Top 20 Wide Receivers in NFL History

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Who Makes the List?

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Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

I have always been a fan of looking at statistics. It is something that I am very passionate about and when I was asked to compile the top 20 wide receivers in NFL history, it allowed me to go into my roots of researching numbers. There should be no argument about who the top receiver of all-time is on this list as that should be obvious. You can figure out who that is.

As I did this list, there were certain criteria considered. I look a lot at the complete body of work. You will notice that there is only one active player on this list. I can’t put someone in the top-20 of all time until they have retired or are in their final year or so of their career. It means that receivers like Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are not on this list. I’m sure there will be a lot of discussion about where certain receivers are placed. I look at it in this way: lots of catches and yards are very important. It is also important that a player has won multiple Super Bowls if they didn’t have huge numbers.

You are free to disagree with any player on this list or if I missed someone in the process. There was only room for 20 and I had a list of 30-40 to start with. It took a lot of time to narrow that list down and place them in the order that I have them here. The only active player is probably a little lower than most people would want but if they can continue their career, they will likely move up on this list. It’s now time to take a look at the top 20 wide receivers in NFL history.

Andy Schmidt is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ASchmidtSports, like his Facebook page or add him to your network on Google.

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20. James Lofton

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Lofton gets overlooked by a lot of people, and I almost did so myself. He had 764 catches for 14,004 yards and 75 touchdowns while playing for five teams.

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19. Fred Biletnikoff

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The shifty wide receiver from the Oakland Raiders had 589 catches for 8,974 yards and 76 touchdowns. Biletnikoff won a Super Bowl title late in his career.

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18. Raymond Berry

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Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

There aren’t very many great receivers that are thought of before 1970, but Berry is one of those. He had 631 catches for 9,275 yards and 68 touchdowns in 13 seasons.

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17. Paul Warfield

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Fernando Medina-USA TODAY Sports

Warfield was always looked at as one of the fastest players ever. He had 427 catches for 8,565 yards and 85 touchdowns over his 13 years, averaging over 20 yards per catch.

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16. Charley Taylor

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Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Taylor played 14 seasons for the Washington Redskins and had 649 catches for 9,110 yards and 79 touchdowns. He was the perfect wide receiver in Washington until Art Monk came to town.

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15. Don Maynard

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Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

When I think of great receivers, the name Don Maynard pops to mind. He had 633 catches for 11,834 yards and 88 touchdowns over 15 seasons.

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14. John Stallworth

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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It was a very productive career for Stallworth, finishing with 537 catches for 8,723 yards and 63 touchdowns. He ranks right up with his teammate Lynn Swann in best receivers ever.

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13. Lynn Swann

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Swann didn’t play for long, but he was one of the best. He finished with 336 catches for 5,462 yards and 51 touchdowns while winning four titles with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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12. Tommy McDonald

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Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

McDonald played for five different teams during a 12-year career, but had 495 catches for 8,410 yards and 84 touchdowns.

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11. Lance Alworth

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Alworth was the heart and soul of the San Diego Chargers for nine years. He had 542 catches for 10,266 yards and 85 touchdowns during his 11-year career.

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10. Michael Irvin

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John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Irvin was one of the most dominant receivers I have ever seen. He ended his career with 750 catches for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns. Irvin would have been higher with more touchdown catches.

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9. Don Hutson

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Hutson is the highest-ranking player from outside the Super Bowl era. He finished with 488 catches for 7,991 yards and 99 touchdowns, and led the league in catches eight times.

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8. Tim Brown

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Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Brown played most of his 17 years for the Oakland Raiders and finished with 1,094 catches for 14,934 yards and 100 touchdowns. He is right up there with the best ever.

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7. Randy Moss

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The only active player on this list is in this spot. Moss came into the league like a house on fire and has caught 982 passes for 15,292 yards and 156 touchdowns. He will likely rise as his career concludes.

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6. Steve Largent

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Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Largent was the rock for a Seattle Seahawks franchise that didn’t go far during his playing career. He played in exactly 200 games with 819 catches for 13,089 yards and 100 touchdowns.

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5. Art Monk

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Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

There is no doubt that Monk deserves to be in the top-five on this list in my opinion. The best receiver in Washington Redskins history had 940 catches for 12,721 yards and 68 touchdowns.

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4. Terrell Owens

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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Owens bounced around a lot during the final years of his career and while he isn’t officially retired, he hasn't played in two years. He had 1,078 catches for 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns.

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3. Cris Carter

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Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports

Carter was selected in the supplementary draft and still had a Hall of Fame career with 1,101 catches for 13,899 yards and 130 touchdowns.

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2. Marvin Harrison

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Harrison played 13 seasons for the Indianapolis Colts and had 1,102 catches for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns.

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1. Jerry Rice

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Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Rice is easily the best wide receiver ever with no arguments coming from anyone. He finished his career with 1,549 receptions for 22,895 yards and 197 receiving touchdowns.


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