Era-Adjusted Receiving Leaders

Scott Spratt looks at which all-time receivers would have had the best fantasy seasons had they played in the 2013 scoring environment.

| 3 years ago
RICE

Era-Adjusted Receiving Leaders


Jerry RiceWide receiver has quickly grown into the deepest position in fantasy football in recent seasons. As passing numbers have exploded in this era of the sport, so too has the number of players benefiting with receptions, yards, and scores.

So far, I’ve examined the historical trends of player production at both quarterback and running back. While rushing numbers have remained remarkably consistent since 1970 when you adjust for the number of teams in the NFL, passing numbers have dramatically increased.

Naturally, receiving numbers have increased in step. The seasonal multiplier for receptions, yards, and touchdowns to adjust numbers to the 2013 environment are equivalent to the multipliers for pass completions, yards, and touchdowns.

Receiving Multipliers to Conform to 2013
Season Rec Yards TD
1970 1.80 1.59 1.53
1971 1.88 1.66 1.68
1972 1.94 1.71 1.62
1973 1.96 1.81 1.73
1974 1.79 1.68 1.74
1975 1.72 1.58 1.51
1976 1.82 1.66 1.63
1977 1.93 1.78 1.81
1978 1.55 1.42 1.50
1979 1.38 1.27 1.31
1980 1.26 1.18 1.16
1981 1.25 1.13 1.19
1982 2.17 2.03 2.20
1983 1.22 1.12 1.13
1984 1.20 1.11 1.15
1985 1.23 1.11 1.18
1986 1.21 1.12 1.20
1987 1.31 1.20 1.25
1988 1.27 1.16 1.27
1989 1.21 1.10 1.21
1990 1.28 1.19 1.22
1991 1.21 1.18 1.38
1992 1.26 1.23 1.36
1993 1.25 1.26 1.47
1994 1.11 1.11 1.21
1995 1.07 1.07 1.14
1996 1.13 1.13 1.20
1997 1.18 1.15 1.22
1998 1.19 1.14 1.15
1999 1.12 1.10 1.17
2000 1.13 1.14 1.23
2001 1.13 1.14 1.23
2002 1.08 1.11 1.16
2003 1.15 1.18 1.23
2004 1.14 1.12 1.10
2005 1.13 1.16 1.25
2006 1.13 1.15 1.24
2007 1.06 1.11 1.12
2008 1.10 1.13 1.24
2009 1.07 1.09 1.13
2010 1.06 1.07 1.07
2011 1.06 1.03 1.08
2012 1.02 1.03 1.06
2013 1.00 1.00 1.00

 

However, while most of the era-adjusted quarterback leaders were either modern players or older players who benefited from rushing production in their primes, the era-adjusted receiving leaders were better distributed through the decades based only on the receiving multipliers.

Best Era-Adjusted Fantasy Seasons, Receivers, 1970-2013
Player Season RecYards RecTd FanPts PPRPts aRecYards aRecTD aFanPts aPPRPts
Jerry Rice 1993 1450 14 242 334 1824 21 321 436
Randy Moss 2003 1632 17 267 378 1926 21 320 447
Randy Moss 2007 1493 23 287 385 1650 26 319 423
Cliff Branch 1974 1092 13 187 247 1837 23 319 427
Jerry Rice 1995 1848 15 290 412 1979 17 316 447
H. Carmichael 1973 1116 9 170 237 2019 16 299 430
Jerry Rice 1986 1570 15 261 347 1755 18 296 401
Jerry Rice 1987 1078 20 239 304 1298 25 290 376
Jerry Rice 1989 1483 17 254 336 1636 21 290 390
Torry Holt 2003 1696 12 242 359 2001 15 289 423
Sterling Sharpe 1992 1461 13 225 333 1795 18 287 423
Marvin Harrison 2001 1524 15 243 352 1739 18 285 407
G. Washington 1970 1100 12 182 235 1752 18 285 381
Dick Gordon 1970 1026 13 182 253 1634 20 285 412
Jerry Rice 1994 1499 13 249 361 1663 16 283 408
Isaac Bruce 1995 1781 13 258 377 1908 15 281 409
Andre Rison 1993 1183 15 208 290 1488 22 281 384
Nat Moore 1977 765 12 163 215 1360 22 281 381
Terrell Owens 2001 1412 16 239 332 1612 20 281 386
Steve Smith 2005 1563 12 237 340 1807 15 279 396
Mark Clayton 1984 1389 18 248 321 1536 21 279 367
Calvin Johnson 2011 1681 16 265 361 1733 17 278 380
Herman Moore 1995 1686 14 253 376 1806 16 276 408
Jerry Rice 1990 1502 13 228 328 1793 16 275 403
Randy Moss 2000 1437 15 234 311 1632 18 274 361

 

Jerry Rice and Randy Moss dominate the list, as one would expect from the likely two best receivers in the history of the sport. Combined, they are responsible for 10 of the top 25 player seasons based on era-adjusted standard fantasy points. They also own four of the top five and seven of the top 10 spots.

Beyond Rice and Moss, no other player has multiple appearances on the list, not even Calvin Johnson, who only appears for his 16-touchdown 2011 campaign. The recent increase in passing across the league makes it really difficult for a receiver to make the list when there are so many players with 12 or so touchdown seasons from a decade or two ago.

Most of the other great receivers of the last 15 years made the list, such as Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, and Steve Smith. Two Rams from the Greatest Show on Turf, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, made the cut. Prior to that time frame, few of the other names stand out. The Hall of Fame is a particularly harsh judge of wideouts, but Rice is the only member of the players on the list.

Scott Spratt was named Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He also writes for RotoGraphs and contributes to ESPN Insider as a research analyst for Baseball Info Solutions. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @PFF_ScottSpratt

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  • Jason Williams

    a bit surprised not to see more TO on that list. He always seemed to be an extremely dominant player whenever I saw him but I guess it doesn’t hold up over a full year.