Yards From Scrimmage Monsters

walter paytonToday I want to take a look at skill player production as measured by yards from scrimmage. I will look at top performers in standard yards from scrimmage, yards from scrimmage prorated to a 16 game schedule, and yards from scrimmage over multiple baselines. This isn’t meant to be a list of the greatest offensive players in history, but it will certainly shed some light on players who may have been underrated in the eyes of the masses.

The methodology for these metrics is very simple. To find yards from scrimmage, just add rushing and receiving yards. To prorate for a 16 game season, just multiply the player’s yards from scrimmage by (16 / LgGms), where LgGms is the number of scheduled league games in a given season.1 The reason that I use schedule league games instead of the number of games the player actually played is that I don’t want to give extra credit to a guy who missed time.2

To find yards from scrimmage over baseline, simply subtract the baseline from the player’s total. For example, a player with 1500 yards would have 500 yards above a baseline of 1000. He would have 700 yards over a baseline of 800, and he would have 1100 yards over a baseline of 400. Like I said, super simple.

You will see that the list is primarily populated with running backs. Indeed, the highest rated receiver in history barely crack the top ten in most of these metrics. That’s the nature of the beast when using yards from scrimmage as your measure of production. It certainly doesn’t mean that Tiki Barber was a better player than Jerry Rice. However, it could mean that you may have been underrating Barber in your head (because of early career fumbling issues, retiring prior to a historic title run, post career controversy, or some other reason).

Remember, these numbers aren’t saying anything. Numbers are not sentient beings and have no opinions. However, they can surely inform ours.

Standard and Prorated Yards from Scrimmage Monsters: Season

This table shows every player season in the top 250 list of yards from scrimmage or prorated yards from scrimmage, and it is sorted by prorated production. Read it thus: In 1975, O.J. Simpson had 357 touches and gained 2243 yards from scrimmage. That prorates to 2563 in a 16 game season.

YearHumanTmTouchYFSPro
1975O.J. SimpsonBUF35722432563
2009Chris JohnsonTEN40825092509
1963Jim BrownCLE31521312435
1999Marshall FaulkRAM34024292429
1977Walter PaytonCHI36821212424
2005Tiki BarberNYG41123902390
2003LaDainian TomlinsonSD41323702370
1973O.J. SimpsonBUF33820732369
1997Barry SandersDET36823582358
2006Steven JacksonRAM43623342334
2006LaDainian TomlinsonSD40423232323
2012Adrian PetersonMIN38823142314
1985Marcus AllenRAI44723142314
2000Edgerrin JamesIND45023032303
2002Priest HolmesKC38322872287
2003Jamal LewisBAL41322712271
2014DeMarco MurrayDAL44922612261
2003Ahman GreenGNB40522502250
1984Eric DickersonRAM40022442244
1984James WilderTB49222292229
1998Marshall FaulkIND41022272227
1998Terrell DavisDEN41722252225
1958Jim BrownCLE27616652220
2010Arian FosterHOU39322202220
2002Ricky WilliamsMIA43022162216
2014Le'Veon BellPIT37322152215
1983Eric DickersonRAM44122122212
2006Larry JohnsonKC45721992199
2000Marshall FaulkRAM33521892189
2006Frank GoreSF37321802180
1983William AndrewsATL39021762176
2002LaDainian TomlinsonSD45121722172
2001Priest HolmesKC38921692169
1994Barry SandersDET37521662166
1998Jamal AndersonATL43721652165
2003Deuce McAllisterNOR42021572157
1995Emmitt SmithDAL43921482148
2001Marshall FaulkRAM34321472147
2013LeSean McCoyPHI36621462146
1965Jim BrownCLE32318722139
1999Edgerrin JamesIND43121392139
1961Jim BrownCLE35318672134
2006Tiki BarberNYG38521272127
1992Thurman ThomasBUF37021132113
2003Priest HolmesKC39421102110
1998Garrison HearstSF34921052105
2007Brian WestbrookPHI37221042104
2004Tiki BarberNYG37420962096
2005Larry JohnsonKC36920932093
1974Otis ArmstrongDEN31718122071
2011Ray RiceBAL36720682068
1985Roger CraigSF30620662066
1984Walter PaytonCHI42620522052
1958Lenny MooreBAC13815362048
1992Emmitt SmithDAL43220482048
1960John David CrowCRD20815332044
1964Jim BrownCLE31617862041
2009Ray RiceBAL33220412041
1963Clem DanielsRAI24517842039
1991Thurman ThomasBUF35020382038
1997Terrell DavisDEN41120372037
1981William AndrewsATL37020362036
1988Eric DickersonIND42420362036
1988Roger CraigSF38820362036
1985Walter PaytonCHI37320342034
1992Barry FosterPIT42620342034
1977Lydell MitchellBAC37217792033
2004Edgerrin JamesIND38520312031
1983Walter PaytonCHI36720282028
1986Eric DickersonRAM43020262026
1959Jim BrownCLE31815192025
1988Herschel WalkerDAL41420192019
1976O.J. SimpsonBUF31217622014
1975Chuck ForemanMIN35417612013
1979Wilbert MontgomeryPHI38020062006
1976Lydell MitchellBAC34917552006
1951Elroy HirschRAM6714981997
1961Charley HenniganHOO8217461995
1985Gerald RiggsATL43019861986
1975Lydell MitchellBAC34917371985
2002Tiki BarberNYG37419841984
2001Ahman GreenGNB36619811981
1980Earl CampbellHOO38419811981
2011Maurice Jones-DrewJAX38619801980
2013Jamaal CharlesKC32919801980
1981Tony DorsettDAL37419711971
1976Chuck ForemanMIN33317221968
2012Calvin JohnsonDET12219641964
2000Eddie GeorgeTEN45319621962
2005Shaun AlexanderSEA38519581958
1982Marcus AllenRAI19810981952
2007LaDainian TomlinsonSD37519491949
1960Jim BrownCLE24814611948
2003Fred TaylorJAX39319421942
2004Curtis MartinNYJ41219421942
2010Jamaal CharlesKC27519351935
2013Matt ForteCHI36319331933
1972Larry BrownWAS31716891930
1984Marcus AllenRAI33919261926
2012Doug MartinTB36819261926
1980Billy SimsDET36419241924
1979Walter PaytonCHI40019231923
1981Wilbert MontgomeryPHI33519231923
1966Gale SayersCHI29216781918
2006Brian WestbrookPHI32219161916
1989Thurman ThomasBUF35819131913
1979Ottis AndersonCRD37219131913
1982William AndrewsATL18110761913
2003Clinton PortisDEN32819051905
2002Charlie GarnerRAI27319031903
1993Emmitt SmithDAL34019001900
1995Barry SandersDET36218981898
1956Frank GiffordNYG21014221896
1982Wes ChandlerSD5410641892
1981Billy SimsDET32418881888
2008Adrian PetersonMIN38518851885
1995Jerry RiceSF12718841884
1978Walter PaytonCHI38318751875
2002Clinton PortisDEN30618721872
2015Julio JonesATL13618711871
2000Robert SmithMIN33118691869
1994Chris WarrenSEA37418681868
1992Lorenzo WhiteHOO32218671867
1972Ron JohnsonNYG34316331866
2004Shaun AlexanderSEA37618661866
2015Antonio BrownPIT16118621862
1991Barry SandersDET38318551855
1996Ricky WattersPHI40418551855
2000Ricky WattersSEA34118551855
1962Abner HaynesDTX27616221854
1948Chet MutrynBIS21516171848
1996Terrell DavisDEN38118481848
2014Matt ForteCHI36818461846
2005Edgerrin JamesIND40418431843
2011Arian FosterHOU33118411841
2001Curtis MartinNYJ38618331833
2005LaDainian TomlinsonSD39018321832
1990Thurman ThomasBUF32018291829
1980Walter PaytonCHI36318271827
1994Emmitt SmithDAL41818251825
1986Curt WarnerSEA36018231823
1991Emmitt SmithDAL41418211821
2009Adrian PetersonMIN35718191819
1965Lance AlworthSD7215901817
1962Jim TaylorGNB29415801806
1997Dorsey LevensGNB38218051805
1994Marshall FaulkIND36618041804
1981George RogersNOR39418001800
1995Isaac BruceRAM12217981798
1949Gene RobertsNYG18813451793
1964Bill BrownMIN27915691793
1964Charley TaylorWAS25315691793
1979Earl CampbellHOO38417911791
2000Charlie GarnerSF32617891789
2012Marshawn LynchSEA33817861786
1984Ottis AndersonCRD35917851785
1966Jim NanceBOS30715611784
1990Barry SandersDET29117841784
1998Barry SandersDET38017801780
1977Greg PruittCLE27315571779
2010Ray RiceBAL37017761776
2004Domanick WilliamsHOU37017761776
1989Dalton HilliardNOR39717761776
2004LaDainian TomlinsonSD39217761776
1997Jerome BettisPIT39017751775
1983Curt WarnerSEA37717741774
1986James BrooksCIN25917731773
1956Rick CasaresCHI26013291772
2002Jamal LewisBAL35517691769
1942Don HutsonGNB7712151767
1964Charley HenniganHOO10115461767
2009Maurice Jones-DrewJAX37117651765
1980William AndrewsATL31617641764
1999Charlie GarnerSF29717641764
1965Timmy BrownPHI21515431763
1984Gerald RiggsATL39517631763
1981Ottis AndersonCRD37917631763
1999Eddie GeorgeTEN36717621762
1976Walter PaytonCHI32715391759
1985Freeman McNeilNYJ33217581758
1981Ted BrownMIN35717571757
1985Tony DorsettDAL35117561756
2001Ricky WilliamsNOR37317561756
1968Leroy KellyCLE27215361755
1961Billy CannonHOO27015341753
1989Barry SandersDET30917521752
1986Joe MorrisNYG36217491749
1995Curtis MartinNE39817481748
2002Travis HenryBUF36817471747
1960Lenny MooreBAC13713101747
1943Harry ClarkeCHI16610911746
2012Jamaal CharlesKC32017451745
1982Billy SimsDET2069811744
1959Frank GiffordNYG14813081744
1964Jim TaylorGNB27315231741
2008Michael TurnerATL38217401740
2002Deuce McAllisterNOR37217401740
2004Corey DillonNE36017381738
2009Steven JacksonRAM37517381738
1964Clem DanielsRAI21615201737
2013Josh GordonCLE9217341734
2000Ahman GreenGNB33617341734
1974Lawrence McCutcheonRAM27515171734
2002Marvin HarrisonIND14517321732
2005Clinton PortisWAS38217321732
1960Raymond BerryBAC7412981731
1970Ron JohnsonNYG31615141730
2003Shaun AlexanderSEA36817301730
1982Freeman McNeilNYJ1679731730
1962Jim BrownCLE27715131729
1983Ottis AndersonCRD35017291729
1977Lawrence McCutcheonRAM31915121728
1974Don WoodsSD25615111727
2000Tiki BarberNYG32317251725
2003Ricky WilliamsMIA44217231723
1999Curtis MartinNYJ41217231723
1966Leroy KellyCLE27315071722
2002Fred TaylorJAX33617221722
2006Willie ParkerPIT36817161716
1986Walter PaytonCHI35817151715
2008Matt ForteCHI37917151715
1995Edgar BennettGNB37717151715
1987Herschel WalkerDAL26916061713
2000Curtis MartinNYJ38617121712
2014Antonio BrownPIT16417111711
1989Neal AndersonCHI32417091709
1967Hoyle GrangerHOO26714941707
1945Jim BentonRAM4810671707
2015Adrian PetersonMIN35717071707
1995Ricky WattersPHI39917071707
2008Clinton PortisWAS37017051705
2012C.J. SpillerBUF25017031703
1978Tony DorsettDAL32717031703
1993Thurman ThomasBUF40317021702
2000Rod SmithDEN10617011701
2003Torry HoltRAM11817011701
1981Joe CribbsBUF29717001700
1996Barry SandersDET33117001700
1967Leroy KellyCLE26914871699
1976Delvin WilliamsSF27514861698
1997Napoleon KaufmanRAI31216971697
1961Jim TaylorGNB26814821694
2011Calvin JohnsonDET9716921692
1948Billy HillenbrandBLT18414801691
1959Lenny MooreBAC13912681691
2012Alfred MorrisWAS34616901690
1995Herman MooreDET12316861686
1960Bill GromanHOU7214731683
1976Lawrence McCutcheonRAM31914731683
1992Terry AllenMIN31516791679
2003Tiki BarberNYG34716771677
1993Jerome BettisRAM32016731673
2014Marshawn LynchSEA31716731673
2015Doug MartinTB32116731673
2010LeSean McCoyPHI28516721672
1999Marvin HarrisonIND11616671667
1979Mike PruittCLE30516661666
2010Darren McFaddenRAI27016641664
2001Shaun AlexanderSEA35316611661
2000Jamal LewisBAL33616601660
1980Ottis AndersonCRD33716601660
2008Steve SlatonHOU31816591659
2000Mike AndersonDEN32016561656
1983Joe CribbsBUF32016551655
2010Peyton HillisCLE33116541654
1998Curtis MartinNYJ41216521652
2007Clinton PortisWAS37216511651
2003Randy MossMIN11816501650
1984Tony DorsettDAL35316481648
2002Michael BennettMIN29216471647
1998Fred TaylorJAX30816441644
2000Torry HoltRAM8416421642
1986Jerry RiceSF9616421642
2012Arian FosterHOU39116411641
2010Maurice Jones-DrewJAX33316411641
1985James WilderTB41816411641
2000Fred TaylorJAX32816391639
2010Adrian PetersonMIN31916391639
2001Stephen DavisWAS38416371637
2005Warrick DunnATL30916361636
2008DeAngelo WilliamsCAR29516361636
1999Jimmy SmithJAX11616361636
2002Shaun AlexanderSEA35416351635
2015Devonta FreemanATL33816341634
1979Joe WashingtonBAC32516341634
2001David BostonCRD10316331633
2002Ahman GreenGNB34316331633
2000Stephen DavisWAS36516311631
2011LeSean McCoyPHI32116241624
2010Steven JacksonRAM37616241624
2012Ray RiceBAL31816211621
2014Demaryius ThomasDEN11116191619
2010Matt ForteCHI28816161616
1998Ricky WattersSEA37116121612
2002Corey DillonCIN35716091609
2007Adrian PetersonMIN27316091609
2010Chris JohnsonTEN36016091609

The Juice’s 1973 campaign is probably his most famous, as he became the first back to eclipse the 2000 yard mark on the ground. However, it was his 1975 bout that was arguably more impressive. In addition to 1800+ rushing yards, he gained over 400 as a receiver, en route to breaking Jim Brown‘s 1963 yards from scrimmage record.

Chris Johnson holds the official record with 2509 yards from scrimmage in a season. He doesn’t benefit from prorating to today’s season length, so he loses the top spot to Simpson. Despite producing at a solid rate for the bulk of his career, the fact that he never matched his 2009 output soured how the public viewed his play. He is a cautionary tale, warning young running backs that we will love them if they are successful – but if they are too successful, we will turn on them when they fail to reach the mountaintop twice.

Baseline Yards from Scrimmage Monsters: Season

This table shows the top 250 players by yards from scrimmage over 62.5 per league game and by the prorated version of that stat.3 Let’s use Walter Payton‘s 1977 as an example: In 1977, Payton had 368 touches and gained 2121 yards from scrimmage. That’s 1246 over the baseline and 89.0 over baseline per game. Because he played in a 14 game season, his total production is prorated to 1424 yards from scrimmage over baseline.

YearHumanTmTchYFSOBOB/GPro
1975O.J. SimpsonBUF3572243136897.71563
2009Chris JohnsonTEN4082509150994.31509
1963Jim BrownCLE3152131125689.71435
1999Marshall FaulkRAM3402429142989.31429
1977Walter PaytonCHI3682121124689.01424
2005Tiki BarberNYG4112390139086.91390
2003LaDainian TomlinsonSD4132370137085.61370
1973O.J. SimpsonBUF3382073119885.61369
1997Barry SandersDET3682358135884.91358
2006Steven JacksonRAM4362334133483.41334
2006LaDainian TomlinsonSD4042323132382.71323
2012Adrian PetersonMIN3882314131482.11314
1985Marcus AllenRAI4472314131482.11314
2000Edgerrin JamesIND4502303130381.41303
2002Priest HolmesKC3832287128791.91287
2003Jamal LewisBAL4132271127179.41271
2014DeMarco MurrayDAL4492261126178.81261
2003Ahman GreenGNB4052250125078.11250
1984Eric DickersonRAM4002244124477.81244
1984James WilderTB4922229122976.81229
1998Marshall FaulkIND4102227122776.71227
1998Terrell DavisDEN4172225122576.61225
1958Jim BrownCLE276166591576.31220
2010Arian FosterHOU3932220122076.31220
2002Ricky WilliamsMIA4302216121676.01216
2014Le'Veon BellPIT3732215121575.91215
1983Eric DickersonRAM4412212121275.81212
2006Larry JohnsonKC4572199119974.91199
2000Marshall FaulkRAM3352189118984.91189
2006Frank GoreSF3732180118073.81180
1983William AndrewsATL3902176117673.51176
2002LaDainian TomlinsonSD4512172117273.31172
2001Priest HolmesKC3892169116973.11169
1994Barry SandersDET3752166116672.91166
1998Jamal AndersonATL4372165116572.81165
2003Deuce McAllisterNOR4202157115772.31157
1995Emmitt SmithDAL4392148114871.81148
2001Marshall FaulkRAM3432147114781.91147
2013LeSean McCoyPHI3662146114671.61146
1965Jim BrownCLE323187299771.21139
1999Edgerrin JamesIND4312139113971.21139
1961Jim BrownCLE353186799270.91134
2006Tiki BarberNYG3852127112770.41127
1992Thurman ThomasBUF3702113111369.61113
2003Priest HolmesKC3942110111069.41110
1998Garrison HearstSF3492105110569.11105
2007Brian WestbrookPHI3722104110473.61104
2004Tiki BarberNYG3742096109668.51096
2005Larry JohnsonKC3692093109368.31093
1974Otis ArmstrongDEN317181293766.91071
2011Ray RiceBAL3672068106866.81068
1985Roger CraigSF3062066106666.61066
1984Walter PaytonCHI4262052105265.81052
1958Lenny MooreBAC138153678665.51048
1992Emmitt SmithDAL4322048104865.51048
1960John David CrowRAM208153378365.31044
2009Ray RiceBAL3322041104165.11041
1964Jim BrownCLE316178691165.11041
1963Clem DanielsRAI245178490964.91039
1991Thurman ThomasBUF3502038103869.21038
1997Terrell DavisDEN4112037103769.11037
1981William AndrewsATL3702036103664.81036
1988Eric DickersonIND4242036103664.81036
1988Roger CraigSF3882036103664.81036
1985Walter PaytonCHI3732034103464.61034
1992Barry FosterPIT4262034103464.61034
1977Lydell MitchellBAC372177990464.61033
2004Edgerrin JamesIND3852031103164.41031
1983Walter PaytonCHI3672028102864.31028
1986Eric DickersonRAM4302026102664.11026
1959Jim BrownCLE318151976964.11025
1988Herschel WalkerDAL4142019101963.71019
1976O.J. SimpsonBUF312176288763.41014
1975Chuck ForemanMIN354176188663.31013
1976Lydell MitchellBAC349175588062.91006
1979Wilbert MontgomeryPHI3802006100662.91006
1951Elroy HirschRAM67149874862.3997
1961Charley HenniganHOO82174687162.2995
1985Gerald RiggsATL430198698661.6986
1975Lydell MitchellBAC349173786261.6985
2002Tiki BarberNYG374198498461.5984
2001Ahman GreenGNB366198198161.3981
1980Earl CampbellHOO384198198165.4981
2011Maurice Jones-DrewJAX386198098061.3980
2013Jamaal CharlesKC329198098065.3980
1981Tony DorsettDAL374197197160.7971
1976Chuck ForemanMIN333172284760.5968
2012Calvin JohnsonDET122196496460.3964
2000Eddie GeorgeTEN453196296260.1962
2005Shaun AlexanderSEA385195895859.9958
1982Marcus AllenRAI198109853659.5952
2007LaDainian TomlinsonSD375194994959.3949
1960Jim BrownCLE248146171159.3948
2003Fred TaylorJAX393194294258.9942
2004Curtis MartinNYJ412194294258.9942
2010Jamaal CharlesKC275193593558.4935
2013Matt ForteCHI363193393358.3933
1972Larry BrownWAS317168981467.8930
1984Marcus AllenRAI339192692657.9926
2012Doug MartinTB368192692657.9926
1980Billy SimsDET364192492457.8924
1979Walter PaytonCHI400192392357.7923
1981Wilbert MontgomeryPHI335192392361.5923
1966Gale SayersCHI292167880357.4918
2006Brian WestbrookPHI322191691661.1916
1982William AndrewsATL181107651457.1913
1989Thurman ThomasBUF358191391357.1913
1979Ottis AndersonRAM372191391357.1913
2003Clinton PortisDEN328190590569.6905
2002Charlie GarnerRAI273190390356.4903
1993Emmitt SmithDAL340190090064.3900
1995Barry SandersDET362189889856.1898
1956Frank GiffordNYG210142267256.0896
1982Wes ChandlerSD54106450262.7892
1981Billy SimsDET324188888863.4888
2008Adrian PetersonMIN385188588555.3885
1995Jerry RiceSF127188488455.3884
1978Walter PaytonCHI383187587554.7875
2002Clinton PortisDEN306187287254.5872
2015Julio JonesATL136187187154.4871
2000Robert SmithMIN331186986954.3869
1994Chris WarrenSEA374186886854.3868
1992Lorenzo WhiteHOO322186786754.2867
1972Ron JohnsonNYG343163375854.1866
2004Shaun AlexanderSEA376186686654.1866
2015Antonio BrownPIT161186286253.9862
1991Barry SandersDET383185585557.0855
1996Ricky WattersPHI404185585553.4855
2000Ricky WattersSEA341185585553.4855
1962Abner HaynesDTX276162274753.4854
1948Chet MutrynBIS215161774253.0848
1996Terrell DavisDEN381184884853.0848
2014Matt ForteCHI368184684652.9846
2005Edgerrin JamesIND404184384356.2843
2011Arian FosterHOU331184184164.7841
2001Curtis MartinNYJ386183383352.1833
2005LaDainian TomlinsonSD390183283252.0832
1990Thurman ThomasBUF320182982951.8829
1980Walter PaytonCHI363182782751.7827
1994Emmitt SmithDAL418182582555.0825
1986Curt WarnerSEA360182382351.4823
1991Emmitt SmithDAL414182182151.3821
2009Adrian PetersonMIN357181981951.2819
1965Lance AlworthSD72159071551.1817
1962Jim TaylorGNB294158070550.4806
1997Dorsey LevensGNB382180580550.3805
1994Marshall FaulkIND366180480450.3804
1981George RogersNOR394180080050.0800
1995Isaac BruceRAM122179879849.9798
1964Bill BrownMIN279156969449.6793
1949Gene RobertsNYG188134559549.6793
1964Charley TaylorWAS253156969449.6793
1979Earl CampbellHOO384179179149.4791
2000Charlie GarnerSF326178978949.3789
2012Marshawn LynchSEA338178678649.1786
1984Ottis AndersonRAM359178578552.3785
1966Jim NanceBOS307156168649.0784
1990Barry SandersDET291178478449.0784
1998Barry SandersDET380178078048.8780
1977Greg PruittCLE273155768248.7779
2010Ray RiceBAL370177677648.5776
2004Domanick WilliamsHOU370177677651.7776
1989Dalton HilliardNOR397177677648.5776
2004LaDainian TomlinsonSD392177677651.7776
1997Jerome BettisPIT390177577551.7775
1983Curt WarnerSEA377177477448.4774
1986James BrooksCIN259177377348.3773
1956Rick CasaresCHI260132957948.3772
2002Jamal LewisBAL355176976948.1769
1942Don HutsonGNB77121552848.0767
1964Charley HenniganHOO101154667147.9767
2009Maurice Jones-DrewJAX371176576547.8765
1980William AndrewsATL316176476447.8764
1999Charlie GarnerSF297176476447.8764
1984Gerald RiggsATL395176376350.9763
1965Timmy BrownPHI215154366851.4763
1981Ottis AndersonRAM379176376347.7763
1999Eddie GeorgeTEN367176276247.6762
1976Walter PaytonCHI327153966447.4759
1985Freeman McNeilNYJ332175875854.1758
1981Ted BrownMIN357175775747.3757
1985Tony DorsettDAL351175675647.3756
2001Ricky WilliamsNOR373175675647.3756
1968Leroy KellyCLE272153666147.2755
1961Billy CannonHOO270153465947.1753
1989Barry SandersDET309175275250.1752
1986Joe MorrisNYG362174974949.9749
1995Curtis MartinNE398174874846.8748
1960Lenny MooreBAC137131056046.7747
2002Travis HenryBUF368174774746.7747
1943Harry ClarkeCHI166109146646.6746
2012Jamaal CharlesKC320174574546.6745
1982Billy SimsDET20698141946.5744
1959Frank GiffordNYG148130855850.7744
1964Jim TaylorGNB273152364849.8741
2008Michael TurnerATL382174074046.3740
2002Deuce McAllisterNOR372174074049.3740
2004Corey DillonNE360173873849.2738
2009Steven JacksonRAM375173873849.2738
1964Clem DanielsRAI216152064546.1737
2013Josh GordonCLE92173473452.4734
2000Ahman GreenGNB336173473445.9734
1974Lawrence McCutcheonRAM275151764245.9734
2002Marvin HarrisonIND145173273245.8732
2005Clinton PortisWAS382173273245.8732
1960Raymond BerryBAC74129854845.7731
1970Ron JohnsonNYG316151463945.6730
1982Freeman McNeilNYJ16797341145.6730
2003Shaun AlexanderSEA368173073045.6730
1962Jim BrownCLE277151363845.6729
1983Ottis AndersonRAM350172972948.6729
1977Lawrence McCutcheonRAM319151263745.5728
1974Don WoodsSD256151163653.0727
2000Tiki BarberNYG323172572545.3725
2003Ricky WilliamsMIA442172372345.2723
1999Curtis MartinNYJ412172372345.2723
1966Leroy KellyCLE273150763245.1722
2002Fred TaylorJAX336172272245.1722
2006Willie ParkerPIT368171671644.8716
1986Walter PaytonCHI358171571544.7715
2008Matt ForteCHI379171571544.7715
1995Edgar BennettGNB377171571544.7715
1987Herschel WalkerDAL269160666955.7713
2000Curtis MartinNYJ386171271244.5712
2014Antonio BrownPIT164171171144.4711
1989Neal AndersonCHI324170970944.3709
1967Hoyle GrangerHOO267149461944.2707
2015Adrian PetersonMIN357170770744.2707
1995Ricky WattersPHI399170770744.2707
1945Jim BentonRAM48106744249.1707
2008Clinton PortisWAS370170570544.1705
2012C.J. SpillerBUF250170370343.9703
1978Tony DorsettDAL327170370343.9703
1993Thurman ThomasBUF403170270243.9702
2000Rod SmithDEN106170170143.8701
2003Torry HoltRAM118170170143.8701
1981Joe CribbsBUF297170070046.7700
1996Barry SandersDET331170070043.8700
1967Leroy KellyCLE269148761243.7699
1976Delvin WilliamsSF275148661147.0698
1997Napoleon KaufmanRAI312169769743.6697
1961Jim TaylorGNB268148260743.4694
2011Calvin JohnsonDET97169269243.3692
1959Lenny MooreBAC139126851843.2691
1948Billy HillenbrandBLT184148060543.2691
2012Alfred MorrisWAS346169069043.1690
1995Herman MooreDET123168668642.9686
1960Bill GromanHOO72147359842.7683
1976Lawrence McCutcheonRAM319147359842.7683
1992Terry AllenMIN315167967942.4679
1970Larry BrownWAS274146659145.5675
2010LeSean McCoyPHI285167267244.8672
2010Darren McFaddenRAI270166466451.1664
1998Curtis MartinNYJ412165265243.5652
2010Maurice Jones-DrewJAX333164164145.8641
2000Fred TaylorJAX328163963949.2639
2002Ahman GreenGNB343163363345.2633
2007Adrian PetersonMIN273160960943.5609
2014Arian FosterHOU298157357344.1573

When Jim Brown gained 2131 yards from scrimmage in 1963, he set a record that lasted for an impressive twelve seasons. The fact that he did it in just 315 touches makes the feat all the more incredible. To find another season with fewer touches, you have to scroll all the way down to the 24th ranked season by… Jim Brown.

Marshall Faulk is undoubtedly the greatest receiving back in history. It’s hard enough to gain more than 2000 yards from scrimmage, but to do so with fewer than 1400 rushing yards is a rare feat. It’s been done ten times in history, and four were by him. Unlike most backs who generally catch passes as last resort, Faulk forced the defenses to account for him as a receiver on every play. Many learned minds believe that he could have been an All Pro receiver had he chosen to focus on that position instead.

Multiple Baseline Yards from Scrimmage Monsters: Career

This table shows the career yards from scrimmage each player had over selected baselines (1000, 800, 600, and 400, as the columns indicate). The chart includes players who ranked in the top 250 by any of the four measures. It is initially sorted by the 1000 column to show the most dominant producers. Read it thus: Barry Sanders had 8190 YFS over the first 1000 each season, 10190 over the first 800, 12190 over the first 600, and 14190 over the first 400.

Human1000800600400
Walter Payton9327115641398916414
Barry Sanders8190101901219014190
LaDainian Tomlinson784397271185614056
Marshall Faulk757197711197114354
Jim Brown743689111038611861
Emmitt Smith7216100161281615616
Curtis Martin657786301083013030
Tiki Barber64417918971811632
Edgerrin James60127667946711466
Eric Dickerson59227328928511272
Thurman Thomas56387489949011690
Jerry Rice563886931228115897
Adrian Peterson55197119871910319
Ricky Watters54667266906610891
Tony Dorsett53987310946811743
Matt Forte4718631879189518
O.J. Simpson4660588575479428
Steven Jackson46006317845110651
Ahman Green4468566868688070
Frank Gore44516451859010790
Clinton Portis4415561569088459
Ottis Anderson4272570773249036
Marcus Allen42126383868311454
Fred Taylor4164564975039503
Eddie George4153575373539068
Chris Johnson3968525468548454
Roger Craig3929531668708837
Priest Holmes3913492261807780
Jamal Lewis3898549870988886
Shaun Alexander3850499463867786
William Andrews3822473456476559
Corey Dillon3669534271549154
Terrell Davis3594439453646364
Lydell Mitchell3593466857436830
Ricky Williams3545487366738600
Franco Harris3545558477479909
Ray Rice3506448756146814
Herschel Walker3446523370218808
Maurice Jones-Drew3444484462447744
Earl Campbell3425453757817188
Jamaal Charles3401440154306771
Jerome Bettis3353523775039911
Warrick Dunn33485706810610506
LeSean McCoy3316466160617461
Randy Moss3304530474719858
Arian Foster3275407550006000
Marvin Harrison3239494971619561
Chuck Foreman3199427453496424
Torry Holt3108472168399039
Brian Westbrook3106425154516796
Marshawn Lynch3083436557947491
Wilbert Montgomery3030414252556367
Calvin Johnson2978458663868186
Lenny Moore2975425056857328
Clem Daniels2918389049405990
Charlie Garner2873381250336635
Jim Taylor2870407054597003
Lance Alworth2745397052786805
Andre Johnson2700445365518954
Billy Sims2690352844415353
Lawrence McCutcheon2654352944045375
Terrell Owens26395241836011680
Leroy Kelly2588381350826482
Thomas Jones2550395755817814
Garrison Hearst2473383052306630
Deuce McAllister2454325440545052
Larry Brown2436342945315756
Isaac Bruce2431427666059217
Curt Warner2392337945515738
Stephen Davis2387334944505844
Jamal Anderson2385318539854785
Brandon Marshall2349394956707470
Gerald Riggs2349327144306051
Michael Irvin2328389055467359
James Brooks2314353352417340
Larry Johnson2292289939055105
Bobby Mitchell2265381354887163
Chad Johnson2258368952897029
John Riggins2245388660578419
Abner Haynes2231313741875365
Antonio Brown2225303640365036
Steve Smith2216408462998862
Reggie Wayne2199399762928800
Jimmy Smith2193399859987998
Mike Pruitt2151306340485432
James Wilder2148320345036049
Larry Fitzgerald2145385362298629
Joe Cribbs2125297338864939
Tim Brown2101405063149051
Freeman McNeil2031301146556555
Chris Warren2015321544426041
Robert Smith1991279137895099
Neal Anderson1979315345415928
Terry Allen1967309146296429
Wendell Tyler1958307041835295
Don Maynard1957338350627207
Rod Smith1897364054407347
Greg Pruitt1891273037905180
Earnest Byner1889350652997471
Duce Staley1864279439945339
DeMarco Murray1836274637464746
Chuck Muncie1834309645496011
Gale Sayers1804267935544429
Ron Johnson1801232630683982
Demaryius Thomas1787258733874343
Roddy White1780310146126482
James Lofton1773345458528501
Wes Welker1757280542705973
Charley Hennigan1718243233604410
Julio Jones1708250833084295
Michael Turner1704253835384687
Floyd Little1690279341495591
Timmy Brown1684238432364317
Frank Gifford1682254638115441
Joe Washington1667266336635011
Joe Perry1644306450177192
Rudi Johnson1622242232294229
Art Powell1619276939945219
Willie Parker1616222030203873
Mark van Eeghen1603255336804977
Doug Martin1599199923993079
Bill Brown1593246634945017
Henry Ellard1591322653587862
Don Hutson1574250337835133
Willis McGahee1556275241815816
Travis Henry1550225832144266
Joe Morris1546216829903977
Cookie Gilchrist1539223929393661
Otis Armstrong1527187723193207
Anquan Boldin1492320956248224
Rodney Hampton1487259639255325
Calvin Hill1484219632414777
Ollie Matson1481236136385038
Reggie Bush1479252138465396
Le'Veon Bell1474187423662966
Domanick Williams1471207126713271
Cris Carter1455329255718190
DeAngelo Williams1455265642565878
Sterling Sharpe1452261740065406
Ted Brown1452199730764388
Charley Taylor1451251342956240
Herman Moore1448273241325566
John Brockington1442214229934032
Steve Van Buren1442213430664108
Delvin Williams1422230334284553
Dorsey Levens1412181224043535
Greg Bell1394219429943913
Del Shofner1363218830133876
George Rogers1362245836444944
Steve Largent1355319354197872
John Williams1337242340635850
Joe Horn1332232034545054
Mike Garrett1312236134774702
John David Crow1281231236305278
Alfred Morris1272187826783478
Michael Pittman1268226834545048
Jim Nance1266179126133717
A.J. Green1264226432644264
Fred Jackson1254234235965086
Rick Casares1225200530374133
Mike Thomas1219186428323957
Lionel Taylor1196224432944442
Chet Mutryn1190182424743231
J.D. Smith1150185626813506
Hoyle Granger1148167321982865
Hugh McElhenny1140212032864798
Vincent Jackson1112231235355147
Jordy Nelson1096169624413423
Tom Tracy1095154520052630
Gary Clark1095246444236535
Ken Willard1082218434104936
Reuben Droughns1082160922092809
Darren McFadden1081164627464233
Dave Hampton1081160622373112
Eric Moulds1079219737775540
John Henry Johnson1077221033604645
Andre Reed1072258749377660
MacArthur Lane1066184928764245
Alex Webster1063197130714263
Paul Lowe1055175027623812
Barry Foster1034153721422942
Donald Driver1033243339055715
Hines Ward1029261446717071
Art Monk1024235244787142
Sam Cunningham1017191731514426
Donny Anderson1012187930004307
Joseph Addai1006160623753501
Eddie Lacy1001154721472747
Tom Matte998184428823982
Adrian Murrell993188128813881
Ryan Mathews990157224573457
DeSean Jackson973217334664994
Tony Collins970195331034403
Edgar Bennett966178627863786
Billy Howton937173129614738
Buddy Dial934160922843087
Elroy Hirsch933148126144139
Dez Bryant931166424643426
Terry Metcalf925180027303805
Wes Chandler920196034355217
Roy Green919154530084821
Dick Bass909169829124212
Rashard Mendenhall891151223123112
Joey Galloway873241242376272
Muhsin Muhammad868189336435985
James Stewart864178230974497
Johnny Johnson863159125913591
Raymond Berry851175335035303
Derrick Mason849254746936893
Amani Toomer841184132325012
Tommy McDonald838170831194705
Tony Nathan835175028204132
Santana Moss832189134915620
Otis Taylor827148624873967
Napoleon Kaufman826152123473499
Stump Mitchell825155224923619
Larry Csonka822176732334967
Mark Clayton819205334605053
Tommy Mason819151922333108
Ahmad Bradshaw809152024453445
Irving Fryar808198738836645
Rickey Young807165027753925
Jake Reed800160024433517
Cedric Benson800153226303830
Sherman Smith798154824183480
Keenan McCardell784209038725917
Antonio Freeman758162128214221
Andre Rison751195634635610
Don Perkins747192933274727
Pete Johnson743166428864173
Matt Snell740159224673342
Antowain Smith726152626894289
Keyshawn Johnson721206240626262
Mark Duper697150728974884
Tony Gonzalez696232351738373
John Stallworth693156128474419
Anthony Miller688183433085279
Bob Hayes683177930044239
Greg Jennings669154229164516
Laveranues Coles658168531314855
Ed Podolak642150527074107
Marques Colston641208638465766
Stanley Morgan634165333445529
Rob Moore607172033765376
Tony Martin607158727874320
Drew Hill603192833394946
Ronnie Brown593156027064097
Plaxico Burress572161329234577
Derrick Alexander544151627164002
John Gilliam540150526243849
Jonathan Stewart534148026803973
Terance Mathis527136426094173
Harold Jackson525145033095677
Cliff Branch524126825814394
Terry Glenn513153931304761
Paul Warfield507127627114636
Eric Metcalf502121722893861
Charlie Joiner501168535216002
Curtis Conway454115923234020
Pete Retzlaff426130826294129
Mark Carrier422101123734123
Johnnie Morton418130328754796
Larry Centers40799021824177
Harold Carmichael405115726234503
Cris Collinsworth404151226253856
Keith Byars395118423243999
Gary Garrison380120525444062
Anthony Carter374116725634350
Dwayne Bowe359115523823971
Jeff Graham30193122304151
T.J. Houshmandzadeh291131525153807
Drew Pearson288109722304036
Ernest Givins282142030024705
Jimmy Orr281101824344065
Ronnie Harmon273108124364285
Tony Hill269123129144626
Antonio Gates258122331175455
Eddie Kennison246112725484278
Wesley Walker24088520923911
Eric Martin226111925824290
Fred Biletnikoff217104923904236
Jason Witten216154136686068
Chris Chambers210104325454208
Shannon Sharpe17999528095009
Bill Brooks13669221643915

Walter Payton was a phenom. Despite playing most of his career on terrible teams behind substandard offensive lines, he was able to pick up an MVP award, three first team All Pro nods, and five Pro Bowls before coaches Ditka and Ryan changed his fortunes for the better. From 1976 to 1986, Payton gained at least 1500 yards from scrimmage every year, including four season over 2000.4 Quite possibly the perfect football player, Payton dominated on the ground and contributed more than his share through the air.

Barry Sanders was nothing if not dominant. He didn’t impose his will on defenses in the way that Earl Campbell or William Andrews did; instead, he embarrassed them by making them look like they had never so much as practiced form tackling. The metrics here are evidence of his dominance: despite playing 37 fewer games than Payton, he trails his predecessor by only 1137 career yards over the 1000 yards baseline.

Multiple Baseline Yards from Scrimmage Monsters: Prorated Career

This table is similar to the one above except that each player’s stats are prorated to a 16 game season. It is sorted by the 1000 column to indicate the most dominant yards from scrimmage monsters in history. Read it thus: Jim Brown had 9002 prorated yards over the first 1000 each season, 10802 over the first 800, 12602 over the first 600, and 14402 over the first 400.

Human1000800600400
Walter Payton9870122701487017470
Jim Brown9002108021260214402
Barry Sanders8190101901219014190
LaDainian Tomlinson784397271185614056
Marshall Faulk757197711197114354
Emmitt Smith7216100161281615616
Curtis Martin657786301083013030
Tiki Barber64417918971811632
Edgerrin James60127667946711466
Eric Dickerson59567375934411344
Tony Dorsett573777621003712437
Jerry Rice565087181231815947
Thurman Thomas56387489949011690
Adrian Peterson55197119871910319
Ricky Watters54667266906610891
O.J. Simpson53266726860210708
Matt Forte4718631879189518
Marcus Allen46446915931512186
Steven Jackson46006317845110651
Ahman Green4468566868688070
Frank Gore44516451859010790
Clinton Portis4415561569088459
Ottis Anderson4373589676009400
William Andrews4221522162217221
Fred Taylor4164564975039503
Eddie George4153575373539068
Lydell Mitchell4061526164617674
Franco Harris40606322872211122
Chris Johnson3968525468548454
Roger Craig3953535369198899
Priest Holmes3913492261807780
Jamal Lewis3898549870988886
Shaun Alexander3850499463867786
Lenny Moore3836543672199240
Corey Dillon3669534271549154
Chuck Foreman3635483560357235
Terrell Davis3594439453646364
Ricky Williams3545487366738600
Earl Campbell3507470760387533
Ray Rice3506448756146814
Herschel Walker3490529070908890
Maurice Jones-Drew3444484462447744
Jamaal Charles3401440154306771
Jim Taylor3370477064008225
Jerome Bettis3353523775039911
Warrick Dunn33485706810610506
Clem Daniels3335444656466846
LeSean McCoy3316466160617461
Randy Moss3304530474719858
Arian Foster3275407550006000
Marvin Harrison3239494971619561
Wilbert Montgomery3193439355936793
Lance Alworth3137453760327777
Torry Holt3108472168399039
Brian Westbrook3106425154516796
Marshawn Lynch3083436557947491
Lawrence McCutcheon3033403350336129
Billy Sims3015394149415941
Calvin Johnson2978458663868186
Leroy Kelly2958435858087408
Charlie Garner2873381250336635
Larry Brown2784391951786578
Bobby Mitchell2724455665568556
Andre Johnson2700445365518954
Terrell Owens26395241836011680
Thomas Jones2550395755817814
Abner Haynes2550358547856131
Garrison Hearst2473383052306630
Deuce McAllister2454325440545052
Isaac Bruce2431427666059217
John Riggins2407424066409240
Curt Warner2406340645905790
Don Hutson2403381057167716
Stephen Davis2387334944505844
Jamal Anderson2385318539854785
Gerald Riggs2358331945786299
Freeman McNeil2350342151657165
Brandon Marshall2349394956707470
Michael Irvin2328389055467359
James Wilder2324347248726518
James Brooks2314356953647563
Larry Johnson2292289939055105
Chad Johnson2258368952897029
Joe Cribbs2256319241925333
Wendell Tyler2250345046505850
Frank Gifford2243337349997090
Don Maynard2237386657858237
Antonio Brown2225303640365036
Mike Pruitt2223322342955767
Steve Smith2216408462998862
Reggie Wayne2199399762928800
Jimmy Smith2193399859987998
Joe Perry2169402965729372
Larry Fitzgerald2145385362298629
Greg Pruitt2125305542155724
Tim Brown2101405063149051
Gale Sayers2062306240625062
Ron Johnson2058265835064551
Chuck Muncie2034343450246624
Chris Warren2015321544426041
Steve Van Buren2011297342845757
Robert Smith1991279137895099
Neal Anderson1986317345735973
Ollie Matson1975314547916591
Terry Allen1967309146296429
Charley Hennigan1963277938405040
James Lofton1955373362318980
Floyd Little1931319247426390
Timmy Brown1925272536984934
Rod Smith1897364054407347
Earnest Byner1892352253277512
Duce Staley1864279439945339
Art Powell1850316545655965
DeMarco Murray1836274637464746
Bill Brown1821281839935734
Demaryius Thomas1787258733874343
Roddy White1780310146126482
Cookie Gilchrist1759255933594184
Wes Welker1757280542705973
Otis Armstrong1745214526503613
Mark van Eeghen1723272339655425
Julio Jones1708250833084295
Michael Turner1704253835384687
Calvin Hill1696251037015403
Joe Washington1667266336635104
Del Shofner1660266036604704
John David Crow1660289544846453
Charley Taylor1658287249097131
John Brockington1648244834214608
Rick Casares1633267340245448
Rudi Johnson1622242232294229
Willie Parker1616222030203873
Doug Martin1599199923993079
Henry Ellard1591323053747891
Ted Brown1576220933754775
Delvin Williams1561251737174917
Willis McGahee1556275241815816
Travis Henry1550225832144266
Joe Morris1546216930034003
Hugh McElhenny1520279843196294
Mike Garrett1499269839745374
Anquan Boldin1492320956248224
Rodney Hampton1487259639255325
Reggie Bush1479252138465396
Le'Veon Bell1474187423662966
Domanick Williams1471207126713271
Tom Tracy1460206026713471
Cris Carter1455329255718190
DeAngelo Williams1455265642565878
Sterling Sharpe1452261740065406
Herman Moore1448273241325566
Jim Nance1447204729864248
J.D. Smith1434229832984298
Chet Mutryn1413219229923914
Dorsey Levens1412181224043535
Greg Bell1394219429943913
Mike Thomas1393211331564356
Lionel Taylor1367256537655077
George Rogers1362254038195219
Steve Largent1355324656128215
John Williams1337243440865886
Joe Horn1332232034545054
Hoyle Granger1312191225123274
Wes Chandler1310243840045886
Alex Webster1282242638265331
Alfred Morris1272187826783478
Michael Pittman1268226834545048
A.J. Green1264226432644264
John Henry Johnson1255263240325607
Fred Jackson1254234235965086
Billy Howton1249228938626134
Elroy Hirsch1244197534765476
Ken Willard1237249638975641
Dave Hampton1235183525573557
MacArthur Lane1218211332874829
Paul Lowe1206200031574357
Tony Collins1169224534954895
Donny Anderson1157214734294922
Sam Cunningham1153215335064906
Tom Matte1141210732944551
Raymond Berry1135228044236623
Jim Benton1134154222313636
Vincent Jackson1112231235355147
Buddy Dial1111191127113682
Alan Ameche1105194529453971
Gary Clark1103248544566581
Dan Towler1103187126713471
Jordy Nelson1096169624413423
Harlon Hill1087168725113597
Reuben Droughns1082160922092809
Darren McFadden1081164627464233
Eric Moulds1079219737775540
Andre Reed1072258749497685
Terry Metcalf1057205731124312
Dick Bass1039194133284814
Barry Foster1034153721422942
Donald Driver1033243339055715
Hines Ward1029261446717071
Bill Groman1029142918292328
Art Monk1024236645797342
Joseph Addai1006160623753501
Eddie Lacy1001154721472747
Pete Johnson996200533304730
Johnny Strzykalski996159621963132
Adrian Murrell993188128813881
Ryan Mathews990157224573457
Tommy McDonald984203537335632
DeSean Jackson973217334664994
Essex Johnson969146120612835
Edgar Bennett966178627863786
Otis Taylor945169828424534
Larry Csonka939200336505603
Lorenzo White937148222523252
Tommy Mason936173625523552
Dalton Hilliard934146722673269
Dez Bryant931166424643426
Homer Jones921161026103610
Roy Green919155531185031
Warren Wells918151821182718
George Sauer917157423743357
Jim Kiick905170526693890
Hewritt Dixon903150324803685
Knowshon Moreno897149721892989
Rashard Mendenhall891151223123112
Mac Speedie887162827884188
Mike Anderson882128218062559
Joey Galloway873241242376272
Rickey Young873177229724197
Ryan Grant870149722973097
Muhsin Muhammad868189336435985
James Stewart864178230974497
Johnny Johnson863159125913591
Harvey Williams863126317322700
Don Perkins854220538025402
Derrick Mason849254746936893
Sherman Smith848164826153815
Matt Snell846181928193819
Amani Toomer841184132325012
Stump Mitchell841158125333760
Darrin Nelson840146223633636
Tony Nathan835175028274227
Tom Fears835137625803980
Santana Moss832189134915620
Napoleon Kaufman826152123473499
Tom Woodeshick822142220222734
C.J. Spiller821125118512516
Mark Clayton819205534745080
Kellen Winslow819161926103963
Marv Hubbard818161824183247
Billy Cannon810146523843494
Irving Fryar808198738836655
Jake Reed800160024433517
Keenan McCardell784209038725917
Bob Hayes781203334334845
Dwight Clark760148927884188
Antonio Freeman758162128214221
Andre Rison751195634635610
Ed Podolak734172030944694
Antowain Smith726152626894289
Keyshawn Johnson721206240626262
Marion Motley717169428944128
Mark Duper697150728994899
Tony Gonzalez696232351738373
John Stallworth693158029784683
Anthony Miller688183433085279
Greg Jennings669154229164516
Laveranues Coles658168531314855
Stanley Morgan653176035455845
Marques Colston641208638465766
John Gilliam617172029994399
Cliff Branch613152029974998
Rob Moore607172033765376
Tony Martin607158727874320
Drew Hill606194433674987
Harold Jackson596162536676259
Ronnie Brown593156027064097
Paul Warfield579145830985298
Roy Jefferson578122724854213
Plaxico Burress572161329234577
Jackie Smith563113323354261
Derrick Alexander544151627164002
Jonathan Stewart534148026803973
Billy Wilson529152928394244
Terance Mathis527136426094173
Charlie Joiner527181338116513
Terry Glenn513153931304761
Pete Retzlaff504156931624962
Cris Collinsworth502169828984225
Harold Carmichael445129229245014
Gary Garrison434137729074642
Mark Carrier422101123734126
Johnnie Morton418130328754796
Larry Centers40799021824177
Anthony Carter374117825864386
Jimmy Orr353123329374886
Drew Pearson322121824854484
Jeff Graham30193122304151
Wesley Walker284102723464278
Ernest Givins282143130254741
Ronnie Harmon274109524624324
Tony Hill269130730774877
Antonio Gates258122331175455
Fred Biletnikoff248119927314841
Eddie Kennison246112725484278
Eric Martin226112125964317
Jason Witten216154136686068
Chris Chambers210104325454208
Shannon Sharpe17999528095009
Carroll Dale673520914176

I’ll use this section to point out the differences we see in the different baselines we use. When we use 1000 yards (in a 16 game season) as the baseline, we see that the leaders are the most dominant yards from scrimmage monsters in history. Backs like LaDainian Tomlinson and Curtis Martin consistently produced over 1000 yards per season, and they did so for rather lengthy careers. Barber, on the other hand, had only seven seasons over the threshold. However, those seven season were all well over the threshold, including three over 2000 and another over 1900.

When we lower the baseline a little, we see guys with longer, less dominant careers start to rise up the boards. Guys with high peaks but not as much length start falling. Backs with high peaks and long careers keep their places at the top. Also, for the first time, Jerry Rice reaches the top ten. Don’t look at this as an indictment of the measurement that it takes this long for Rice to reach the top ten; look at it as numeric ovation to the greatest receiver in history, standing apart as a lone wide receiver in a sea of running backs.

When we sort by 600 and 400, we get a list that looks a lot like the prorated career yards from scrimmage list without any baselines. This isn’t surprising, since the lower the baseline, the more likely the ratings are to resemble the official numbers. All we’re doing with the 600 and 400 yard cutoffs is eliminating what some may consider compiling seasons – seasons in which players pad their volume stats but add little value to their teams.

However, even these relatively low baselines go a long way toward separating backs and receiver. The actual top 25 in career yards from scrimmage comprises 18 backs, 6 receivers, and 1 tight end. The prorated 400 yard baseline list comprises 21 backs and 4 receivers. Tony Gonzalez, who ranks nineteenth on the official list, drops to 49th when the 400 yard baseline is applied and seasons are prorated.

There are copious ways to break down yards from scrimmage stats, and none is necessarily the right way. I think these metrics are useful in helping separate peak greatness from extended goodness – and separate both from extended greatness. Are there any particular rankings you find curious?

  1. For example, the NFL used a 14 game season from 1961-1977. For those seasons, a player’s production is multiplied by 16/14, or about 1.14. From 1943-1945, the league had a paltry 10 game season. Players in those years get a healthy boost, with a (16/10 =) 1.6 multiplier.
  2. So a player who played in 11 games in a 14 game season wouldn’t get a 16/11 multiplier; he would get a 16/14 multiplier, which is like saying he played in 12.6 games in a 16 game season.
  3. I chose 62.5 because that translates to 1000 yards in a sixteen game season.
  4. Except the 9-game 1982 season, where his 907 yards from scrimmage prorate to 1612 yards in a normal season.