10 Best Wide Receiver Rookie Seasons in NFL History

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIJune 21, 2011

10 Best Wide Receiver Rookie Seasons in NFL History

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    26 Dec 1998:   Randy Moss #84 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on the field during a game against the Nashville Oilers at the Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. The Vikings defeated the Oilers 26-16. Mandatory Credit: Scott Halleran  /Allsport
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    There are few who would argue that Jerry Rice isn't the best receiver in NFL history.  However, after Rice's rookie season of 49 catches for 927 yards and three touchdowns, no one expected him to break nearly every receiving record during his career.

    Even though any list about receivers that excludes Jerry Rice may seem incomplete, I guarantee you that the following 10 players all had better rookie seasons than the greatest receiver ever.  

    With players like Randy Moss and Bob Hayes, here are the 10 best rookie seasons by a wide receiver in NFL history.

10. Percy Harvin

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    MINNEAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 7:  Wide receiver Percy Harvin #12 of the Minnesota Vikings gets ready for the game with the Arizona Cardinals at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on November 7, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Rookie season stats: 60 receptions, 790 yards, 6 TDs

    Even though Percy Harvin didn't put up statistics in the passing game like other rookie receivers, his impact for Minnesota was felt in different ways.

    Harvin was one of the most versatile players in the NFL during the 2009 season.  He was a threat to run the ball as well as to catch.  With over 1,000 kick return yards and two touchdowns, he earned a spot on the Pro Bowl roster. 

    His overall stellar play was crucial to Minnesota making the NFC Championship game that year.

9. Eddie Brown

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    17 Jan 1989:  Wide receiver Eddie Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals is interviewed before Super Bowl XXIII with the San Francisco 49ers at the Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, Florida.  The 49ers won over the Bengals, 20-16. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart  /All
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Rookie season stats: 53 receptions, 942 yards, 8 TDs

    The only thing that Eddie Brown is known for these days is being drafted three spots higher than Jerry Rice.

    Brown's career was short, lasting only seven seasons.  During that time, he established himself as a true deep threat.  He averaged over 17 yards a reception during his rookie season. 

    His best season came in 1988 when he was a key component to the Bengals making the Super Bowl.

8. Sammy White

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    Rookie season stats: 51 receptions, 906 yards, 10 TDs

    Sammy White had a fantastic first two years in the NFL earning a trip to the Pro Bowl both years.

    White teamed with Fran Tarkenton to form one of the better quarterback-receiver combinations in the late 1970's.  He was known for making the most difficult catches look extremely simple. 

    One of his most memorable moments happened during his rookie season in Super Bowl XI.  Tarkenton threw a deep pass to White who was absolutely crushed by the Raiders Jack Tatum.  White held on for a first down and even came back to finish the game.

7. Cris Collinsworth

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    HOUSTON - 1985:  Wide receiver Cris Collinsworth #80 of the Cincinnati Bengals walks on the field during a game in the 1985 NFL Season against the Houston Oilers at the Houston Astrodome in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Tony Duffy/Getty Images)
    Tony Duffy/Getty Images

    Rookie season stats: 67 receptions, 1,009 yards, 8 TDs

    When you watch Cris Collinsworth as a broadcaster, it is almost hard to believe that he was a dominant receiver in the NFL.

    An early second round draft pick, Collinsworth instantly made an impact for the Cincinnati Bengals.  He had a great combination of size and speed and could beat cornerbacks in numerous ways.  His rookie season was one of his best seasons and he earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro recognition. 

    He was a part of two Super Bowl teams with the Bengals, losing both games however.

6. John Jefferson

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    Rookie season stats: 56 receptions, 1,001 yards, 13 TDs

    John Jefferson—also known as The Touchdown Man and the Space-Age Receiver— had some of the best hands ever.

    Coming out of Arizona State Jefferson was the 14th overall pick in the 1978 draft.  He instantly made a mark on the NFL when he led the league in receiving touchdowns. 

    He spent only three years with San Diego, making the Pro Bowl during each season.  He was the first receiver in NFL history to gain at least 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons.

5. Bob Hayes

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    Rookie season stats: 46 receptions, 1,003 yards, 12 TDs

    Bob Hayes was an Olympic sprinter before being drafted by Dallas in the 1968 NFL Draft.  He even went on to win two gold medals.

    Anyone who follows the Dallas Cowboys knows the name Bob Hayes.  He was one of the best players in franchise history.  Due to his speed, he changed the way that defense needed to be played.  Hayes was so much faster than any other player in the NFL that no one was able to keep up with him. 

    His 21.8 yards per reception as a rookie is just plain crazy. 

4. Billy Howton

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    Rookie season stats: 53 receptions, 1,231 yards, 13 TDs

    When Billy Howton retired from the NFL, he held the majority of the receiving records.  He is still waiting to be voted into the Hall of Fame.

    Howton was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1952 out of Rice University.  His 13 touchdowns as a rookie was an NFL record until Randy Moss broke it in 1998.  He made it to four Pro Bowls and is a member of the Packer Hall of Fame. 

    He ended his career with the Dallas Cowboys in his home state.

3. Anquan Boldin

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    TEMPE - NOVEMBER 23:  Wide Receiver Anquan Boldin #81 of the Arizona Cardinals rushes against the St. Louis Rams on November 23 2003 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Rookie season stats: 101 receptions, 1,377 yards, 8 TDs

    Anquan Boldin, who was a former quarterback, can simply catch the ball.  His 101 receptions as a rookie is an NFL record.

    When Boldin came out of Florida State, many teams were scared due to his lack of speed.  However, he quieted all his critics in his first NFL game when he recorded 217 receiving yards.  When Arizona drafted Larry Fitzgerald the following season, the Cardinals had two of the best young receivers in the league.  Unfortunately, Boldin struggled with injuries and became a sidekick to Fitzgerald. 

    Now with Baltimore, he has yet to get back to the type of production he had as a rookie.

2. Bill Groman

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    Rookie season stats: 72 receptions, 1,473 yards, 12 TDs

    Technically, Bill Groman played in the AFL, but his impact and statistics were just too good to pass up for this list.

    Groman still holds the NFL record for most receiving yards during a rookie season.  He was the most important player for the Houston Oilers as they won the AFL Championship during the 1960 season. 

    Groman finished his short career with four AFL Championships, more than any other player in history.

1. Randy Moss

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    26 Dec 1998:  Randy Moss #84 of the Minnesota Vikings in action during the game against the Tennessee Oilers at the Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. The Vikings defeated the Oilers 26-16. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons  /Allsport
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Rookie season stats: 69 receptions, 1,313 yards, 17 TDs

    As a Green Bay Packer fan, I hated every second of Randy Moss' rookie season.  As a football fan, it was like watching poetry in motion.

    Moss' 17 touchdowns as a rookie is a record that will never be broken.  Considering that it only took him 69 receptions to reach that mark makes it all the more impressive.  He established himself as the best deep threat in the NFL instantly and was nearly unstoppable when the ball was up for grabs. 

    His contributions helped the Vikings become the top offenses in the league go 15-1 during the regular season on their way to the NFC Championship game. 

    During his first ever Monday Night Football game, Moss caught five passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns.  For those of you that are bad at math, that is a ridiculous average of 38 yards per reception.

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