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Repeatability- Wide Receivers
David Dorey
July 21, 2005

Wide receivers are commonly considered to be among the least likely to repeat and for a good reason - every NFL team uses at least two or three in their scheme if not more. From a sheer volume of players standpoint, repeating would be challenging. As the analysis will show - that's pretty correct for the most part.

All player listings to follow were created using the standard performance scoring as seen on The Huddle statistics. Receivers were scored at 1/10 yardage and six point touchdowns.

 
2000
Pts
2001
Pts
2002
Pts
2003
Pts
2004
Pts
1 R Moss 228 M Harrison 233 M Harrison 234 R Moss 261 M Muhammad 229
2 T Owens 219 T Owens 233 H Ward 218 T Holt 237 J Horn 203
3 R Smith 218 D Boston 205 T Owens 217 C Johnson 187 J Walker 203
4 M Harrison 217 R Smith 199 E Moulds 182 A Boldin 182 T Owens 198
5 D Alexander 195 R Moss 179 R Moss 177 M Harrison 181 M Harrison 194
6 T Holt 194 J Smith 178 A Toomer 176 H Ward 176 T Holt 192
 
7 I Bruce 193 J Horn 174 P Price 172 S Moss 172 D Bennett 188
8 E McCaffrey 181 T Holt 170 J Horn 169 D Mason 169 R Wayne 185
9 J Horn 176 T Brown 166 P Burress 169 D Jackson 161 C Johnson 177
10 C Carter 173 D Mason 162 D Driver 161 C Chambers 159 D Driver 170
11 T Brown 172 J Rice 160 J Rice 159 K McCardell 158 B Stokley 161
12 J Smith 163 C Conway 158 L Coles 156 T Owens 158 D Jackson 158
 
13 E Moulds 158 K Johnson 158 K Robinson 152 L Coles 153 I Bruce 157
14 A Toomer 158 T Brown 151 M Booker 151 J Horn 152 M Clayton 157
15 D Boston 151 M Booker 150 T Holt 148 S Smith 148 N Burleson 156
16 M Muhammad 147 D Jackson 149 I Bruce 145 P Warrick 135 E Kennison 154
17 K McCardell 143 K McCardell 142 C Johnson 142 A Toomer 130 D Mason 152
18 A Freeman 139 Q Ismail 141 J Smith 141 D Boston 127 R Smith 152
19 W Chrebet 133 B Schroeder 141 R Gardner 141 I Bruce 126 R Moss 151
20 K Johnson 129 I Bruce 140 Q Morgan 137 J Walker 119 J Porter 147
21 T Glenn 127 J Morton 135 K Johnson 136 R Wayne 119 A Lelie 145
22 I Hilliard 122 L Coles 135 C Conway 128 J McCareins 118 A Johnson 144
23 T Brown 118 P Price 134 R Smith 126 A Johnson 114 J Smith 144
24 B Schroeder 117 J Thrash 130 J Galloway 125 E Kennison 110 L Evans 140
The Following season: Remained Top 6 Became 7-12 Became 13-24 Not in next Top 24

Top 6 became Avg. 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Top 6 3 2 4 3 3 2
7 to 12 1 3 1 0 0 1
13 - 24 1 0 0 2 1 1
Duds 1 1 1 1 2 2
7 to 12 became Avg. 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Top 6 0 0 1 0 0 1
7 to 12 1 1 2 2 0 0
13 - 24 2 1 1 2 3 2
Duds 3 4 2 2 3 3
Top 12 was: Avg. 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Top 6 3 2 5 3 4 3
7 to 12 2 4 3 2 0 0
13 - 24 2 1 1 4 2 2
24+ 4 5 3 3 6 7

Those Top 6 each season are true difference makers and quite often reside on the rosters of the league champion. There's just a tremendous advantage to having high scoring receivers when so many are grouped in the middle. From the numbers, there are usually half of the players that return to the Top 6 the next season - one of the highest in any position.

The 7 to 12 range, quite on the other hand, has been one of the most unproductive areas since on the average season 5 of the 6 players will drop from the previous season. That's something to remember and a reason to grab either a top 6 wideout or wait a bit for the next tier.

Looking backwards, The Top 12 comes from all over. More players come from the 24+ range than any of the other three higher tiers from the previous season. In particular, the last two years has witnessed an unprecedented amount of "sleepers" turning in great years that well exceeded expectations. Quite often they were born of some particular team situation that game them a much higher volume of passes than the offense would typically allow. Think Muhsin Muhammad for the most extreme example. Just as notable is that no wideout from the 7 to 12 range over the last two seasons has returned to the Top 12 the next year.

  Repeat Reliability 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
1 M Harrison 4 1 1 4 5
2 R Moss 1 5 5 1 19
3 T Owens 2 2 3 11 4
4 T Holt 6 8 15 2 6
5 J Horn 9 7 8 13 3
6 I Bruce 7 20 16 18 13
7 J Smith 12 6 18 24 20
8 R Smith 3 4 23   15
9 A Toomer 14   6 16  
10 M Muhammad 16       1
11 C Johnson     17 3 9
12 H Ward     2 6  
13 D Boston 15 3   17  
14 D Mason   10   9 17
15 D Jackson   16   8 14
16 E Moulds 13   4    
17 K McCardell 17 17   10  
18 D Driver     10   10
19 K Johnson 20 13 21    
20 L Coles   22 12 14  
21 R Wayne       19 7
22 J Walker         2
23 M Booker   15 14    
24 A Boldin       5  
25 P Price   23 7    
26 P Burress     9 23  
24 S Moss       7  
28 D Bennett         8
29 K Robinson     13 22  
Finishes that were 25th or deeper each year were not listed.

There is no big shock here really. Harrison, Owens, Moss, Holt and Horn have been the kings of repeating and there is almost no other wideouts worth even considering. This listing is truly amazing because outside of those top five repeaters, it shows objectively that the fortunes of wideouts vary dramatically from season to season. Other than Hines Ward, Chad Johnson and the 2000-2001 version of Rod Smith, no wideout in the NFL (beyond the five kings of repeating) has managed to turn in two consecutive seasons of Top 12 performances. None. Almost hard to believe - and apparently a near guarantee for this year.

Top 12
Wide Receiver Repeatability
42% - 0%

Though the names change frequently at the top, the receivers still ended up with the previous Top 12 yielding 5 of the next Top 12. But the reality here is that if you remove Harrison, Owens, Moss, Holt and Horn from the equation, the chance that a Top 12 receiver repeats to the Top 12 the following year is almost zero. There were only two players (Ward and Rod Smith) that have managed to do that once in the last five years. The reality is that you do need two or three receivers for starters so there is no sense in waiting too long, but the chance you will get a truly difference making receiver after the top six are taken is actually negligible.