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Who Are the Best Wide Receivers in NFL History? Ranking the Top 10 WRs of All Time

Who are the best wide receivers in NFL history? We're ranking the top 10 all-time wideouts, including Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, and Terrell Owens.

What makes a great NFL wide receiver? Size? Speed? Route-running savvy? Sure hands?

The best wide receivers in NFL history have typically offered some combination of those traits, leading to productive seasons, playoff success, and postseason awards. As passing became the predominant driver of NFL offense over the past 50 years, wideouts became all the more critical to their team’s offenses.

Who are the best all-time NFL wide receivers? Here are the top 10.

Top 10 Wide Receivers in NFL History

10) Antonio Brown

While Antonio Brown’s legacy may ultimately be defined by his third-quarter departure in his final NFL game and his post-playing antics, the longtime Pittsburgh Steeler was one of the league’s most dominant wideouts at his peak.

From 2013 to 2018, Brown was inarguably the top wide receiver in the NFL. He easily outpaced the rest of the league’s pass catchers, hauling in 121 more catches and 20 more touchdowns than any other WR during that span.

Although Brown’s stints with the Las Vegas Raiders and New England Patriots were disasters, he was still productive with the Tampa Bay Bay Buccaneers in 2020 and 2021. He earned four first-team All-Pro nods, one second-team berth, and seven Pro Bowls during his career.

9) Calvin Johnson

Calvin Johnson could have been much higher on this list had he not retired after his age-30 campaign in 2015. However, he was so productive — and so physically gifted — over his nine-year NFL career that his lack of counting stats doesn’t hinder him in our rankings.

“Megatron” set the NFL single-season receiving record by posting 1,964 yards in 2012, which still stands today. Johnson ranks second all-time in receiving yards per game (86.1) among WRs.

A rare athlete at 6’5″, 240 pounds, Johnson hung up his cleats after injury issues and the Detroit Lions’ lack of competitiveness took their toll. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

8) Don Hutson

A true outlier on our list, Don Hutson’s NFL career was complete by 1945 — well before most of the parents of the other WRs on our list were born.

But Hutson revolutionized the wide receiver position over 11 seasons with the Green Bay Packers. He invented routes like the post, the stop-and-go, and others still used today. Huston even played safety (leading the NFL with six interceptions in 1940) and served as the Packers’ kicker, scoring a league-record 29 points — four TDs, five extra points — in 1945.

Hutson, who died in 1997, scored 17 receiving touchdowns in 1942, setting a league record that stood for 42 years. That same year, he won his second of back-to-back MVPs after catching 74 passes for 1,211 yards. While those may seem like ho-hum statistics by 2024 standards, Huston had 47 more catches and 640 more yards than any other player that season.

7) Steve Largent

Although Steve Largent wasn’t the most athletic wide receiver of his era, his route-running ability and sure hands enabled the former fourth-round pick to become the most productive wideout of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

By the time Largent retired in 1989, he was the owner of the NFL’s career receiving triple crown, ranking first in receptions (819), receiving yards (13,089), and receiving touchdowns (100). Largent, a four-time first-team All-Pro and member of the 1980s All-Decade Team, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.

6) Tim Brown

While he became the first college wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy in 1987, Tim Brown didn’t catch more than 50 passes in the NFL until his age-27 season. Primarily an ace returner during his first four seasons in the league, Brown eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in 1993 and never looked back.

Brown was one of the NFL’s most consistent pass catchers during his long career with the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders. He went over 1,000 yards each season from 1993 through 2001, leading the league with 104 catches in 1997 and earning seven Pro Bowls over that stretch.

5) Larry Fitzgerald

Speaking of consistency, Larry Fitzgerald was one of the NFL’s most reliable receivers during his 17-year run with the Arizona Cardinals. The youngest player in league history to catch 1,000 career passes, Fitzgerald’s league-record 906 receiving first downs are 143 more than second-place Reggie Wayne.

The Cardinals didn’t always boast the best quarterback play during Fitzgerald’s tenure. Still, he was elite with Kurt Warner under center, then rebounded with three consecutive seasons of 100+ catches and 1,000+ yards while catching passes from Carson Palmer (2015-2017).

Fitzgerald thrived in crunch time, finishing first among WRs with 104.7 yards per game in the playoffs (min. five appearances). With longevity on his side, he ranks second all-time in receptions (1,432) and receiving yards (17,492).

4) Marvin Harrison

Discussing Marvin Harrison without highlighting his connection with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is virtually impossible. The two instantly meshed when Manning entered the NFL in 1998, ultimately posting the most completions (953), yards (12,766), and touchdowns (112) by a QB-WR tandem in league history.

Harrison earned first- or second-team All-Pro honors every season from 1999 through 2006. His best campaign was probably in 2002 when he led the NFL with 143 receptions and 1,722 yards and finished second to Kansas City Chiefs running back Priest Holmes in Offensive Player of the Year voting.

3) Terrell Owens

Only three wide receivers in NFL history have put up 15,000 yards and 150 touchdowns, and Terrell Owens is a member of that impressive list. The mercurial “T.O.” spent time with more teams than most receivers on our list, playing for five franchises over 15 pro seasons — but he found success everywhere he went.

Owens thrived with the San Francisco 49ers — earning three consecutive first-team All-Pro nods from 2000 to 2002 — before infamously joining the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004. After grabbing another All-Pro berth, Owens returned from a broken leg after just seven weeks to post nine catches for 122 yards in Super Bowl 39.

Owens seemingly defied the rules of aging. He made his final All-Pro team in 2007 after managing an 81-1,355-15 line as a 34-year-old with the Dallas Cowboys. He somehow caught 72 passes for 983 yards and nine TDs in his last NFL campaign as a 37-year-old Cincinnati Bengal.

2) Randy Moss

Arguably the most physically dominant receiver in NFL history, Randy Moss’ ability to embarrass opposing defensive backs with leaping contested catches inspired a generation of “You Got Mossed!” highlights.

A 1998 first-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings, Moss was electric from the start. He led the league with 17 touchdown catches in his first NFL season, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors and finishing third in MVP voting. Moss ranked first in TD receptions twice more with the Vikings, earning five total Pro Bowl nods in Minnesota.

After a brief stint with the Raiders, Moss was traded to the New England Patriots in 2007 and quickly became the cornerstone of one of the best offenses the NFL has ever seen. He holds the single-season touchdown reception record after scoring 23 times in 2007.

1) Jerry Rice

While every other receiver on our list posted productive careers, there’s only one Jerry Rice.

Rice owns several of the most unbreakable records in sports. No NFL player will ever touch his 22,895 receiving yards or 197 receiving touchdowns. Rice is 5,000+ yards ahead of Fitzgerald and outpaced Moss by 41 touchdowns — both records are uber-safe.

Essentially impossible to cover, Rice posted an absurd 14 1,000-yard seasons. He led the NFL in yards six times, touchdowns six times, and receptions twice. Rice developed connections with quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young, helping the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl titles.

An utterly dominant pass catcher, Rice was named an All-Pro in 12 of his 20 NFL campaigns. His 10 first-team All-Pros are tied for the most by any player. Rice is not only the best NFL wide receiver of all time — he’s arguably the best overall player in league history.