New England Patriots: Ranking The 10 Best Wide Receivers in Team History

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IFebruary 23, 2011

New England Patriots: Ranking The 10 Best Wide Receivers in Team History

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 27: Randy Moss #81 of the New England Patriots reacts on the sideline after he caught his third touchdown pass of the day against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium on December 27, 2009 in Foxboro, Ma
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    The New England Patriots have recently built quite a reputation for having one of the league's best passing attacks, led by Tom Brady, but fueled by the wide receivers such as Deion Branch and Wes Welker.

    There have been many great receivers to put on the Patriots uniform, but who were the best?

    Many important factors need to be weighed into that opinion. Of course, the rules have more recently been steered a bit toward the passing game, but also, the passing game was never favored nearly as much schematically as it is now.

    So, with all that in mind, here are my opinions on the 10 best wide receivers in Patriots history.

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10. Jim Colclough

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    Not outstanding, but steadily productive, Jim Colclough was one of the first New England Patriots. He exploded out of the gate with 28 touchdown receptions in his first three years.

    He recorded over 600 yards receiving in each of his first six seasons in the league.

    Although his production dipped dramatically in the final two years of his career, has to be remembered for his largely productive seasons as one of the better New England Patriots receivers of all time.

9. Harold Jackson

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    He spent just four years with the Patriots, but Harold Jackson leads the Patriots in yards per reception for any player with over 10 receptions as a Patriot with a hefty 20.3 yards per catch.

    None of his Pro Bowl or All-Pro seasons came with the Patriots, but he contributed mightily to a pass attack that was just starting to find its identity.

    In his four years with the team, Jackson totaled 156 receptions for 3,162 yards and 18 touchdowns.

8. Terry Glenn

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    10 Oct 1999: Terry Glenn #88 of the New England Patriots carries  the ball for a touchdown during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Chiefs defeated the Patriots 16-14. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr  /A
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    For five years, Terry Glenn was one of the best receivers in the league.

    His blazing speed had him bursting out of the gate with what was the rookie record of 90 receptions to go along with 1,132 yards receiving and six touchdowns.

    Those afterburners also helped him get past defenders and twice helped him best the 1,000-yard receiving total in a season as a Patriot.

    His relationship with the Patriots may have ended on a sour note, but his time there was oh so sweet.

7. Gino Cappalletti

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    Gino Cappalletti did a lot of things remarkably well for the Patriots in his 10 years with the team. One of those things was catch passes.

    Apart from two seasons in which he only had one reception (due to playing other positions), Cappalletti had 290 receptions for 4,540 yards and 42 touchdowns in eight seasons.

    Cappalletti could be considered one of the best undrafted free agent signings of all time.

6. Troy Brown

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    03 Feb 2002:   Troy Brown of the New England Patriots cradles the ball as he heads downfield against the St.Louis Rams during Superbowl XXXVI at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Patriots won 20-17, with a 48-yard field goal by kicker Adam Vin
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Let's face it. This list wouldn't have been complete without Brown on it.

    His production was never off the charts, but he worked harder than just about any receiver on the Patriots staff from the day he was drafted until the day he retired. He was one of Tom Brady's favorite targets and reeled in 89 receptions for 1,011 yards off the arm of Brady in 2001.

    Then, of course, there are the several late-game clutch receptions he had for the Patriots throughout his career, including big fourth-quarter receptions in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII—three big ones on the two game-winning drives.

    Troy Brown makes this list not for any eye-popping numbers, but for his contributions to the Patriots' dynasty of '01-'04.

5. Deion Branch

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06:  Deion Branch #84 of the New England Patriots scores on a 25-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter against Antonio Cromartie #31 of the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (P
    Elsa/Getty Images

    The two-time Patriot packs a lot of talent in a little frame.

    He's made a ton of big plays when it matters, coming up with 10 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl 38 and 11 catches for 133 yards in Super Bowl XXXIX, the latter of which earning him game MVP honors.

    He has always been a clutch receiver for the Patriots when it mattered most, and proved just that in his first game back in 2010. He had nine receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens, most of that production coming in the fourth quarter and overtime.

    He's never had 100 receptions, 1,000 yards or double-digit touchdowns, but he has been steadily productive in every season he's worn a Patriots uniform.

4. Irving Fryar

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    2 Oct 1988:  Irving Fryar #80 of the New England Patriots catches the ball during the game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots defeated the Clots 21-17. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart  /Allsport
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Fryar's 363 receptions for 5,726 yards and 38 touchdowns in nine seasons with the team make him arguably one of New England's best receivers in the short history of the franchise.

    He earned his first Pro Bowl berth in just his second year in the league, helping lift the Patriots to their first Super Bowl berth in team history.

    He is in or near the top five in every major all-time receiving category.

    It would be a lot easier to love him if he hadn't done so much damage to the Patriots as a member of the Miami Dolphins.

3. Wes Welker

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    DETROIT - NOVEMBER 25:  Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots catches a pass for a first down as Louis Delmas #26 of the Detroit Lions makes the stop during the first quarter of the game at Ford Field on November 25, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Phot
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Three years with over 100 receptions earns Welker a spot on this list. Regardless of whether his stats are a result of the system or not, his sure hands and quickness have served him and the team very well.

    He was on pace to break the single season record for receptions, but was out for a few games over the course of the season with injury and logged just one reception in the final game of the 2009 season when he tore his ACL.

    In 2010, he came back from that surgery just eight months later to put up 86 receptions for 848 yards and seven touchdowns in a season where many thought he'd struggle mightily coming off the surgery, and then also without Randy Moss to open up the middle of the defense.

    He has yet to win a Super Bowl with the Patriots, but the team is primed to make a few more runs, and Welker should remain a big part of the offense as long as Tom Brady's throwing the ball.

2. Stanley Morgan

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    BUFFALO, NY - 1989:  Wide receiver Stanley Morgan #86 of the New England Patriots runs on the field during a 1989 NFL game against the Buffalo Bills at Rich Stadium  in Buffalo, New York.  The Bills defeated the Pats 31-10.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty I
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    The debate between Morgan and the No. 1 receiver on this list (no peeking) comes down to a few things.

    The tortoise vs. the hare: No. 1 had several phenomenal seasons, but only those few seasons. Morgan produced consistently, albeit steadily, over a long period of time (13 seasons).

    The game: No. 1 had several rules changes that favor receivers, while Morgan played in the heart of darkness for NFL receivers.

    The quarterbacks: No. 1 had a future Hall of Fame quarterback throwing to him. Morgan had Tony Eason and Steve Grogan, among other far-less-talented quarterbacks.

    I think I stated my case as to why Morgan is No. 2 on this list, and the No. 1 is...

1. Randy Moss

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    FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Randy Moss #81 of the New England Patriots looks on before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals during the NFL season opener on September 12, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Even in just three seasons with the team, Randy Moss made a bigger impact than almost any receiver in New England's long history.

    With a record-breaking 23 touchdown receptions in a single season, how could that be argued?

    He may be one of the biggest divas in team history, but he was also one of the most explosive receivers the team ever enjoyed on their offense.

    In three seasons and four games with New England, he totaled 259 receptions for 3,904 yards and 50 touchdowns, putting him second all time in touchdowns.

    His better years may be behind him, but the Patriots got the most before the proverbial moss started to gather.