Power Ranking the 5 Greatest Wide Receivers in Minnesota Vikings History
Welcome to the latest in a series of slideshows that power rank the greatest Minnesota Vikings of all time by position. Each week will feature a different position, and the best Vikings to take the field at that position will be ranked from fifth to first.
How does a guy get on the list?
It's all about being a Viking. While stats are taken into account, there are more subjective criteria as well. There's a certain feel to those classic Vikings standing on the sideline at Met Stadium in freezing conditions with steam coming out of their face masks. Those are the quintessential Vikings to many fans.
Certain players, such as Mike Morris and Scott Studwell, would have fit perfectly in that era. Those are true Vikings. Other players, particularly Adrian Peterson, would have been fun in any era.
These lists are filled with players who epitomize what it means to be a Viking.
Last week, we covered the safeties. This week, we'll focus on wide receivers.
In the rich history of the Minnesota Vikings (and the less prestigious history of these lists), there have been a bevy of outstanding wide receivers. This was, by far, the most difficult list in the series to compile. Some really outstanding pass catchers have been left off.
A few of the guys who did make the list are amongst the greatest players to ever wear purple, regardless of position.
Click on as we power rank the top wide receivers in Minnesota Vikings history.
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference unless otherwise noted.
Honorable Mention: Ahmad Rashad
Competition was fierce for the honorable mention spot on this list of the greatest wide receivers ever to play for the Minnesota Vikings. Many factors were considered in coming up with an honoree.
Paul Flatley was considered for giving the fledgling franchise some credibility. Flatley was the first "star" receiver to play for Minnesota, and his contributions aided in the Vikings' rise to prominence in the late '60s.
John Gilliam and Gene Washington were both considered because they were dangerous deep threats for the Vikings in the '60s and '70s.
Percy Harvin had his versatility and explosiveness. Hassan Jones made over 220 catches for the Vikings over a seven-year period. Both received strong consideration for honorable mention on this list. Leo Lewis was also considered for his versatility.
In the end, the honor went to Ahmad Rashad. Rashad came to the Vikings after three nondescript years in St. Louis and Buffalo. By the time he was done, Rashad was fifth in team history with 34 receiving touchdowns.
His 5,489 yards are good for seventh on the all-time list. His 400 receptions place him sixth. Rashad played the possession receiver to Sammy White's deep threat on the dominant Vikings' squads of the mid-to-late '70s.
However, it was Rashad's one-handed catch as he backed into the end zone during the last home game of the 1980 season that catapulted him past all of the competition (see video).
Rashad's grab remains the most famous catch in Vikings history. Coupled with his four Pro Bowl appearances in seven years in Minnesota, that catch was enough to earn Ahmad Rashad Honorable Mention on the list of greatest Vikings receivers in history.
5. Sammy White
Sammy White was drafted by the Vikings out of tiny Grambling State in the second round of the 1976 NFL draft.
White burst onto the NFL scene, starting all 14 games as a rookie. (That was a rarity for a Bud Grant-coached team. Rookies usually spent a year or two on the sidelines learning the game.) White caught 51 passes for 906 yards and 10 touchdowns that first year, grabbing NFL Rookie of the Year honors.
For a player who was a consummate deep threat, White wasn't particularly flashy. He made the Pro Bowl his first two years in Minnesota and scored 28 touchdowns in his first three seasons. He only had 1,000 receiving yards in a season one time and never grabbed more than 66 passes in a year.
However, White was steady and dependable. When all was said and done, he played 10 years for the Vikings and contributed to some of the best squads in team history.
White ended his career with 393 catches (good for seventh on Minnesota's all-time list), 50 touchdowns (fourth) and 6,400 receiving yards (fifth). For his consistent contributions and his accumulated numbers over a 10-year career, White slipped past former teammate Ahmad Rashad for the No. 5 spot on this list of greatest Vikings receivers ever.
4. Jake Reed
Speaking of guys who were pretty quiet, Jake Reed played his entire career with either Anthony Carter, Cris Carter or Randy Moss (or some combination of two) on the same roster. That may explain how Reed never made the Pro Bowl despite racking up more than 1,100 receiving yards in four straight years.
Reed was never the No. 1 receiver on the team, but still managed to put up startling numbers. Over a decade in Minnesota, Reed ended up fourth all-time in receiving yards (6,433), fifth in catches (450) and sixth in touchdowns (33). Reed teamed up with Cris Carter to make the Vikings the first team in NFL history with a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in four straight seasons.
The ultimate team player, Reed's consistent production and willingness to be "the other guy" at receiver for his entire career boost him to No. 4 on the list of greatest Minnesota receivers ever.
3. Anthony Carter
Anthony Carter specialized in making a big impact. In his college career at Michigan, he was a staple of the weekly highlight shows, and left the school as the record holder in just about every receiving category. Now, more than 30 years later, he still ranks in the top five of most categories.
Carter then moved on to the USFL, where he played three seasons, and was one of the biggest receiving threats in the entire league.
Then he came to Minnesota. Carter's first year with the Vikings was 1985, when he finished with 43 catches for 821 yards and eight touchdowns. Injuries limited Carter's production in 1986, but in 1987, he began a string of three straight Pro Bowl seasons.
His 24.3 yards per catch in 1987 was tops in the NFL, and his performance against the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs that year (10 catches, a then-record 227 yards) is still the stuff of legend.
Carter played nine years for the Vikings. He has the fourth most receptions in team history (486) and ranks third in both receiving yards (7,636) and touchdowns (52). For his ability to make the big play, Carter edges out Jake Reed for the No. 3 spot on the list of greatest receivers ever in Minnesota.
2. Cris Carter
Cris Carter is no stranger to controversy.
His outstanding college career was cut short after three seasons because he signed with a sports agent, and he was forced to skip his senior year with the Buckeyes. After being selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round of the 1987 supplemental draft, Carter spent three controversial seasons in Philly before being cut loose by then-Eagles coach Buddy Ryan.
Though Carter had been relatively productive for the Eagles, scoring 19 times in those three seasons, his off-field problems forced Ryan to cut him. Ryan famously stated that losing Carter wasn't that big of a deal, since "all he does is catch touchdowns."
The Vikings acquired Carter off of waivers for $100. It may be the best money the franchise ever spent. Carter blossomed in Minnesota, being named to eight straight Pro Bowls and garnering first-team All Pro honors twice.
He holds every meaningful receiving record in Minnesota history. He ranks first all-time in catches (1,004), yards (12,383) and touchdowns (110). He also holds the record for receptions in a season, twice snaring 122 balls.
Though he played with 13 different starting quarterbacks during his 12 years in Minnesota, Carter was named to the NFL Team of the Decade for the 1990s and surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in eight straight years.
Controversy followed Carter throughout his career in Minnesota. While popular with fans, he famously feuded with the media, the coaching staff and several teammates. While many didn't consider him a nice guy, no one could argue with his production.
Maybe the biggest controversy of Carter's career came after his playing days. Carter's poor relationships with the media were a factor in his having to wait five years after becoming eligible before being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this month.
Some may call it controversial that Carter is only No. 2 on this list, given his production and his place in NFL history. He easily made the top two, but just didn't have quite enough impact to take the top spot.
1. Randy Moss
Randy Moss once famously told reporters that he played when he wanted to play. A look at his career statistics bears that proclamation out. In some years, Moss was easily the best receiver in the NFL. In others, he was largely a non-factor on the field and a huge distraction off of it.
No one can deny that when Moss was motivated, he was one of the greatest receivers in NFL history. He didn't waste any time making an impact. The Vikings drafted Moss in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft following his checkered college career. He exploded onto the NFL scene, grabbing 69 passes for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns.
That was the first of five times that Moss led the league in touchdown receptions (three with Minnesota). He was the premiere deep threat in the league and forced foes to utterly change the way they played defense.
Though frequently a distraction off the field, Moss was a best between the lines. In his seven full years with the Vikings, Moss was a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He was a first-team All Pro pick three times with Minnesota.
Though only a Viking for seven full seasons (and part of an infamous eighth), Moss ranks No. 2 in touchdowns (92), yards (9,316) and receptions (587).
While he was easily outdistanced by Cris Carter in each of those categories, Moss' explosive impact on his team, and on the entire league, push him past the Hall of Famer to the top spot as the greatest receiver in Vikings history.
Check in next week for the next power ranking of all-time Vikings.
Is someone on the list who shouldn't be there? Have a player you'd like to nominate? Speak your mind in the comments section below.
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