Putting Brandon Marshall's Career in Historical Context

Marshall set career milestones this year, but just how great has that career been?

Brandon Marshall ended his 10th season as a professional wide receiver with 109 receptions, 1,502 receiving yards, and 14 receiving touchdowns on 174 targets.

Marshall finished the year tied for fifth in receptions, fourth in receiving yards, tied for first in receiving touchdowns, and fifth in targets.

His receiving statistics this year were impressive for any NFL wide receiver, let alone a 31-year-old receiver on the back side of his career.

This year, Marshall saw the third most targets of his career leading to his second most receptions, second best yardage total, and a career high in touchdowns. Although he is aging, Marshall is still the productive receiver he has been throughout his career.

This year, Marshall became the first player in NFL to have not only 1,000 yard receiving seasons with four different teams but also six 100-catch seasons.

Between the impressive statistics he posted this year, and the career milestones he set, Marshall has had a phenomenal career. So just how impressive is his career overall?

Career-Long Target Hog

In 8 of his 10 professional seasons, Marshall has seen at least 145 targets, which placed him in the top seven for targets in each of those years respectively. The two years he did not finish in the top six were his rookie season and his injury-plagued 2014 season. Consistency at this level is impressive, but how he has used this consistency is even more spectacular.

In addition to his six 100-catch seasons, Marshall never finished outside of the top-10 in receptions in the eight years where he had at least 145 targets. In five of those eight seasons, Marshall finished in the top 10 for receiving yards while finishing no year ranked lower than 16th.

Marshall has four seasons with at least 10 receiving touchdowns, and three of them have come in the past four seasons. He posted back-to-back 10-plus receiving touchdown seasons in 2012 and 2013 while in Chicago. The two other seasons eclipsing 10 receiving touchdowns came this year and in 2009.

Marshall's career as a target hog is impressive, and he has done so without quarterback stability.

Who Needs an Elite Quarterback?

Marshall has played with a rag tag bunch of quarterbacks including Chad Henne, Matt Moore, Josh McCown, Jay Cutler, and Kyle Orton. 

Digging into our  Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, we can look at where Marshall's quarterbacks ranked yearly based on our advanced analytics.

For context, since 2006, 361 quarterbacks have dropped back at least 200 times in a given year (an average of 36 per year).

Year Team Full Name Drop Backs Pass NEP/P Pass NEP/P Rank
2015 NYJ Ryan Fitzpatrick 581 0.14 12
2014 CHI Jay Cutler 597 0.00 32
2014 CHI Josh McCown 363 -0.09 35
2013 CHI Jay Cutler 375 0.05 19
2013 CHI Josh McCown 235 0.35 2
2012 CHI Jay Cutler 473 -0.02 26
2011 MIA Matt Moore 384 -0.01 24
2010 MIA Chad Henne 520 0.01 24
2009 DEN Kyle Orton 570 0.05 17
2008 DEN Jay Cutler 627 0.20 6
2007 DEN Jay Cutler 494 0.11 11
2006 DEN Jake Plummer 335 -0.05 25

Of the 12 quarterbacks to take at least 200 drop backs with Marshall as a wide receiver, half have ranked in the bottom third for Passing NEP per play. Although Cutler had his highs, he has not been consistently more than a mid-tier quarterback. Only in 2013 did Marshall had a top-five Passing NEP per play quarterback, but McCown played on just 235 drop backs compared to 375 for Cutler.

Quarterbacking has never elevated Marshall into the elite talent that he is when looking at advanced analytics. It is fair to wonder just how much better he could be with consistent quality quarterbacking surrounding him.

Fitting in With the Greats

Since 1999, Marshall accounts for 6 of the 64 100-catch seasons by wide receivers.

Antonio Brown and Andre Johnson each only have five seasons of 100 catches, Larry Fitzgerald has three 100-catch seasons, and Julio Jones has two 100-catch seasons.

Marshall did this three years in a row from 2007 to 2009 and back-to-back in 2012 and 2013. Only 31% of 100-catch seasons are followed up with repeat success, and under 10% for three seasons in a row.

Wide receivers have produced 344 1,000-yard seasons since 1999.

Marshall has eight of these seasons, tying him with Torry Holt, Terrell Owens, and Steve Smith -- among others. Only Randy Moss has more 1,000-yard seasons, accomplishing that nine times. While only 50% of the 1,000-yard seasons are repeated the next year, only 1% repeat seven years in a row. Of his eight 1,000-yard seasons, seven came in a row from 2007 through 2013.

Since 1999, Marshall has four 10-touchdown seasons, tying him with Calvin Johnson among wide receivers. Only Moss, Marvin Harrison, Owens, and Fitzgerald have more 10-touchdown years. In total, wide receivers have 125 10-touchdown seasons since 1999. Only 34% of 10-touchdown seasons are followed up with a repeat performance, and Marshall accomplished this feat in 2012 and 2013.

While Marshall was known for his off-field character problems early in his career, he is a transcendent talent who is among the greatest receivers to play the game in the past decade and a half.

Because he is now on the backside of his career going into year 11, Marshall may only have one or two more years of consistent productivity left. Regardless, his career long consistency has brought him success that is almost impossible to match.