NFL All-Time Receiving Records: Season and Career Leaders Among WRs, TEs, and RBs

What are the all-time NFL receiving records as we look at season-long, rookie, and career-long records around the league?

The explosion of the passing game means that NFL receiving records are seemingly in focus every single season. What are the current all-time, season-long, and rookie receiving records? Do all of the NFL career, season-long, or rookie receiving records belong to a WR, or have any RBs or TEs managed to get close?

NFL Receiving Season Records

Which WRs hold the records for receiving yards, receptions, and receiving touchdowns in a single NFL season? Which records have stood the test of time, and which have been broken recently?

NFL Season Receiving Yards Record

1. 1,964 — Calvin Johnson (2012)
2. 1,947 — Cooper Kupp (2021)
3. 1,871 — Julio Jones (2015)
4. 1,848 — Jerry Rice (1995)
5. 1,834 — Antonio Brown (2015)

It is no great surprise that the top five in terms of the record for the most receiving yards in a season have largely been posted in the last decade. The NFL has experienced a boom in the passing game over the last 20 years, making the 1,848 receiving yards by Jerry Rice in 1995 extremely impressive. Amazingly, the top two on this list only scored a combined 13 touchdowns in their respective seasons. Johnson also set the record on just 122 receptions, averaging 16.1 yards per reception.

NFL Season Receptions Record

1. 149 — Michael Thomas (2019)
2. 145 — Cooper Kupp 
143 — Marvin Harrison (2002)
T4. 136 — Antonio Brown (2015)
T4. 136 — Julio Jones (2015)

When Michael Thomas set the record in 2019, he caught an incredible 80.5% of his targets. He saw 185 targets that season, compared to 205 for Harrison, who he took the record from. However, Thomas still averaged 11.58 yards per reception compared to Harrison’s 12.04. Those numbers are both significantly lower than Kupp (13.25), Brown (13.49), and Jones (13.76).

NFL Season Receiving Touchdowns Record

1. 23 — Randy Moss (2007)
2. 22 — Jerry Rice (1987)
T3. 18 — Davante Adams (2020)
T3. 18 — Mark Clayton (1984)
T3. 18 — Sterling Sharpe (1994)

That 2007 season when Randy Moss set the record for the most receiving touchdowns in a single season was incredible. At the same time, Tom Brady set the record for the most passing touchdowns in a season — a QB passing record that has since been passed by Peyton Manning.

It was impressive that Jerry Rice had managed to hold the record since 1987, given the explosion of the passing game in the last 20 years. It’s also intriguing that three of the top five were set before 2000.

NFL Receiving Rookie Records

What are the NFL rookie receiving records currently, and do the records all belong to WRs, or have some RBs and TEs managed to get their name on the board?

Rookie WR Receiving Yards Record

1. 1,473 — Bill Groman (1960)
2. 1,455 — Ja’Marr Chase (2021)
3. 1,400 — Justin Jefferson (2020)
4. 1,377 — Anquan Boldin (2003)
5. 1,313 — Randy Moss (1998)

Incredibly, the rookie receiving yards record has stood since 1960 when Bill Groman set it. What makes that record so impressive is he did it in a 14-game season on 72 receptions at an average of 20.46 yards per reception.

Rookie Receptions Record

1. 104 — Jaylen Waddle (2021)
2. 101 — Anquan Boldin (2003)
3. 92 — Michael Thomas (2016)
T4. 91 — Saquon Barkley (2018)
T4. 91 — Julio Jones (2014)
T4. 91 — Eddie Royal (2008)

Rookie WR Receiving Touchdowns Record

1. 17 — Randy Moss (1998)
T2. 13 — Ja’Marr Chase (2021)
T2. 13 — Billy Howton (1952)
T2. 13 — John Jefferson (1978)
T5. 12 — Odell Beckham Jr. (2014), Mike Ditka (1961), Mike Evans (2014), Bill Gromm (1960), Bob Hayes (1965), and Harlon Hill (1954)

It was clear from the outside of his career that Randy Moss would be special. He did not just break a 46-year-old record in 1998, he obliterated it. In more than 20 years since then, no one has really come close to breaking his record.

NFL Career Receiving Records

As we look back into NFL history, which WRs hold the career receiving records? Is anyone currently active on pace to take any of the records in the near future?

NFL Career Receiving Yards Record

1. 22,895 — Jerry Rice (1985-2004)
2. 17,492 — Larry Fitzgerald (2004-2020)
3. 15,934 — Terrell Owens (1996-2010)
4. 15,292 — Randy Moss (1998-2012)
5. 15,208 — Isaac Bruce (1994-2009)

Rice’s career numbers are incredibly impressive at 5,403 yards above the next highest in Fitzgerald. The gap between Rice and Fitzgerald is the same as the gap between Fitzgerald and 26th place on the all-time receiving yards list. Among active players, Julio Jones is the highest on the list at 13,272 (17th).

NFL Career Receptions Record

1. 1,549 — Jerry Rice (1985-2004)
2. 1,432 — Larry Fitzgerald (2004-2020)
3. 1,325 — Tony Gonzalez (1997-2013)
4. 1,228 — Jason Witten (2003-2020)
5. 1,102 — Marvin Harrison (1996-2008)

The reception numbers for Rice are even more impressive when you consider he averaged 14.78 yards per catch. The next highest in the top five is Harrison at 13.23. It is also interesting to see two of the top tight ends of all time in the top five in Gonzalez and Witten. As of the end of the 2021 NFL season, the highest active player on the list is Antonio Brown with 928 receptions.

NFL Career Receiving Touchdowns Record

1. 197 — Jerry Rice (1985-2004)
2. 156 — Randy Moss (1998-2012)
3. 153 — Terrell Owens (1996-2010)
4. 130 — Cris Carter (1987-2002)
5. 128 — Marvin Harrison (1996-2008)

Again, Rice’s number of 197 receiving touchdowns looks set to stand the test of time. He is 41 touchdowns ahead of second place. That is the same gap as exists between second and seventh. Rob Gronkowski leads active players with 92 touchdowns, less than half what Rice achieved in his career.

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