So Tom  Kludt, totally inadvertently, laid down a challenge yesterday afternoon:


Faced with a challenge, I responded the only way I knew how – comprehensively and a little cantankerously:


As you can see, the chart speaks in many ways for itself – from 2-6% of wideouts rocking a 1X on their back from ’99-’03, the percentage skyrocketed at nearly 20%, or 5pp, each year since, hitting nearly 60% in the most recent season. And if you weight it by games played (I’m counting the playoffs), it’s similar if not even starker:

nfl wide receiver jersey numbers gw

Fewer than 3% of WR-games are played by guys sporting teens until ’04, when the number leaps to 9% and climbs at the same ~20%/5pp rate.

And, of course, Kludt, is right: Keyshawn is Patient Zero, being the only wideout to play a full season before 2004 with a 1X jersey.

What’s a little curious is that the quality of receivers wearing a 1X jersey is lagging behind the quantity. Below is a graph (since ’04 so we’re not just looking at KJ) of the percentage of total games played, catches made, yards acquired, and TDs caught by guys wearing a teen jersey:


So without getting too much into measuring football player quality, one would imagine that, if quality were equal, the share games played would be exactly equal to the share of the other major stats – but that’s not happening. With the exception of ’09, which was just TDs, in every year WRs with 1X jerseys are racking up slightly but consistently fewer catches, yards, and scores than their 8X counterparts relative to the number of games their playing. Why this would be, I couldn’t say, but there you have it. So when you’re drafting your fantasy team this year and you have no other way of deciding between two equal wideouts in the late rounds, go with the traditionalist.