Tom Brady is out and Cam Newton is ready to take over the New England Patriots’ offense.
The Pats have had a number quality players grace Foxborough through the years and as one MVP quarterback’s era end, another one gets to start anew.
But before the spotlight is thrust back onto Cam and how Head Coach Bill Belichicks plans to shape the team around him, let’s take time to look back at some of the wideouts who have made life in New England a little bit easier. Here are the five best wide receivers in New England Patriots history.
5. Irving Fryar (1984-92)
Finishing fifth on our list is Nebraska product Irving Fryar. Taken first overall by the Patriots in the 1984 NFL Draft, one of only two wide receivers selected with the top pick, Fryar would have a productive nine years in New England. Nicknamed “The Reverend” because he was an ordained minister, he would blessthe franchise with a total of 363 receptions, 5,726 receiving yards, and 38 touchdowns throughout his time with them. In only his second season, Fryar made it to the Pro Bowl and the All-Pro Second Team. The same year, he would help New England earn their first-ever trip to the Super Bowl.
He was one of the first great receivers in team history and he made his mark both statistically and in terms of success.
4. Wes Welker (2007-12)
The first of Touchdown Tom’s favorite options, Wes Welker enters at No. 4.
A rare started and underused option in Miami, Welker made his way to New England via trade before the start of the 2007 season and there began the best years of his career. Some would argue that Wes’ success was only due to the system and quarterback he played for, and they may have a point, but at the end of the day his numbers and accolades speak volumes about his skill and talent out wide.
In his six years with the Pats, Welker averaged well over 100 receptions per season even leading the NFL in the category three different times. He had all his Pro Bowls and All-Pro teams as a member of the Patriots and even tied an NFL record 99-yard long reception. Though his time in Foxborough never brought any rings, he still made two trips to the Super Bowl with Brady and co. so nothing to be ashamed of.
At the end of his tenure with New England, he had collected 672 catches for 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns.
3. Stanley Morgan (1977-89)
At number three we have another lesser-known Patriots great. Don’t get me wrong, Morgan deserves all the recognition, but he does have a couple of things working against his case as the New England franchise’s best ever receiver.
First, he didn’t put up huge numbers like most of his contemporaries. He was still a steady and consistent contributor throughout his 13 years with the teams and his franchise totals of 543 catches, 10,352 receiving yards, and 67 receiving touchdowns are still all-time numbers. But if he only he could have added a bit more oomph to his consistency, Morgan would easily make the top of this list.
The second and more important point, his years with the Patriots weren’t the best in terms of winning. They only won two division titles during Morgan’s run with the team and only made five postseason appearances. Although they would make it to the Super Bowl in 1985, New England would lose and those three wins to make it to the big game were their only playoff victories in Morgan’s 13-year stint with the organization.
2. Julian Edelman (2009–present)
Choosing between No. 1 and Edelman was a grueling task but in the end, No. 1 beat him out and Minitron has to settle for second place.
Drafted by New England back in 2009, it took the one-time Super Bowl MVP a few years before he found his footing in Bill Belichick’s offense. Edelman was used sparingly in his first four years in Foxborough, but in 2013 he would go off and have a career high 105 receptions worth 1,056 yards. From then on it was off to the races. So far, he has gone over a thousand yards twice more in his career with the Pats and only last year, he would break the century mark for receptions once again. As of the end of last season, Edelman has caught 599 passes for 6,507 yards and 36 touchdowns. He has also returned over 200 kicks for around 2,200 yards and four touchdowns.
But outside the numbers, Edelman’s Patriots legacy is ultimately defined by the three Super Bowl wins he’s helped bring the franchise. I know a couple of Pats legends who would trade their individual statistics for a ring or two including the next person on our list.
1. Randy Moss (2007-10)
Since we’re talking about greatness, it’s only right that we have one of the greatest ever atop our list.
Although Randy Moss only played three-plus seasons with the Patriots, it was arguably one of the best stretches of his career in the NFL. Including the insane 23 touchdowns season in 2007, Moss caught a total of 50 touchdowns in his short stint in New England. That’s almost 17 touchdowns per season. He had 259 receptions in total and totaled 3,904 yards off those catches. His best moment would have been the go-ahead touchdown in Super Bowl XLII against the Giants, but Plaxico Burress happened and I know Moss and a lot of Pats fans would rather forget that painful loss.
I’ve always compared Randy Moss with NBA legend Allen Iverson, and it’s not just the braids.
Both were prolific offensive threats during their careers and sent shockwaves throughout their leagues. Iverson and Moss were both outspoken and controversial figures, but it’s no denying the two helped shape and modernize their respective sport’s culture. But ultimately, these two Hall of Fame athletes would share the most unfortunate similarity in their careers, being one of their sport’s all-time greats to retire without a championship.