The Top 10 NFL Wide Receivers of All Time
Jerry Rice is the undisputed No. 1 receiver in NFL history. No other wideout can touch the San Francisco 49ers legend's career numbers.
But after him, it's one massive debate at every single spot.
Dozens of wide receivers have realistic arguments for a top-10 place, and the fact that their production comes in different eras of the league only complicates the discussion. Picking out the 10 most worthy players is a challenging yet enjoyable task.
The list is based on individual production and achievements, but longevity and era-adjusted contributions also factored into the order. AFL players were also considered.
Antonio Brown: Clear a space, Canton, because Brown is headed your way. Already a must-include name in the top-10 conversation, the Pittsburgh Steelers wideout has eclipsed the 10,000-yard mark for his career and is the only receiver ever to record five straight 100-catch seasons.
Tim Brown: Brown eased into greatness. After managing an unspectacular 2,245 yards in his first five seasons, the Raiders star exploded for nine straight 1,000-yard outputs and narrowly missed a 10th consecutive year. He posted 14,934 yards and 100 touchdowns during a 17-year career.
Isaac Bruce: A key contributor to the Greatest Show on Turf, Bruce notched eight 1,000-yard campaigns during his 14-year tenure with the Rams franchise. The four-time Pro Bowler and 1999 Super Bowl champion totaled 15,208 receiving yards, the fifth-most in NFL history.
James Lofton: Lofton was a consistent force for the Green Bay Packers, averaging no fewer than 50 yards per game in nine seasons. He also played on four other teams, most notably the Raiders and Buffalo Bills, en route to a then-record 14,004 career yards.
10. Calvin Johnson
When talking about the most talented receivers in history, Calvin Johnson is undoubtedly a top-five selection. However, "Megatron" only played nine seasons for the Detroit Lions (2007-15).
But he sure was special.
Johnson twice led the NFL in receiving yards, highlighted by a record-breaking 1,964-yard campaign in 2012. That season encapsulates why he followed the trend of previous Lions legend Barry Sanders and retired early, though. Detroit mustered a 4-12 record.
Despite the frustration of not playing for a contender, Johnson amassed 731 receptions for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns.
9. Lance Alworth
Lance Alworth helped usher in a new brand of football and ended his career as one of the most prolific receivers in history.
Behind only Don Maynard, Alworth ranked second in receiving yards when he hung up the cleats. The longtime San Diego Chargers standout posted 542 catches for 10,266 yards and 85 touchdowns, boasting seven 1,000-yard seasons.
The UPI AFL Player of the Year in 1963, Alworth landed on six first-team All-Pro lists and seven Pro Bowl squads. He entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 1978 class.
8. Marvin Harrison
Marvin Harrison had a remarkable connection with Peyton Manning, resulting in an all-time record of 114 touchdowns between the duo.
"I think many records will be broken—most of my records will be broken," Manning said in 2016, per Nicki Jhabvala, then writing for the Denver Post. "I don't believe that record that me and Marvin have of throwing the most touchdowns together will ever be broken."
A product of Syracuse, Harrison ended his 13-year career with 128 scores. Additionally, the Hall of Famer's 1,102 receptions ranked second in NFL history at the time of his retirement.
Harrison was a Pro Bowl mainstay from 1999-2006, earning three first-team All-Pro mentions during that span.
7. Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald, the 2016 Walter Payton Man of the Year, has shaped a legacy that extends beyond the field. Between the white lines, though, he's earned the nickname "Larry Legend" for a reason.
The No. 3 overall pick of the 2004 draft has spent his entire career with the Arizona Cardinals, setting franchise records across the board while climbing the NFL's all-time lists. Entering 2018, he had 1,234 catches for 15,545 yards and 110 scores.
Barring injury, Fitzgerald will end his career as history's No. 2 player in receiving yards with top-10 marks in receptions and touchdowns. Within a decade of retirement, he'll enter the Hall of Fame.
6. Cris Carter
Famous for making extremely difficult grabs on the sideline, Cris Carter turned in a sensational 16-year career.
Off-field issues led to his surprising exit from the Philadelphia Eagles after only three seasons, but Carter has acknowledged the release helped him turn around his life. He landed with the Minnesota Vikings and caught more than 1,000 passes for the franchise.
Carter spent 12 years in Minnesota and racked up 12,383 of his 13,899 career yards as a member of the team. An eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Carter joined the Hall of Fame in 2013.
5. Steve Largent
All-time records had moved a little higher once Seattle Seahawks legend Steve Largent decided to retire.
In 1976, the Houston Oilers used a fourth-round pick on the Tulsa wideout before trading him to Seattle in the preseason. He quickly became a featured piece of the offense and notched eight straight 1,000-yard years, excluding the strike-shortened 1982 season. Largent twice led the NFL receiving.
His career totals of 819 catches, 13,089 yards and 100 touchdowns stood atop the NFL's record books. The 1988 Walter Payton Man of the Year appeared on seven Pro Bowl teams.
4. Terrell Owens
Despite the controversy—or, perhaps, hurt feelings—that accompanied Terrell Owens' induction into the Hall of Fame in 2018, his on-field performance demanded a place in Canton.
While "T.O." spent a majority of his career with the 49ers, he put together successful years with the Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Bills and Cincinnati Bengals too. Owens registered nine seasons of 1,000-plus yards and eight with 10-plus touchdowns.
Overall, he racked up 1,078 receptions, 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns—and the latter two totals are top-three marks in NFL history. Owens gathered six Pro Bowl nods and five All-Pro honors.
3. Randy Moss
"Randy Moss is the most physically gifted receiver in the history of the game," said former NFL head coach Brian Billick, per NFL.com. "We have never had nor will we ever see another wide receiver with the speed, leaping ability, hands and burst of Randy Moss."
How's that for a recommendation?
Moss is the only receiver other than Jerry Rice to notch 10 seasons of 1,000-plus yards—one of which happened during an Offensive Rookie of the Year effort in 1998. Six occurred in Minnesota, followed by one with Oakland and three for the Patriots.
Though Moss has since dropped out of the all-time top 10 in receptions, the six-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro ranks second in touchdowns (156) and fourth in receiving yards (15,292).
2. Don Hutson
Don Hutson was the NFL's first elite receiver. He's the only player who suited up before 1945 to record 3,500 yards in his career.
And the "Alabama Antelope" more than doubled the mark.
Hutson wrapped up his 11 years in Green Bay at then-records of 488 receptions, 7,991 yards and 99 touchdowns. The MVP of the 1941 and 1942 seasons, he paced the league in several categories multiple times, including in receiving yards (seven), receptions (eight) and touchdowns (nine).
During his career, Hutson won three championships with the Packers and earned a spot on eight All-Pro teams.
1. Jerry Rice
There is simply no debate.
Jerry Rice obliterated all of the previous receiving records, bringing in 1,549 catches for 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns. Still, even when breaking a mark was inevitable, he still felt pressure.
"I was really so happy to get it done," Rice told the Baltimore Sun after earning the touchdowns record in 1994, per Rhiannon Walker of The Undefeated. "When I caught that last ball, so much pressure just left my body."
In addition to his several other NFL-bests, the Hall of Famer won three Super Bowls, two Offensive Player of the Year honors, appeared in 13 Pro Bowls and made 10 first-team All-Pro lists.