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The 10 Best Wide Receivers of All-Time Not Named Jerry Rice

Publish Date: 09/07/2012
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis

Trying to put a list like this together when you were born in the mid 1970s is pretty hard to do, simply because you missed so much football played throughout the years. It’s obvious that Hall of Famer Jerry Rice is the best wide receiver ever, but ranking the rest hasn’t really been clear. It’s hard to rank wide receivers because the air attack didn’t really take off until the mid 80s as teams began to realize a good passing attack was needed to loosen up defenses so you could establish a strong running game. The playing field isn't exactly level when measuring the greatest wide receivers of all time.

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Depending upon the quality of the quarterbacks they played with, whether their teams were built around the passing or the running game, or the defensive talent they faced in their eras, these players' accomplishments can be difficult to measure against their peers when it comes to compiling a top 10 list. Still, as with all great athletes in any sport, the cream always rises to the top, and the best of the best seem to rise above any adversity. Here is my top 10 list of the men who've been able to dominate the sport of football at the wide receiver position.

10. Tim Brown

When you think of all-purpose wide receivers, you need not look any further than Tim Brown. Brown was a consistent force on the Raiders and always seemed to be the best all-purpose guy in the business from year to year during his tenure in the league. Brown was overshadowed most of his career by the feats of Jerry Rice, but real fans took notice to what Brown was doing.

9. Paul Warfield

Warfield was one of the best that ever played. He averaged 20.1 yards per catch during his career, and when he played for the Dolphins he was a monster to cover. Whether it was Bob Griese throwing him the ball or a runner like Mercury Morris, Warfield was always doing his thing when he was on the scene. He finished his career with 8,565 yards and participated in eight Pro Bowls.

8. Marvin Harrison

This guy was a pure phenom at wide receiver. His biggest knock is that he played on the right side of Peyton Manning his entire career. Peyton was lucky to have a rock-steady option on his right side in Marvin Harrison to go to. He also had 123 touchdowns and over 1,000 receptions, including an NFL record 143 grabs in 2002.

7. Steve Largent

Largent redefined the short receiver. Before him, you could barely find someone of his size and stature who had endured a great career. He was able to make up for his physical shortcomings with cunning and a deceptiveness that confounded defenders. He finished his career with phenomenal numbers and landed over 13,000 yards and close to 100 touchdowns.

6. Charley Taylor

Taylor is a guy that most would have left off their lists, but his numbers would stand up during any era. Taylor was as good as they get during an era when quarterbacks didn’t throw the ball. When he retired from the game, he was the all-time leader in catches and finished just short of 10,000 yards on his career. Taylor’s numbers were hurt because he played running back a few seasons and he was hurt for most of the later part of his career.

5. Cris Carter

Carter was a freak of nature, and many thought his career was going to blow up on him. In fact, Carter was often publicized for his off-the-field issues. He got that back together and teamed up with Jake Reed for many successful seasons in Minnesota. Carter also put up Rice-like numbers for many seasons before being joined by Randy Moss to create one of the most potent tandems in NFL history. Yet despite the personal issues he faced, he managed to compile 130 TDs, 1,101 receptions and almost 14,000 yards. It's scary to imagine that those numbers could have been even higher had he stayed out of trouble and kept his primary focus on football.

4. Art Monk

Monk is a guy that most people don’t remember. He was unfortunate to play for a team that ran the ball and was known more for the counter trey than the passing game. He never dropped balls, and he rarely played with a quarterback that was worthy of what he could do on the field. Monk could run any route, and he could make any catch. It took a while for the sportswriters of the world to recognize his skill set, but in 2008 Monk was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame. If I needed a catch, Monk would be my go-to guy on this list. Monk was clutch, and his three Super Bowl rings solidify his accomplishments.

3. Terrell Owens

Like him or not, Terrell Owens is the one of the best that ever played this game. He’s fast, he’s strong, and if he had better hands he would have destroyed every record in the game. His ability to change a game is second to only Randy Moss. He may be a headache in the locker room, but on the field you will not find anyone as good as Owens. He finished his campaign with over 147 career TDs and over 14,950 yards.

2. Michael Irvin

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You can question his numbers, but you can’t question his willingness to win and make the catch that no one else wants to make. Michael Irvin is and always will be controversial. He made defensive backs look like fools, and he was probably one of the most feared receivers ever. The biggest issue for Irvin was off-the-field issues. Irvin was like Carter in the fact that his past kept getting in the way of his greatness. However, Irvin was well-liked, and even though he expressed his need for the ball, he never put himself in front of the team. Plus winning three Super Bowls and being a big reason why the Cowboys won them allows me to speak on his greatness.

1. Randy Moss

Randy Moss was built to play wide receiver. If you were building a super receiver you could take all of Randy Moss’s attributes and you would have a recipe for success. You can’t argue with this guy’s talent, and even though he has bounced around a lot during his career, he has still produced. He wasted away a few years in Oakland where his productivity was minimal, but he made up for it when he arrived in New England. Moss has spent the last few years as a journeyman, and he even took a year off last season. He has already amassed 14858 yards, only behind Rice and Owens, and with 153 TD catches already he could be a threat to do the unthinkable and overtake Jerry Rice for first all-time in that category. Even though he’s not what he once was, he can still beat you deep and put up numbers.

So there it is. Agree or disagree? Did we leave off a wideout of your choice? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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34 Replies to The 10 Best Wide Receivers of All-Time Not Named Jerry Rice

  1. Gregg says:

    U guys can't write off Moss's "couple years of obscurity in Oakland" like he had a strong armed good Dante culpepper who mistakingly didn't turn into "nothing" when moss and Carter left, it was a career threatening knee injury that ruined him. Those years of obscurity count lol, like browns when he had marinovich, Megatron with the lions qb carousel pre Stafford, and Isaac Bruce with Tony banks, lol that all counts. While I will say moss is probably the most athletically gifted, just as Calvin Johnson is probably the most physically gifted with his measurements, that doesnt make either of them the best. Moss was not a leader, not a role model, and is one of the few former raiders where fans don't even bring him up at all. He rejuvenated his career with Tom Brady as Oakland was sick of him like Minnesota got, and had the best seasons since he was Carter's wingman.....then after a few more years, obscurity...the niners, whoever else there was and that's moss's legacy...was he great? sure.....was he a player that for some reason couldn't find a home for whatever reason I'm not gonna speculate on? Yes. Aside from T.o., who's very similar in many ways to moss, the rest of these receivers found homes within a place or two, a rare three....

  2. Jamison Edward says:

    Torry Holt is just as good as half of these guys
    The other half he's better than

  3. JEW says:

    James Wright future greatest, you heard it here first.

  4. David says:

    Top 25 Wide Receivers of All Time

    1. Jerry Rice
    2. Don Hutson
    3. Steve Largent
    4. Randy Moss
    5. Lance Alworth
    6. Marvin Harrison
    7. Terrell Owens
    8. Raymond Berry
    9. Paul Warfield
    10. Cris Carter
    11. James Lofton
    12. Andre Reed
    13. Isaac Bruce
    14. Tim Brown
    15. Michael Irvin
    16. Art Monk
    17. Fred Biletnikoff
    18. Torry Holt
    19. Don Maynard
    20. Donald Driver
    21. Henry Ellard
    22. Sterling Sharpe
    23. Hines Ward
    24. Charlie Joiner
    25. Charley Taylor

  5. Chuck says:

    Now rank them in order of humility!!!!!!

  6. Dave says:

    Here is my "Top 10" :

    1. Jerry Rice
    2. Don Hutson
    3. Steve Largent
    4. Randy Moss
    5. Cris Carter
    6. Tim Brown
    7. Marvin Harrison
    8. Art Monk
    9. Terrell Owens
    10. Michael Irvin

  7. Jonathon says:

    Because in the era he played, Hutson isn't listed. He is definitely top 5 IMO. He revolutionized the position and his records stood for half a century until Rice broke them...

    • Dave says:

      I can DEFINETLY agree, but with all respect, Largent had a few of those records before Rice.

  8. Andre REED from ninners nation says:

    Andre ReeD!!!!!!!!???????? 2 or 3 def

    • Dave says:

      Top 10 maybe?........#2 0r #3 NO WAY!........I would put John Stallworth or Lynn Swann ahead of him, atleast they won 4 instead of losing 4 (straight).

  9. Greg says:

    Although it is difficult to compare eras to eras and with the playing field increasingly favoring pass happy offenses that benefit today's generations of wide receivers. With this in miind.
    17. Calvin Johnson
    16. Larry Fitzgerald
    15. Don Hutson
    14. Don Maynard
    13. Lynn Swann
    12. James Lofton
    11. Art Monk
    10. Chris Carter
    9. Michael Irvin
    8. Tim Brown
    7. Paul Warfield
    6. Steve Largent
    5. Terryl Owens
    4. Randy Moss
    3. Marvin Harrison
    2. Issac Bruce
    1. Jerry Rice

  10. Jeffrey says:

    I understand what Shane is saying. He didnt say Moss broke the td record in a season on his rokie season. He broke it the first year he was with Tom Brady, which was not his rookie year. He should've reworded it better.

  11. Western21 says:

    1. Randy moss 2.jerry rice 3.marvin harrison 4.T.O. 5.cris carter 6. Micheal irvin 7.chad johnson 8.calvin johnson 9. Tim brown 10. Larry fitzgerald

    • Dave says:

      Simply "No Respect" for any player before 1990.......Ever hear of Hutson, Berry, Monk, Stallworth, Swann, Largent, I thin I made my point........You must have been born in the "Nothing but pass era".

  12. Gmoney says:

    This last list is a joke. LMFAO! Sidney Rice and Torrey Smith? Where's Chris Carter, Marvis Harrison, and Andre Johnson? Also, I've never heard of Michael Erving...

  13. ticklemypickle says:

    2.syndy rice
    3.jerry rice
    4.randy moss
    5.reggy wayne
    6.michael erving
    7.larry fitz.
    8.steve smith
    9.a.j. green
    10.torry smith

  14. Dan says:

    I appreciate the "I was born in the 1970's" disclaimer, because the second greatest wide receiver of all time (and there are stats that make him arguable for actually being better, certainly more dominant, than Jerry Rice) played long before you were born.

    That man is Don Hutson, and he set the benchmark what a receiver could do. He lead the league in receiving yards 7 times, and receptions 8 times. FInally, his 1942 (yes, '42!) season may be the best ever by any receiver, clocking in at 74 catches, 1211 yards, and 17 touchdowns in 12 games. The second, third, and fourth best receivers that year combined for 74 catches, 1336 yards, and 17 touchdowns. That is dominance. (DISCLAIMER: That statistical info was cribbed from a Bleacher Report article by Bryn Swartz).

    Now, I know that 1942 was the first year of World War II, and therefore competition was down, but the man wrote the book on route running and touchdown catching belongs in your Top 10

  15. paul says:

    my rankings would be

    3.Isaac Bruce
    4.Marvin Harrison
    5.Andre Johnson
    6.Chris carter
    7.michael irvin
    8.Tim Brown
    9.Steve Smith
    10.Chad Johnson

  16. jason says:

    To not see marvin on your guys list is a joke. And to put andre reed. Over reggie wayne. Hes a beast and i would take him over reed and johnson

  17. jason says:


    Maybe its shouldnt be in that order. But there none better plus theres about ten superbowls and about

  18. Butterscotch says:

    #4 Michael Irvin
    #3 Terrel Owens(Pwns)
    #2 Randy Moss ( Cant get better then that)
    #1 Jerry Rice ( just got better with the top wide reciever of all time)

    Get ur facts right those guys are in order from least best to the greatest whenever u like it or not i personally only like Terrel and Jerry but Randy and Michael have boss hands no lie.

  19. TrueSportsTalk says:

    Injuries cut his career short but Sterling Sharpe was a BEAST

  20. Alex says:

    I like the list and agree with Moss at #1, but how is he "just reaching his full potential"? His best years are behind him. Also, he's played more than 10 seasons and I seriously doubt he's a threat to pass Rice, especially considering he didn't even play last year.

  21. Metta_Colin says:

    How could you leave out Don Hutson?

  22. Rev. P. Revere says:

    Good list. I may rearranged the order a little bit, but hard to argue with any of these guys.

    It'll be interesting to see how our perceptions change in the future with the game turning into more of a passing game. The stats are going to get skewed bigger and bigger. Will we be viewing guys like Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson as the best all time 20 years from now? It'll be fun to see how it plays out.

    • Shane says:

      I debate this conversation a lot with people and,if you just hear me out on facts and mix in some common sense then you would see the problem with jerry rice at number #1 I hate when everybody says ohh hes the greatest hands dowm....first off you have to factor in who is the qb and there o line how much time do they have...jerry rice was a great route runner but what people dont relize is he played for bill walsh who brought the west coast offence to the league today,,people couldnt stop the 49ers in there prime...jerry rice jusy happend to be on that team was the best wideout for that team and not to memtion the 2 qbs he played for most of his carrer was 2of the best that ever played the game...joe montana,,and steve young,,,,do you,find it strange joe montana leaves and this guy out of nowhere fills,his,shoes and dominates????thats bc of the system they had...not taking anything away from rice great route runner some of the best hands but as far as flat out best has to be double coverd at all times one of the fastest wideouts ever maybe the best hands ever for sure the best deep threat ever,,6foot4 200 pounds,,42 inch vertical RANDY MOSS he had one hall of fame Qb his whole career ,,,and in his first season with him he broke the all time record of tds in a season that jerry held,,and yes I know it was in a shorter season but they also went umdeafeated in regular season and, they hold the,record for most points in a season,,,a lot of that was bc of randy,,,and guess what the second highest team was the 98 vikimgs randys brake out rookie season with 17 tds so that is, some hard facts he was on the to top scoring teams of,all time,nc of him they where able to,do that....if moss played with brady or peyton for a good 8years or more like rice had with the all time sorry but you would have to open a new book for all the, records moss would be holding

      • BR says:

        moss didnt break rice's td record in his rookie year...start studying school boy. your use of our language is embarrassing!

        • kt says:

          You may want to re-read his statement, Mr. Internet Grammer Po-Po. He said, "RANDY MOSS he had one hall of fame Qb his whole career ,,,and in his first season with him he broke the all time record of tds in a season that jerry held"

          Read it slowly if you need more time.

      • Steve says:

        Holy butchering the english language batman !

        Although that might have something to do with you being INSANE.

        Jerry Rice was UNSTOPPABLE for nearly 20 years.

    • E. Maisonet, III says:

      I got 4-5 names that COULD make this list too.

      1. Andre Reed
      2. Henry Ellard
      3. Don Maynard
      4. Lance Alworth
      5. Calvin Johnson (he's ready to go on this list now, I'm sorry.)

      However, the one person that SHOULD be on this list, but isn't is James Lofton. 7th all-time in yards, 8-time Pro Bowler and forever held it down with one of the greatest beards of all-time.


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