There are many ways to measure the greatness of an NFL player. Most methods for determining success are ones that can be and often are debated. However, when it comes to statistics, the numbers are what they are. Sure, the passer rating system can be questioned but in the end, it serves its sole purpose of comparing a quarterback’s passing efficiency regardless of era in which he played.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame, almost since its inception, has given attention to career statistics as one way in which to compare a player’s impact on the game. As the years come and go, a new guard of current-day players filter out other great stars from yesteryear.
From a comparatively primitive looking display in the Hall of Fame in the late 1960s to the popular weekly website series, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has recognized the NFL’s all-time Top 20 leaders in the major statistical categories. Each week throughout the 2010 NFL Season, the weekly top 20 career leaders in passing, receiving, rushing, and scoring were updated on Profootballhof.com.
Now it’s time, with the help of Elias Sports Bureau, to examine the Top 20 of nearly every significant statistical category. The lists as they stand heading into the 2011 NFL Season include a nice blend of active players along with Hall of Fame legends and other notable stars of the gridiron.
Milestones and more
Recently-elected enshrinee Marshall Faulk is represented on three of the Top 20 lists. He is 6th all-time in all-purpose yards, ranks 10th in career rushing yards, and seventh in total touchdowns. At the time of his retirement following the 2005 season, he was also 16th in career receptions.
The Baltimore Ravens Ed Reed led the NFL in interceptions despite playing in just 10 games. It was a record-tying third time he has earned a NFL interception title. His eight picks in 2010 allowed him to enter the Top 20 in career interceptions. He now has picked off 54 passes in his nine-year career.
Two Chicago Bears Hall of Famers who chipped in on special teams in addition to their play in the backfield still hold the top spots in career kickoff return average and punt return average. Gale Sayers is the only player in history to have a career kick return average of more than 30 yards. Meanwhile, George McAfee continues to hold a narrow edge in lifetime punt return average with 12.78. Hot on his heels is current day Bears return man Devin Hester whose 12.36 yards per punt return ranks fourth all-time. Hester was ranked No. 17 at the start of the 2010 season.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers reached the minimum of 1,500 career attempts needed to qualify for the Hall of Fame’s Top 20 passer rating chart. He is now the top rated passer of all-time with a career rating of 98.41 points. Another active QB, Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers remains at No. 2 all-time which has knocked Hall of Famer Steve Young to third place. Young had a hold on the top spot, except for a time in the mid-2000s when he relinquished it briefly to Kurt Warner, since the 1994 season.
The ageless Brett Favre topped many career milestones in 2010 that included him becoming the first player in league history to surpass 70,000 yards, 10,000 attempts, and 500 touchdown passes.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez became the seventh player in NFL history to amass 1,000 career receptions. He reached the milestone with his first catch of the season. He finished the year with 70 receptions making him the only player ever to have 12 straight seasons with 60 or more catches.
New York Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson has long ranked among the career leaders in rushing yardage. He continued to climb the all-time chart in 2010 as he ran past a pair of Hall of Fame runners – Eric Dickerson and Tony Dorsett. Tomlinson narrowly missed the 1,000-yard mark in his first season with the Jets. He managed to add an additional 914 yards to his career total in ’10 and in doing so he eclipsed the 13,000-yard career mark. He finished his 10th NFL season with a total of 13,404 yards which places him 6th all-time.
A pair of veteran receivers – Terrell Owens and Randy Moss – joined an elite group of players who’ve scored 150 or more career touchdowns. Both Owens and Moss reached the 150-touchdown mark during the 2010 season to join three other players who’ve found the end zone 150 or more times in their careers: Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, and LaDainian Tomlinson. Every player who ranks in the Top 20 touchdown leaders has 100 or more career TDs.
Top 20 (at start of 2011 NFL Season)
Combined Net Yards
Kickoff Returns: Average
Passing: Ratings | Yards | TDs | Completions | Attempts
Punt Returns: Average
Receiving: Receptions | Yards
Scoring: Points | Touchdowns
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Top 20 lists at the start of the past five seasons: 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006