I notice that receiving production was spread out more last year. That is, the best receivers weren’t as good as usual, and the later receivers were a lot better.

Look, for example, at the best receivers from the last 20 years. Jordy Nelson was No. 1 in 2016, but when compared against the last 20 years, he finished with better numbers than only two of those guys (2006 Marvin Harrison and 1997 Rob Moore).

2007Randy Moss, N.E.98149315.223287.3
2003Randy Moss, Minn.111163214.717265.2
2011Calvin Johnson, Det.96168117.516264.1
2014Antonio Brown, Pitt.129169813.214259.8
2015Antonio Brown, Pitt.136183413.511253.4
2001Marvin Harrison, Ind.109152414.015242.4
1999Marvin Harrison, Ind.115166314.512240.3
2002Marvin Harrison, Ind.143172212.011240.2
1998Randy Moss, Minn.68131319.317237.3
2004Muhsin Muhammad, Car.93140515.116236.5
2000Randy Moss, Minn.77143718.715235.7
2005Steve Smith Sr., Car.103156315.213234.3
2013Demaryius Thomas, Den.92143015.514227.0
2012Calvin Johnson, Det.122196416.15226.4
2008Larry Fitzgerald, Ariz.96143114.912215.1
2009Andre Johnson, Hou.101156915.59212.9
2010Brandon Lloyd, Den.77144818.811210.8
2016Jordy Nelson, G.B.97125713.014209.7
2006Marvin Harrison, Ind.95136614.412208.6
1997Rob Moore, Ariz.97158416.38208.4

If you follow that process for all of the top 20 receivers (comparing all of the No. 2 guys, then all of the No. 3s, and so on) then all of them are beaten by most of the entries from the other seasons. Of the first 20 receivers, all but four of them rank in the bottom 3.

That’s weird, with passing production generally going up. You would figure most of those top 20 would be better than seasons in the late ‘90s or early in the century (when NFL teams weren’t passing for as many yards or touchdowns).

But the top receivers were down pretty much across the board. It starts changing in the 20s, and then gets really flipped around starting at No. 30. Look at wide receivers 30 thru 50 – those 21 players all ranked either first or next-to-first relative to the last 20 years.

1Jordy Nelson, G.B.97125713.014209.718
2Mike Evans, T.B.96132113.812208.114
3Antonio Brown, Pitt.106128412.112200.416
4Odell Beckham Jr., NYG101136713.510196.713
5T.Y. Hilton, Ind.91144815.96182.816
6Julio Jones, Atl.83140917.06176.920
7Davante Adams, G.B.7599713.312173.718
8Michael Thomas, N.O.92113712.49167.718
9Brandin Cooks, N.O.78117315.08165.319
10Doug Baldwin, Sea.94112812.07158.820
11Michael Crabtree, Oak.89100311.38150.320
12Amari Cooper, Oak.83115313.95149.320
13Rishard Matthews, Tenn.6594514.59148.520
14Tyrell Williams, S.D.69105915.37147.920
15Demaryius Thomas, Den.90108312.05140.320
16Jarvis Landry, Mia.94113612.14139.619
17Larry Fitzgerald, Ariz.10710239.66138.319
18Kelvin Benjamin, Car.6394114.97136.118
19Golden Tate, Det.91107711.84133.718
20Emmanuel Sanders, Den.79103213.15133.218
21Jamison Crowder, Wash.6784712.68132.716
22Terrelle Pryor, Clev.77100713.15132.711
23Dez Bryant, Dall.5079615.98131.610
24Tyreek Hill, K.C.615939.712131.37
25Julian Edelman, N.E.98110611.33130.67
26Kenny Britt, L.A.68100214.75130.27
27Mike Wallace, Balt.72101714.14127.76
28Adam Thielen, Minn.6996714.05126.75
29Kenny Stills, Mia.4272617.39126.63
30Allen Robinson, Jac.7388312.16126.32
31DeSean Jackson, Wash.56100517.94124.51
32Brandon LaFell, Cin.6486213.56122.22
33Pierre Garcon, Wash.79104113.23122.12
34A.J. Green, Cin.6696414.64120.41
35DeAndre Hopkins, Hou.7895412.24119.41
36Willie Snead, N.O.7289512.44117.51
37Marvin Jones, Det.5593016.94117.01
38Cameron Meredith, Chi.6688813.54116.81
39Sterling Shepard, NYG6568310.58116.31
40Steve Smith Sr., Balt.7079911.45113.91
41Cole Beasley, Dall.7583311.15113.31
42Marqise Lee, Jac.6385113.54113.11
43Quincy Enunwa, NYJ5885714.84109.71
44Stefon Diggs, Minn.8490310.83108.31
45Anquan Boldin, Det.675848.78106.41
46Dontrelle Inman, S.D.5881014.04105.01
47Taylor Gabriel, Atl.3557916.5799.92
48Ted Ginn Jr., Car.5475213.9499.22
49J.J. Nelson, Ariz.3456816.7798.82
50DeVante Parker, Mia.5674413.3498.41

It’s kind of interesting. Sort of, anyway. What’s driving this? Is it a situation where more teams are using more multiple-receiver sets, causing stats to be spread around more? It looks that way. (And that would change how we all value wide receivers in fantasy drafts.)

But I’m not there yet. If you look at the 2014 and 2015 numbers, you’ll see those top 20 receivers putting up great numbers – the appropriate numbers you would expect. If we were shifting to more multiple-receiver sets and more spreading the ball around, I think it would have shown up more in those last two years.

So I think we just got hit with an outlier year. Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Larry Fitzgerald, T.Y. Hilton, Amari Cooper and A.J. Green, for example, all failed to score more than 6 TDs. So rather than a shift in the NFL landscape, I believe things will settle down this year, meaning we’ll get much better production from those standout receivers in the top 15-20.

Here, if you’re curious, are the 2015 numbers (showing how the fared relative to the last 20 years). I won’t bother posting the 2014.

For these charts, by the way, they show just receiving yards. If a player ran for 50 or 150 yards, that’s not included. But touchdowns include receiving, rushing and returns.

1Antonio Brown, Pitt.136183413.511253.45
2Julio Jones, Atl.136187113.89241.12
3Brandon Marshall, NYJ109150213.814234.21
4Allen Robinson, Jac.80140017.514224.02
5Odell Beckham Jr., NYG96145015.113223.01
6DeAndre Hopkins, Hou.111152113.711220.11
7Doug Baldwin, Sea.78106913.714190.95
8A.J. Green, Cin.86129715.110189.74
9Larry Fitzgerald, Ariz.109121511.29175.58
10Calvin Johnson, Det.88121413.89175.46
11Eric Decker, NYJ80102712.812174.75
12Brandin Cooks, N.O.84113813.69167.85
13Demaryius Thomas, Den.105130412.46166.42
14Allen Hurns, Jac.64103116.110163.13
15Sammy Watkins, Buff.60104717.59158.74
16Jeremy Maclin, K.C.87108812.58156.83
17Jarvis Landry, Mia.110115710.56153.72
18Emmanuel Sanders, Den.76113514.96149.52
19Jordan Matthews, Phil.8599711.78147.72
20Michael Crabtree, Oak.8592210.99146.22
21Amari Cooper, Oak.72107014.96143.02
22T.Y. Hilton, Ind.69112416.35142.43
23John Brown, Ariz.65100315.47142.32
24James Jones, G.B.5089017.88141.02
25Mike Evans, T.B.74120616.33138.62
26Ted Ginn Jr., Car.4473916.810133.94
27Travis Benjamin, Clev.6896614.26132.63
28Rueben Randle, NYG5779714.08127.74
29Randall Cobb, G.B.7982910.57124.95
30Kamar Aiken, Balt.7594412.65124.44
31Michael Floyd, Ariz.5284916.36120.96
32Martavis Bryant, Pitt.5076515.37118.58
33Golden Tate, Det.908139.06117.35
34Willie Snead, N.O.6998414.33116.44
35Tyler Lockett, Sea.5166413.08114.44
36Pierre Garcon, Wash.7277710.86113.73
37Julian Edelman, N.E.6169211.37111.24
38Donte Moncrief, Ind.6473311.56109.34
39Tavon Austin, St.L.524739.110107.34
40Markus Wheaton, Pitt.4474917.05106.93
41Marvin Jones, Cin.6581612.64105.63
42Alshon Jeffery, Chi.5480714.94104.73
43Anquan Boldin, S.F.6978911.44102.93
44Terrance Williams, Dall.5284016.23102.04
45Jermaine Kearse, Sea.4968514.0598.55
46Keenan Allen, S.D.6772510.8496.56
47Stefon Diggs, Minn.5272013.9496.05
48Torrey Smith, S.F.3366320.1492.38
49Rishard Matthews, Mia.4366215.4490.27
50Nate Washington, Hou.4765814.0489.87