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Jerry Rice had a whole lot of non-junk yards

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We look at an interesting baseline assessment for receivers across NFL history. Yep, Jerry Rice is still the GOAT.

We all know that Jerry Rice had a lot of receiving yards in his career. That qualifies as a bit of an understatement. But an interesting analysis from Football Perspective creator Chase Stuart adds a little more context into how ridiculous his numbers are in the bigger picture.

Stuart put together a look at receiving yards above junk level. He broke down what “junk level” is in this article. To figure out junk yards, he first figured out total games in a given season. The modern era of 32 teams and 16 games means 512 total games. In 1970, there were 364 total games. He then figured out the 512th-best receiving game for each season in the modern era, and the 364th-best receiving game in that previous era. He then removes those yards from each game’s performance for a given player.

We can use Michael Crabtree’s 2012 performance as an example. In 2012, the 512th-best receiving game produced 68 receiving yards. In 2012, Crabtree had 1,105 total receiving yards. He had eight games that did not reach 68 yards, so we zero those out. We then subtract 68 from each of his games exceeding it. The total yards “above” junk level is 156. You can add it up using his game log.

Stuart used that baseline as 1X. He also figured out 2X, 2.5X, and 3X. Those create lower baselines, and thus the number of yards above junk level would increase. The 3X for Crabtree would result in 645 yards. The 3X baseline for 2012 was 31 yards. Interestingly enough, Crabtree had two games with exactly 31 yards.

On Thursday, Stuart put together a look at career receiving yards above junk levels. He had to prorate out players in 14-game seasons, but it still gives us an interesting look at the career totals. A lot of the top names remain the same, but we do see some names climb the list. The most notable is Don Maynard. He is 26th in regular career receiving yards, but 6th in the 3X category. His numbers got a boost because he dominated in an era when there were not nearly as many big receiving yard games, and the proration seems to help a bit.

It is no surprise that Jerry Rice leads in every category. He is the all-time leader with 22,895 yards, which is 6,961 yards ahead of No. 2 receiver Terrell Owens. When Stuart used the 3X level, Rice finished with 15,314 yards. That leads all receivers, and it even leads every receiver except TO when you factor in all their junk yards. That’s kind of ridiculous.

This isn’t any sort of hard and fast analysis of receivers, but it’s another interesting way to consider wide receivers in a little more context. So much has changed over the years in terms of rules impacting the passing game. Add that in with the increase in games and teams, and we are always looking for ways to compare players across eras. This is just one more option.