SITE NEWS: We are moving all of our site and company news into a single blog for Sports-Reference.com. We'll tag all PFR content, so you can quickly and easily find the content you want.

Also, our existing PFR blog rss feed will be redirected to the new site's feed.

Pro-Football-Reference.com » Sports Reference

For more from Chase and Jason, check out their work at Football Perspective and The Big Lead.

Best players by uniform number

Posted by Chase Stuart on July 28, 2009

Now that P-F-R.com has uniform numbers for every player since 1950, I thought we might as well take a look at the best players to wear each number since then. As usual, we'll be ranking players by Approximate Value (AV). A few notes before the big list:

1) Only seasons from 1950 or later are being considered. So Otto Graham is considered, but only his seasons from 1950 through 1955 count for AV purposes. This doesn't eliminate those guys: while three of Charlie Trippi's best seasons came before 1950, he still makes the cut as one of the three best players to wear #2 since 1950. (But don't interpret the chart to read me as saying Trippi was not as good a player as Aaron Brooks). Similarly, Benny Friedman would be a good choice for uniform #1, Don Hutson for #14, Steve Van Buren for #15, and Sid Luckman for #42; but their accomplishments (along with the accomplishments of many others) were from pre-1950 and unfortunately are therefore excluded.

2) As a general disclaimer, AV works well at measuring groups of players. On average, most of the players with an AV of 100 will be better than most of the players with an AV of 90. But there will be lots of individual cases (especially at the same position) that are not correct -- Edgerrin James being ahead of Jim Brown, Jon Kitna over Daryle Lamonica and Sam Mills outscoring Dick Butkus are just three examples of that. There are many more; AV is not perfect, but it's the best way to ranks lots of players across different positions and across different eras. And yes, that's even if it says Mr. Brady is not among the top three players to wear number twelve (ditto Mr. Graham and #14). Remember, AV looks only at regular seasons.

3) A player is given credit for all value he earned in his career, regardless of what number he wore in any particular season. Each player is assigned one primary number for his career, which is the number with which he earned the most value. So Joe Montana gets his career value at #16, but he won't be considered at all for #19.

4) Kickers and punters are not given points of AV; however in the case of #1, there was only one non-kicker whose primary number was one; in that case, I substituted in two of the top kickers to wear that number.

Here's the full list, with each player's career AV listed in parentheses. The list is not presented as the answer to the question of which player was the best to wear which number; rather, I hope it's a starting off point for some good discussion. Enjoy.

#       First player               Second player            Third player
00	Jim Otto (100)		   Ken Burrough (67)
 1	Warren Moon (119)	   Gary Anderson (0)	    Garo Yepremian (2)
 2	Aaron Brooks (65)	   Tim Couch (30)	    Charlie Trippi (28)
 3	Jon Kitna (70)		   Daryle Lamonica (67)	    Bobby Hebert (66)
 4	Brett Favre (151)	   Jim Harbaugh (78)	    Steve Fuller (29)
 5	Donovan McNabb (95)	   Jeff Garcia (87)	    Kerry Collins (80)
 6	Bubby Brister (42)	   Marc Wilson (35)	    Don Kindt (33)
 7	John Elway (138)	   Boomer Esiason (105)	    Joe Theismann (87)
 8	Steve Young (135)	   Troy Aikman (97)	    Mark Brunell (96)
 9	Sonny Jurgensen (101)	   Steve McNair (100)	    Drew Brees (83)
10	Fran Tarkenton (139)	   Trent Green (94)	    Jim Zorn (76)
11	Norm Van Brocklin (109)	   Drew Bledsoe (103)	    Phil Simms (91)
12	Randall Cunningham (107)   Terry Bradshaw (106)	    Bob Griese (105)
13	Dan Marino (146)	   Ken Riley (92)	    Jake Scott (90)
14	Dan Fouts (122)		   Ken Anderson (121)	    Y.A. Tittle (112)
15	Bart Starr (100)	   Earl Morrall (73)	    Neil Lomax (71)
16	Joe Montana (123)	   Len Dawson (100)	    Vinny Testaverde (97)
17	Richie Petitbon (98)	   Dave Krieg (97)	    Jim Hart (96)
18	Peyton Manning (144)	   Roman Gabriel (96)	    Charlie Joiner (91)
19	Johnny Unitas (141)	   Keyshawn Johnson (79)    Lance Alworth (78)
20	Barry Sanders (122)	   Mel Renfro (112)	    Ronde Barber (106)
21	LaDainian Tomlinson (115)  Deion Sanders (114)	    Tiki Barber (100)
22	Emmitt Smith (129)	   Paul Krause (126)	    Bobby Layne (107)
23	Troy Vincent (87)	   Patrick Surtain (65)	    Mike Wagner (62)
24	Willie Wood (116)	   Willie Brown (112)	    Champ Bailey (96)
25	Fred Biletnikoff (85)	   Charlie Garner (73)	    Tommy McDonald (68)
26	Rod Woodson (142)	   Herb Adderley (111)	    Lydell Mitchell (90)
27	Ken Houston (112)	   Steve Atwater (82)	    Eddie George (77)
28	Marshall Faulk (133)	   Darrell Green (104)	    Curtis Martin (101)
29	Eric Dickerson (91)	   Harold Jackson (91)	    Sam Madison (87)
30	Ahman Green (80)	   Lawrence McCutcheon (76) Terrell Davis (73)
31	Donnie Shell (90)	   Priest Holmes (83)	    Wilbert Montgomery (72)
32	Edgerrin James (113)	   Jim Brown (106)	    Marcus Allen (103)
33	Tony Dorsett (107)	   Roger Craig (93)	    Ollie Matson (74)
34	Walter Payton (128)	   Thurman Thomas (111)	    Cornell Green (97)
35	Aeneas Williams (104)	   Calvin Hill (76)	    Pete Pihos (73)
36	LeRoy Butler (88)	   Bill Thompson (87)	    Jerome Bettis (80)
37	Jimmy Johnson (108)	   Carnell Lake (83)	    Pat Fischer (82)
38	Bob Tucker (70)		   Eugene Daniel (60)	    Roland James (48)
39	Larry Csonka (72)	   Carl Lee (68)	    Sam Cunningham (61)
40	Mike Haynes (109)	   Bobby Boyd (91)	    James Hasty (78)
41	Eugene Robinson (84)	   Phil Villapiano (77)	    Randy Logan (69)
42	Ronnie Lott (117)	   Paul Warfield (94)	    Johnny Robinson (92)
43	Cliff Harris (84)	   Larry Brown (78)	    Don Perkins (66)
44	John Riggins (91)	   Dick LeBeau (83)	    Chuck Foreman (82)
45	Emlen Tunnell (122)	   Gary Fencik (78)	    Dave Grayson (71)
46	Tim McDonald (77)	   Chuck Muncie (73)	    Todd Christensen (64)
47	Mel Blount (111)	   John Lynch (95)	    Joey Browner (75)
48	Ken Ellis (62)		   Wes Hopkins (59)	    Stephen Davis (56)
49	Erich Barnes (95)	   Dennis Smith (78)	    Bobby Mitchell (65)
50	Mike Singletary (125)	   Jeff Siemon (72)	    Paul Naumoff (72)
51	Sam Mills (100)		   Dick Butkus (97)	    James Farrior (83)
52	Ray Lewis (135)		   Mike Webster (103)	    Robert Brazile (86)
53	Mick Tingelhoff (102)	   Harry Carson (94)	    Randy Gradishar (93)
54	Randy White (121)	   Zach Thomas (115)	    Chuck Howley (105)
55	Derrick Brooks (138)	   Junior Seau (128)	    Chris Hanburger (112)
56	Lawrence Taylor (139)	   Chris Doleman (114)	    Hardy Nickerson (98)
57	Rickey Jackson (111)	   Clay Matthews (93)	    Mo Lewis (88)
58	Jack Lambert (114)	   Isiah Robertson (110)    Derrick Thomas (106)
59	Jack Ham (119)		   Seth Joyner (80)	    Donnie Edwards (77)
60	Chuck Bednarik (133)	   Larry Grantham (87)	    Roy Winston (84)
61	Bill George (132)	   Bob DeMarco (78)	    Nate Newton (74)
62	Jim Langer (82)		   Adam Timmerman (65)	    Guy McIntyre (63)
63	Gene Upshaw (111)	   Willie Lanier (99)	    Mike Munchak (84)
64	Randall McDaniel (103)	   Dave Wilcox (88)	    Jack Reynolds (84)
65	Gary Zimmerman (102)	   Tom Mack (91)	    Elvin Bethea (89)
66	Ray Nitschke (102)	   Larry Little (99)	    Bill Bergey (96)
67	Ed White (80)		   Grady Alderman (80)	    Art Still (79)
68	L.C. Greenwood (96)	   Will Shields (96)	    Kevin Mawae (87)
69	Jon Runyan (76)		   Will Wolford (74)	    Tim Krumrie (66)
70	Ernie Stautner (112)	   Jim Marshall (107)	    Sam Huff (105)
71	Alex Karras (112)	   Walter Jones (96)	    Willie Anderson (89)
72	Too Tall Jones (97)	   Dan Dierdorf (86)	    Diron Talbert (81)
73	Ron Yary (119)		   Leo Nomellini (116)	    John Hannah (106)
74	Merlin Olsen (139)	   Bob Lilly (128)	    Bruce Matthews (121)
75	Joe Greene (127)	   Deacon Jones (112)	    Forrest Gregg (105)
76	Steve McMichael (100)	   Lou Groza (100)	    Orlando Pace (99)
77	Willie Roaf (110)	   Jim Parker (102)	    Dick Schafrath (99)
78	Bruce Smith (147)	   Anthony Munoz (137)	    Bobby Bell (105)
79	Ron McDole (97)		   Ray Childress (93)	    Harvey Martin (82)
80	Jerry Rice (160)	   Steve Largent (103)	    Rod Smith (102)
81	Carl Eller (140)	   Andy Robustelli (133)    Terrell Owens (113)
82	Jimmy Smith (95)	   Ozzie Newsome (82)	    John Stallworth (80)
83	Ted Hendricks (118)	   Andre Reed (97)	    Mark Clayton (78)
84	Randy Moss (113)	   Shannon Sharpe (101)	    Gary Clark (86)
85	Jack Youngblood (122)	   Nick Buoniconti (103)    Del Shofner (80)
86	Buck Buchanan (101)	   Stanley Morgan (82)	    Verlon Biggs (78)
87	Willie Davis (108)	   Claude Humphrey (92)	    Reggie Wayne (85)
88	Alan Page (157)		   Marvin Harrison (124)    Michael Irvin (105)
89	Gino Marchetti (121)	   Dave Robinson (90)	    Fred Dryer (88)
90	Neil Smith (95)		   Rob Burnett (81)	    Larry Brooks (77)
91	Kevin Greene (97)	   Leslie O'Neal (89)	    Chester McGlockton (79)
92	Reggie White (163)	   Michael Strahan (122)    Ted Washington (91)
93	John Randle (107)	   Kevin Carter (89)	    Trevor Pryce (78)
94	Charles Haley (85)	   Chad Brown (84)	    Dana Stubblefield (73)
95	Richard Dent (97)	   Greg Lloyd (92)          Sam Adams (78)
96	Cortez Kennedy (99)	   Clyde Simmons (89)	    Sean Jones (67)
97	Bryant Young (93)	   La'Roi Glover (91)	    Cornelius Bennett (89)
98	Jessie Armstead (79)	   Greg Ellis (66)	    Julian Peterson (61)
99	Warren Sapp (117)	   Jason Taylor (112)	    Dan Hampton (104)

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 at 7:17 am and is filed under Approximate Value, History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.