Top 50 Wide Receivers of All-Time
Wide receiver has been a position on the rise for many years, and we are seeing truly elite athletes in this decade, but the 80s and 90s brought us some of the game’s best. There should be no surprise as Jerry Rice takes number one on this list, but then there is a very close race for second. Moving through the years we visit the career leaders, and also names that might be overtaken soon. Rice’s overall yards is going to be a tough one to catch, and as good as father time Larry Fitzgerald is, I don’t think he is going to get 8,000 more yards in his career. Where do we rank Calvin Johnson who was another Detroit great to retire early? He is top 25 in touchdowns despite playing just eight seasons, and is also 30th in receiving yards. Wide receivers have to have some luck with the teams they play for in their careers. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne got to play with Peyton Manning, and you see the that trend with a lot of wide receivers playing with an elite quarterback or a pass-heavy offense.
1. Jerry Rice
Jerry Rice is the only wide receiver in history over 20,000 receiving yards. Rice is third for all-time yards in a season at 1,848, recording it in 1995 with San Francisco. He is second on the list with 22 touchdowns in a season, and of course holds the record for all-time receptions, yards, and touchdowns. He is a three-time Super Bowl Champion, and was named offensive player of the year twice, once in 1987 and 1993.
2. Randy Moss
Randy Moss is truly a freak of nature. A lengthy 6’4 wide receiver dominated the league from start to finish. He was the 1998 Rookie of the Year, dropping 17 touchdowns. He had six straight years over 1,000 yards receiving entering the league, then of course the historic 23 touchdown season, which is now the current record for most receiving yards within a season. Moss will go down as one of the greatest of all-time, and was a recent Hall of Fame inductee.
3. Terrell Owens
Terrell Owens was a real character, but also a Hall of Fame wide receiver. He made six Pro Bowl appearances, and was named All-Pro five times. Owens is widely recognized as a 49er and Cowboy, but his three year stint in Dallas was un another level. He had 3,587 yards, and 38 touchdowns. Owens is third all-time in receiving yards and touchdowns. Owens had a consistency about his game, and also gave us many notable moments off the field.
4. Don Hutson
We are going way back to a time where teams weren’t airing it out 50 times a game. Don Hutson played ten seasons with the Green Bay Packers, catching 99 touchdowns. He is a Hall of Famer, and a three-time NFL Champion. Hutson also played both sides of the ball to make his career even more impressive. Sure are there more talented wideouts athletically these days, yeah, but playing multiple positions and catching 99 touchdowns is pretty incredible.
5. Steve Largent
I have a little bit of a sweet spot for players that stick with one team in their whole career, but it doesn’t have any effect on the rankings, don’t worry. Steve Largent is 18th all-time in yards, and is tied with Tim Brown for 9th in touchdowns all-time at 100. Largent ended up in the Hall of Fame, and ended up on seven Pro Bowl teams. Largent didn’t win the big one, but had an extremely successful career.
6. Marvin Harrison
When you think Indianapolis Colts, you remember the passing attack with Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, and Marvin Harrison. You have three Hall of Fame members or soon to be members, as Harrison was inducted in 2016. You could argue this core should have had more Super Bowl wins, but he managed to get one, and hit the Pro Bowl eight times. Harrison is 9th all-time in yards, and 5th in receiving touchdowns. In 2002, Harrison put up 1,722 yards, which was the 7th highest of all-time.
7. Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald is a future first ballot Hall of Famer, and has put himself inside the top ten in both receiving yards and touchdowns on the all-time list. He has made 11 Pro Bowl appearances, and has over 1,200 receptions. Fitzgerald continues to be one of the more consistent wide receivers in the game, despite the quarterback play being hit and miss out there in AZ. Fitzgerald has also played his entire career with the Cardinals.
8. Don Maynard
Don Maynard posted over 11,000 receiving yards, and 88 touchdowns in his career, and also managed to win a Super Bowl as well. He made the Pro Bowl four times, and while we look back at all the wide receivers in history, Maynard might not pop up on your top 50. Ranking 28th all time in yards, and 13th all time in touchdowns, he probably should. Different era, but Maynard produced some monster seasons.
9. Tim Brown
Tim Brown is a long time Oakland Raider, except for the one season at the end playing for Tampa Bay. He had a long successful career, and prime Tim Brown was tremendous. Brown ranks 7th all-time in yards, and is tied with Steve Largent for 9th in touchdowns. Brown was named to the Pro Bowl team nine times in his career, but never managed to get the Super Bowl ring with Oakland despite being close a few seasons.
10. Cris Carter
Cris Carter was drafted by Philadelphia back in 1987, but found his way to the Vikings where he had a strong career. Carter’s success came really at age 28 and on. Playing alongside Moss for a few years, this was a dynamic duo. Carter is 13th in receiving yards all-time, and has the 4th most receiving touchdowns. The 1995 season for Carter was historic, where he logged 17 touchdowns, and 1,371 yards.
11. Lance Alworth
We are going back to the earlier generation of football, as Lance Alworth put together a strong ten year stretch posting over 10,000 receiving yards, and 85 touchdowns. He had five seasons with double-digit touchdowns, and his career high in yards game in 1965 posting 1,602. This is good for 19th all-time. To look at the era differences within the records, Alworth stands out as a dominant wideout within the 60s.
12. Michael Irvin
Michael Irvin is a Dallas legend, who played 11 seasons in the NFL, all with Dallas. He was a part of the three Super Bowl teams in that era, and produced several 1,000 yard seasons. He ended up with nearly 12,000 yards, finishing 27th, although some names might pass him soon. Irvin set a career high in yards back in 1991, and a career high in touchdowns in 1995. Irvin is now in the Hall of Fame.
13. James Lofton
James Lofton is another Green Bay great, and found his way to eight Pro Bowls. He also sits up on the all-time receiving list with over 14,000 receiving yards. He also tallied 75 touchdowns. Lofton will likely get overlooked among some of the names around him on the all-time leaderboards, but he certainly is up there with some of the greats. Despite playing on some good Packers teams, Lofton never found his way to the Super Bowl but is a Hall of Famer.
14. Isaac Bruce
The Rams had two wide receivers in premier wide receivers in the 90s, and Isaac Bruce was one of them. Bruce had a career high 13 touchdowns in his second season, and the next year set a career high in yards. He is a Super Bowl Champion, and is currently 5th on the all-time leaderboards for yards. He is 12th in touchdowns. Bruce has been snubbed by the Hall of Fame, but we have to think he gets in at some point.
15. Torry Holt
Torry Holt was the other Rams wide receiver, who was a dynamic receiver for many years. They were a part of the Greatest Show on Turf. Holt played 11 years, and had over 1,000 yards in all but three of them. He scored 74 touchdowns, and is 16th all-time in yards. Holt was a part of that Super Bowl team with Bruce and Warner, which was one of the more dynamic offenses we have seen.
16. Henry Ellard
Henry Ellard was a long time Los Angeles Rams receiver, and then finished out his career in Washington. He played 16 seasons in the NFL, and tallied 65 touchdowns, and 13,777 receiving yards. At the age of 35, Ellard averaged 19.5 yards per reception, and his season high in yards was 1,414. Ellard isn’t a Hall of Famer, and likely won’t be one, but is a sneaky good wideout that was consistent for most seasons.
17. Charlie Joiner
Charlie Joiner played across the entire 70s, and into the 80s, putting together a Hall of Fame career. When we look at these eras, they were not as pass happy as we see now, and you wonder if two decades later what Joiner’s numbers would have been like. He finished with over 12,000 receiving yards, and 65 touchdowns. He went to three Pro Bowls and was named to an All-Pro team just once.
18. Art Monk
Art Monk is a three-time Super Bowl Champion, and while his overall touchdowns never stood out on a year to year basis with touchdowns, but accumulated 68 of them over his career. He also finished with over 12,000 yards. Monk was a part of a strong decade for the Washington Redskins, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame back in 2008. He certainly lived up to the hype of his 18th overall pick.
19. Anquan Boldin
Anquan Boldin broke into the league with a 1,377 receiving yard season in his rookie year. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year, and went onto be in three Pro Bowls. Boldin also won a Super Bowl with the Ravens, but his overall numbers speak for themselves. He has over 13,000 receiving yards, and 82 touchdowns, both cracking the top 25 on the all-time leaderboards. Boldin might slip through the cracks of some rankings because of his non flashy play, but not here.
20. Paul Warfield
Paul Warfield played 13 years in the NFL, and is a three-time champion. He also made it to eight Pro Bowls, two All-Pro teams, and eventually the Hall of Fame. Warfield dominated the end zone with 85 touchdowns, and went over 8,500 receiving yards. He played in an era where receiving production wasn’t as high, but had four seasons in double-digit receiving touchdowns.
21. Andre Reed
Andre Reed is 17th overall in receiving yards, and 14th in receiving touchdowns. Reed spent 15 of his years in Buffalo, where he is recognized as one of the Bills greats. Reed had a career high in touchdowns during the 1991 season, going for ten touchdowns. He was an absolute menace in this era, and missed on several occasions to pull in that Super Bowl ring to complete his career. He did get inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, and will go down as one of the best fourth round picks.
22. Reggie Wayne
Reggie Wayne is another Colts great sitting at the wide receiver position. Wayne has hauled in over 1,000 receptions in his career, going for over 14,000 receiving yards and 82 touchdowns. He sits tenth overall on the all-time receiving yards list, just 200 behind Marvin Harrison, which can show you how dynamic that offense was. Wayne is also inside the top 25 for all-time receiving touchdowns. He was a six-time Pro Bowler, and won the Super Bowl in 2007.
23. Sterling Sharpe
It was unfortunate that Sterling Sharpe’s career was cut short by neck injuries, because he was on pace to be one of the greats. Sharpe played just eight seasons, and in those seasons had 8,134 receiving yards and 65 touchdowns. In his short time was an All-Pro three times, and found his way to five Pro Bowls. Sharpe also retired just before the Packers went onto win a Super Bowl a few seasons later.
24. Andre Johnson
Andre Johnson was mismatch against any corner, overshadowing them in size. Johnson had a couple seasons cut short due to injury, and overall he had over 14,000 yards, which is good for 11th all-time. Johnson should have had more touchdowns in his career at just 70, which is the only knock against him. In 2008 and 2009 he had back-to-back 1,500 receiving yard seasons, and then did it again a few seasons later.
25. Hines Ward
Hines Ward is a Pittsburgh legend, who won two Super Bowls in his 14-year career there. Ward sits at an even 1,000 receptions, and over 12,000 receiving yards. Ward is tied for 15th in all-time touchdowns, and set a career high in 2002 with 12. He was a warrior, and hardly missed time. Ward should find his way into the Hall of Fame here shortly, and is an easy vote in.
26. Bob Hayes
Bob Hayes is a Hall of Fame wideout that played all but one season in Dallas. Hayes was induced into the Hall of Fame back in 2009, playing 11 years in the NFL. He scored 71 receiving touchdowns, and had over 7,000 receiving yards in an era where volume yards were a bit limited. Hayes was also a Super Bowl winner, and went to the Pro Bowl three times in his career.
27. Rod Smith
Rod Smith is a two-time Super Bowl Champion with the Denver Broncos, and posted several seasons over 1,000 yards. Smith set a career high in 2001 with 113 receptions, and had 11 touchdowns. Smith finished up with over 11,000 yards and 68 touchdowns in his career. He was a big part of those strong Denver teams in the 190s, and produced until the very end. Smith should be in most rankings you see around.
28. Calvin Johnson
There is something about stars retiring early in Detroit, and Calvin Johnson was one of them. He played nine years in the NFL, retiring at the age of 30. In those nine seasons he put up 11,619 yards, and 83 touchdowns. 2012 was a historic year for Johnson, finishing with 1,964 receiving yards. The year before he had 1,681 and 16 touchdowns. Johnson was a menace, and his overall numbers are going to always be a what if.
29. Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith played 12 years in the NFL, and had an interesting start to his career after missing a few seasons with appendectomy surgery that went south. He cut for not taking a pay cut by Dallas, and eventually landed with Jacksonville after a tryout. Smith’ career path could have went numerous ways, but when healthy, he posted 12,287 yards and 67 touchdowns. He had five Pro Bowls, and did get a Super Bowl ring within that first year.
30. Derrick Mason
Derrick Mason was a long time Tennessee Titan, and then went to Baltimore later in his career. Mason has produced over 12,000 yards, and has 66 receiving touchdowns. Mason came out of the NFL Draft in the fourth round, and while he wasn’t widely recognized among the league, his seasons have added up. He is 26th all-time in yards, and is around names like Rod Smith and Michael Irvin in all-time touchdowns.
31. Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown is another currently playing wide receiver, who will go down as one of the best 6th round draft picks ever. Brown jumped into a very good situation in Pittsburgh, and business was booming. He has posted two 1,500+ yard seasons in his career so far, and also has four double-digit touchdown seasons. Brown is at the age where we might start to see a small decline, but another few years and Brown will be up with some of the greats on the all-time leaderboards.
32. Keyshawn Johnson
Keyshawn Johnson was the first overall pick back in 1996 draft, coming out of USC. Johnson ended up being a pretty successful pick, although not for the Jets. He had over 10,000 receiving yards and 64 touchdowns in his career. Johnson also was involved in that Tampa Bay Super Bowl, which is where we really remember Johnson. He might not land in the Hall of Fame, but is still a top 50 wide receiver.
33. Brandon Marshall
Brandon Marshall was someone I was on the cusp about, and I am not quite sure why. He has over 12,000 receiving yards in his career, and over 80 receiving touchdowns. He made six Pro Bowl teams, and eight seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards. In 2015 he posted a career high 14 touchdowns, which was the fourth time he had hauled in double digit touchdowns in a season.
34. Eric Moulds
Eric Moulds has over 750 receptions in his career, and just missed the 10,000 yard mark. He was five yards short, but also had 49 touchdown. Moulds played most his career in Buffalo, and was involved in a pretty good Bills offense. He had over 1,000 yards in four seasons, and a career high in touchdowns in 2002. Moulds went to three Pro Bowls, but missed out on the Super Bowl ring.
35. Chad Johnson
Chad Johnson was the WR1 in Cincinnati for most of his career, but slowed down drastically after he hit age 30. Johnson was known for his celebrations, but was also a consistent threat for over 1,000 yards and close to ten touchdowns each season. Johnson finished with over 11,000 yards, and 67 total receiving touchdowns in his career. He was a six-time Pro Bowler, and was named to the All-Pro team twice.
36. Julio Jones
Still in the NFL, Julio Jones is climbing the leaderboards, mainly in yards. Jones touchdown productions is always going to be the biggest knock on his career, although play-calling can be to blame. Jones is already over 10,000 receiving yards, and in 2015 he had 1,871 receiving yards. Outside of Jones’ rookie season and the injury season, Jones has posted over 1,000 receiving yards. Jones is athletically one of the best receivers we have seen.
37. Steve Smith Sr.
Steve Smith was one of the more undersized at the position, yet that did not stop him one bit. Smith produced over 14,000 yards in his career, and scored 81 touchdowns. He was a five-time Pro Bowler, and made two All-Pro teams. Smith had a career high in 2005 where he posted 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns. Smith is 8th all-time in receiving yards, and 26th in receiving touchdowns. He will likely be a Hall of Famer as well.
38. Andre Rison
Andre Rison is a five-time Pro Bowler, and also won a Super Bowl. Rison scored double-digit touchdowns in four of his first five seasons. In his Atlanta time, he ended with 56 touchdowns, going down as one of their notable icons in franchise history. In 1993, Rison set a career high with 15 receiving touchdowns in a season. With over 10,000 receiving yards and 84 touchdowns, Rison is one of the best in history.
39. Gary Clark
Gary Clark has over 10,000 receiving yards in his career and 65 receiving touchdowns. He was a part of those strong Washington teams in the 80s, and went onto win two Super Bowls. He has posted five 1,000+ yard seasons, and tallied a career high ten touchdowns in the 1991 season. While targets weren’t calculated yet until later in Clark’s career, he was sporting an easy 100+ a game.
40. Mark Clayton
Mark Clayton was another undersized wideout, and played most of his career in Miami. He was a five time Pro Bowler, and had an 18 receiving touchdown season in his second year in the league. It was the fourth overall time that Clayton had double-digit receiving touchdowns in a season. 84 touchdowns in Clayton’s career puts him up with some of the best. He had a couple of down seasons yardage wise, but overall is an overlooked wideout when comparing the greats.
41. Dwight Clark
We all know Dwight Clark from “The Catch” and his career was setup with a nice stretch with Joe Montana. Clark is a two-time Super Bowl Champion, and was a two-time Pro Bowler as well. He played nine seasons in the NFL, racking up over 6,500 receiving yards and 48 touchdowns. Clark doesn’t top any of the all-time lists, but is still one of the more talented receivers the league has seen.
42. Drew Pearson
Drew Pearson is a Cowboy great during the 70s and early 80s. He went on and won one Super Bowl, and also was named All-Pro three times. Pearson has modest numbers in comparison to some of the others on the list, but dig into some highlights and you will see why he cracked the list. Pearson had a 1,026 receiving yard season in 1979, which was a career high.
43. Lionel Taylor
Lionel Taylor led the AFL in receptions in each of his first six seasons. Taylor was named an All-Pro four times, and went to three Pro Bowls. He came into the league at 24, which is a little later than some of the other receivers on the list, then played just nine years. Taylor sort of broke through as a possession guy racking up receptions in his career, which is common in today’s game.
44. Bobby Mitchell
Bobby Mitchell is a Hall of Famer, who also found his way to four Pro Bowls. He played just 11 years in the NFL, but produced nearly 8,000 yards and 65 touchdowns. The addition to Mitchell’s overall stats was he also had 2,735 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. Mitchell had two monster receiving seasons, going for over 1,300 in 1962 and 1963. In the era, Mitchell was a dominant offensive player.
45. Harold Jackson
Harold Jackson played 15 years in the NFL, and produced over 10,000 receiving yards and 76 touchdowns. Jackson found his way to five Pro Bowl teams and one All-Pro. He had a career year in 1973 catching 13 touchdowns. He also had three seasons producing over 1,000 yards. While that may seem like weak number, this was also a completely different era from what was about to come.
46. Stanley Morgan
Stanley Morgan was a New England great during the 1980s, going for over 10,000 yards and 72 touchdowns. Morgan averaged a ridiculous 20 yards per reception in his first six seasons in the NFL. He made it to four Pro Bowls, and while he doesn’t carry any other accolades to his name, posting the numbers he did over a long career has him cracking the list.
47. Charley Taylor
Charley Taylor played from 1964-1977, which was not considered a pass happy era by any means. Taylor also started out as a running back part time, and his rookie season he tallied over 1500 all-purpose yards, and ten total touchdowns. He moved to full time wide receiver after three seasons, and found his way to eight Pro Bowl teams and one All-Pro team. Taylor was induced into the Hall of Fame in 1984.
48. Joey Galloway
Joey Galloway is a name you will recognize if you are an early participant in fantasy football, playing from 1995-2010. Galloway played his earlier days in Seattle, where he posted his best numbers during his career. He ended up tallying over 10,000 receiving yards and 77 receiving touchdowns in his career. Galloway was overshadowed in this era by a lot of wide receivers, but the eighth overall pick from the 1995 draft produced a strong career.
49. Keenan McCardell
Keenan McCardell was taken 326th overall back in the 1991 draft, and boy did he prove a lot of teams wrong. It took him some time to prove himself in the league, but when all was said and done, McCardell had over 11,000 yards and 63 receiving touchdowns. He is Super Bowl Champion, and was named to two Pro Bowls. He ranks 33rd all-time in receiving yards, and 68th in receiving touchdowns.
50. Art Powell
Art Powell was a monster at finding the end zone, and played defensive back as well. he was 6’3 and dominated on both sides of the ball. Powell has 81 total receiving touchdowns in his career, and had 8,046 receiving yards in just nine seasons. Posting the seasons he did in the 60s was truly special, and he went to be named All-Pro twice. He also was named to four Pro Bowl teams.