Every now and then it can be interesting to take a look at lesser known and underrated players in the National Football League. One such player from the 1990s is wide receiver Terance Mathis. Mathis began his career being utilized primarily as a punt and kick returner for the New York Jets. In four seasons with New York he never caught more than 28 passes in one year. Following the 1993 season, Mathis signed via free agency with the Atlanta Falcons. In his last year with the Jets he had 24 receptions, in his first with the Falcons he had 111. This drastic turnaround in his production can only be explained by the fact that the Jets did not make the most out of his talent. The other main receivers ahead of him on the Jets depth chart during Mathis’ time with the team were Al Toon (at the end of his career), Rob Moore and Chris Burkett. With that lineup, you would think that an eventual consistent 1,000 yard receiver could’ve been of use.
When Mathis joined the Falcons he appeared in a pretty formidable lineup of wide receiver, including at various times Andre Rison, Bert Emanuel, Ricky Sanders, Eric Metcalf, J.J. Birden, Tony Martin, and Tim Dwight among others. Terance Mathis would play eight years with the Atlanta Falcons and put up four 1,000 yard seasons during his time with the team. He would play one final NFL season in 2002 as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers before retiring. His 8,809 career receiving yards just barely keep him out of the top fifty wide receivers of all time. Mathis’ 689 catches place him in 31st all time for career receptions. But what would’ve happened had he been better utilized by the New York Jets during his first four seasons in the league?
During his eight years in Atlanta, Mathis averaged 71 catches a season and 918 yards. If you subtract the numbers he accumulated with the Jets during his four years there, 93 catches and 1,242 yards and replace them with his Atlanta averages he would end with career totals of 880 receptions and 11,239 career yards. Those 880 receptions would rank him 11th overall right now and ahead of such receivers as Torry Holt, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, Randy Moss, Steve Largent and Keyshawn Johnson. At the time of his retirement though he would’ve been in the top ten all time receivers for career receptions. Those 11,239 yards would rank him 20th on the list of career receiving yardage.
In spite of playing the ‘what if” game, Terance Mathis was a very valuable and very successful NFL wide receiver. Over the course of his career he was vastly underrated, probably stemming from being a sixth round draft choice and playing the bulk of his career in the not so prominent NFL city of Atlanta. One list where Mathis finished ranked second overall for his career was two point conversions. His six career two point conversions are only outdone by Marshall Faulk’s seven.