The advent of the 17-game schedule indicated some NFL receiver records would be in danger of being broken in 2021 -- and Cooper Kupp is the wide receiver challenging those marks. Kupp is in the midst of having one of the best seasons for a wide receiver in NFL history, leading the league in receptions and receiving yards after nine games.
Kupp has been a dynamic force with Matthew Stafford as the Los Angeles Rams quarterback, emerging as his top target in pass offense that includes Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, and Tyler Higbee. He's been one of the league's smoothest pass-catchers since entering the league as a second-round draft pick in 2017, yet has taken his game to the next level in 2021.
What Kupp ends up with at the conclusion of the season will be determined, but he's challenging the receptions mark by Julio Jones and Calvin Johnson's receiving yards record. In this week's edition of "By The Numbers," Kupp's historic start is reviewed and how he stacks up with the best receivers of all time through the season's first nine games.
Receiving yards leaders
Receiving touchdowns leaders
- Cooper Kupp -- 10
- DK Metcalf -- 8
- Mike Evans -- 8
- Ja'Marr Chase -- 7
- DeAndre Hopkins -- 7
- Adam Thielen -- 7
Kupp's start to the 2021 season has been historic, becoming the first player with 1,000-plus receiving yards and 10-plus receiving touchdowns through nine games since Jerry Rice in 1990. Rice led the NFL in receptions (105), receiving yards (1,502), and receiving touchdowns (13) that season -- showcasing the rare feat of holding the receiving "triple crown." Rice (1990), Sterling Sharpe (1992), and Steve Smith (2005) are the only receivers to win the "triple crown" since 1966 -- a pace Kupp is reaching to achieve.
Kupp has eight games with six-plus catches this season, the most in the NFL -- two more than Adams, Allen, Hill and Travis Kelce. He has eight games with 75-plus receiving yards this season, three more than Adams, Allen, Marquise Brown, Chase, Cooks, Evans, CeeDee Lamb, and Samuel. His five 100-yard receiving games lead the league, and he's one of just five players with multiple 10-plus reception games.
Kupp doesn't have a single game with fewer than five catches and has just one game where he's recorded under 90 yards. His four games with multiple receiving touchdowns also lead the league.
With eight more games to go in the regular season (the Rams haven't had their bye week yet), Kupp is putting himself in position to challenge the all-time receiving marks for a season. Here's where Kupp stacks up with the best nine-game starts among NFL receivers.
Most receptions -- NFL history (through 9 games)
- Michael Thomas (2019) -- 86
- Julio Jones (2015) -- 80
- Adam Thielen (2018) -- 78
- Michael Thomas (2018) -- 78
- Zach Ertz (2018) -- 75
- Marvin Harrison (2002) -- 75
- Cooper Kupp (2021) -- 74
Most receiving yards -- NFL history, since merger (through 9 games)
- Isaac Bruce (1995) -- 1,073
- Julio Jones (2018) -- 1,040
- Wes Chandler (1982) -- 1,032
- Julio Jones (2015) -- 1,029
- Michael Thomas (2019) -- 1,027
- Michael Irvin (1995) -- 1,023
- Cooper Kupp (2021) -- 1,019
- Isaac Bruce (2000) -- 1,019
Kupp is on a tremendous pace to challenge Thomas' receptions record of 149 (2019) and Johnson's receiving yards record of 1,964 (2012). If Kupp keeps his receptions-per-game pace of 8.22, he'll finish the year with 139 catches -- the third-most in NFL history. Kupp is averaging 113.2 receiving yards per game (which also leads the league), putting him on pace for 1,924 yards of the year -- second-most in NFL history.
Only Antonio Brown is in the top three for most receptions and receiving yards in a season all time, which Kupp can join him at his current pace (Kupp would be the only player in the top two). Kupp is also on pace for 18 touchdown catches, which would be the third-most in NFL history -- tied with Adams (2020), Mark Clayton (1984), and Sharpe (1994). The 17-game season certainly gives Kupp the ability to challenge these records, even though it's hard to ignore the season he's having.
If Kupp continues his current pace, he'll have one of the greatest seasons for a wide receiver in history. There's no reason for Stafford to stop throwing in Kupp's direction, as the Rams quarterback has a 123.4 passer rating when targeting him.
The best is yet to come for Kupp, who is having one of the most surprising -- and best -- starts for a receiver in league history.