Wide 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|
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|
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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