Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

03 Feb 2005

Ranking the All-Time Great WR

Doug Drinen is overflowing with neat ideas like a science fair volcano filled with baking soda. Drinen, for those who do not know the name, has done a lot of fantasy-oriented stat analysis and was one of the inspirations behind the creation of Football Outsiders. All week long he's posting football articles at the baseball blog Sabermonics, including the secrets behind the squares contest and a look at whether Super Bowl experience helps you win the Super Bowl (not really).

This is the most interesting one yet, a historical ranking of wide receivers based on the idea of only comparing receivers to other receivers on the same team (adjusted for age). Since wideouts on the same team are competing for yardage, he treats each season comparison between teammates as a "game." So Tim Brown played Jerry Rice, who played Terrell Owens, who played Freddie Mitchell, who played "Classy" Freddy Blassie (I'm kidding). Take the results, and you can set up a comparison system similar to college football rankings.

The resulting list gives proper love to Henry Ellard and Tim Brown but Randy Moss and Marvin Harrison are much lower than you might expect. The guy at number nine will shock you but Drinen promises another post to explain that one. Unfortunately, the permanent links at Sabernomics are broken so if something else gets posted there later today, scroll down.

By the way, he prefaces his list with a comment which I may need to borrow from now on when I write a column for ESPN: "Keep in mind that a methodology stands or falls on its merits, independent of the results it generates. If you like the methodology, you are not allowed to complain about the list. If you don't like the methodology, you shouldn't even be looking at the list."

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 03 Feb 2005

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