One of the great statistical games to play is to find historical comparisons for modern NFL players. It's a fun way to learn about the past and get a sense for where current players stand in relation to the all-time greats.
The Colts may have jettisoned most of the big names from their glory days, but they did keep at least one recognizable face. Reggie Wayne is returning to Indianapolis to help provide stability in the locker room. He's not the player he once was, but he's still an effective receiver.
It's always tricky doing historical comparisons with wide receivers because era adjustments are difficult to nail down. A good comp for Wayne can be found in Rod Smith. Smith has only been retired for a few years, but he was similar to Wayne in many respects.
Smith's overall volume numbers lag slightly behind Wayne's, but that's in part because of the offensive boost that occurred in 2004. Smith's career fell mostly before that season, while Wayne's was largely after it. They were contemporaries, but a shift forward of just a couple of seasons would have helped Smith's final tally.
Both men stand 6'0", 200 lbs, and while that's not small for a wideout, it's hardly imposing. Both players relied on exceptional route running and skill to dominate on the field.
Wayne is the more acclaimed receiver, having made an All-Pro team and two additional Pro Bowls. Smith has one more 1,000-yard season than Wayne does, however. He was also more of the top receiver for his team, whereas Wayne only became the top target in Indianapolis in 2007. Of course, it's difficult to say if the extra attention hurt Smith or the extra throws helped him.
Wayne was blessed to play in one of the most prolific offenses of all time, and while Smith did get to play with John Elway, the Broncos had already shifted to more of a run-based offense.
Ultimately, Wayne and Smith are a good match. Both are borderline, not-quite Hall of Famers. They were excellent leaders and productive players for a lot of years. Had they switched opportunities, Smith would likely have taken advantage of playing with Peyton Manning to put up the slightly better career numbers that Wayne posted.
Wayne is still playing, but we now have some sense of context about Smith's career. That helps us to analyze where Wayne stands now in relation to Canton, and how much work he might have left to do.