Calvin “Megatron” Johnson set the single-season receiving yards record of 1,964 yards in 2012.
With so many big-play pass-catchers currently in the NFL, it feels as if this could be the season we see the record broken. ESPN Analytics took to the data to narrow down who could break it.
Who can break Megatron’s record?
Three pass-catchers on each of the 32 NFL depth charts are eligible.
The "top three" pass-catchers for each team were decided largely on receiving yardage totals from 2022, though subjective calls were made to reflect impact over pure totals. No one drafted in 2023 was considered. The player list and all data used to make cuts are as of Aug. 15.
EXTENDED PLAYING TIME
Contenders must have at least one 15-game season in the past three years.
To have a chance at 1,965 yards, contenders must demonstrate an ability to stay on the field for close to a full season. Health can become that barrier for older players, while many first- and second-year players have fewer opportunities to fulfill the requirement.
If a receiver hasn’t reached 1,000 since 2020, it’s unlikely he gets there this season.
Of the 40 players cut, only seven have ever had a 1,000-plus-yard season. Maybe not surprisingly, a quarter of the names dropped here are tight ends, who tend to rack up far fewer yards than the top wide receivers.
ESPN Analytics uses NFL Next Gen Stats data to quantify receiver performance in three categories: Open Score, Catch Score and YAC Score. The three areas are combined into a single Overall Score. All five players cut at this stage had a three-season average rating above 50, but only two had even one season above 70.
THE FINAL NINE
After five cuts, nine elite receivers remain.
The final nine have shown they can meet the criteria of a potential record-setting pass-catcher, but who has the best chance to be the guy this season? The charts below detail how they stack up at each of our final three cuts -- Y/RR vs. man coverage, Mike Clay's QB projections and RTM Overall Score.
Y/RR vs. man (2020-22)
Over the past three seasons combined, no one has recorded more yards per route run vs. man than A.J. Brown, at 3.43. He ranked third in the Receiver Tracking Metrics' Overall Score (83) in that span, too.
Davante Adams' 4.21 Y/RR vs. man in 2020 is the highest single-season score of any receiver over the past three seasons.
Tyreek Hill had the most yards per route run in a single season over the past three at 3.33. A record-breaker will run roughly 600 routes, so 3.3 is approximately what it will take.
Bengals QB Joe Burrow is going to rack up yardage, and his connection with Ja'Marr Chase dates back to college at LSU.
Say what you want about Kirk Cousins, but the man puts up passing yards, and his favorite target, Justin Jefferson, is the beneficiary.
No receiver has gotten closer to Johnson's record than Cooper Kupp did in 2021. He did it with Matthew Stafford, who is projected to throw for over 4,200 yards this season.
RTM Overall Score (2020-22)
Over the past three seasons combined, the highest Overall Score in the Receiver Tracking Metrics is a tie between Jefferson and Stefon Diggs (84 each).
Chris Olave recorded a 77 Overall Score as a rookie. He's the only player drafted in 2022 who cracked the top 50 in every RTM category last season.
It's been awhile since we've seen Calvin Ridley (he was suspended for the 2022 season), but he did post a 81 in 2020.
Maybe not surprisingly, last season's top receiver, Jefferson, has the best odds (+600) to lead the league in regular-season yards again, according to Caesars Sportsbook. The Vikings' superstar already has amassed more receiving yards than any other third-year player and is no doubt a solid pick to break Johnson's single-season record. But Hill, for one, isn't interested in handing Jefferson the crown. "I will break 2,000 yards next year, bro," Hill said on his podcast in June. The data do suggest someone could have a 2,000-yard season, and there are plenty of viable candidates to do it now.