150315229364.9%552559215161475
16Sterling Sharpe1992GNB108146113226165.3%520570205161475
17Herman Moore1995DET123168614258164.6%593637236161466
18Roger Carr1976BAL43111211154765.8%403391173141460
19Isaac Bruce1995STL119178113263664.6%593675236161457
20Jerry Rice1994SFO112149913231964.8%571546227161450
21Marvin Harrison2001IND109152415236964.5%561587221161449
22Jimmy Smith1999JAX11616366233664.9%581571228161438
23Jerry Rice1989SFO82148317223366.5%552528229161424
24Harold Carmichael1973PHI6711169163165.5%373513159141419
25Randy Moss2007NWE98149323244363.7%567607228161415
26David Boston2001ARI9815988224864.5%561555221161414
27Terrell Owens2001SFO93141216219764.5%561532221161412
28Michael Irvin1991DAL9315238214865.7%534538215161405
29Dick Gordon1970CHI71102613164166.2%410455181141400
30Jerry Rice1990SFO100150213226265.7%521620211161389
31Jerry Rice1986SFO86157015230066.1%560608226161388
32Ken Burrough1975HOU5310638148865.7%418374183141387
33Brandon Marshall2012CHI118150811231864.5%592529246161382
34Andre Johnson2008HOU11515758231064.4%549587224161378
35Rod Smith2000DEN10016028226264.7%566599222161375
36Dwight Clark1982SFO609135131365.9%30736822191372
37Randy Moss2000MIN77143715212264.7%566530222161371
38John Gilliam1973MIN429078127765.5%373330159141371
39Santana Moss2005WAS8414839208364.4%551512218161369
40Fred Biletnikoff1971OAK619299141466.6%392372174141364
41John Stallworth1984PIT80139511201566%559478228161355
42Steve Smith2008CAR7814216193164.4%549434224161349
43Marvin Harrison2000IND102141314220364.7%566591222161348
44Gary Clark1991WAS70134010189065.7%534456215161347
45Roddy White2008ATL8813827196264.4%549451224161341
46Rod Smith2001DEN113134311212864.5%561553221161341
47Calvin Johnson2012DET12219645267464.5%592769246161332
48Yancey Thigpen1997PIT7913987193365.1%566486219161331
49Reggie Wayne2007IND104151010223063.7%567574228161328
50Nat Moore1977MIA5276512126565.9%384347162141327
51Henry Ellard1988RAM86141410204466.4%542550218161325
52Terrell Owens2000SFO97145113219664.7%566608222161325
53Sterling Sharpe1993GNB112127411205464.9%552558215161322
54Michael Irvin1992DAL7813967192665.3%520514205161321
55Muhsin Muhammad2004CAR93140516219064.5%548569225161321
56Chad Johnson2005CIN9714329209764.4%551559218161318
57Mel Gray1975STL4892611138665.7%418363183141313
58Drew Pearson1974DAL6210872143765.6%401432171141300
59Rob Moore1997ARI9715848222965.1%566680219161299
60Robert Brooks1995GNB102149713226764.6%593626236161299
61Harold Jackson1972PHI6210484143866.2%376428169141299
62John Gilliam1972MIN4710357141066.2%376411169141298
63Art Monk1984WAS10613727204266%559533228161297
64Charlie Joiner1976SDG5010567144665.8%403434173141296
65Michael Irvin1993DAL8813307191064.9%552504215161295
66Wesley Walker1978NYJ4811698156966.1%459431178161294
67Calvin Johnson2011DET96168116248165.1%581702245161294
68Roy Green1984STL78155512218566%559615228161293
69Gene A. Washington1972SFO4691812138866.2%376402169141291
70Isaac Curtis1973CIN458439124865.5%373356159141288
71Marvin Harrison2006IND95136612208164.4%549572219161285
72Torry Holt2000STL8216356216564.7%566631222161283
73Andre Johnson2009HOU10115699225464.3%567618232161283
74Eddie Brown1988CIN5312739171866.4%542422218161282
75Mark Clayton1984MIA73138918211466%559586228161281
76Wes Welker2011NWE12215699235965.1%581644245161280
77Anquan Boldin2003ARI10113778204264%550578214161279
78Chad Johnson2003CIN90135510200564%550557214161279
79Hines Ward2002PIT112132912212964%577585227161279
80Antonio Freeman1998GNB84142414212465.1%557614221161279
81Stanley Morgan1986NWE84149110211166.1%560604226161278
82Cris Carter1995MIN122137117232164.6%593682236161277
83Steve Largent1978SEA7111688168366.1%459511178161276
84Derrick Mason2003TEN9513038193864%550527214161271
85Randy Vataha1971NWE518729130766.6%392366174141271
86Andre Johnson2012HOU11215984223864.5%592582246161270
87Jimmy Smith2001JAX11213738209364.5%561597221161270
88Tim Brown1997OAK10414085202865.1%566587219161267
89Joe Horn2000NOR9413408197064.7%566536222161266
90Gary Garrison1970SDG44100612146666.2%410444181141265
91Mike Quick1983PHI69140913201465.8%545543225161264
92Marlin Briscoe1970BUF5710368148166.2%410455181141263
93Lee Evans2006BUF8212928186264.4%549478219161261
94Randy Moss1998MIN69131317199865.1%557558221161260
95Brett Perriman1995DET10814889220864.6%593637236161255
96Bob Hayes1970DAL3488910125966.2%410336181141254
97Eric Moulds1998BUF6713689188365.1%557502221161254
98Jerry Rice1992SFO84120110182165.3%520512205161252
99Andre Reed1989BUF8813129193266.5%552513229161250
100Cris Carter2000MIN9612749193464.7%566530222161250
101Randy Moss1999MIN80141311203364.9%581573228161249
102Terrell Owens2007DAL81135515206063.7%567556228161246
103Joe Horn2004NOR94139911208964.5%548583225161245
104Herman Moore1997DET10412938197365.1%566581219161239
105Isaac Bruce2000STL8714719208664.7%566631222161237
106Roddy White2010ATL115138910216464.2%575600236161235
107Cliff Branch1975OAK518939132865.7%418376183141235
108Herman Moore1996DET10612969200664.6%569587222161232
109Joey Galloway2005TAM83128710190264.4%551528218161231
110Terrell Owens2002SFO100130013206064%577593227161229
111Jerry Rice1987SFO65107822184365.6%521530224151228
112Harold Carmichael1978PHI5510728150766.1%459442178161227
113Jerry Rice1991SFO80120614188665.7%534546215161225
114Drew Hill1988HOU72114110170166.4%542452218161222
115Antonio Freeman1997GNB81124312188865.1%566549219161220
116Sterling Sharpe1989GNB90142312211366.5%552648229161220
117Tim Brown1994RAI8913099193464.8%571538227161219
118Roy Green1983STL78122714189765.8%545519225161219
119Isaac Bruce1996STL8413387189864.6%569538222161218
120Ed McCaffrey2000DEN10113179200264.7%566599222161217
121Larry Fitzgerald2008ARI96143112215164.4%549658224161217
122Bob Chandler1976BUF6182410132965.8%403416173141216
123Larry Fitzgerald2007ARI100140910210963.7%567614228161215
124Chad Johnson2006CIN8713697194464.4%549559219161214
125John Jefferson1980SDG82134013201065.5%526626214161213
126Andre Rison1993ATL86124215197264.9%552613215161213
127Chad Johnson2007CIN9314408206563.7%567592228161211
128Ken Burrough1977HOU438168119165.9%384370162141209
129Braylon Edwards2007CLE80128916200963.7%567564228161207
130Marvin Harrison2003IND94127210194264%550588214161207
131Todd Christensen1983RAI92124712194765.8%545559225161205
132Brandon Marshall2007DEN10213257197563.7%567547228161205
133Mark Carrier1989TAM8614229203266.5%552613229161204
134Javon Walker2004GNB89138212206764.5%548612225161204
135James Scott1977CHI508093111965.9%384331162141204
136Terance Mathis1994ATL111134211211764.8%571666227161202
137Rich Caster1972NYJ3983310122866.2%376364169141200
138Carl Pickens1995CIN99123417206964.6%593611236161200
139Lynn Swann1977PIT507897117965.9%384368162141200
140Charley Taylor1973WAS598017123665.5%373403159141199
141Charlie Brown1982WAS326908101065.9%30728322191199
142Alfred Jenkins1981ATL70135813196866.4%543600223161199
143Cris Carter1999MIN90124113195164.9%581573228161199
144Lynn Swann1978PIT6188011140566.1%459405178161197
145Calvin Johnson2008DET78133112196164.4%549561224161196
146Jerry Rice1996SFO10812548195464.6%569592222161195
147Steve Largent1979SEA6612379174766%501546199161193
148Michael Irvin1994DAL7912416175664.8%571468227161192
149Warren Wells1970OAK4393511137066.2%410437181141192
150Larry Fitzgerald2005ARI103140910212464.4%551715218161191
151Randy Moss2002MIN10613477201764%577607227161190
152Derrick Alexander2000KAN78139110198164.7%566616222161188
153Kellen Winslow1982SDG547216111165.9%30735022191188
154Torry Holt2005STL10213319202164.4%551645218161186
155Reggie Wayne2006IND8613109192064.4%549572219161186
156John Stallworth1979PIT7011838169366%501519199161184
157Tim Brown1995OAK89134210198764.6%593579236161183
158Terrell Owens2006DAL85118013186564.4%549543219161182
159Tim Brown1999OAK9013446191464.9%581569228161180
160Victor Cruz2011NYG8215369212665.1%581617245161178
161Jimmy Smith1997JAX8213244181465.1%566544219161178
162Henry Ellard1989RAM7013828189266.5%552555229161176
163Torry Holt2004STL94137210204264.5%548630225161173
164Jerry Rice1988SFO6413069180666.4%542549218161172
165Lynn Swann1975PIT4978111124665.7%418368183141172
166Sammy White1976MIN5190610136165.8%403473173141172
167John Jefferson1978SDG56100113154166.1%459509178161171
168Wes Welker2009NWE12313484204364.3%567610232161170
169Demaryius Thomas2012DEN94143410210464.5%592609246161168
170Herman Moore1994DET72117311175364.8%571485227161167
171Chad Johnson2004CIN9512749192964.5%548567225161165
172Charlie Brown1983WAS7812258177565.8%545498225161165
173John Stallworth1977PIT447847114465.9%384368162141164
174Troy Brown2001NWE10111995180464.5%561528221161164
175Torry Holt2001STL8113637190864.5%561591221161163
176Rod Smith1998DEN8612226177265.1%557516221161163
177A.J. Green2012CIN97135011205564.5%592586246161162
178Amani Toomer2002NYG8213438191364%577573227161161
179Andre Rison1992ATL93111911180465.3%520588205161159
180Henry Ellard1994WAS7413976188764.8%571567227161158
181Fred Biletnikoff1972OAK588027123266.2%376394169141158
182Andre Reed1994BUF9013038191364.8%571583227161157
183Laveranues Coles2002NYJ8912645180964%577517227161157
184Charley Taylor1972WAS496737105866.2%376295169141157
185Carl Pickens1996CIN100118012192064.6%569610222161157
186Andre Rison1990ATL82120810181865.7%521574211161157
187Steve Smith2003CAR8811107169064%550486214161156
188Kellen Winslow1980SDG8912909191565.5%526626214161156
189Hines Ward2003PIT95116310183864%550574214161155
190Ken Burrough1976HOU519327132765.8%403462173141155
191Keyshawn Johnson1999NYJ8911708177564.9%581513228161155
192Marvin Harrison2005IND82114612179664.4%551535218161154
193Brandon Lloyd2010DEN77144811205364.2%575620236161153
194Jimmy Smith1998JAX7811828173265.1%557502221161153
195Steve Watson1981DEN60124413180466.4%543546223161151
196Anquan Boldin2005ARI10214027205264.4%551715218161150
197Rob Gronkowski2011NWE90132717211765.1%581644245161149
198Tim Brown2000OAK76112811172864.7%566503222161148
199Eric Moulds2000BUF9413265189664.7%566605222161147
200Terance Mathis1998ATL64113611167665.1%557477221161147

Next, let’s take a look at a list of the career leaders in True Receiving Yards. Keep in mind that TRY is still just a counting stat; in other words, players who play longer will always move up the list (you can’t have negative TRY). That’s an important distinction to keep in mind when comparing this list to say, my earlier list of the best wide receivers in NFL history, which is a value-over-average-based formula. The table below shows the top 100 leaders in career True Receiving Yards since 1970: players who entered the league before 1970 are included, but their pre-1970 stats are not.1

No matter what you do, Jerry Rice is going to be #1. For each player, I’ve listed his first and last year in the league, his number of True Receiving Yards for his career, and whether he is in, not eligible, or not in the Hall of Fame.

RkReceiverFirst YrLast YrTrue Rec YdsHOF?
1Jerry Rice1985200421438Yes
2Terrell Owens1996201014999NE
3Tim Brown1988200414181No
4Randy Moss1998201214172NE
5Marvin Harrison1996200813909NE
6Tony Gonzalez1997201213645NE
7Cris Carter1987200213580Yes
8Steve Largent1976198913494Yes
9James Lofton1978199313241Yes
10Isaac Bruce1994200913160NE
11Andre Reed1985200012815No
12Henry Ellard1983199812584No
13Charlie Joiner1969198612556Yes
14Art Monk1980199512401Yes
15Hines Ward1998201112039NE
16Harold Jackson1968198311761No
17Irving Fryar1984200011700No
18Torry Holt1999200911466NE
19Reggie Wayne2001201211441NE
20Derrick Mason1997201111311NE
21Jimmy Smith1992200511277No
22Michael Irvin1988199911143Yes
23Harold Carmichael1971198411089No
24Stanley Morgan1977199010994No
25Rod Smith1995200610772No
26Muhsin Muhammad1996200910701NE
27Keenan McCardell1992200710604No
28Steve Smith2001201210599NE
29Cliff Branch1972198410582No
30Joey Galloway1995201010110NE
31Gary Clark1985199510060No
32Andre Johnson2003201210009NE
33Keyshawn Johnson199620069855No
34Chad Johnson200120119851NE
35John Stallworth197419879844Yes
36Andre Rison198920009807No
37Shannon Sharpe199020039614Yes
38Nat Moore197419869366No
39Drew Pearson197319839343No
40Eric Moulds199620079282No
41Drew Hill197919939172No
42Larry Fitzgerald200420128996NE
43Santana Moss200120128953NE
44Ken Burrough197019818946No
45Donald Driver199920128899NE
46Anquan Boldin200320128890NE
47Herman Moore199120018763No
48Wesley Walker197719898738No
49Wes Chandler197819888700No
50Roy Green197919928607No
51Amani Toomer199620088506NE
52Isaac Curtis197319848477No
53Ricky Proehl199020068411No
54Anthony Miller198819978409No
55Terance Mathis199020028386No
56Rob Moore199019998370No
57Reggie Rucker197019818363No
58Gene A. Washington196919798323No
59Mark Clayton198319938316No
60Ozzie Newsome197819908231Yes
61Tony Martin199020018219No
62Antonio Gates200320128209NE
63Laveranues Coles200020098191NE
64Jason Witten200320128175NE
65Eric Martin198519948124No
66Fred Biletnikoff196519788119Yes
67Haven Moses196819818038No
68Mel Gray197119828027No
69Mark Carrier198719988009No
70Joe Horn199620077935No
71Plaxico Burress200020127887NE
72Ahmad Rashad197219827861No
73Frank Lewis197119837858No
74Tony Hill197719867830No
75Mark Duper198219927829No
76Johnnie Morton199420057795No
77Terry Glenn199620067771No
78Bill Brooks198619967674No
79Sterling Sharpe198819947660No
80Roddy White200520127652NE
81Curtis Conway199320047578No
82Wes Welker200420127540NE
83Ernest Givins198619957539No
84Eddie Kennison199620077504No
85Webster Slaughter198619987328No
86Rich Caster197019817311No
87Anthony Carter198519947293No
88Chris Chambers200120107236NE
89Pat Tilley197619867196No
90Riley Odoms197219837192No
91Brian Blades198819987190No
92Ed McCaffrey199120037182No
93John Gilliam196719777160No
94Bobby Engram199620097155NE
95Jeff Graham199120017100No
96Bob Chandler197119817084No
97Lynn Swann197419827047Yes
98Bob Tucker197019807038No
99Marshall Faulk199420057029Yes
100Larry Centers199020036969No

Tim Brown fans, myself included, would use this as evidence that he should be in the Hall of Fame (of course, he’s also fifth on the list of career receiving yards). But this list, because it is simply a counting list, is not my preferred way to use True Receiving Yards. Neil has presented lists before using players’ best six seasons, and I think that strikes a nice balance between longevity and peak performance. Is it perfect? Of course not, but I think it’s better than just a career list.

In the above table, Charlie Joiner is #13 while Paul Warfield didn’t even make the top 100. I think the majority of football historians would say that Warfield was the better receiver, but he had a much shorter career. The table below presents the number of True Receiving Yards produced by each player in his best six seasons — here, Warfield is 51st, while Joiner drops to #62. And remember, only post-merger stats are included, or else Warfield would be quite a bit higher.

RkReceiverFirst YrLast YrTrue Rec YdsHOF?
1Jerry Rice198520048648Yes
2Marvin Harrison199620088387NE
3Randy Moss199820128090NE
4Michael Irvin198819997790Yes
5Terrell Owens199620107504NE
6Torry Holt199920097392NE
7Steve Smith200120127260NE
8Jimmy Smith199220057236No
9Chad Johnson200120117187NE
10Rod Smith199520067179No
11Andre Johnson200320127140NE
12Tim Brown198820047117No
13Cris Carter198720027082Yes
14Cliff Branch197219847036No
15Isaac Bruce199420097030NE
16Herman Moore199120017012No
17Sterling Sharpe198819947002No
18Harold Jackson196819836981No
19Reggie Wayne200120126903NE
20Steve Largent197619896871Yes
21Roddy White200520126763NE
22Hines Ward199820116742NE
23Larry Fitzgerald200420126735NE
24Brandon Marshall200620126656NE
25John Stallworth197419876635Yes
26Gene A. Washington196919796633No
27Andre Rison198920006588No
28Harold Carmichael197119846576No
29Henry Ellard198319986571No
30Wes Welker200420126570NE
31John Gilliam196719776539No
32Gary Clark198519956526No
33Andre Reed198520006525No
34James Lofton197819936512Yes
35Drew Pearson197319836369No
36Art Monk198019956357Yes
37Eric Moulds199620076333No
38Derrick Mason199720116333NE
39Joe Horn199620076325No
40Wes Chandler197819886279No
41Fred Biletnikoff196519786257Yes
42Stanley Morgan197719906193No
43Calvin Johnson200720126182NE
44Tony Gonzalez199720126163NE
45Keenan McCardell199220076157No
46Mark Clayton198319936151No
47Muhsin Muhammad199620096139NE
48Ken Burrough197019816135No
49Anquan Boldin200320126100NE
50Keyshawn Johnson199620066089No
51Paul Warfield196419776062Yes
52Anthony Miller198819976018No
53Joey Galloway199520106015NE
54Drew Hill197919935974No
55Laveranues Coles200020095935NE
56Santana Moss200120125931NE
57Antonio Gates200320125929NE
58Nat Moore197419865909No
59Eric Martin198519945908No
60Alfred Jenkins197519835905No
61Donald Driver199920125899NE
62Charlie Joiner196919865893Yes
63Cris Collinsworth198119885878No
64Mel Gray197119825873No
65Irving Fryar198420005866No
66Antonio Freeman199520035862No
67Plaxico Burress200020125853NE
68Lynn Swann197419825827Yes
69Todd Christensen197919885807No
70Tony Martin199020015798No
71Wesley Walker197719895797No
72Isaac Curtis197319845776No
73Charley Taylor196419775763Yes
74Terance Mathis199020025759No
75Roy Green197919925737No
76Tony Hill197719865714No
77Carl Pickens199220005706No
78Dwight Clark197919875701No
79Bob Chandler197119815685No
80Dave Casper197419845646Yes
81Rob Moore199019995643No
82T.J. Houshmandzadeh200120115640NE
83Amani Toomer199620085640NE
84Mark Duper198219925614No
85Marques Colston200620125611NE
86Kellen Winslow197919875591Yes
87Reggie Rucker197019815576No
88Jason Witten200320125567NE
89Shannon Sharpe199020035548Yes
90Darrell Jackson200020085518NE
91Ahmad Rashad197219825511No
92Terry Glenn199620065509No
93John Jefferson197819855465No
94Sammy White197619855410No
95Gary Garrison196619775399No
96Steve Watson197919875396No
97Brian Blades198819985373No
98Derrick Alexander199420025339No
99Anthony Carter198519945337No
100Ozzie Newsome197819905333Yes

Lynn Swann is another player who gets hurt using career numbers: he jumps from #97 to #68 when looking at just a receiver’s top six seasons. I know Swann gets a bad rap from some folks, and I don’t disagree with much of the criticism. But he was an excellent player for a short period of time, and his stats look pretty good when you place them in the proper context. And, of course, both Swann and Warfield would jump up even higher2 if we didn’t use only a 50% adjustment for pass attempts.

And, of course, two of my favorite Smiths appear in the top ten. Some names are a little surprising — say, Ochocinco — but I think that’s a function of him having six elite seasons and not a lot else. If we use the familiar 100-95-90 formula, he drops down to 27th:

RkReceiverFirst YrLast YrTrue Rec YdsHOF?
1Jerry Rice1985200413248Yes
2Marvin Harrison1996200810640NE
3Randy Moss1998201210590NE
4Terrell Owens1996201010582NE
5Tim Brown1988200410005No
6Cris Carter198720029791Yes
7Steve Largent197619899712Yes
8Isaac Bruce199420099490NE
9James Lofton197819939316Yes
10Tony Gonzalez199720129185NE
11Andre Reed198520009060No
12Henry Ellard198319989034No
13Torry Holt199920099034NE
14Harold Jackson196819838985No
15Michael Irvin198819998956Yes
16Hines Ward199820118932NE
17Jimmy Smith199220058900No
18Reggie Wayne200120128810NE
19Art Monk198019958777Yes
20Rod Smith199520068567No
21Steve Smith200120128551NE
22Charlie Joiner196919868511Yes
23Harold Carmichael197119848460No
24Derrick Mason199720118454NE
25Cliff Branch197219848426No
26Andre Johnson200320128148NE
27Irving Fryar198420008136No
28Stanley Morgan197719908130No
29Chad Johnson200120118030NE
30Muhsin Muhammad199620098020NE
31Gary Clark198519957944No
32Keenan McCardell199220077933No
33John Stallworth197419877770Yes
34Andre Rison198920007736No
35Joey Galloway199520107690NE
36Keyshawn Johnson199620067674No
37Drew Pearson197319837451No
38Larry Fitzgerald200420127419NE
39Eric Moulds199620077411No
40Herman Moore199120017377No
41Nat Moore197419867247No
42Shannon Sharpe199020037244Yes
43Ken Burrough197019817215No
44Anquan Boldin200320127183NE
45Drew Hill197919937161No
46Wes Chandler197819887143No
47Santana Moss200120127141NE
48Gene A. Washington196919797040No
49Donald Driver199920127024NE
50Wesley Walker197719896923No
51Roy Green197919926877No
52Mark Clayton198319936822No
53Anthony Miller198819976820No
54Fred Biletnikoff196519786788Yes
55Isaac Curtis197319846771No
56Rob Moore199019996733No
57Amani Toomer199620086730NE
58Laveranues Coles200020096705NE
59Antonio Gates200320126698NE
60Sterling Sharpe198819946689No
61Joe Horn199620076675No
62Terance Mathis199020026665No
63Eric Martin198519946652No
64Reggie Rucker197019816644No
65Mel Gray197119826586No
66Roddy White200520126575NE
67Jason Witten200320126570NE
68Tony Martin199020016567No
69Plaxico Burress200020126475NE
70Wes Welker200420126470NE
71Tony Hill197719866417No
72Ozzie Newsome197819906388Yes
73Mark Duper198219926376No
74Ahmad Rashad197219826371No
75Mark Carrier198719986301No
76Terry Glenn199620066286No
77John Gilliam196719776252No
78Johnnie Morton199420056211No
79Haven Moses196819816197No
80Frank Lewis197119836145No
81Brandon Marshall200620126113NE
82Ernest Givins198619956110No
83Bill Brooks198619966101No
84Eddie Kennison199620076012No
85Ricky Proehl199020066009No
86Lynn Swann197419826007Yes
87Anthony Carter198519945997No
88Curtis Conway199320045994No
89Bob Chandler197119815984No
90Rich Caster197019815964No
91Chris Chambers200120105951NE
92Dwight Clark197919875916No
93Alfred Jenkins197519835911No
94Pat Tilley197619865893No
95Brian Blades198819985880No
96Ed McCaffrey199120035868No
97Carl Pickens199220005836No
98Webster Slaughter198619985819No
99Bob Tucker197019805786No
100Riley Odoms197219835780No

So which list is the best? I’ll leave that to you to decide.

  1. Damn you Neil and your hatred for Don Maynard. []
  2. Swann would be 49th, Warfield 22nd. []
  • I have come to an odd conclusion from your wide receiver studies: I have personally underrated Rod Smith, possibly a great deal. In seemingly every single entry in the WR Project, Rod Smith ranks considerably higher than I would have guessed. So, either the ranking systems for some reason all overrate him or I underrate him. With the variety of looks you’ve given to wide receiver stats, I suspect the latter is more likely. It’s quite surprising to come to the conclusion that I’ve underrated a great player who played his entire career for my favorite team and whom I always liked a great deal.

    • Danish

      We agree on little, ‘jager but this we afree on. I love Rod Smith (how can you not), I’m a Broncos fan and yet I underestimate him. Very weird.

      • Chase Stuart

        Yeah, Smith sort of gets lost in the shuffle. He’s even overlooked in the group of Smith WRs who are underrated!

  • Mark S

    Interesting article. But if you do not take into account the QB throwing the WR the ball then it is still not equal IMO.
    Jerry Rice played his entire career with 2 HOF QBs.
    Randy Moss played with all sorts of QBs and 1 likely HOF guy.
    Look at the QBs who have had their best career year playing with Moss.
    I think only one did not have his best year and that was Kerry Collins in Moss’ first year in Oakland.
    Oakland was a mess when Moss was there.

    Some of the other WRs also played with not so good QBs.
    Maybe that has some merit? It will always have merit in my book.

    • John

      Which HOF QB did Rice play with in Oakland since we’re considering his “entire career” and you seem to be a Raiders fan?

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  • Red

    I think the best system would use weights of 100%, 90%, 80%…10%, and every season after #10 wouldn’t count. WR’s and RB’s have shorter productive careers than QB’s, so it makes sense to have a steeper graduation in the weighting.

    I don’t agree with how you dealt with the 1987 strike. It’s not fair to use a 15 game baseline when nearly all the regular players only played 12. It also distorts the league averages when you include the scab games. Jerry Rice’s 1987 was one of the best seasons in history (22 TD’s in 12 games!) but your system only ranks it 111th, which is a departure from common sense.

    Danish and Jag, I’m in the same boat regarding Rod Smith. Despite living in CO and being a Broncos fan, I’ve never really thought of Rod as an elite receiver. He was just so steady for so long that I almost took him for granted. As sad it sounds, a non-diva WR kind of gets lost in the shuffle in today’s world of soundbites and sensationalism.

  • Jason Winter

    I still remember the HOF roundtable we had on PFR a few years back where I (and others) argued for Tim Brown and Cris Carter to be in and Andre Reed to be out. Glad that still holds up.

  • Ryan

    Another great list fellas!
    For the top 6 seasons and 100/95/90, could you expand the list to the top 150 or 200 seasons?

    If not, please provide the following so that I can do a hybrid ranking of the lists:
    Career 100/95/90 yards:
    Antonio Freeman
    Charley Taylor
    Cris Collinsworth
    Dave Casper
    Paul Warfield
    Todd Christiansen

    Top 6 seasons:
    Frank Lewis
    Haven Moses
    Mark Carrier

    Thanks for the best historical football site on the net!

    As a bonus if not too time consuming: Where would you the receivers who played before 1970 rank if including full career value:
    Fred Biletnikoff, Gary Garrison, Gene Washington, Harold Jackson, John Gilliam, Paul Warfield.

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  • How much do you think these results would change if you were able to account for drops and WR fumbles as well?

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