Cris Carter's Canton argument

Look, the numbers don't lie. Getty Images

What this is: Football Scientist K.C. Joyner on WR criterion for Canton.

Pro Football Hall of Fame voters often say that the final cutdown day is the toughest part of the job. It requires an extremely difficult process of elimination to reduce the list of 15 nominees down to the four to six players who will be inducted.

As difficult as the process is in most years, this year's tally may be even harder than usual because of the strength of the wide receiver position. Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Andre Reed and Jerry Rice are all viable candidates; the real difficulty lies in the fact they are skill position players and therefore have numbers to quantify their argument.

One way to navigate these statistical oceans is to pose a question that Bill James often asked regarding baseball Hall of Fame candidates. He wanted to know what the statistical standards were for the existing Hall of Famers at a given position and whether the proposed enshrinee would improve or lower the current standards. James' reasoning was that if the candidate did not raise the statistical bar for induction, it did not reflect well on his case and indicated that he might not belong in Cooperstown.

There are a number of ways one could go about applying this line of reasoning to these four great wideouts. Some might choose to go with formulas, but I decided to keep it simple and go with a group of 12 bread-and-butter statistics. These are:

Regular-season receptions
Regular-season receptions per game
Regular-season receiving yards
Regular-season receiving yards per game
Regular-season receiving touchdowns
Regular-season receiving touchdowns per game
Postseason receptions
Postseason receiving yards
Postseason touchdowns
All-Pro nominations
Consensus All-Pro nominations
Pro Bowl nominations

(Postseason per-game totals were not included because the small postseason sample size for many receivers would skew the results beyond the point of relevance.)