So I got to thinking, how can I compare the top two receivers of each team to try and statistically prove which team has the best top two wide outs? The answer would seem pretty simple looking at stats but as always there are more things to consider such as players' age and contract status as well as the type of offense that a particular teams employs. In the end though, to keep things simple I'm sticking to the stats mostly but since age is such a huge part of the NFL, I'll have to bring that up.
First let me explain the criteria that I considered. I only looked at wide receivers, meaning I didn't include tight ends as one of the top receiving options. I know that might not be fair to some teams where the tight end is a huge part of the passing offense (CLE, DAL, SD, KC), but life isn't fair, plus we're talking wide receivers here. Second, the duos had to total over 2,000 yards combined and each receiver had to have at least 70 receptions (I did make an exception for Marvin Harrison since he was hurt nearly all of 2007, I used his 2006 stats). So with the rules laid out here is the 'cream of the wide receiver crop,' with four duos in the running:
Arizona's Anquan Boldin & Larry Fitzgerald: 171 receptions, 2,262 yds,19 TDs
Indys' Reggie Wayne & Marvin Harrison: 199 receptions, 2,876 yds, 22 TDs
Cincy's Chad Johnson & TJ Houshmanzadeh: 205 receptions, 2,583 yds, 20 TDs
New England's Randy Moss & Wes Welker: 210 receptions, 2,668 yds, 31 TDs
Ok, so at first glance New England's combo seems like a run away winner, but after taking a second look at the numbers I noticed that Arizona's duo was the only one that didn't play all 32 games. In total they missed 5 games (roughly 15%) and if we projected those numbers out over 32 games (16 for each receiver) their numbers would rival any group. Their combined stats would be somewhere in the range of 203, 2,681 and 22 which would be third in receptions, second in yards and tied for second in touchdowns.
So the obvious next question would be is, which of these duos projects the best in the future? Well looking at each group, the Colts seem like the group closest to the downside of their careers. Their average age is 32 (Harrison, 35 & Wayne, 29) and Harrison suffered a significant injury in 2007 and Wayne could see increased defensive attention as Harrison slows down.The Bengals wide outs are both 30 years old and both posted career highs in receiving yards in 2007. The constant turmoil in Cincy though could keep these guys from maintaining such a high level of production. New Englands duo is carried by Randy Moss who just turned 31 but his advancing age did stop him from posting a career year in 2007. It will be interesting how far into his 30's he can continue that kind of production. Welker could also see increased attention this season after his breakout year in '07. The Cardinal's duo is the youngest of the four with an average age of 25.5 and has the worst QB situation of the group. If they can progress in the next couple of seasons and get consistent quarterback play, this could be the best group of wide receivers in the NFL. Thoughts? Am I being too much of a homer or could they legitimately be the best duo over the next couple of seasons?
Groups worth mentioning but just outside the cut:
Cleveland's Braylon Edwards & Joe Jurevicius: 130 receptions, 1,903 yds, 19 TDs
Denver's Brandon Stokley & Brandon Marshall: 142 receptions, 1,960 yds, 12 TDs
Green Bay's Donald Driver & Greg Jennings: 135 receptions, 1,968 yds, 14 TDs
New Orleans' Marques Colston & David Patten: 152 receptions, 1,994 yds, 14 TDs
Seattle's Nate Burleson & Bobby Engram: 144 receptions, 1,841 yds, 15 TDs