NFL: Calvin Johnson And The 10-Best Wide Receivers In League History
Calvin Johnson Works His Way Into the History Books
Throughout the last four NFL seasons there has arguably not been a more dominant player at any position than Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The man labelled Megatron plays at a robotic level each and every week, as the ability to run past defenders, over them or juke them out of their shoes makes him a nightmare to face. One must only look at a statistical card that shows 5,586 receiving yards, 40 touchdowns and 342 receptions since the beginning of the 2010 season to see that the man is a train wreck to stop on the field.
Despite the entire sporting world having the knowledge that Johnson is one man that does not need any extra motivation, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant decided it was necessary to provide some fuel to his fire prior to Week 8. In an interview with a Dallas-area radio station, Bryant made it clear that he believed there was nothing Johnson could do on the field that he could not. This statement set up the ultimate grudge match in Week 8, as the Cowboys traveled to Detroit with the entire football world keeping an eye on which wide receiver would best the other.
After the game ended, it was quite clear that Johnson is not only better than Bryant, but is the best wide receiver in the NFL by a long shot. During the game, Megatron picked up 14 receptions, 329 receiving yards and a touchdown as the Lions completed an epic fourth-quarter comeback to win 31-30, while Bryant was relegated to childish outbursts on the sidelines.
While Johnson would never publicly admit to taking the game as chance to make a statement to the world, it was hard to see his Week 8 performance as anything else than a declaration that he is the best wide receiver in the world. In fact, the game was so dominant that the conversation turned as to whether he was the best wide receiver in the NFL today to whether he is the best wide receiver in the history of football.
Obviously, the conversation is a bit premature at this point -- with Johnson only in his seventh season and currently ranking 68th all-time in receiving yards -- but it does not mean the conversation will never be a viable one. After all, he already set the record for the most receiving yards in a single season in 2012, and after watching continuous exceptional performances, there is little reason to believe he cannot improve upon this record. Doing so would automatically vault him up both the lists of most receiving yards in a career and the list of the best wide receivers in NFL history.
If Johnson is able to accomplish such feats, he will clearly be passing a number of Hall of Fame wide receivers, whom are legends of the game. With this in mind, I have taken the liberty of identifying those who Johnson will have to pass to become the best wide receiver of all time with a list of the 10-best wide receivers in NFL history.
Throughout his 13-year career with the Indianapolis Colts, Reggie Wayne has at times been overshadowed by fellow teammates, but his impact cannot be denied. Wayne has gone to six Pro Bowls, won a receiving yards title in 2007 and a Super Bowl in 2007 while racking up 13,566 receiving yards, 1006 receptions and 80 touchdowns. During his time, Wayne has established himself as a great wide receiver because of fantastic hands and great route-running ability, which will help earn him a seat in the Hall of Fame upon becoming eligible.
During a 16-year NFL career, Isaac Bruce was best known for being the main receiving threat for the St. Louis Rams teams that became dubbed the Greatest Show on Turf for their excellence passing the ball. During a 14-year reign with the Rams, he was named to four Pro Bowls and won one Super Bowl, while becoming one of the most consistent receivers in the history of football. For the entirety of his career, Bruce racked up 1,024 receptions, 15,208 receiving yards and 91 touchdowns.
Over his 17-year career, Tim Brown became synonymous with the Oakland Raiders name, providing a level of stability that Al Davis always seemed to want to tear down. The wide receiver was the model of consistency, picking up an NFL record of 10-straight seasons with at least 75 receptions from 1993-2002. For the entirety of his career, Brown picked up 1,094 receptions, 14,934 receiving yards and 100 touchdowns while being named to nine Pro Bowls and the 1990s NFL All-Decade team. This return should have placed Brown in the Hall of Fame by now, although after being named a finalist in each of the last two years, it only seems a matter of time before this happens.
Steve Largent became the premier dominant receiver in the NFL from 1976-1989, a time in which the game was won by the running game. Over this 14-year run with the Seattle Seahawks, Largent became known for a pair of sure hands, which helped rack up 819 receptions, 13,069 receiving yards and 100 touchdowns, which all ranked as NFL records upon his retirement. While all of these numbers have known been passed by a plethora of players, there is no doubting that Largent helped set the stage for the passing league the NFL has turned into, and deserves to be recognized.
Michael Irvin was an absolute force at wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s, teaming up with teammates Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith to form the so-called triplets who would spearhead three Super Bowl championship teams. One could make the case that Irvin was the most important player of these three, as his incredible strength and vertical ability stretched the field for the other two to work. This would help translate into five Pro-Bowl appearances, a spot on the 1990s NFL All-Decade team, 750 receptions, 11,904 receiving yards, 65 touchdowns and a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Throughout his 16-year football career, Terrell Owens was a nightmare both on and off the field. With good size, toughness, leaping ability and speed, there was no doubting that he was a nightmare to face for any cornerback. This is further identified by the fact Owens ranks second in league history in receiving yards at 15,934, six Pro Bowls and a place on the NFL 2000s All-Decade team. Off the field, though, he was almost equally tough to deal with, which led to premature exits from the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, and ultimately kept the wide receiver from ranking higher on this list.
Randy Moss had arguably the greatest entrance into the NFL by any player in league history, picking up 69 receptions, 1,313 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns for the Minnesota Vikings in 1998. This would be the start of six-straight seasons with 1,000 receiving yards or more and ultimately 982 receptions, 15,292 receiving yards and 156 career touchdowns, all astounding numbers. Moss was the complete package throughout his career as his terrorizing speed, size and ball-catching abilities made him literally impossible to guard when on top of his game. Unfortunately, this did not ever translate into a Super Bowl victory, but it will result into a spot in the Hall of Fame and as one of the best wide receivers in league history.
Cris Carter was a mentor and teammate to Randy Moss during his great rookie season and preceding run of excellence, and was actually a better wide receiver than his younger teammate. Carter was an absolute menace down the field during his 16-year career, as his 6-foot-3,208-pound frame and good speed helped him get to balls that many other players couldn't dream of catching. The result of this was that he would pick up 1,000 yards or more every season from 1993-2000 for the Minnesota Vikings, a time period in which he made the Pro Bowl every year. Ultimately, he racked up 1,101 receptions, 13,899 receiving yards, and 130 touchdowns and gained placement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
Marvin Harrison was arguably the least-flashy player to ever play as a wide receiver in the NFL, but could also be the best ever at the position in league history. After coming out of Syracuse in 1996, he made a living off of running great routes and catching defenses off guard, which helped earn eight Pro-Bowl appearances, the single season record for receptions, a Super Bowl championship, 1,102 receptions, 14,580 receiving yards and 128 touchdowns. While he may not have been the prototypical wide receiver in terms of attitude, there were few in league history who did their jobs better than Harrison.
Jerry Rice was an absolute terror to face over his 20-year career with the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks, setting the league record in career receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns at 1,549, 22,985 and 197. These records also played a large part in winnings three Super Bowls, going to 13 Pro Bowls and earning a spot on the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, 1980s All-Decade Team and 1990s All-Decade Team. Suffice to say, Rice is the best wide receiver in NFL history by a long shot, and very well could be the best football player ever regardless of position.