The 10 Greatest Seasons by a Wide Receiver in NFL History

Steven ResnickSenior Writer IMarch 22, 2009

When trying to find the best season by a wide receiver there's a lot more to it that meets the eye. For example would you rather have a wide receiver that averages a lot of yards per catch? Would you rather have them average 10 yards? Does the amount of catches matter? Yards? Touchdowns?

For example, in 2002, Marvin Harrison caught 143 passes for 1722 yards which is an average of 12 yards per catch, and he also had 11 touchdowns, but was that his best season?

One could argue that it was and another could argue that his 1999 season was better when he caught 115 passes for 1663 yards had a yard per catch average of 14.5 and had 12 touchdowns.

While another argument would be that sure it was a great season, but was it one of the top 10 ever? Sure the 143 receptions was the most in NFL history and he lead the league in receiving yards as well.

Yet, even with the 143 catches it wasn't the most yards in NFL history and on top of that only 11 touchdowns. So, did Harrison make the list? 

There are also players like Jimmy Smith who had incredible seasons, yardage-wise, but were much lower in touchdown totals as well.

What about Carl Pickens, who had a tremendous amount of touchdowns? Did he make the cut?  

So here is the list:

10. Jerry Rice's 2002 season: Rice's numbers were 92 catches for 1211 yards, 13.2 yards per catch, a long of 75, and 7 touchdowns.

Now, one would wonder why would Rice's 2002 season would be on the list. For most receivers, this would be a career year for them, maybe not the seven touchdowns, but the total number of receptions and of course the long touchdown catch, yet not for Rice.

What makes this season special is that Rice did this at the age of 40 when there were a lot of doubters that he could still play at a high level.

9. Bob Hayes 1966 season: Hayes' numbers were 62 catches for 1232 yards, an impressive 19.3 yards per catch, a long of 95, and 13 touchdowns.

For Hayes' career he averaged an amazing 20 yards per catch, but unfortunately for him only one of his seasons ever got him past the magic number of 50-plus receptions and over 1,000 yards.

8. Buddy Dial's 1963 season: Dial's numbers were 60 catches for 1295 yards, an incredible 21.6 yards per catch, a long of 83 yards, and what puts him at eighth on the list is he only had 9 touchdowns.  

Dial's season could be dropped lower because he had well over 20 yards per catch, but only nine touchdowns. Touchdowns are an important state as well, but one could argue that his ability to get a lot of yards made it easier for his team to score as well.

7. Torry Holt's 2003 season: Holt's numbers 117 catches for 1696, 14.5 yards per catch, a long of 48, and 12 touchdowns.

Now, Holt's season was impressive due the amount of catches, yards, decent yard per catch average, but what puts him lower is the total amount of touchdowns, and, of course, only a long of 48.

Meaning that he wasn't as dangerous as the other receivers were in this year.

Now, Holt's 2000 season was an incredible one where he averaged 19.9 yards per catch, but only had six touchdowns. So, that season wasn't as impressive as this one because he found the end zone more often.

6. Herman Moore's 1995 season: Moore's numbers 123 catches for 1686 yards, 13.7 yards per catch, a long of 69, and 14 touchdowns.

None of Moore's numbers were eye popping in terms of yards per catch, but he did set a then record for most receptions in a season, until that was broken by Marvin Harrison.

5. Isaac Bruce's 1995 season: Bruce's season 119 catches for 1781 yards, 15 yards per catch, a long of 72, and 13 touchdowns.

Originally, I had Marvin Harrison's 143-catch season here, but Bruce's numbers were better than Harrison's except for being 24 catches behind the 143 receptions by Harrison.

Bruce had more yards, averaged more yards per catch, and had two more touchdowns than Harrison. To me, yes, receptions are important and getting first downs are important, but even with 24 more catches than Bruce, was Harrison as dangerous of a threat? The answer is no. 

4. Cris Carter's 1995 season: Carter's season 122 catches for 1371 yards, only 11.2 yards per catch, a long of 60, and 17 touchdowns.

Now what makes Carter's season better than Bruce's season? Well the answer is even though Carter had three more receptions, he had six more touchdowns. Meaning that he was a bigger threat in the end zone than Bruce was.

Considering the fact that Carter only averaged 11.2 yards per catch it meant he did well as a possession receiver, but he also as one that had the ability to get open to get a key first down or grab the key reception in the red zone.  

3. Charley Hennigan's 1961 season: Hennigan's season 82 catches for 1746 yards, an astonishing 21.3 yards per catch, a long of 80, and 12 touchdowns.

Hennigan's numbers are impressive including the amount of catches, the amount of yards which is third in NFL history, the 21.3 yards per catch and keeping that average for more than 50 catches is a huge accomplishment, but the only thing that brings him down is the amount of touchdowns only 12.

If he had a few more touchdowns, this could have been the finest season for a wide receiver.

2. Randy Moss 2007 season: Moss's season 98 catches for 1493 yards, an average of 15.2 yards per catch, a long of 65, and the NFL record for most touchdowns in a season.

Now, Moss did score the record for most touchdowns in a season by a wide receiver but it wasn't like he set it for a huge amount. Only one more than the previous record. His yardage is a little down from being the top spot, and his 15.2 yards per catch is solid, but still there was someone with a better season than Moss's.

T-1. Jerry Rice 1987 season: Rice's season 65 catches for 1078 yards, an average of 16.6 yards per catch, long of 57, and a then NFL record of 22 touchdowns.

Now the argument would be but Rice only had 65 catches just closing in on 1100 yards, he did have a better yards per catch average, and a then record of 22 touchdowns. Now the answer as to why this season was tied for the best in NFL history is because these numbers were done in 12 games.

So it's easy to tell if Rice was able to play the full 16 game season his catches would be around 85, 1400 yards, and about 27 touchdowns. Keep in mind Moss's numbers were put up in 16 games.  

T1. Jerry Rice 1995 season: Rice's season 122 catches for 1848 yards, 15.1 yards per catch, a long of 81, and 15 touchdowns. 

Now this season couldn't be left off as the number one season in NFL history. Not only did Rice catch the second most passes in NFL history, he set the record for most yards in a season in NFL history.

He averaged just as much yards as Moss did in his big season, the only thing that hurt this season and why it is not in sole possession of number one spot is that he had seven less touchdowns from his 1987 season.


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