Wide receivers are as important as the guys mounting other positions in American Football. Just like the Quarterbacks, they are part of the offensive line-up but are regarded as key players owing to the fact that they are principally expected to catch passes and outmaneuver defensive halfbacks and safeties. As the gridiron keeps evolving, being a fine wide receiver demands more agility and greater ingenuity. Many wide receivers understand this, but only a few can dream of matching the attainments of the fellas listed below; they are the greatest wide receivers of all-time in the NFL’s history.
NFL’s Legendary Wide Receivers
15. Calvin Johnson
There is a reason Johnson was fondly called “Megatron” by his fans and colleagues, it was as a result of his gigantic physical stature and his incredible speed. He could run 40 yards in 4.35 seconds. Throughout his career, he was a force to reckon with. He moved across the field like he was made of air, grabbing balls and taking off again before his opponents could figure out what was happening. Johnson broke the record for most receiving yards in a single season in 2012, which was previously held by Jerry Rice. He completed 1,964 yards to claim the record while also establishing a new record for eight consecutive 100-yard games and a total of eleven 100-yard games in that season.
14. Isaac Bruce
You can’t talk about the Ram’s victory at the Super Bowl XXXIV without showering praise on Bruce’s electric performance and how instrumental he was to that moment and the games leading up to it. His career statistics also establish him as one of the greatest wide receivers of all time. He had accumulated 15,208 yards at the time of his retirement, which places him at the fifth position for the most career yards in NFL history.
13. James Lofton
The NFL was very different in the era when Lofton played, but that did not stop the wide receiver from churning out mindblowing numbers year after year. He was the first player ever to reach 14,000 yards in the history of the league, although that record has now been broken several times over. He made 8 Pro Bowl trips in his career and was as gifted a player as they come in terms of speed and endurance. Lofton had an average of over 15 yards per catch for 14 out of the 16 seasons he spent playing for several teams in the league. It came as no surprise when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.
12. Cris Carter
This Pro Football Hall of Famer practically ran the game in the ‘90s. In fact, he might have been the greatest wide receiver of that era if Jerry Rice had not been around. Carter spent most of his career playing for the Minnesota Vikings and he gave them the very best of his talent and abilities. He was trusted to catch passes, no matter how risky or unlikely they seemed. Cris retired with 130 receiving touchdowns under his helmet, the fourth-highest in history. Carter also ranks sixth in all-time receptions with 1,101, and thirteenth in all-time receiving yards with 13,899.
11. Andre Johnson
Andre Johnson divided his career between the Houston Texans where he played for 12 years; the Indianapolis Colts, and the Tennessee Titans, where he played for one season. During that time, he led the league in receiving yards two years in a row in 2008 and 2009. He made seven trips to the Pro Bowl and set almost every receiving record for the Houston Texans. He ended his reign with a total of 14,185 receiving yards, making him the 11th highest of all time.
10. Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald took the NFL world by storm. He set and broke so many NFL records at such a young age, that it would be amiss to not include him on a list of greatest wide receivers of all time. Although he has been underappreciated over the years, he has proven again and again that he is one of the most consistently good players in the league. He is just a few yards shy of moving to second place in all-time receiving yards, and less than a 100 more receptions to take his place as second all-time receptions in history. He has since smashed Jerry Rice’s postseason records by garnering 30 catches and 546 receiving yards in 2008.
9. Steve Largent
If Largent’s status as one of the best wide receivers the league has ever seen was ever in doubt, that discussion was put to rest after he became the first player in history to achieve the 100 touchdown plateau. He now sits comfortably in 9th place for the most touchdowns ever. Largent spent his career playing for the Seattle Seahawks, making seven selections for the Pro Bowl, and setting record after record up till the moment of his retirement. In 1995, he took a coveted place amongst the greats who have been named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
8. Reggie Wayne
This former Indianapolis Colts player spent his 14-year career being brilliant at the game. He was a major part of the Colts’ Super Bowl XLI win against the Chicago Bears. He retired with an accumulated 14,345 career receiving yards and 1,070 receptions under his helmet. Wayne was selected for the Pro Bowl six times and led the league in receiving yards in the 2007 season. Although he has not yet been named to the Hall of Fame, Reggie is certainly one of the greatest wide receivers of all time.
7. Tim Brown
You cannot make a top ten list for the major receiving categories without Tim Brown’s name popping up somewhere. The Pro Football Hall of Famer was named to the Pro Bowl nine times in his career. He was revered for his ability to make the best out of bad game situations and making every opportunity work for his team. He ended his career being ranked ninth in all-time touchdowns with 100, and seventh in all-time receiving yards with 14,934.
6. Marvin Harrison
Colt star Marvin Harrison was one half of one of the most powerful pass and catch partnerships to ever grace the NFL. The chances of getting bored quickly while reading Harrison’s statistics over the course of his career are highly unlikely because of how incredible he was as a player. He retired in 2009 with 14,580 receiving yards and 128 touchdowns. In 2016, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
5. Lynn Swann
Although Lynn Swann has some of the more humble statistics on this list with 5,462 receiving yards on 336 catches for 51 touchdowns, he is still an undeniable legend and deserves his place as one of the greatest wide receivers the NFL has ever seen. He was instrumental to the Pittsburgh Steelers claiming four Super Bowl titles. He even managed to land a diving shoestring catch that has been studied for years in the NFL and was voted MVP for his achievements.
4. Don Hutson
Thanks to Hutson, the forward pass is a thing in football. He was leading the league back in his days, dominating major receiver categories. When he retired, he was way ahead of his peers and held many receiver records that went unbroken for decades after. In his peak season in 1942, he put down 1,211 yards on 74 catches and 17 touchdowns in only 11 games.
3. Terrell Owens
While most people do not agree with this football star’s attitude, it’s hard to ignore the sheer audacity of the statistics he racked up in his playing years. Owens shares second place for the most receiving yards in NFL history at 15,934, as well as third-highest career touchdowns at 153, and eighth all-time career receptions at 1,078. Besides, who can forget that he bet on himself at the Super Bowl XXXIX by going against the recommendations of his doctors and playing when the bone and ligament injury he sustained seven weeks prior had barely healed.
2. Randy Moss
Randy Moss didn’t have the brightest start in the NFL, but he spent his career showing everyone who ever doubted his abilities just how wrong they were and establishing himself as one of the greatest wide receivers to play the game. In his very first season, he put down 1,313 yards for 65 catches and 17 touchdowns, which shattered the rookie record. Moss was not only exceptional at the game he played, but he also took his time to learn as much as he could about it. He retired with 156 career touchdowns and 15,292 receiving yards, the second and fourth highest of all time respectively.
1. Jerry Rice
Rice is considered the all-time greatest wide receiver and NFL player in history. He was so ahead of the times and his counterparts that he basically was playing in a league of his own. He set so many records and most of them remain unbroken to this day. He holds the leading statistics in every receiving category that is worth something. Jerry ended his career with 22,895 receiving yards and 197 career touchdowns which remain the all-time highest. He also won three Super Bowl championships and was voted MVP at the Super Bowl XXIII.