Wide receiver is a position in the NFL that has created some of the biggest superstars, biggest divas, and best moments in history. Since the beginning of the game, receivers have been a paramount aspect of an offense, and the talent is only getting better.
We are coming off the deepest wide receiver draft class in recent memory. The 2020 NFL Draft was full of talent on the outside and the rookies are hoping to land on this list one day. Here, we break down the 20 greatest receivers to ever play the game of football.
20. Steve Smith Sr.
Smith was never the biggest receiver at 5’9 but you would never know it by the way he played the game. He played the game with a certain aggression and passion that will be hard to match.
Smith was known for his time as a Carolina Panther and spent three years in Baltimore. The future Hall of Famer is currently eighth all time in receiving yards. In 2005, he led the NFL in catches (103), receiving yards (1,563), and receiving touchdowns (12).
19. Reggie Wayne
Wayne had the luxury of catching passes from Peyton Manning throughout his career. He is still ranked 10th all time in career receiving yards. Wayne went over 1,000 yards eight times including a league-leading 1,510 yards in 2007. He caught 100 passes four times throughout his 14 year career.
18. Raymond Berry
Johnny Unitas and Berry teamed up to win two NFL Championships. During his time in the league, Berry was considered to be one of the top receivers. He led the league in receptions three times, receiving yards three times, and receiving touchdowns twice. Berry was elected into the Hall of Fame with six Pro Bowl appearances and three stints on the All-Pro First Team.
17. Michael Irvin
The Dallas Cowboys were the most dominant team in the 1990s. They won three Super Bowls behind Hall of Famers Troy Aikman and Irvin. The big receiver will be remembered as one of the best players of the decade and in franchise history. Irvin made five straight Pro Bowls from 1991-1995 and led the league in receiving in 1991.
16. Art Monk
Before Irvin could dominate the 90’s, it was Monk who was a huge part of the talented Washington Redskins’ teams. He caught 888 passes with the Redskins and nearly two-thirds of them went for first downs. That is an incredible state. He retired as the franchise’s all time leader in receptions. Monk was a three-time Pro Bowler who led the league in catches in 1984.
15. James Lofton
Lofton has fallen to 12th on the list, but he retired as the league’s all time leader in receiving yards. Lofton is an eight-time Pro Bowler that is one of 12 receivers ever to surpass 14,000 yards. He finished his career with eight postseason touchdowns.
14. Bob Hayes
Hayes entered the league like a bolt of lightning. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and named to the All-Pro First Team twice in his first four years. Hayes caught double-digit touchdown passes in five of his first six NFL seasons. Hayes is a huge reason that the zone defense was brought to the NFL given his incredible speed as an Olympic sprinter.
13. Marvin Harrison
Harrison was the Colts top weapon during his 14 year career. Harrison finished his career with 14,580 receiving yards and has some of the best seasons ever. In 2002, Harrison with a league-leading 143 catches for 1,722 yards. This is eighth all time for most receiving yards in a single season. He caught double-digit touchdowns in eight straight seasons from 1999-2006. Harrison will go down as one of the best receivers of his generation.
12. Isaac Bruce
Bruce was one of the main weapons for The Greatest Show on Turf. In 2002, Bruce totaled 119 catches for 1,781 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is currently fifth on the all time receiving list. There are just six pass catches with at least 15,000 receiving yards and Bruce is one of them.
11. Lance Alworth
Alworth is arguably the best receiver of the 60’s. He set numerous records at the time with the San Diego Chargers. Alworth led the league in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns on three separate occasions. He averaged over 100 yards per game twice and led the league in yards per receptions in 1965 at 23.2. Alworth was a First Team All-Pro selection six times. He set a mark of 96 games with a catch and went over 1,000 yards in seven straight years.
10. Don Maynard
Maynard is the best receiver to ever put on a Jets’ uniform. Joe Namath is the big name for New York during their Super Bowl III victory, but true fans won’t forget how important Maynard was. The four time Pro Bowler played 13 years with the Jets and was near the top of the league in every one of them.
9. Cris Carter
Carter had a nose for the end zone. He is ranked fourth all time in receiving touchdowns with 130. He led the league in touchdowns on three occasions including 17 in 1995. Carter went over 1,000 yards in eight straight seasons from 1993-2000. During that time, he scored double-digit touchdowns five times.
8. Tim Brown
Brown was extremely consistent during his 17 year career. He eclipsed 1,000 yards in nine straight years from 1993-2001. He was named to the Pro Bowl nine times in his career. Brown currently ranks in the top 10 in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.
7. Calvin Johnson
Johnson retied at age 30 and played just nine years in the league. This is why he is No. 7 on this list and not in the top three and possibly top two. Johnson was the most dominant receiver in the league during his time, and quite possible to ever play the game. He holds the single-season receiving record with 1,964 yards in 2007. Johnson was a seven-time Pro Bowler and was named First Team All=Pro three times. Johnson is a future Hall of Famer and best receiver in Detroit Lions’ history.
6. Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald will return to the field once again in 2020. He is not only one of the best receivers ever, but he is one of the best men in all of sports. Fitzgerald is an 11-time Pro Bowler. He led the NFL in catches twice and has nine seasons over 1,0000 yards. He also led the league in touchdowns twice. Fitzgerald is currently second on the all-time receiving list with 17,083 and is fifth all time in touchdowns with 120.
5. Steve Largent
There are only 10 receivers to score 100 touchdowns. Largent is one of them. He held the record for receiving touchdowns at the time of his retirement. The seven-time Pro Bowler is arguably the best player in Seattle Seahawks’ history. He led the NFL in receiving yards twice during his career.
4. Don Hutson
Hutson’s career spanned from 1935-1945. There are some people that will diminish his accomplishments because he played so long ago, but that is not how this works. Hutson was an eight-time All-Pro First Teamer. He led the league in catches eight times and receiving yards and touchdowns seven times each during his career. Hutson is far and away the best receiver of his time and some of his accomplishments will be hard to beat.
3. Terrell Owens
It is a sin that Owens was not elected to the Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility. It was a childish move by the selection committee. Owens was not the classiest player but all he did on the field was deliver. He currently ranks third all time in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He was named First Team All-Pro five times.
Owens saw great success for three teams. He did not spend much time in Philadelphia but he did play in a Super Bowl for the Eagles with a broken leg. Owens is known for his touchdown celebrations and is seen in a negative light by the media, but his play and presence is something that we may never see again.
2. Randy Moss
Moss set the tone for his career early on when he led the league in touchdowns with 17 during his rookie season. Moss led the NFL in receiving touchdowns five times and was named First Team All-Pro four times. He still holds the single-season record for receiving touchdowns with 23 in 2007.
Moss’ dominance cannot be denied. True dominance is your last name being used when someone goes over their defender to catch a pass. Moss is currently second all time in receiving touchdowns and fourth in yards.
1. Jerry Rice
This outcome was simple. Rice set records in the NFL that will never be met. Rice is an 11-time Pro Bowler that was named First Team All-Pro 10 times. He led the league in catches twice and receiving yards and touchdowns six times each.
Rice was also an incredible big game receiver. His records will be almost impossible to match. He has 22,895 receiving yards which is 5,812 more yards than No. 2 on the list. Rice caught 197 touchdowns which is 41 more than Moss at two. Finally, Rice leads all time with 1,549 catches. The next closest player is 171 away. Rice is clearly the best of all time.