Chasing Jerry Rice

Someday, somebody’s going to break Jerry Rice’s receiving records. We know this because records are made to be broken, right? At least, that’s what we keep hearing.

Rice’s career mark of 22,895 receiving yards looks particularly daunting — inasmuch as he has almost 7,000 more than the next guy, Terrell Owens (15,934). What do you suppose it would take to surpass that Ginormous Number? Well, here’s one way of looking at it:

Say a receiver was 21 when he came into the NFL. And say, at every age, he matched the top yardage total of all time for that age. How long would it be before he blew by Jerry? You’ll find the startling answer below.

(Keep in mind: In some instances, depending on the player’s birthdate, a “year” straddles two seasons. That is, he could be a certain age for the last part of one season and the first part of the next.)


Age Receiver Team, Year(s) Yards
21 Randy Moss Vikings, 1998 1,313
22 Josh Gordon Browns, 2013 1,646
23 David Boston Cardinals, 2001 1,598
24 Torry Holt Rams, 2000 1,635
25 Victor Cruz Giants, 2011-12 1,665
26 Calvin Johnson Lions, 2011-12 1,933
27 Calvin Johnson Lions, 2012-13 1,863
28 Jerry Rice 49ers, 1990-91 1,598
29 Michael Irvin Cowboys, 1995 1,603
30 Marvin Harrison Colts, 2002 1,722
31 Jerry Rice 49ers, 1993-94 1,714
32 Jerry Rice 49ers, 1994-95 1,533
33 Jerry Rice 49ers, 1995-96 1,749
34 Cris Carter Vikings, 1999-00 1,388
Total 22,960

That’s all. It would just take 14 seasons — producing, in each of them, at the highest level in history — to overtake Rice. By 65 yards. I can hardly wait to see someone try.

Something else learned from this exercise: There have been some phenomenal performances in recent years by receivers other than Calvin Johnson. As you can see, Josh Gordon is now the leader at 22. The same goes for Victor Cruz at 25. Four things you can’t see:

● Last season, Chargers rookie Keenan Allen had 1,046 receiving yards. That’s the second most all time for a 21-year-old behind Moss.

● The Cowboys’ Dez Bryant had 1,599 yards at 24 (which for him spanned parts of the 2012 and ’13 seasons). That’s No. 2 behind Holt.

● The Bears’ Brandon Marshall (1,508 in 2012) is second in the 28 group behind Rice, and the Texans’ Andre Johnson (1,598 in 2012) is second in the 31 group, also behind Rice.

● Finally, even if erstwhile Patriot Aaron Hernandez is convicted of murder and never plays pro football again, he’ll go down in the books — for now, anyway — as having the most receiving yards in NFL history at the age of 20 (388 in 2010). So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.