Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Top Outside Receivers in NFL History

OPINION
By John Turney
We begin with Don Hutson's era and go forwards. We look at the impact a player had in the NFL, historical significance, skill sets, honors (All-Pros, Pro Bowls, etc.), championships, testimonials, and scouting grades where available and we spoke to TJ Troup the authority on historical football. We ignore character unless it affects the play on the field.

In terms of stats, we list "black ink" which is leading the NFL in a major category and "grey ink" which is being in the top 10 in the NFL in a major category.

We don't pick the players with just the most speed or height. This is an exercise in looking at the total package of a wide receiver's career. It's not an exercise is looking at just the highlights and calling a player a "beast" or a "monster" or a "freak" and whatnot. Year-to-year consistency matters as does longevity.


Best Hands
1. Raymond Berry
2. Larry Fitzgerald
3. Dante Lavelli—Anyone with the nickname 'Gluefingers' belongs in top 3
4. Fred Biletnikoff—He HAD glue on his fingers.
5. Cris Carter—Also the best sideline and back of end zone "toe tap" receiver we've seen
6. Steve Largent
7. DeAndre Hopkins
8. Charlie Joiner
9. Dwight Clark
10. Lynn Swann

Fastest
1. Bob Hayes
2. Ron Brown
3. Cliff Branch
4. Mel Gray
5. Bob Boyd
6. Willie Gault
7. James Jett
8. Lam Jones
9. Sam Graddy
10. Randy Moss
11. Phillip Epps
12. Jerry Butler
13. Joey Galloway
14. Harold Jackson
15. Del Shofner
16. Isaac Curtis
17. Homer Jones
18. Harlon Hill
19. Brandin Cooks
20t. DeSean Jackson
20t. Will Fuller
20t. Anthony Miller
20t. Roger Carr
20t. Mike Wallace

Tallest
1. Harold Carmichael—6-8
2t. Brandon Coleman—all 6-6
2t. Matt Jones
2t. Pat McInally
2t. Keith McKeller
2t. Weegie Thompson
2t. Tyrone Young

So, that said, here are the best of the best:

1. Jerry Rice
20 years
303 games
HOF
75th Anniversary Team
All-Century Team
11 First-team All-Pros (all consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
13 Pro Bowls
All-1980s
All-1990s
All-1985-95 (PFJ's mid-decade team)
1 MVP (1987*)
2 OPOY (1987, 1993)
rec-yds-avg-TD
1549-22,895-14.8-197
82-1,209-14.8-10 per 16 games
14 Black ink
39 Grey ink
3 championships

Rice is on the short list for best NFL player ever, not just the G.O.A.T. for wide receivers. He was leaps and bounds ahead of his contemporaries in terms of stats and honors.

(Click to enlarge)
Over his career, Rice received 141 votes for AP Offensive Player of the Year (winning it twice), 118 more than any other wide receiver since the award's inception in 1972. Also, he received 58 votes for MVP, 37 more than who is second on the list, he received votes in six separate seasons.

Rice had ideal route running, decent, but not great speed, good but not great size but he had excellent hands. He also rushed for 10 touchdowns on top of the 197 passes he caught for touchdowns.

Rod Woodson said when asked about Rice said, "Now, if you say the greatest receiver, absolutely".  Darren Sharper added, "He is the greatest receiver and maybe the greatest football player of all time." Deion Sanders said, "(I)n the era I performed in, Jerry Rice is the best football player to play".

11 Years
116 games
HOF
50th Anniversary team
75th Anniversary team
9 First-team All-Pro (7 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
 All-1930s
All-1935-45 (PFJ's mid-decade team)
2 MVP
rec-yds-avg-TD
488-7,991-16.4-99
67-1,102-16.4-14 per 16 games
25 Black ink
43 Grey ink
3 championships

It's not fair, really to compare players from such distant eras. Hutson played end, on the line, and played defense. For his era, he was a physical freak, having height and tremendous speed. He was a true 'game changer' a phrase applied pretty generously these days when it's not really warranted.

George Allen called him a "receiving pioneer that blazed trails over which others have followed". Allen added that Hutson had, "sprinter's speed and devised moves and techniques that have been copied ever since".

11 years
136 games
HOF
7 First-team All-AFL (all consensus)
0 Second-team All-Pro
7 AFL All-Stars
All-1960s AFL
4 MVP/POY (1963*, 65, 67, 68)
rec-yds-avg-TD
542-10,267-18.9-85
64-1,208-18.9- 10 per 16 games
9 Black ink
26 Grey ink
2 championships

'Bambi" received voted for AFL MVP in four seasons and is second to only Jerry Rice in total AP MVP votes with 21. That speaks to wide receivers who transcend the position since so few ever receiver MVP votes. (He received votes from for the UPI Player of the Year in five seasons). 

Al Davis signed Alworth to the AFL because the NFL's 49ers wouldn't give Alworth a no-cut contract and the Chargers did. Davis said, "Lance Alworth was one of maybe three players in my lifetime who had what I would call ‘it.’ You could see right from the start that he was going to be a super-star." And Davis was right.

George Allen said Alworth as "as fine a player as I've ever watched on a football field. He was graceful, fast and fluid, not big and strong".

Retired second all-time in yards and in touchdowns and fifth in yards per catch. He was a worthy first-ballot Hall of Famer in our view having a 'complete' resume of honors, statistics, championships, and testimonials.

13 seasons
190 games
HOF
6 First-team All-Pro (4 consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
8 Pro Bowls
All-2000s
All-1995-05 Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
1102-14,580-13.2-128
93-1,228-13.2-11  per 16 games
5 Black ink
21 Grey ink
1 championship

Harrison was smooth and productive and sneaky fast. He had a slight build, especially with the big monsters that roamed the field in his era.

Champ Bailey said, "(T)he guy who gave me the most problems was Marvin Harrsion . . . he was dangerous. Marvin was the quicker, more precise, route runner . . . he was tough to deal with because he was smart, he played outside the numbers 90 percent of the time and you knew where he was going to be … and he was still hard to stop." 

Sports Illustrated's MMQB asked Charles Tillman "Who's the best offensive player you ever played against? Tillman answered, "Marvin Harrison. We played a lot of Tampa 2 with coach Smith, and I could never touch him, couldn't jam him. He was so quick, like a little rabbit. I missed every time. Hardest person I ever had to cover. . . He was unstoppable. The best I ever played against. He made me look terrible."

Charles Woodson also added, " Marvin Harrison was the best receiver I played against. . . he was bigger than you would think from watching him on film, and he was fast and quick and ran great routes."

5. Paul Warfield
13 seasons (plus one WFL season)
157 games (plus 10 WFL games)
HOF
6 First-team All-Pro (3 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
8 Pro Bowls
All-1970s (Second-team)
All-1965-75 (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
427-8,565-20.1-85 (plus 25-422-16.9-3  WFL)
44-873-20.1-9 per 16 games
2 Black ink
22 Grey ink
3 Championships

Warfield was a smooth, graceful athlete with great speed, though there were some faster. On the field, with his routes made himself even faster by making amazing cuts and befuddling defenders.

His career stats, by today's standards, are not impressive. But today, few look at yards per catch. Warfield is tied for 4th all-time in that statistic and from 1966-74 he averaged 21.4 yards a catch in that same span he averaged a touchdown a bit better than one of every five catches. He personified 'deep threat'.

George Allen said he was a player you had to double cover to keep him from getting the ball, "He was explosive, dangerous at all times. He didn't catch a lot of balls but he did a lot with the ones he did catch—talk about a home run hitter". Allen added, "He had sprinter's speed, good hands, great running ability, and boy, could he block. In my book receiver who didn't block didn't get a good grade from me but Warfield was an A+".

In 18 playoff games, he made 58 caught passes for 1121 yards (19.3 yds per catch) and 5 touchdowns and his team walked off the field winners in eleven of those games. One of those games was Super Bowl VII in which Allen said he "double and triple-teamed" Warfield, but at the cost of the games because the Dolphins went to other things and won the game.

Warfield is only one of two first-ballot Hall of Fame wide receivers to not be in the top two in receiving yards (he was sixth) at the time of his retirement (Randy Moss is the other) but Warfield was first in yards per catch and second in touchdown receptions when he hung them up again showing he was the quintessential deep threat. 

6. Randy Moss
14 seasons
218 games
HOF
4 First-team All-Pro (4 consensus)
6 Pro Bowls
All-2000s
All-1995-05 Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
982-15,292-15.6-156
72-1,122-15.6-11 per 16 games
5 Black ink
24 Grey ink

"The Freak" is a worthy Hall of Famer, but there were a few warts, too. And it's only fair and honest to considered them both.

Moss is the most talented receiver we've ever seen, he had height, tremendous speed, leaping ability, excellent hands, smarts, a love of the game (usually)—the whole package. Bill Belichick said Moss was, "a great, great, great deep-ball receiver. Very smart, has a really good understanding of the passing game, and how to attack defenses from his point of view."

And when you watch his highlights he does look like the best receiver ever. He even convinced himself, "I really do think I'm the greatest receiver to ever play this game," Moss said.

His playoff statistics were good as well, though not stellar, in 15 games, the equivalent of a full season he had 54 catches for  977 for an 18.1 yards per catch average and 10 scores. When he retired he was third all-time in yards receiving and second in touchdowns receiving, having led or tied for the NFL in touchdown receptions five times.

He received four MVP votes in 1998 and 20.5 votes in three separate seasons for Offensive Player of the Year.

However, things were not 100% copacetic with Moss. In 2001, in the NFC championship game, Moss was upset that some of his entourage were denied sideline passes and Moss pouted. He barely tried and when the game got out of hand, he didn't get off the line. He quit.

His combative attitude got him traded from the Vikings to the Raiders. Where his lack of effort, eventually caused him to make Raiders offensive coordinator Tom Walsh say, “Randy Moss is a player whose skills are diminishing, and he’s in denial of those eroding skills. Randy was a great receiver, but he lacked the work ethic and the desire to cultivate any skills that would compensate for what he was losing physically later in his career.”

It turns out, based on what happened in New England, Walsh was wrong about the diminishing skills part but that even more brought home the point that he "lacked work ethic". In New England, he had a work ethic, when things were in his favor. He had a great quarterback, a good underneath receiver (Welker) to keep the pressure off and a very good offensive line to make it all work.

Others agreed with Walsh. Jerry Rice was one, “To see a guy with that much talent not give it 100 percent, it was almost like a little slap in the face. But Randy was Randy. He could have been one of the greatest if he had worked just a little bit harder. I don’t think he wanted to give it 100 percent. You never knew what you were going to get with Randy.” Ouch. And accurate.

Moss was not an elite route-runner, though he was great on vertical routes but on what they call the "East-West" routes he was not tops. Now, again, when he wanted to he was good on shallow stuff, but the reporting at the time was if he wasn't the primary read on a pattern or concept, you didn't always get full effort.

And the charge was one Moss began himself and never denied. The most famous quote is his own, “I play when I want to play. Do I play up to my top performance, my ability every time? Maybe not. I just keep doing what I do and that is playing football."

"I’ve seen him at his best, and I’ve seen him at his worst — that’s kind of how we all are, isn’t it?” teammate Matt Birk said. “We don’t want to be judged by the worst five minutes of our life, and we probably don’t deserve to be judged by the best five minutes either.”

But back to the good. DeAngelo Hall said, "Man, I promise you, that dude … is the real deal. All y’all T.O. fans — Moss is the real deal." He was. When he wanted to be.

7. Terrell Owens
14 seasons
218 games
HOF
5 First-team All-Pro (5 consensus)
6 Pro Bowls
All-2000s (Second-team)
All-1995-05 (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
1078-15,934-14.8-153
79-1,164-14.8-11 per 16 games
3 Black ink
20 Grey ink

Several years ago there was debate as to Owens' worthiness for the Hall of Fame. Owens and many of his fans and many in the media were outraged by the fact that Owens had been bypassed not once, but twice. Their main arguments were "the numbers".  However, they only looked at the positive numbers. They ignored the fact that he dropped 7% of the passes targeted to him, 130 in total, almost certainly the highest ever among the great receivers.

Certainly, that is a small part of the equation and as with Moss, it's only fair and accurate to mention both. Overall, though, "was a man amongst boys" according to Sanders.

He had a high work ethic and according to Shannon Sharpe was "better than Moss". He had excellent size and speed but it was his strength that set him apart. He just couldn't be slowed by defenders by being physical with him. Also, Owens would block, as did most of the 49er receivers. He'd give it full effort all the time, something Moss didn't do well or often.

He also displayed courage by playing in the Super Bowl with a hairline fracture on his lower leg and in doing so played well. Overall he was a great player.

We are skipping the off-field stuff that affected his teams, it's been done to death and we get it and agree with some of it. It's those things he's not second or third on the list that matter more but we have to recognize the "diva" issue—we'd be dishonest not to.

But, to those who complain about Owens not being a first-ballot Hall of Famer perhaps they should remember that for his era, Jerry Rice is the standard, the gold standard. If one combines Owens's All-Pro selections with Randy Moss's they still don't equal Rice's. (Rice = 11, Owens plus Moss = 9). Do the same with Pro Bowls and it is Rice = 13 and Owens + Moss = 12. Add their All-Decade picks together and you get two First-team picks for Rice (1980s and 1990s) and you get one First-team pick and one Second-team pick for team Owens/Moss. Again, Rice wins.

Extend the exercise to the black ink (lead leadership) and grey ink (top ten in receiving statistical category) and Rice gets 14 black ink and 39 grey ink marks, Owens/Moss total 8 black ink and 44 grey ink, so they beat Rice by 5 in grey ink.

Then in Super Bowl rings it is 3 for Rice and none for Team Owens/Moss.

Rice is that much more dominant than the others. So, ask yourself, how would it be fair to give Owens the same career recognition (First-team Hall of Fame) as Rice when there is such a gulf between then in achievements?

People don't have to agree, but if they are fair and honest they must consider the facts and put away their bias. Recentism, highlight-mania, Monsterism (this guy was a monster), and others come to mind in terms of types of bias that come into play.

Owens (and Moss) were awesome, but it was not earthshattering injustice that Owens had to wait for his enshrinement. Had he got in right away, that would have been fine, but there are fair and reasonable data points that show that a wait might have been in order, that he was not near enough to the gold standard so as to deserve the same reward as Rice. The same might even be true (though less so) for Moss. Those are some reasonable facts that have to be considered, at the very least.

8. Antonio Brown
9 seasons
130 games
4 First-team All-Pro (4 consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
7 Pro Bowls
All-2010s (almost certainly)
rec-yds-avg-TD
837-11,207-13.4-74
103-1,379-13.4-9 per 16 games
5 Black ink
20 Grey ink

Brown has put up terrific numbers so far in his career. We don't know what will happen in Oakland in Jon Gruden's offense, but we'd expect he will continue his production but there is no way to know.

Some may question him being this high already, but we go by peak performance and compare it to the peers of their own era. And we put him high to be consistent, we put Aaron Donald high and Justin Tucker as number one, for example. And so far, Brown is doing the extra things needed to be a Hall of Famer and his per-season stats as we evaluate them show he deserves to be this high.

Already Brown had been a four-time consensus All-Pro—the same as Randy Moss and one less than Terrell Owens and he's gone to more Pro Bowls than both. So his achievements are no small matter.

Just a few days ago Derek Carr said that Brown is the "Greatest worker I've ever seen". Another teammate (former) Ryan Shazier said, "Not the biggest guy. Not the strongest guy. Not the fastest guy. So why is he so good? WANT TO. It’s his WANT TO."

He added that he can usually tell when a receiver is going to make his break but that "But AB is not normal. AB is an alien. His breakdown is so smooth and so quick that it’s basically just one hard plant and boom — he’s changing direction at full speed."

Richard Sherman said, "Antonio Brown is creative with his speed. He’s deceptive. He uses his acceleration and deceleration very uniquely. That’s what allows him to get so open."

When naming the top wide receiver he's faced Chris Harris, Jr., "AB is the best pure route runner in the league. He runs so many different routes with precision, but . . . it’s the unpredictable ways Pittsburgh uses him that makes him so difficult to defend. . . AB’s body control in the air is second to none." All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey added this, "Probably one of the top three, if not the best receiver that I’ve played in my career."

However, to be fair, he did have issues with the Steelers, to the point that Peter King, a fair writer, left him off of his All-Pro ballot due to his quitting on his team. So, it matters but what matters more is not that we've picked him eighth all-time but if he can move up (or down) in the next few seasons. That is, as we mentioned, a wait-and-see.

9. Raymond Berry
13 seasons
154 games
HOF
6 First-team All-Pro (3 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
5 Pro Bowls
All-1960s
All-1955-65 (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
427-8,565-20.1-85
66-964-14.7-7
 per 16 games
8 Black ink
20 Grey ink
2 Championships

He was not athletic looking and was not big, nor fast maybe had the best hands of all-time. He perfected route-running and making sure he was in the right place every time so Johnny Unitas could lay the ball in the ideal spot. And if the ball was a bit off, Berry would lay out and make the catch anyway.

George Allen called him a "singles hitter" as opposed to the home run hitter like Warfield. "When I think of Raymond Berry I think of first downs", said Allen. "He's the greatest first-down receiver in the history of the game that I have known".

Today, the term is "possession" receiver and Berry was that. Allen went on, "He did not have the speed to go long, he did not run well with the ball. But he had the moved to get open in tight spaces like no one I've ever seen. And he'd catch anything thrown near him—he'd make incredible catches and didn't drop balls".

He was called the best split end that Johnny Sample said he ever faced, "He was a self-made ballplayer and the hardest working player I ever saw".

Berry's peak was from 1957-60 when he led the NFL in receptions with 243 and also led in yards (3,851) and was tops in touchdown receptions as well with 39. From 1961-66 he was still tremendous but was not putting up the same kind of numbers as he did in his peak. In that span, he was sixth in catches, eleventh in yards and 22nd in touchdowns.

When he retired it was as the all-time leading receiver in terms of catches and yards and was tied for third in touchdown receptions and was a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee as a result.

10. Larry Fitzgerald

15 seasons
234 games
1 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
11 Pro Bowls
All-2005-15 (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
1303-16,279-12.5-116
91-1,141-12.5-8 per 16 games
3 Black ink
19 Grey ink

Fitzgerald is a big, modern receiver who is the anti-Moss or anti-Owens in terms of the negatives those guys brought to the table. However, he did not possess the speed of either of those two. he is on the shortlist of the best hands ever (dropped only 1.3% of his targets when most of his contemporaries are in the 5% range and T.O. is at 7%).

He is also, by far, the best blocker among the big group and is on the shortlist with Hines Ward, John Taylor, and a few others as the best in that department as well. In the last few years, he's moved inside to a slot or even a wing position or will motion in from the outside to crack a linebacker or defensive back to open up running lanes and he does it with authority and abandon.

In addition to his regular-season stats, his post-season numbers are impressive—in nine games he had 57 catches for 942 yards for a 16.5-yard average and 10 scores (translates to 101 rec. for 1675 yards and 18 TDs per 16 games).

He was All-pro twice and was also All-Pro twice more by Pro Football Focus. He was on an All-Pro level in 2005 as well, but it is fair to say his 'honors' are light compared to many on the list, but be that as it may, he's still an all-time great and will be a Hall of Famer, likely first-ballot.

9 seasons
135 games
4 First-team All-Pro (3 consensus)
0 Second-team All-Pro
6 Pro Bowls
All-2005-15 (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
731-11,619-15.9-83
87-1,377-15.9-10 per 16 games
4 Black ink
17 Grey ink

Megatron. The ideal physical freak. Just bigger, stronger and faster than anyone could hope for. Darrelle Revis said he was his toughest matchup because Johnson was "the strongest receiver I've faced".  he was 6-5, 236 pounds, ran a 4.35 40, and the hands and skill need to make plenty of one-handed catches.

He still holds the NFL’s single-season receiving yardage record with 1,964 yards in 2012 and the third-highest receiving yards per game in the league’s history with 86.1. 

14 seasons
200 games
HOF
3 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
3 Second-team All-Pro
7 Pro Bowls (plus one Second-team All-NFC)
All-1980s
rec-yds-avg-TD
819-13,089-16.0-100
66-1,047-16.0-8
 per 16 games
2 Black ink
27 Grey ink

Solid in all aspects, productive year-after-year. Excellent hands, average speed, could block. Except for the strike-year of 1982, Largent totaled over 1,000 yards receiving every year from 1978-86 (1987 was a strike year, too and without it, he'd have likely had 1,000 yards in 1987, too).

Retired first all-time in receptions, yards, and touchdown receptions, though didn't hold them long. However, those records are likely what resulted in him being a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

11 seasons
125 games
1 POY
5 First-team All-Pro (5 consensus)
0 Second-team All-Pro
5 Pro Bowls
All-1960s
All-1955-65 Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
349-6,470-18.5-51
45-828-18.5-7
1 Black ink
14 Grey ink

Often you will read that Bob Hayes "changed the game" but it's never really defined.  What Shofner did really did change the game. Although things developed over time and in some ways Harlon Hill pioneered this before Shofner, but in earnest Shofner caused zone coverages to his side, the single-receiver side because of his speed.

Usually, cover-3 zones (roll coverage) will go to the tight end of two receiver side but with someone like Shofner or Hayes teams would roll the coverage to the weak side to give the weak corner help.

8 seasons
111 games
5 First-team All-Pro (2 consensus)
0 Second-team All-Pro
6 Pro Bowls
All-2010s  (more than likely)
rec-yds-avg-TD
698-10,731-15.4-51
101-1,547-15.4-7 per 16 games
3 Black ink
9 Grey ink

He's turning out to be the best 'big WR' in the post-Johnson era. He was taken after A.J. Green in the draft but he's stayed healthier and has been more productive. However, he hasn't been the go-to red zone target of some others, even though he possesses the proper traits to be a great one. Bottom line is we'd like to see some double-digit touchdown seasons in the next few years.

9 seasons
115 games
HOF
3 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
0 Second-team All-Pro
3 Pro Bowls 
All-1970s
rec-yds-avg-TD
336-5,462-16.3-51
47-760-16.3-7
1 Black ink
8 Grey ink
4 championships

In the 1990s, when Lynn Swann was being debated for the Hall of Fame (he was a 14-time finalist) there was this debate: The cons are articulated by people like Sports Illustrated's Peter King that said  Lynn Swann averaged less than 3 catches per game for his career and those are simply not Hall of Fame numbers. The pro argument, as voiced by the likes of Paul Zimmerman also at Sports Illustrated, goes something like this, "What do you want, quality or quantity?. Swann's catches were down the field, his catches meant something and he played his best in when the stakes were the highest".

Zim's arguments finally won the day as Swann was finally elected in 2001. 

Swann was the MVP in Super Bowl X with perhaps the best big-game any receiver has ever played.  He made four catches, three of the circus variety for 161 yards, including the game-winning grab.  

He caught the go-ahead pass in Super Bowl XIII that put Dallas in a hole and in Super Bowl XIV he made a spectacular, leaping 47-yard touchdown reception that gave the Steelers the lead. On that catch, Swann outleaped the Rams best two defensive backs, Pat Thomas and Nolan Cromwell who had Swann covered. Swann caught it anyway.

Once Jerry Rice, paid Swann the best compliment ever. It was done in a subtle way, the way jocks talk to each other, simple, direct, and sincere,  "He walked up to me, Swann remembers, "and said Swannie, You were the GUY, to everybody". Swann knew what that meant. Swann knew he had made an impact. 

16 seasons
233 games
HOF
4 First-team All-Pro (2 consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
8 Pro Bowls 
All-1980s (Second-team)
All-1975-85 (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
764-14,004-18.3-75
52-962-18.3-5
2 Black ink
21 Grey ink

A tall (6-3), fast, graceful receiver who was the 1980s best and most consistent deep threat averaging 55 catches for over 1000 yards from 1980-88. 

11 seasons
156 games
3 First-team All-Pro (3 consensus)
0 Second-team All-Pro
5 Pro Bowls 
All-1970s
rec-yds-avg-TD
489-7,822-16.0-48
50-802-16.0-5
1 Black ink
12 Grey ink
1 Championship

The NFC's version of Lynn Swann. Numbers are not impressive due to era (a dead ball era) but he made the biggest catches in the biggest games.

Those who throw shade on Lynn Swann would do the same to Pearson if he got into the Hall of Fame. Those who understand the passing game of the 1970s and appreciate Swann's skills would love to see the balance of having Pearson in the Hall. Right now, it's like Larry Wilson was in and Johnny Robinson was out (which finally got corrected).

7 seasons
112 games
3 First-team All-Pro (3 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
5 Pro Bowls (plus one Second-team All-NFC)
All-1985-95 Second-team  (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
595-8,134-13.7-65
85-1,162-13.7-9 per 16 games
6 Black ink
12 Grey ink

Sterling Sharpe, prior to injury was the second-best wide receiver in the NFL for several years. The question that is being raised now is:  Does he get the Terrell Davis injury exception to the 'longevity' qualification that has traditionally been part of the mix or bullet points for a Hall of Famer?

Davis, of course, got what many researchers called the "Gale Sayers exception" which was applied to Dwight Stephenson and even Ken Easley. It simply means is that the player was great enough when he was playing to qualify as one of the best of the best but his career was cut short due to serious injury.

19. Bob Hayes
11 seasons
132 games
HOF
2 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
5 Pro Bowls 
All-1965-75 Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
371-7,414-20.0-71
45-899-20.0-9
4 Black ink
20 Grey ink
1 Championship

Like Shofner, teams doubled him due to his amazing speed. He's sixth all-time in yards per catch as 20.0 and 19.1% of his catches went for scores.

We think, to this day, he's the fastest-ever NFL player. He was a difference maker tghat took the top off of the defenses that faced the Cowboys. Average hands, but not awful. Fine punt returner, too.

12 seasons
159 games
HOF
1 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
5 Pro Bowls 
All-1990s (Second-team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
750-11,904-15.9-65
75.-1,199-15.9-7
1 Black ink
18 Grey ink
3 Championships

The Playmaker. Also the pusher-offerer. He was a highly competitive, highly motivated player, a type A+ personality. A great leader from an effort aspect and it's debatable that the Cowboys may not have been the dynasty they were without the presence of Irvin.

13 seasons
165 games
HOF
All-1965-75 (PFJ's mid-decade team)
1 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
4 Second-team All-Pro
5 Pro Bowls (plus two more Second-team All-NFC picks)
rec-yds-avg-TD
649-9,110-14.0-79
63-883-14.0-8
2 Black ink
21 Grey ink

Began as a running back, moved outside. Was solid, steady and a great blocker. Numbers don't knock you over but played much of his career in the 1970s—the NFL's 'dead ball' era.

12 seasons
152 games
HOF
1 First-team All-Pro (0 consensus)
3 Second-team All-Pro
6 Pro Bowls 
All-1955-65  (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
495-8,410-17.0-84
52-885-17.0-9
2 Black ink
24 Grey ink
1 Championship

A flanker, usually on the two receiver side, was adept at corner routes to the end zone. His 84 touchdown ranked very high for a long time. he was a big part of the 1960 Eagles championship team. 

23. Cliff Branch
14 seasons
183 games
4 First-team All-Pro (3 consensus)
4 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
501-8,685-17.3-67
44-759-17.3-6 per 16 games
3 Black ink
16 Grey ink
3 championships

Speed to burn, a 9.2 sprinter, he was the guy the Raiders went to went the wanted to do what Al Davis wanted—to execute the vertical passing game. He has three rings and was a four-time All-Pro

24. Cris Carter
16 seasons
234 games
HOF
2 First-team All-Pro (2 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
8 Pro Bowls 
All-1990s
rec-yds-avg-TD
1101-13,899-12.6-130
75-950-12.6-9
4 Black ink
22 Grey ink

As we mentioned he had great hands, and was terrific on the sideline and in the end zone. He was a strong proud player who was a first-down machine. 

14 seasons
193 games
3 First-team All-Pro (2 consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
7 Pro Bowls
All-2005-15 Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
1062-14,185-13.4-70
88-1176-13.4-6
per 16 games
4 Black ink
13 Grey ink

Like Megatron, Johnson was another physical freak. Andre Johnson is among the best blockers of the recent era simply due to his physicality. At 6'3" and 235 pounds, Johnson is a physical marvel and he had excellent speed (4.39).

26. Isaac Bruce
16 seasons
223 games
1 First-team All-Pro
0 Second-team All-Pros
4 Pro Bowls (plus one Second-team All-NFC)
All-1995-05  (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
1024-15,208-14.9-91
74-1,091-14.9-7  per 16 games
1 Black ink
11 Grey ink
1 championship

A great flanker who many think will be in the Hall of Fame sometime soon. He was not a 'diva' he was a great route runner (one of the best ever) and could really beat defenders badly, even though he had good, but not great speed.

27. Andre Reed
16 seasons
234 games
HOF
0 First-team All-Pro 
3 Second-team All-Pro
7 Pro Bowls 
All-1985-95 (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
951-13,198-13.9-87
65-902-13.9-6
0 Black ink
13 Grey ink

Noted for his runs after the catch. Ran like a halfback once he got the ball in his hands.

28. Tim Brown
17 seasons
255 games
HOF
1 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
9 Pro Bowls 
All-1990s Second-team
rec-yds-avg-TD
1094-14,934-13.7-100
69-937-13.7-6
1 Black ink
19 Grey ink

Almost a compiler, he was in the AFC at a time when the NFC had Jerry Rice, Sterling Sharpe, Michael Irvin, Herman Moore, Isaac Bruce, then Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and others, so we do question Brown's 9 Pro Bowls in the sense that the competition was not as tough for him than it was for the NFC wide receivers. When matched versus the NFC guys for teh All-Pro team he made it just once. That may be more telling and why we look at All-Conference selections (which the Pro Bowl is).

29. Art Monk
16 seasons
224 games
HOF
2 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
0 Second-team All-Pro
3 Pro Bowls 
All-1980s Second-team
rec-yds-avg-TD
940-12,721-13.5-68
67-909-13.5-5
1 Black ink
7 Grey ink
3 championships

In 1984 he set the then-NFL record for catches in a season with 106, breaking the AFL record of 101 by Charley Hennigan in 1964. However, it needs to be noted that Monk's mark was in a 16-game season and his catches per game was 6.63. Hennigan's was 7.21.

Monk was a quintessential possession receiver and was an important leader on a team that won three titles in his career. In the playoffs, in 15 games, Monk totaled 69 receptions for 1062 yards (15.4 avg) and 7 touchdowns.

18 seasons
239 games
HOF
1 First-team All-Pro (0 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
3 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
750-12,146-16.2-65
50-813-16.2-4
0 Black ink
12 Grey ink

Charlie Joiner was called by Bill Walsh "The smartest, most calculating receiver the game has ever known".  It's been written that Joiner was the king of the '12-yard curl' and was a tremendous route runner and had great hands. His top seasons in the late-70s and early 1980s he was used quite a bit as a slot receiver in the Air Coryell offense and was very, very effective dues to his route-running skills and slipping open.  

Over his 18 year career, Joiner averaged 50 catches and 813 yards, and 4.4 touchdowns per 16 games. In nine playoff games, Joiner caught 35 passes for 632 yards for an 18.1 average and 5 scores.

14 seasons (plus one CFL)
190 games (plus 16 CFL)
HOF
2 First-team All-Pro (2 consensus)
3 Second-team All-Pro
7 Pro Bowls 
All-1965-75 Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
589-8,974-15.2-76 (plus 38-470-12.4-4 in CFL)
50-756-15.2-6 per 16 games
2 Black ink
19 Grey ink
1 championship

Great hands, aided by stickum. When you add in his one season of CFL football he totaled over 600 catches and 9,000 yards and 80 touchdowns.

32. Mac Speedie
7 seasons (plus 3 CFL seasons)
86 games (plus 30 CFL games)
5 First-team All-Pro (4 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
6 Pro Bowls (plus 2 CFL All-Star selections)
All-1940s
All-1945-55  Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
349-5,602-16.1-33 (plus 94-1404-14.9-12 in CFL)
65-1042-16.1-6 per 16 games (CFL avg = 50-749 -14.9-6)
5 Black ink
19 Grey ink
5 championships

Speedie is not in the Hall of Fame, likely because of his short career. He left the NFL for the CFL for at the time when the CFL was paying more, so you cannot blame him.  He had a lot going for him, he was big for the time (6-3, over 200 pounds) and made a big impact. Look at his per 16 game averages—65 catches for 1042 yards, excellent for his day.

33. Elroy Hirsch
12 seasons
127 games
HOF
2 First-team All-Pro (2 consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
3 Pro Bowls
All-1950s
All-1945-55  (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
387-7,029-18.2-60
49-886-18.2-8 per 16 games
5 Black ink
22 Grey ink
1 championship

Had a quadruple crown in 1961 leading the NFL in catches, yards, yards per catch, and touchdowns.

11 seasons 
148 games 
HOF
3 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls 
All-1955-65  Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
521-7,954-15.3-65
56-860-15.3-7 per 16 games
4 Black ink
19 Grey ink
1 championship

Good kick returner, like Charley Taylor, began his career as a running back moved to flanker.

35. DeAndre Hopkins
6 seasons
95 games
2 All-Pro  (2 consensus)
3 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
528-7,437-14.1-47
89-1,253-14.1-8 per 16 games
4 Black ink
20 Grey ink

Rising fast. He makes tremendous catches, had good size, excellent speed and is someone who could, as a wide receiver, win an offensive player of the year award in the near future. Something only Jerry Rice has done

36. Harold Jackson
15 seasons
208 games
1 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
5 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
579-10,372-17.9-76
45-798-17.9-6
 per 16 games
4 Black ink
20 Grey ink

In the 1970s Harold Jackson led all receivers in catches, yards, and touchdowns and was fifth in yards per catch. Actually, the same is true in all categories for the 1969-81 time period, when he was an NFL starter. That's a 13-year span that he led everyone in almost everything. Not a common feat.

He was third in the 1973 Offensive Player of the Year voting and was five-time Pro Bowler. Stat-wise he was the leading receiver of the 'dead ball' era. He also was someone who could get deep as well, as evidenced by his near 18 yards per catch number.

37. Dante Lavelli

11 seasons
123 games 
HOF
6 First-team All-Pro (2 consensus)
0 Second-team All-Pro
3 Pro Bowls
All-1940s
All-1945-55  Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
386-6,488-16.8-62
50-844-16.8-8 per 16 games
3 Black ink
24 Grey ink
7 championships

Gluefingers has seven rings and was named to six All-Pros, but again, to be complete only a couple of them were 'consensus' All-Pros. when he was on the majority of the teams in those given years.

38. Art Powell
9 seasons 
117 games 
5 First-team All-Pro (2 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls 
All-1960s AFL Second-team
rec-yds-avg-TD
479-8,046-16.8-81
66-1,100-16.8-11 per 16 games
4 Black ink
25 Grey ink

At his peak, he rivaled Lance Alworth as the best receiver in the AFL. From 1960-66 he averaged 65 catches for 1096 yards and 11 touchdown receptions per season (not per 16 games). he began his career as a defensive back/end for the Eagles in 1959 then had a cup of coffee with the Bills in 1967 and the Vikings in 1968 and poof, he was gone. For his size (6-3, 211) he had great speed and movement.

39. Don Maynard
15 seasons 
186 games 
HOF
1 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
4 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls 
All-1960s AFL
rec-yds-avg-TD
633-11,834-18.7-88
54-1,019-18.7-8 per 16 games
3 Black ink
35 Grey ink
1 championship

Maynard has a ring, was a good split end, very good. He was All-AFL, though, just once but he did make four Second-teams. 

40. Tom Fears
9 seasons
87 games
HOF
2 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
1 Pro Bowls
All-1950s
All-1945-55  (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
400-5,397-13.5-38
74-993-13.5-7 per 16 games
5 Black ink
12 Grey ink
1 championship

Fears was what George Allen called a "first-down receiver". Hirsch was on the right side, and he was a deep threat, Fears was the 'possession' guy.

41. John Stallworth
14 seasons
165 games
HOF
1 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
3 Pro Bowls
All-1975-85  Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
537-8,723-16.2-63
52.-846-16.2-6 per 16 games
0 Black ink
13 Grey ink
4 championships

Should have been the MVP of Super Bowl XIV, he had a few great years (1979, 1984 and perhaps 1981-82) but to us, didn't stand out as much as other Hall of Famers or some that are on the outside looking in. His performance in the Super Bowl after the 1979 season was one of the ages and in 1978 he had a good game, too. But his credentials seem thin.

42. Jim Benton
14 seasons
165 games
2 First-team All-Pro (2 consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls
All-1940s
rec-yds-avg-TD
288-4,801-16.7-45
51-844-16.7-8 per 16 games
5 Black ink
30 Grey ink
1 championship

A contemporary of Don Hutson he put up some great numbers in a couple of years and was a cut above all the receivers of his era, except Hutson.

43. Lionel Taylor

7 seasons
121 games
4 First-team All-Pro (3 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
3 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
567-7,195-12.7-45
75-951-12.7-6
 per 16 games
5 Black ink
20 Grey ink

A better athlete on film that one would expect. Averaged only 12/7 yards a reception in his career, suggesting so-so speed. But he ran well, not a burner, but good enough speed. Likely he didn't get a lot of deep catches due to mediocre offensive lines and quarterbacks would didn't have time to get the ball deep or if given time could get the ball deep with any accuracy.

Had he played for the Chargers or Bills or Raiders he could have been a player with a 17-20-yard per catch average. As it was he led the AFL in receptions five times and was the first pro receiver to record a 100-catch season.

He began his career with the Bears and ended it with the Oilers and in between, he had his eight seasons for the Bronocs.

44. Brandon Marshall
13 seasons
179 games
1 All-Pro (consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
6 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
970-12,351-12.7-83
87-11,04-12.7-7  per 16 games
1 Black ink
17 Grey ink

45.  Henry Ellard
16 seasons
228 games
3 First-team All-Pro (2 consensus, one as a PR)
0 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls
All-1985-95  Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
814-13,777-16.9-65
57-967-16.9-5 per 16 games
2 Black ink
13 Grey ink

Jim Everett calls Ellard the 'best X receiver ever'. We don't know about that but he sure is forgotten. he had a slow start to his career in receiving (he was a top, top-notch punt returner though) but the Rams passing game before Ernie Zampese showed up in 1987. In 1988 and 1989 Ellard was All-Pro and used his amazing precise route-running to beat cornerbacks.
46. Anquan Boldin
14 seasons
202 games
0 First-team All-Pro
0 Second-team All-Pro
3 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
1076-13,779-12.8-82
85-1,091-12.8-6
 per 16 games
0 Black ink
8 Grey ink

Strong and tough. One of our favorites. "Tough" is an understatement.

47. Steve Smith
16 seasons
218 games
2 First-team All-Pro (2 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
5 Pro Bowls
All-2005-15 Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
1031-14,731-14.3-81
76-1,081-14.3-6  per 16 games
3 Black ink
12 Grey ink

A smaller receiver, but fast and strong. And tough. Super-competitive, in the Michael Irvin category in that respect.

48. Hines Ward
14 seasons
207 games
3 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
1000-12,083-12.1-85
74-891-12.1-6  per 16 games
0 Black ink
12 Grey ink
2 championships

The best wide receiver blocker in the recent era, Ward was part of two Super Bowl wins and was a productive possession receiver as well.

 49. Jimmy Smith
12 seasons
178 games
5 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
862-12,287-14.3-67
77-1,104-14.3-6  per 16 games
1 Black ink
9 Grey ink

50. Harlon Hill

9 years
103 games
3 First-team All-Pros (3 consensus)
3 Pro Bowls
1 MVP (1955*)
rec-yds-avg-TD
233-4,717-20.2-40
36-733-20.2-6
4 Black ink
12 Grey ink

One of the original deep threats. A precursor to Shofner, who was a precursor to Bob Hayes in drawing the safety help to the weak side. He was the NFL MVP in 1955 and was better in 1954 and 1956. Leg injuries and personal issues caused his career to tail off quickly.

Best of the rest
Odell Beckham, Jr.
5 seasons
59 games
2 Second-team All-Pro
3 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
390-5,476-14.0-44
106-1,485-14.0-12
 per 16 games
0 Black ink
9 Grey ink

He needs to step it up to be an all-time great. He's yet to be a First-team All-pro and yet to lead the NFL in anything. He has the talent, the skill, but needs to stay healthy and focused.

Otis Taylor
11 seasons
130 games
3 First-team All-Pro (2 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
2 Pro Bowls
All-1965-75 Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
410-7,306-17.8-57
50-899-17.8-7  per 16 games
3 Black ink
17 Grey ink
1 championship

Harold Carmichael
14 seasons
182 games
1 All-pro (1 consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls (plus 2 Second-team All-NFC selections)
rec-yds-avg-TD
590-8,985-15.2-79
52-790-15.2-7 per 16 games
2 Black ink
12 Grey ink

Charley Hennigan

7 seasons
121 games
3 First-team All-Pro (3 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
5 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
410-6,823-16.6-51
69-1,149-16.6-9 per 16 games
3 Black ink
18 Grey ink
2 AFL championships

He had excellent speed and exploded out of his cuts. He was by Mac Speedie in that regard. He set a pro single-season receiving record with 1,746 yards (since broken) that still ranks very high. In 1961, Hennigan had 82 receptions and 12 touchdowns in a 14-game season, averaging 21.3 yards per catch.

 Andre Rison
12 seasons
186 games
2 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
5 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
743-10,205-13.7-84
64-878-13.7-7 per 16 games
1 Black ink
12 Grey ink


11 seasons
153 games
1 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
3 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
589-10,261-17.4-5
62-1,073-17.4-6 per 16 games
4 Black ink
9 Grey ink

A throwback to the 1960s and 1970s, a true deep threat who has led the NFL in yards per catch four times and has a 17.4 yards per reception career average. He and Josh Gordon are the current leaders and no one else is within a yard of them.

12 seasons
145 games
2 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
351-6,644-18.9-45
39-733-18.9-5  per 16 games
1 Black ink
14 Grey ink

A deep threat, had 9.2 100-yard dash speed and was the Cardinals answer to Cliff Branch.

Isaac Curtis
12 seasons
167 games
2 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
416-7,101-17.1-53
40-680-17.1-5  per 16 games
1 Black ink
11 Grey ink

Elite speed, super long legs. Listed at 6-1, and he was but he looked 6-3 with those long legs. Was a great high school running back, a sprinter in track and an also a very good shot putter. He was the deep threat for the 1970s Bengals. In his first four seasons, he averaged 40 catches for 794 yards (19.9 average and 8 touchdowns. As Ken Anderson's production dropped, so did Curtis'

10 seasons
140 games
2 First-team All-Pro (2 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
385-6,856-17.8-60
44-784-17.8-7 per 16 games
3 Black ink
14 Grey ink

Began his career with a bang but his numbers suffered as the 49ers failed to replace John Brodie. He ended his career as a Lion after missing the 1978 season with an injury.

11 seasons
173 games
1 First-team All-Pro (1 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
7 Pro Bowls
All-2000s Second-team
rec-yds-avg-TD
920-13,382-14.5-74
85-1,238-14.5-7 per 16 games
4 Black ink
19 Grey ink
1 championship

10 seasons
131 games
0 All-Pro 
2 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
688-9,330-13.6-62
84-1,140-13.6-8  per 16 games
0 Black ink
11 Grey ink
1 championship

Bill Howton
11 seasons
142 games
2 First-team All-Pro (2 consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
503-8,459-16.8-6
57-953-16.8-7 per 16 games
3 Black ink
16 Grey ink

Broke most of Don Hutson's career records. Was the best double cut route runner of his era. Should have gotten more Hall of Famer consideration in our view.



10 seasons
103 games
2 First-team All-Pro (2 consensus)
3 Second-team All-Pro
6 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
407-5902-14.5-49
63-917-16.8-8 per 16 games
4 Black ink
20 Grey ink

A lot of grey ink and six Pro Bowls, Wilson was a tall, lean (6-3, 190) swift end who was YA Tittle's main target in the 1950s. 




8 seasons
111 games
2 Second-team All-Pro
7 Pro Bowls
All-2005-2015 Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
602-8,907-14.8-63
87-1,284-14.8-9 per 16 games
4 Black ink
20 Grey ink


14 seasons
190 games
2 All-Pro
2 Pro Bowls (plus one All-NFC)
rec-yds-avg-TD
559-8,965-16.0-66
47-755-16.0-6
 per 16 games
2 Black ink
10 Grey ink

A deep threat, he converted from defensive back to wide receiver, even playing both ways for a season or two. John Madden said Green reminded him of Warren Wells more than anyone.

Warren Wells
5 seasons
65 games
1 All-AFL
1 Second-team All-Pro
2 Pro Bowls/AFL All-Star games
rec-yds-avg-TD
158-3,655-23.1-4
39-900-23.1-10
4 Black ink
12 Grey ink

Super speed, a tremendous deep threat, but awful choices ended his career. Went to prison, convicted of rape. As a player, his 1968-70 run was truly amazing—he averaged 48 catches for 1111 yards (a 23.3 average) and 12 scores. He was also a great special teams player for the raiders in 1967, recording over 20 tackles covering kicks and punts.

John Jefferson
8 seasons
102 games
3 All-Pro (2 consensus)
4 Pro Bowls
All-1975-1985 Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
351-5,714-16.3-47
55-896-16.3-7
 per 16 games
3 Black ink
8 Grey ink

TY Hilton
7 seasons
108 games
4 Pro Bowls
All-1975-1985 Second-team (PFJ's mid-decade team)
rec-yds-avg-TD
507-8,097-16.0-40
75-1,200-16.0-7per 16 games
1 Black ink
8 Grey ink

16 seasons
209 games
2 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
883-11,373-12.9-63
68-871-16.8-5 per 16 games
0 Black ink
8 Grey ink

Gary Clark
11 seasons
167 games (plus 25 USFL games)
1 All-Pro
2 Second-team All-Pro
2 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
699-10,856-15.5-65 (plus 66-821-2 in USFL)
67-1,040-16.8-6 per 16 games
0 Black ink
16 Grey ink
2 championships

Began his career in the USFL and then blossomed in the NFL with the Redskins. John Madden raved about Clark, calling him a clutch receiver and the Redskins best receiver. He caught 7 passes for 114 yards and a 30-yard touchdown in Super Bowl XXVI.



13 seasons
149 games
1 All-Pro (2 consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
2 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
400-7,914-19.8-66
43-850-19.8-7 per 16 games
3 Black ink
16 Grey ink
1 championship

11 seasons
166 games
2 All-Pro (2 consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
6 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
766-11,059-14.4-67
74-1,066-14.4-6 per 16 games
1 Black ink
12 Grey ink

Reggie Wayne
14 seasons
211 games
1 All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
1070-14,345-13.4-82
81-1,088-13.4-6 per 16 games
4 Black ink
20 Grey ink
1 championship

Homer Jones
7 seasons
87 games
1 All-pro (consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
2 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
224-4,986-22.3-36
41-917-22.3-7 per 16 games
1 Black ink
11 Grey ink

The all-time leader in yards per catch at 22.3 (for those with 200 or more catches), Jones had good size for someone so fast (6-2, 215). He was a poor man's Bob Hayes. He was traded to the Browns (who need to replace a traded Paul Warfield) and his play suffered and he gained weight and lost his speed.

Keyshawn Johnson
11 seasons
167 games
0 All-pro
0 Second-team All-Pro
3 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
814-10,571-13.0-64
79-1,013-13.0-6 per 16 games
0 Black ink
6 Grey ink
1 championship

Al Toon
11 seasons
167 games
2 All-pro (1 consensus)
0 Second-team All-Pro
3 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
517-6,605-12.8-31
77-988-12.8-5 per 16 games
0 Black ink
8 Grey ink

Mike Quick
9 seasons
101 games
3 All-pro (2 consensus)
0 Second-team All-Pro
5 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
363-6,464-17.8-61
59-1,024-17.8-10 per 16 games
1 Black ink
9 Grey ink

In 1982 Eagles coach Dick Vermeil told friend and Bills coach Chuch Knox that the Eagles were going to take Perry Tuttle in the upcoming NFL draft. Vermeil wasn;t worried because the Bills were quite a ways behind the Eagles in the draft. Well, come draft day, Knox traded up to the slot before the Eagles and took Tuttle. The Eagles took their next-best prospect—Mike Quick.

Word was Vermeil and the Eagles brain trust was pissed and Knox's attitude was "business is business". Looking back, maybe it was a ruse all along because Tuttle busted and Quick played great!

Wes Welker
12 seasons
175 games
2 All-Pro (2 consensus)
2 Second-team All-Pro
5 Pro Bowls 
rec-yds-avg-TD
903-9,924-11.0-50
83-907-11.0-5 per 16 games
3 Black ink
12 Grey ink

12 seasons
146 games
3 All-Pro (3 consensus)
4 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
670-9,174-13.7-62
73-1,005-13.7-7 per 16 games
2 Black ink
13 Grey ink

People forget how productive Moore was in the mid-1990s.


11 seasons
158 games
1 Second-team All-Pro
5 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
582-8,974-15.4-84
59-909-15.4-9
2 Black ink
14 Grey ink 


11 seasons
146 games
3 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
511-8,869-17.4-59
56-972-17.4-6
0 Black ink
12 Grey ink

 Joey Galloway
14 seasons
198 games
0 All-Pro 
0 Pro Bowls 
rec-yds-avg-TD
701-10,950-15.6-77
57-884-15.6-6 per 16 games
1 Black ink
5 Grey ink

Galloway was an excellent punt returner early in his career in addition to being a fine, fine deep threat.

11 seasons (plus 3 USFL seasons)
140 games (plus 41 USFL games)
0 All-Pro  (plus 1 USFL pick)
3 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
356-5,696-16.0-34 (plus 160-3,042-19.0-27 in USFL)
45-719-16.0-4 per 16 games
1 Black ink
8 Grey ink

Another of John Madden's favorites. Said on CBS telecasts more than once the following: "If I were the Vikings coach I'd made a note to myself before the game to remind me to get the ball in Anthony Carter's hands 12 times".  He was a top-notch receiver from 1985-90 but tailed off after that.

Muhsin Muhammad
14 seasons
202 games
1 All-Pro
3 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
860-11,438-13.3-62
68-906-13.3-5 per 16 games
3 Black ink
7 Grey ink

Rod Smith
12 seasons
183 games
2 Second-team All-Pro
3 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
849-11,389-13.4-68
74-996-13.4-6 per 16 games
1 Black ink
11 Grey ink

Roddy White
11 seasons
171 games
1 All-Pro (consensus)
4 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
808-10,863-13.4-63
76-1,016-13.4-6 per 16 games
1 Black ink
13 Grey ink

Eric Moulds
12 seasons
186 games
2 Second-team All-Pro
3 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
764-9,995-13.1-49
66-860-13.1-4
0 Black ink
9 Grey ink

Donald Driver
14 seasons
205 games
3 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
743-10,137-13.6-61
58-791-13.6-5 per 16 games
0 Black ink
5 Grey ink
1 championship

Marques Colston
10 seasons
146 games
rec-yds-avg-TD
711-9,759-13.7-7
78-1,069-13.7-8 per 16 games
0 Black ink
8 Grey ink
1 championship

Derrick Mason
16 seasons
230 games
1 All-Pro (consensus)
2 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
943-12,061-12.8-66
66-839-12.8-5 per 16 games
0 Black ink
6 Grey ink

Irving Fryar
16 seasons
255 games
1 All-Pro (consensus)
5 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
851-12,785-15.0-84
53-802-15.0-5  per 16 games
0 Black ink
8 Grey ink

A great punt returner early, he developed into a fine receiver.

John Gilliam
11 seasons
151 games (plus 5 WFL games)
1 All-Pro (consensus)
4 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
382-7,056-18.5-48 (plus 20-390-19.5-2 in WFL)
40-748-18.5-5  per 16 games
1 Black ink
18 Grey ink

Santana Moss

14 seasons
197 games
1 All-Pro  (as a punt returner)
1 Second-team All-Pro
2 Pro Bowls (one as a punt returner)
rec-yds-avg-TD
732-10,283-14.0-66
59-835-14.0-5 per 16 games
0 Black ink
8 Grey ink

Ken Burrough
12 seasons
156 games
0 All-Pro
1 Second-team All-Pro
2 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
421-7,102-16.9-49
43-827-16.9-5 per 16 games
1 Black ink
10 Grey ink

A good deep threat in a run-first era.

Rob Moore

10 years
153 games
1 All-Pro
2 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
628-9,368-14.9-49
66-980-14.9-5 per 16 games
1 Black ink
5 Grey ink

Drew Hill

14 years
211 games
0 All-Pro
2 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
634-9,831-15.5-60
48-745-15.5-5 per 16 games
0 Black ink
12 Grey ink

Dez Bryant
8 years
113 games
1 All-Pro
3 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
531-7,459-14.0-73
75-1,056-14.0-10 per 16 games
1 Black ink
11 Grey ink

Sonny Randle
11 seasons
122 games
1 All-Pro (consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
365-5,996-16.4-65
48-786-16.4-9
1 Black ink 
13 Grey ink

Led the NFL in touchdown receptions in the 1960s. He showed good, but not great speed. He may have suffered a bit as Jackie Smith arrived and Bobby Joe Conrad developed into a top flanker. With three solid receivers around in a run-first era, the numbers tend to go down.

Wes Chandler
12 seasons
150 games
1 All-Pro (consensus)
1 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls
All-1960s
rec-yds-avg-TD
559-8,966-16.0-56
60-946-16.0-6 per 16 games
3 Black ink
10 Grey ink

Boyd Dowler

12 seasons
162 games
2 Pro Bowls (plus one more All-Conference pick
rec-yds-avg-TD
474-7,270-15.3-40
47-718-15.3-4
0 Black ink
5 Grey ink
5 championships

Stanley Morgan
14 seasons
196 games
1 All-Pro
1 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls
557-10,716-19.2-72
45-875-19.2-6  per 16 games
4 Black ink
13 Grey ink

10 seasons
139 games
1 Second-team All-Pro
4 Pro Bowls (plus one Second-team All-NFC)
495-6,831-13.8-41
57-786-13.8-5 per 16 games
0 Black ink
9 Grey ink

10 seasons
155 games
0 All-Pro
0 Second-team All-Pro
5 Pro Bowls
595-9,148-15.4-63
61-944-15.4-7 per 16 games
0 Black ink
11 Grey ink

Alfred Jenkins

Ed McCaffrey

Steve Watson

Roger Carr

Wesley Walker


Tony Martin

Laveranues Coles


Haven Moses

Dwight Clark





Dave Logan


Jerry Butler


Flipper Anderson


Wallace Francis

Haywood Jeffires


Carroll Dale


Gary Collins

Elbie Nickel

Ricky Sanders


Bobby Joe Conrad

R.C. Owens

Willie Gault

John Taylor

Dick Gordon

Bernie Casey

Gino Cappelletti
Brian Blades

Buddy Dial

Elbert Dubenion

Sammy White



George Sauer

Roy Jefferson



Cris Collinsworth

Vance Johnson

Terry Glenn
11 seasons
137 games
0 All-Pro
1 Pro Bowls
rec-yds-avg-TD
593-8,823-14.9-44
69-1,030-14.9-5 per 16 games
1 Black ink
1 Grey ink


Pierre Garcon

11 seasons
148 games
rec-yds-avg-TD
628-7,854-12.5-38
68-849-12.5-4 per 16 games
1 Black ink
2 Grey ink

Jack Snow


Pat Tilley


Eddie Brown


Webster Slaughter


Lance Rentzel

Earnest Gray

Louis Lipps

Reggie Rucker



Preston Dennard

We could go on and on...so if we left off your favorite, let us know, we will try and add later. And we realize some of the names at the bottom are not very good, but we found art for them so we listed them. And remember the top 50 are ranked, after that, it's closer to random than anything.

8 comments:

  1. no real objections to your top 10 (top 3 are perfect), but shouldn't Raymond Berry be higher than Terrell Owens? TO is perceived as more of a deep threat, but their lifetime ave/catch are almost identical 14.7/14.8. The one glaring issue I have with the list is Wes Welker....not in the top 35 or so? is there anyone below #10 that was more reliable on 3rd down...ever?

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    Replies
    1. Welker in the top 35? Is he even notably better than the guy who replaced him (Edleman)? John, I was a little surprised you didn't have Harold Jackson higher.

      Delete
    2. I like TO despite his, uh, "issues" but you are right, Berry should be ahead of him. I also feel Irvin should be higher even though I am definitely *not* a Cowboy fan. I think it counts for something when someone is a significant contributor to a great team.

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    3. A good story I heard once about Berry ... he ran a route in training camp and went out of bounds. Coach asked him why he went OOB and Berry said, "I didn't, the field is wrong". They remeasured and it was 2 feet too narrow.

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  2. An interesting list considering the great Otis Taylor was outside your top 50! Wow ! Rice had great production but dropped a lot of balls as well, which Is why I believe Warfield was the best. The Browns and Dolphins haven't won championships since he left. No Ken Kavanaugh? He was only the 40s greatest deep threat other than Hutson and had 50 TDs in less than 170 catches ! George Sauer Jr was a clone of Raymond Berry and would have been in the HOF, if he hadn't retired after only six seasons...Imagine Namaths statistics,having Sauer another five years ? Where's the Dolphins Nat Moore ? His ability over the middle allowed outside receivers, Clayton and Duper to thrive...

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    Replies
    1. We could add Kavanaugh, we know all about him. However, everyone on the list had more than 200 catches----Kavanaugh had 165..Jom Benton, a contemporary had 288 catches----so he just didn't qualify.

      Delete
  3. Sorry about the gaps and mistakes in the comment...Thank you John Turney, for your excellent blog and historical perspective, while allowing true NFL History fans like myself a chance to comment.
    Forgot to mention that Ken Kavanaugh played for the Bears, for young fans still learning about all these great receivers and players...

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  4. Thank you for including Warren Wells, a player often forgotten but who was possibly the best receiver in football for three years. I cringe seeing Fred Biletnikoff at only #29, and -as great as Swann was in the Super Bowls- many consider Stallworth to have been a better receiver on the same team. Being a Raider fan, I feel Cliff Branch is underrated at #39 (his stats are better than Swann and he had TDs in two of his three Super Bowls). Still, a great list and I appreciate your blog. Thank you. :)

    ReplyDelete