Top 10 Best NFL Wide Receivers of All Time
His work ethic and hands were possibly the best of all time. He was very consistent, and while he never had the best season ever, he quite possibly is the best player ever, stat-wise.
Rice was known as Mr. Reliable. His "catch to drop" ratio was the highest ever, which ultimately earned him the record for most TDs ever for any receiver, most catches, and most receiving yards. He used to practice catching bricks as a kid with his dad, which is how he developed such soft hands for the ball. Jerry was known for his incredible work ethic and endurance, and it showed time after time when he would still be fresh in the 4th quarter while the defense was huffing and puffing. This shouldn't even be close. Rice is not only the greatest receiver to ever play the game but arguably the greatest player to ever play!
If a list of the top 5 best NFL seasons by a wide receiver were made, I think 2-3 of them would belong to him. If a list of 30 were made, 7-10 would likely belong to him. He had longevity, consistency, explosiveness, rings, and great numbers. The only critiques I can think of are that his single-season touchdown and yards records have been broken, he played in the era between modern athleticism and older supposed mugging, and he had good QBs. Nevertheless, he's still the best at this position, and in my mind, he's the second-best football player of all time. (I have to give #1 to Sammy Baugh, for his excellence at three positions at once).
He was a freak. He caught every deep ball thrown to him and was a game changer. Randy Moss could single-handedly turn a game around at any moment. He rivals Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson for the title of most athletic wide receiver of all time.
Randy Moss is the most athletic wide receiver ever. He's faster and more athletic than both Rice and Harrison. Though he might be less consistent and his awareness might not be on par, that doesn't mean it isn't impressive. Even with three defenders on him andhe'll still manage to catch the ball 60 yards deep. He's the biggest deep and TD threat the game has ever seen. If he had played with the Patriots right after the Vikings, his stats would be even more phenomenal than they already are. He may not get as many catches as Harrison or Rice, primarily because he's often busy going deep and scoring. He's the most influential player on a team when used correctly. He played on both the 15-1 Vikings and the 16-0 Patriots. If you pair him with a good quarterback and a solid defense, you're almost guaranteed at least 12 wins. His behavior could be better and he could exhibit more humility, but with his level of talent, it's evident he knows he's superior. He's the third-best receiver, following Rice and Harrison.
T.O. is probably the biggest difference-maker on a team when it comes to wide receivers. He always makes his team better. This is all assuming he likes his QB enough to play, but think about it. He helped the Eagles get to a Super Bowl, who made 4 consecutive NFC championship trips. He assisted the Cowboys in getting to the playoffs two consecutive years. Sure, as far as behavior goes, he is last on the list, but he knows his worth. Not as athletic as Rice or Moss but one of the strongest ever to play the position. He could catch the ball at the 7 and drag it about 5-6 more yards. Also, second to Rice, he is the most clutch receiver. Dubbed "The Catch II," Owens dropped 3 passes in that playoff game until catching the game-winning touchdown amidst 3 defenders. Then, coming off an injury, he had an amazing Super Bowl performance despite a losing effort. In all his playoff games, sure he mouthed off, but he never played poorly. T.O., aside from the Jessica Simpson saga, seems to be meshing with Romo, so unless Romo or the rest of the team messes up that badly, he will perform in the playoffs.
Trust me, I'm not a fan of any one team, just a fan of the NFL. REALLY THINK BACK. Do you remember Jerry Rice diving or going up over three men and coming down with the ball? No, he had a great system with the 49ers and great QBs throwing to him. Larry Fitzgerald has many times better hands, is bigger, faster, and better in every way. Well, except one. I do give it to Jerry Rice. He was a hard worker with a great work ethic. Randy Moss was way faster, way taller, and could jump much higher. Plus, he had better hands, no question about it. Cris Carter had the best hands of any wide out I've ever seen, along with Steve Largent. The true list is this:
1. Larry Fitzgerald
2. Cris Carter
3. Randy Moss
4. Calvin Johnson
5. Andre Johnson
6. Steve Smith
7. Terrell Owens
8. Brandon Marshall
9. Anquan Boldin
10. Steve Largent
11. Tory Holt
12. Lynn Swann
13. Sterling Sharpe
14. Reggie Wayne
15. Michael Irvin
16. Marvin Harrison
17. Gary Clark
18. Tim Brown
19. Fred Biletnikoff
20. Andre Rison
You need to be a deep threat with size, hands, clutch ability. A guy who, when it's 4th down with 1 second on the clock, you can throw the ball to without stress, knowing he's going to make the catch.
Marvin Harrison has more receiving yards than both T.O. and Randy Moss. He also won a Super Bowl, unlike T.O. or Randy Moss. So, in what context are those two superior? The only receiver potentially better than Marvin Harrison is Jerry Rice, primarily because Jerry had the legendary Joe Montana as his quarterback. Given that Marvin had Peyton, that comparison remains debatable.
Marvin Harrison holds the record for the most receptions in a season with 143, 20 more than the previous record. He has more receiving yards than Carter. He's superior to T.O. by far. He should be ranked either number 2 or 3 on this list, certainly not behind T.O., who likely holds the record for the most dropped passes. The duo of Marvin and Peyton is the best QB-WR pairing since Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.
Had Marvin not suffered that season-ending injury, he would have ranked second in every receiving category that year. He is the second-best wide receiver after Jerry Rice. Although he may not have played as long as Rice due to his physicality, his consistency and humility are commendable. Truly an unsung icon.
T.O. shouldn't even be on this list. He's always dropping passes, yet he's above a Hall of Famer. Just think about what Irvin did to get here and then think about what T.O. did when he's dropping passes.
Michael Irvin was one of the hardest working players on that Cowboys dynasty team. His leadership and talent helped that team to three Super Bowl wins.
Was not fast - he played in a run-first offense - made his living on the slant and the button hook - caught everything thrown his way and could not be brought down. First down, first down, first down - the dude never got injured. Can't think of many that play that way nowadays. Playmaker, #88, all day.
This dude was epic. He was unstoppable. Despite mediocre quarterback play, he always put up eye-popping stats and was possibly the most athletic player ever. The only thing holding him back is his lack of longevity.
This guy better step up, or the Lions should get a better QB. There's too much talent and potential to let go wasted. The dude is 6-5, 240 lbs. He's a beast. He has the third-best 40-yard dash time after Randy Moss and Deion Sanders (and we all know what they did in history). He has the second-best vertical after Randy Moss. This dude also has Marvin Harrison-style modesty. Imagine that: Randy Moss and Marvin Harrison. I know I'm getting ahead of myself, but I seriously want to see him develop quickly. The next Jerry Rice or better? Not likely, especially considering Jerry Rice came into the league with a Hall of Fame QB at the helm, Montana, not John Kitna. But hopefully, he comes close to it. One of the best college wide receivers ever. Hopefully, one of the best NFL wide receivers ever.
None of the rest of these receivers would even have jobs if not for Don Hutson.
He led the league in touchdowns and receiving to a degree no other wide out on this list ever approached.
He earned 8 first team all-pro awards.
He was in the inaugural Hall of Fame (HOF) class. Of all the players who have ever laced up cleats, he was on the short list of the best from ALL positions, not just WR.
Hutson still holds the following records:
- Most seasons leading league in pass receptions (8),
- Most consecutive seasons leading league in pass receptions (5),
- Most seasons leading league in pass receiving yards gained (7),
- Most consecutive seasons leading league in pass receiving yards gained (4),
- Most seasons leading league in pass receiving touchdowns (9),
- Most seasons leading the league in total touchdowns (8),
- Most consecutive seasons leading league in pass receiving touchdowns (5),
- Most seasons leading league in scoring (5), and
- Most consecutive seasons leading league in scoring.
His 99 receiving touchdowns was a career record that held for 44 years.
Additionally, he played defense and led the league in interceptions.
Alworth was a bit of an athletic freak. He had world-class speed and a vertical leap coupled with toughness. He was elusive and yet could hit and block. He was a star running back at Arkansas before being switched to receiver in the AFL. Additionally, he was the Yankees' first-round pick to be their center fielder. He was one of the most entertaining players to watch of all time. Yes, he was faster than Jerry Rice. Rice was never much of a burner. Alworth was the fastest man on the field in every game he played until he got older, and then Bob Hayes came along. If another Alworth (i.e., a white guy with toughness, freak athleticism, and movie star looks) came along, he would be so marketable that you could sign that one guy and start your own league of top young talent that would rival the NFL and force them into a merger. But, that already happened.
By far, Lance Alworth is the best wide receiver ever. While Jerry Rice is a close second, having seen both players up close and cheered for both of them, I can confidently state this. Lance Alworth achieved his success under Sid Gilman and Al Davis, while Jerry Rice benefited from the Bill Walsh offense. Bill Walsh learned the offense while in San Diego, receiving tutelage from the likes of Sid Gilman, Al Davis, and Paul Brown. He then perfected it before being hired as head coach of San Francisco. The offense evolved to a point where it became unstoppable, in part because of financial maneuvers like fudging the cap by 50 million. How else could you keep all those top-tier players on one team? At the time, the cap was only 50 million. By managing another 50 million, Ed Bartolio built a dynasty. Lance Alworth played during a time when the AFL wasn't even considered a real league. His achievements under those circumstances are extraordinary!
Played in an era without these advanced rubber gloves, new rules that strongly favor offense, and new sports science to help players be as strong and fast as they can possibly be. He had average QBs throwing to him his whole career, not fellow Hall of Famers. And he still absolutely owned the position. If he played today, with his incredible hands, intelligent route running, and fearlessness, we'd be talking about him as the greatest slot receiver to ever play the game. (I know he wasn't a slot receiver, but that's because the position didn't really exist back then. I'm thinking in terms of his size.)
Steve not only didn't have a good QB throwing to him, but his TEAM was also pretty terrible for most of his career because Seattle was an expansion team in 1976. Therefore, the defense knew that Steve was Seattle's only offensive weapon and applied their defensive strategy to stop him. Seattle's defense was also terrible, so they played from behind a lot. Despite this, Steve Largent put up numbers and clutch performances that made him one of, if not the, best in the game.
Larry Fitzgerald should be number 11 because his number is 11! Comedy aside, Larry is better than Lance Alworth, Calvin Johnson, Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, Michael Irvin, and Tim Brown. Randy Moss, Cris Carter, Don Hutson, and Jerry Rice are better than Larry, but overall, I still think Larry is the best.
He is a player that can grab 1,000 receiving yards in a season even with a trained zebra as QB, and that's what makes him the best. He doesn't rely on a strong passer, which is most important. Anyone can be good if he has to catch passes from Brady or Montana, but Leinart?
He's my all-time favorite player. Not only is he a great player, but he's also an outstanding person. Such a kind-hearted individual. He genuinely cares about everyone. He also clinched the game against the Packers, advancing them to the next round to face the Broncos, determining who would proceed to the Super Bowl.
Ok, I know this can't be right. Brown, along with Carter, out of the top 10 when you have guys like Steve Smith and Chad Johnson ahead of them? Moss and TO are also questionable, but I am not trying to take anything away from them. Some of those guys are good, but this is an all-time list, and Brown should be in the top 5 for sure. In many of the major records, he is ranked 2nd to only Rice, yet he still doesn't get the respect he deserves.
Rice, Brown, and Largent are the top three, but most of those today wouldn't last in the days when the receiver was blasted all the way down the field. Moss and T.O are too soft. Art Monk was one great receiver.
He was an explosive player who had season after season of great production. It's unfortunate that the Raiders teams he played on were subpar for most of his career, or he would undoubtedly be in the top 3.
As a huge Pittsburgh Steeler fan and a bigger... sorry, THE BIGGEST LYNN SWANN FAN, I must say this: This man was hospitalized a week before Super Bowl X with a concussion from a cheap shot. He played and became the Super Bowl MVP with 4 catches, 164 yards, and a touchdown, featuring some of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history. The way he flies through the air and makes his catches is like poetry in motion. With a name like Swann, it couldn't be more appropriate.
These are definitely the top 3. People who don't know much about these receivers need to do some research or not vote. Seriously, TO at No. 4? WOW.
This is what I think:
1. Jerry Rice
2. Lynn Swann
3. Cris Carter
Swann didn't have huge numbers. It wasn't a throwing era. But he was a human highlight reel. And tough. He took all the hits and never complained. An amazing player.
While not having the rings will hold a player back, it does not affect his stats. You have to consider that he spent some time injured and still boasts impressive statistics. Matt Schaub is a subpar QB, and let's not forget the days Johnson spent with Carr. It wasn't necessarily Carr's fault, as he was frequently sacked even before Johnson arrived in Houston. I felt bad for Carr and still do. Something's not right with that guy.
He's easily the most gifted receiver, second only to Randy Moss. A strong, physical guy who had great hands. I'm a Texans fan, so that's why I chose Andre. He will never be a Colt. He should easily be in the Hall of Fame because he never had a top-tier quarterback and still accumulated impressive stats. If he had a reliable quarterback, he'd probably be among the top five wide receivers without question.
He has always had a decent or worse QB throwing to him. If he had had a dynamic QB, then he would own almost all the receiving records in the book. He is my all-time favorite player and deserves at least top 10, if not the top 5.
He should be at least number 5. Come on. He has the number 1 receiving yards, number 5 in receptions, and number 9 in touchdowns. He's number 2 in average. He also has multiple recording records, was a great leader, and is the reason the Rams won the Super Bowl! He has it all. And how can Moss be number 2? The only thing he beat Bruce in was the 40-yard dash! Everyone that voted has seen Randy play, and that's why they vote for him.
He set the record for receiving yards in a season for a few hours before Jerry Rice passed it the same day. He did it in a horrible offense, well before the Greatest Show On Turf. He retired 2nd all-time in receiving yards. He should be higher than 19th without a doubt.
Smoothest route runner of all time. Great downfield blocker as well, having sprung blocks for Bettis, Marshall Faulk, and Steven Jackson. Old school, baby! Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion. Lifelong RAM! Hall of Famer for sure.
If his team had won just one Super Bowl, there would have been a different light shone on him. This guy had it all: speed, quickness, strength, tenacity, courage, attitude, and intelligence. He wasn't into self-promotion and was always a class act.
You can't rank Chad Ocho Cinco Johnson or even Michael Irvin above this guy. Andre Reed is arguably the best run-after-catch wide receiver of all time, second only to Jerry Rice. I recall a play where Andre went across the middle, broke six or seven tackles, and scored.
He played even with broken ribs. A tough WR who could run both short and deep routes. Add in his willingness to block, and he's far superior to Ocho Cinco, Isaac Bruce, Tim Brown, Hines Ward, Steve Smith, Cris Carter, Irvin, Harrison, Owens, and Moss.
Pound-for-pound, Steve Smith is the toughest guy in NFL history. He's the smallest guy on the field, yet he's ALWAYS knocking people over (or juking them out of their shoes and then blowing by them). Steve Smith also ALWAYS shows up big in major games. He has scored a TD in 9 of 11 playoff games. And one of the other two was a 100-yard receiving game last year. For comparison, Marvin Harrison has scored a TD in 1 of 16 playoff games.
BEST I EVER SAW! Toughness, competitiveness, route running. What receiver is more dangerous once the ball is in his hand? He went to the Pro Bowl as a returner in his 1st year in the league. He has a triple crown (only Sterling Sharp and Jerry Rice have this honor), was a runner up for MVP for the NFL (unheard of for a WR). Where is Sean Alexander now? He never played with HOF QBs. The man is 5'9"! He has the nastiest stiff arm ever for a receiver, will block your path fiercely. You want me to keep going? My man gets no love. Maybe this will help.
Reggie is an awesome route runner. He doesn't drop the ball and is number 7 all time. He will finish as number 1.
May finish in the top 10.
He is outstanding. Currently the 2nd best after Randy Moss.
Amazing route runner, right behind Marvin Harrison!
Roddy White is an extremely good player. Injuries have been affecting him lately, which is sad. He is often overlooked because he plays alongside such talented wide receivers, like Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez, but he is Atlanta's greatest wide receiver of all time.
Why is Roddy White even being considered?
Roddy White is the greatest wide receiver in the history of football.
Brandon Marshall is undoubtedly a great player, but he still has more years to play and improve. He hasn't yet reached Hall of Fame potential.
One of the best wide receivers ever, yet he has never been in the playoffs.
He currently holds the record for most receptions in a game. I know someone already mentioned this, but it's worth noting.
Easily top 5. He played in a shorter season and without the rules in place today that open up the passing game.
You can count the number of dropped passes in his career on one hand.
When he scored, which was often, he didn't showboat like many of today's receivers do.
One of the most precise route runners of all time. The younger guys might not be aware, but he out-thought and outworked the defenses. He also worked with Unitas to set up plays based on the tendencies of the offense. He is a top 10 all-time.
He was a pioneer that paved the way for others to follow. He improved the position with analytical preparation that enhanced his natural abilities.
I don't think they give Wes a lot of credit for his downfield stuff because he's so well-known for his short routes. But he is very explosive down the field. He should be ranked much higher than Andre Reed because Reed doesn't have four seasons with 110 receptions.
Wes is one of the greatest. He might be one of the smallest wide receivers, but he has one of the biggest hearts. He catches 70% or more of everything.
He proved height doesn't matter when you are trying to make it to the top.
He is the most entertaining player to watch of all time. This man once tried to bribe a ref with a single dollar!
This guy is an idiot.
I think he is better than Fitzgerald, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Marshall, and many others. He deserves to rank much higher on this list, close to Calvin Johnson. Both are great receivers, so he should be positioned higher.
He's like a god. Have you seen him play? I'm definitely going to vote for him.
He's the new kid on the block doing it big.
I've always believed that if not for his neck injury, Sterling would be considered the best receiver to ever play the game. He had better speed than Rice, was stronger and more physical than Rice, and had equally impressive hands. He'll remain one of my all-time favorites, even if record books eventually forget him.
He has better stats than many players on this list, especially considering his short career. When you compare his numbers to Rice's first 7 years in the league, Sterling is not far behind.
He was the only notable receiver on the team. Everyone on the defense knew the ball was headed his way, yet he still set a record for catches.