The Changing Statistical Standards for Hall of Fame Wide Receivers

How things are changing for Wide Receivers and the Hall of Fame?

It’s no secret the NFL game has evolved over time. The offense used to revolve around the run game but by the turn of the century offenses were becoming more pass oriented. Because of this gradual shift, which seems to now be fully completed, the career numbers for quarterbacks have sky-rocketed and most passing records have been shattered.

The increase in passing has also generously benefited wide receivers. However, a lot of receiving records, specifically Jerry Rice’s career records, haven’t even come close to being broken. While the G.O.A.T. remains unsurpassed, many modern receivers have taken over the upper ranking of the career leaderboards. In fact, 29 out of the top 50 players in all-time receiving yards played the majority of their careers since the turn of the century. More importantly, eight out of the top also played the majority of their careers in the 2000s.

As of this date there are 46 receivers with over 10,000 career receiving yards, but DeSean Jackson, and Julio Jones are all quickly closing in. 26 out of those 46 played the majority of their careers in the 2000s. While that number isn’t too skewed, it’s actually more even than I expected it to be, plenty of other receivers and tight ends are closing in on the 10,000 yard mark. I already mentioned two players, but A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas, T.Y. Hilton, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, and a handful of other young studs are all on pace to hit the 10,000 yard mark. It’s unlikely that every one of them will get there but it’s legitimate to think that half of them will.

With the career totals of great wide receivers rising, Hall of Fame standards for receivers, and tight ends for that matter, will have to change. Players like Hines Ward might be able to enter Canton on the old standards because of the style of offense they played in and their own personal styles, but after Ward most players need to be evaluated on a new standard. The main reason for that is one I’ve already mentioned. Eight out of the top ten players in all-time receiving yards played very recently. Let’s say the 12,000 yard mark used to almost guarantee Hall of Fame entry, now that mark should be pushed back a little bit. Make it 13,000. That’ll ensure that only the best of the best get into Canton. After all, only 18 players have over 13,000 yards.

At the same point there will be some great receivers, like Calvin Johnson, who don’t hit that yardage mark. The question for Hall of Fame voters will then be, how do we evaluate receivers effectively? Personally, I’ve always loved the eye test and I think more Hall of Fame voters just need to watch players rather than relying solely on the numbers. But that would be to practical to actually happen and the voters would have to enshrine a lot of great players that they’ve passed over. What I think we’ll actually see is First and Second Team All-Pro selections playing a bigger role. All-Pro teams are selected every year with the first team being made up of the best players in the league for that year and the second team being made up of the second best players. Each team has two wide receivers, so a total of four make these teams. The selection of All-Pros corelates directly to the ideology that players who were the best at their position for a period of time, are worthy of being Hall of Famers.

I’m not sure how the Hall of Fame will address the buildup of talented receivers seeking enshrinement, I just hope they won’t compromise the greatness of the players to restrict the number of inductees. Legendary players deserve to be honored and they belong in Canton, but we may soon need to expand the size of Hall of Fame classes to accommodate a rise in talent. That or the standards required for enshrinement will rise. Personally I’d like to see the first one but the committee will probably choose the later just to ruin all the fun.

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