Who are the best wide receivers of all-time in NFL history? Jerry Rice is, undoubtedly, the most excellent wide receiver in the history of the NFL. There is no other wideout in the NFL who can match the career figures of the San Francisco 49ers great.
However, in the aftermath of him, it is a tremendous argument at every single location.
There are a plethora of wide receivers that have legitimate claims to a top-10 ranking, and the fact that their production has occurred over different periods of the league adds to the complexity of the debate. Choosing the top ten most deserving players is challenging but ultimately rewarding.
The ranking is based on individual productivity and achievements, but factors such as longevity and era-adjusted contributions were also taken into consideration. AFL players were also taken into consideration.
The 10 Best Wide Receivers Of All Time In NFL History
10. Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson is unquestionably one of the most talented wide receivers in the sport’s history, and he ranks among the top five in the world. “Megatron,” on the other hand, only played nine seasons with the Detroit Lions (2007-15).
But he was undoubtedly one-of-a-kind.
Johnson has twice been the NFL’s leading receiver in terms of receiving yards, with his most impressive season coming in 2012 when he set a new record with 1,964 yards. On the other hand, that season perfectly highlights why he followed in the footsteps of previous Lions star Barry Sanders and departed early. Detroit finished with a 4-12 record.
Despite the disappointment of not playing for a championship-caliber team, Johnson racked up 731 receptions for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns over his career.
9. Lance Alworth
Lance Alworth played a crucial role in ushering in a new era of football and finished his career as one of the most productive wide receivers in football history.
When he retired from football, Alworth was second only to Don Maynard to receive yards receiving. The former San Diego Chargers wide receiver has 542 catches for 10,266 yards and 85 touchdowns throughout his career, including seven seasons with 1,000 yards or more.
During his career, Alworth was named to six first-team All-Pro teams and seven Pro Bowl teams, including the UPI AFL Player of the Year in 1963. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 1978.
8. Marvin Harrison
Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning formed an unbreakable bond that resulted in an NFL-record 114 touchdowns between them.
“I think many records will be broken—I think most of my records will be broken,” Manning stated in 2016, according to Nicki Jhabvala, who was then writing for the Denver Post. ‘I don’t believe that the record that Marvin and I have set for the most touchdowns thrown together will ever be surpassed.’
A Syracuse University product, Harrison finished his 13-year career with 128 goals. Additionally, at his retirement, the Hall of Famer’s 1,102 receptions stood second all-time in the National Football League.
For the decade between 1999 and 2006, Harrison was a regular at the Pro Bowl, garnering three first-team All-Pro nods.
7. Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald, the 2016 Walter Payton Man of the Year, has carved out a legacy that reaches far beyond the field of competition. In between the white lines, however, there’s a good reason why he’s earned the moniker “Larry Legend.”
In his whole career, the Arizona Cardinals’ No. 3 overall pick in the 2004 draft has spent his entire time with the team, setting numerous franchise records while also ascending the NFL’s all-time leaderboards. He had 1,234 catches for 15,545 yards and 110 touchdowns as of 2018.
Barring an injury, Fitzgerald will finish his career as the second-leading receiver in history to receive yards. He will rank among the top-10 in terms of receptions and touchdowns. He’ll be inducted into the Hall of Fame within a decade of retirement.
6. Cris Carter
Aside from being known for making incredible grabs on the sidelines, Cris Carter had an outstanding career that spanned 16 years.
Carter’s unexpected release from the Philadelphia Eagles after only three seasons resulted from off-field difficulties, and he has stated that his discharge has assisted him in turning his life around. He eventually ended up with the Minnesota Vikings, where he caught more than 1,000 receptions during his time with the team.
With the Minnesota Vikings for 12 seasons, Carter amassed 12,383 of his 13,899 career yards, which came while playing for the team. Carter, an eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
5. Steve Largent
After Seattle Seahawks icon Steve Largent announced his retirement, the records climbed a notch or two higher.
In 1976, the Houston Oilers selected the Tulsa wide receiver with a fourth-round pick before dealing him to the Seattle Seahawks during the preseason. He soon established himself as a critical offense component, with eight consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards or more (excluding the strike-shortened 1982 season). Largent was the leading receiver in the NFL on two separate occasions.
His career totals of 819 catches, 13,089 yards, and 100 touchdowns put him at the top of the NFL’s all-time receiving list. The Walter Payton Man of the Year in 1988 was a member of seven Pro Bowl teams during his career.
4. Terrell Owens
The controversy surrounding Terrell Owens‘ entrance into the Hall of Fame in 2018—or, maybe, the bad feelings that preceded it—did not detract from his on-field accomplishments, which justified his inclusion.
While “T.O.” spent most of his NFL career with the 49ers, he also enjoyed great seasons with the Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, and Cincinnati Bengals. Owens had nine seasons with 1,000-plus yards and eight seasons with ten or more touchdowns.
Overall, he amassed 1,078 receptions, 15,934 yards, and 153 touchdowns, the latter two of which are among the top three figures in the history of the National Football League. Owens was selected to six Pro Bowls and received five All-Pro awards throughout his career.
3. Randy Moss
According to NFL.com, former NFL head coach Brian Billick stated that Randy Moss is “the most physically gifted receiver in the game’s history.” ‘We have never had, and we will never see, another wide receiver with Randy Moss’s combination of speed, leaping ability, hands, and burst,’ says the NFL.
Moss is the only wide receiver, aside from Jerry Rice, to have accumulated ten seasons of 1,000-plus yards receiving, one of which came during his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 1998. Six occurred with Minnesota, one with Oakland, and three with the Patriots following that.
Moss has subsequently fallen out of the top 10 all-time receivers, but the six-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro remain second in career touchdowns (156) and fourth in career receiving yards (15,292).
2. Don Hutson
Don Hutson was the NFL’s first truly exceptional wide receiver when he debuted in 1970. He is the only player who played in the National Football League before 1945 to amass, moreover 3,500 yards in his career.
Adding to that, the “Alabama Antelope” nearly doubled the total.
Hutson finished his 11-year career in Green Bay with 488 receptions, 7,991 yards, and 99 touchdowns, all of which were then-records. He was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for the 1941 and 1942 seasons, and he led the league in various categories on multiple occasions, including receiving yards (seven), receptions (eight), and touchdowns (three) (nine).
Hutson was a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Packers and was named eight All-Pro teams during his playing days in Green Bay.
1. Jerry Rice
Jerry Rice broke every receiving record in the book during his career, hauling in 1,549 catches for 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns. Even when he knew that breaking a mark was unavoidable, he still felt under pressure.
In 1994, according to Rhiannon Walker of The Undefeated, Rice told the Baltimore Sun after breaking the all-time touchdowns mark. “I was happy to get it done,” Rice said after breaking the record. “When I caught the final ball, I felt a tremendous strain leave my body.”
In addition to his numerous other NFL accomplishments, the Hall of Famer was a three-time Super Bowl champion, earned two Offensive Player of the Year awards, played in 13 Pro Bowls, and was named ten first-team All-Pro teams.
As a result of his unbroken string of exceptional performances, Rice is ranked as the number one best wide receiver. He developed into one of the most precise route runners the NFL has ever seen.
You can look for additional names that are considered good wide receivers, such as Art Monk (who played in three Super Bowls), Michael Irvin, Andre Johnson, Joe Montana, etc.