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Brad Oremland is a longtime commenter and a fellow football historian. Brad is also a senior NFL writer at Sports Central. He’s also a semi-regular writer here, and you can view all of Brad’s Football Perspective writing at this page. Brad is working on a WR Project where he analyzes the best WRs over various ten year periods. That work is being produced over at Sports-Central, but Brad has offered to have it reproduced here as well. As always, we at the FP community thank him for his work.

Previous Best WRs By Decade Articles:


Last year, I wrote an article breaking down the best quarterbacks by decade, followed by in-depth profiles of the greatest QBs in history. This year, I’m combining those two themes in a look at the best wide receivers ever, broken into decades. Because careers don’t always fit cleanly into a single decade, I’ve gone in five-year increments. Last week, we covered 1990-99 and 1995-2004. This is the seventh installment, examining 2000-09 and 2005-2014. The great receivers of the early ’00s, such as Marvin Harrison and Isaac Bruce, were in last week’s column.

Let’s begin with some specific categories and honors, then we’ll go in depth on the finest wide receivers of each decade.

2000-09

Fastest Receiver: Laveranues Coles

Best Deep Threat: Randy Moss

Best Hands: Marvin Harrison

Best Possession Receiver: Marvin Harrison

Toughest Receiver: Hines Ward

Underrated in 2016: Derrick Mason

Most Accomplished Postseason WR: Hines Ward

Best Single Season: Marvin Harrison, 2002

Best Overall WR: Torry Holt

I realize that most people disagree with me on the best wide receiver of the ’00s. Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison, and Terrell Owens are all more popular choices. But Torry Holt had the most catches, most yards, and most first downs of any receiver in the decade. He had six 1,300-yard seasons. No one else had more than four. Holt gained 1,600 yards in a season twice. No one else did that. He was fast, smart, great hands, great route runner. I understand the case for other players, and I don’t think Holt is a slam dunk. It would be easy to say Moss and avoid the arguments, but I believe that over this specific time period, Torry Holt was the best receiver in football.

As is the case in many decades, determining the fastest receiver is a tough call. Laveranues Coles was blazing fast, as you probably remember. In 2002 and 2003, he had back-to-back 1,200-yard receiving seasons, for two different teams (Jets and Washington). Coles returned to the Jets and had another 1,000-yard season in 2006. But his former teammate Santana Moss was about the same speed, Steve Smith and Lee Evans could fly, and early in the decade, Randy Moss was incredibly fast.

Santana Moss had four 1,000-yard receiving seasons, including 1,483 yards in 2005, one of the really underrated seasons in this decade. That was also the season Moss scored 39-yard and 70-yard TDs in the final minutes of a 14-13 comeback victory over the Cowboys on Monday Night Football. He gained over 10,000 career receiving yards, and in 2002 he had one of the greatest punt return seasons in memory, with 413 yards, a 16.5 average, and 2 TDs. Although no relation to Randy Moss, Santana is related to former first-round draft picks Sinorice Moss (his brother) and Patrick Peterson, the Arizona Cardinals’ cornerback (his cousin).

Santana Moss and Packers hero Donald Driver have extremely similar career stats:

Player   Rec     Yds    1stD  TD
Driver   743   10,137   475   61
Moss     732   10,283   491   66

Driver had seven 1,000-yard seasons, including three consecutive 1,200-yard seasons. He caught a touchdown in 14 straight seasons, retiring with 61 receiving TDs and over 10,000 yards. Chad Johnson had similar career stats, actually a little better — 11,059 yards, 67 TDs — but where Driver was a good teammate and a locker room leader, Chad was self-centered and disruptive, and the Bengals got better as soon as he was gone.

Torry Holt
St. Louis Rams, 1999-2008; Jacksonville Jaguars, 2009
920 receptions, 13,382 yards, 74 TD

I made my case above for Torry Holt as the greatest wide receiver of the ’00s. He only played 11 seasons, so his career totals aren’t as impressive as some of his peers, but Holt gained more yards than Larry Fitzgerald, who has played 12 seasons, or Anquan Boldin, who has played 13, or Hines Ward (14), or Derrick Mason (15), or Andre Reed (16) or Irving Fryar (17). Torry Holt averaged 1217 yards per season, the most in history by any player with at least 10 seasons.

From 2000-07, Holt had at least 80 receptions every season, including six in a row with more than 90 receptions. He gained at least 58 first downs every year, and at least 1,188 yards. That includes four seasons over 1,300 and two over 1,600. Holt made the Pro Bowl in seven of those eight seasons, the exception being 2002, when Holt had 1,302 yards and led the NFC in receiving first downs (69), but the Rams had a disappointing 7-9 record. Holt’s seven Pro Bowls are more than Calvin Johnson, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Reggie Wayne (6 each), almost twice as many as Steve Smith, Hines Ward, and his former teammate Isaac Bruce (4 each).

Holt’s best year was probably 2003. He had 117 receptions, 84 first downs, 1696 yards, and 12 TDs. He was the leading vote-getter (among WRs) on the Associated Press all-pro team, even ahead of Randy Moss, who had career-highs for receptions and yards.

There’s an argument to be made that Holt was even better in 2000. Catching passes from two different QBs, Holt gained 1,635 yards and averaged 11.76 yards per target, the 2nd-highest mark on record for a player with at least 100 targets. He called himself Big Game Torry Holt, and delivered in Super Bowl XXXIV, with 7 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. He had 5 receptions for 49 yards in Super Bowl XXXVI. Holt didn’t have a long career, but he was consistently excellent for the better part of a decade.

Derrick Mason
Tennessee Titans, 1997-2004; Baltimore Ravens, 2005-10; New York Jets, 2011; Houston Texans, 2011
943 receptions, 12,061 yards, 66 TD

In my mind, Derrick Mason is basically the same player as Hines Ward. Their stats are very similar, and Mason arguably had more big years, more seasons as an impact player and the top receiver on his team. Both excelled for run-based offenses that limited their stats, and both had an exceptional skill that doesn’t show up in the receiving numbers. For Ward, it was his blocking. For Mason, it’s kick returning. He was an all-pro returner, and in 2000 set the single-season record for all-purpose yardage, a standard that stood for more than a decade. But whereas Ward is a media darling, Mason never attracted the same publicity.

When you do a year-by-year comparison, it’s tough to point with any conviction to one player’s stats being better than the other’s:

                     Mason                  Ward
Year    Rec     Yds    1stD   TD     Rec     Yds    1stD   TD
1997     14     186      8     0      --     --      --    --            
1998     25     333     19     3      15     246     12     0
1999      8      89      5     0      61     638     31     7
2000     63     895     45     5      48     672     31     4
2001     73    1128     50     9      94    1003     52     4
2002     79    1012     56     5     112    1329     66    12
2003     95    1303     68     8      95    1163     60    10
2004     96    1168     67     7      80    1004     52     4
2005     86    1073     52     3      69     975     53    11
2006     68     750     45     2      74     975     50     6
2007    103    1087     60     5      71     732     47     7
2008     80    1037     60     5      81    1043     55     7
2009     73    1028     55     7      95    1167     56     6
2010     61     802     44     7      59     755     35     5
2011     19     170      4     0      46     381     20     2
Total   943   12061    638    66    1000   12083    620    85

The only significant difference is the touchdowns, but that’s mostly because Ward played on better teams, with offenses that spent more time in the red zone. Ward’s advocates will point to other factors that favor him, like playoff performance and blocking. But Mason’s returning contributions are often overlooked. In 2000, when he set the single-season record for all-purpose yardage, Mason was first-team all-pro as a returner, providing 93 quality returns in addition to leading the NFL-best 13-3 Titans in receiving yards and TDs. Over his career, Mason had 5,086 return yards and 3 TDs.

Choosing the better player between Ward and Mason, I’d choose Ward. But it’s a lot closer than conventional wisdom rates. Mason played on nine playoff teams in his career, Ward eight.

Randy Moss
Minnesota Vikings, 1998-2004, 2010; Oakland Raiders, 2005-06; New England Patriots, 2007-10; Tennessee Titans, 2010; San Francisco 49ers, 2012
982 receptions, 15,292 yards, 156 TD

Probably the greatest physical talent in the history of his position, Randy Moss made an immediate splash in the NFL. He led the league in receiving TDs (17), he was Offensive Rookie of the Year and first-team all-pro, and the Vikings improved from 9-7 to 15-1. Sometimes Moss seemed literally unstoppable, impossible to defend. He was the fastest man on the field, and he had a vertical leap no one could match. Randall Cunningham threw him alley-oops, and Moss beat the defender on pure freak athleticism. Moss had 14 receptions of at least 40 yards, the most on record (1991-pres).

Moss had ten 1,000-yard seasons (more than anyone but Jerry Rice) and nine years of double-digit TDs (tied with Rice and Terrell Owens for the most ever). Moss surpassed 1,200 yards eight times, and 1,400 yards four times. He led the NFL in receiving TDs five times, including a record 23 in 2007. Moss was first-team all-pro in four seasons, and his 64 career 100-yard receiving games are second only to Rice.

Early in his career, Moss was criticized for his obvious lack of effort when he wasn’t motivated, but you’d still want him on your team, because he was the most explosive wideout since Lance Alworth, maybe ever. The 2006 Patriots scored 385 points. The next season, they added Wes Welker and Moss, and scored 589. That broke the record set by another Moss team, the 1998 Vikings.

Terrell Owens
San Francisco 49ers, 1996-2003; Philadelphia Eagles, 2004-05; Dallas Cowboys, 2006-08; Buffalo Bills, 2009; Cincinnati Bengals, 2010
1,078 receptions, 15,934 yards, 153 TD

Terrell Owens ranks 6th all-time in receptions, 2nd in receiving yards, and 3rd in receiving touchdowns. He led the NFL three times in receiving TDs and is one of only three Modern-Era wide receivers named to five all-pro teams as a starter (Jerry Rice, Del Shofner). Owens had nine 1,000-yard seasons, eight years of double-digit TDs, six Pro Bowl selections, and four years gaining at least 1,300 yards.

Judged solely by his on-field performance, Owens is not just a Hall of Famer, he’s one of the most outstanding WRs of all time. But Owens’ legacy isn’t limited to his touchdowns and his great moments in the postseason. Owens is also remembered for his disrespectful celebrations, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, getting Steve Mariucci and Jeff Garcia released — the catalyst for a decade of losing in San Francisco — overturning his trade to the Ravens, fighting with Hugh Douglas, demanding to renegotiate his contract after just one year, dividing the Eagles’ locker room and getting suspended, making Drew Rosenhaus famous, calling Ed Werder a liar following reports of conflict in the Dallas locker room, and many more controversies.

Owens was a physical marvel, big and powerful, who cared about winning and would become visibly upset when his team wasn’t doing well. He also dropped a lot of catchable passes, antagonized his quarterbacks, and made himself unwanted when he was still a capable player. Owens gained 983 yards in 2010, and no one signed him the next year; he wasn’t worth the trouble.

If coaches and teammates have to spend time dealing with your attitude when they’re supposed to be game-planning or training, that hurts the organization. If the quarterback has to stress about getting you the ball, that limits the offense. As great a player as he was, I’m not convinced Owens actually made his teams better. There’s no substitute for talent, but team chemistry matters, and no player in NFL history has disrupted team chemistry like Terrell Owens. The Eagles, Cowboys, and Bengals all got better when they released Owens.

Hines Ward
Pittsburgh Steelers, 1998-2011
1,000 receptions, 12,083 yards, 85 TD

Hines Ward has pretty good gross receiving totals, but that’s not a complete measure of his value. Ward played most of his career, and all of his prime, on run-oriented offenses where he didn’t have the same statistical opportunities as his peers on wide-open passing teams. I chose Ward to my 2005 all-pro team, even though he wasn’t among the league leaders statistically (69 rec, 975 yds, 11 TD). Ward led the Steelers in catches by 30, in yards by 417, and in TDs by five. He ended the season as Super Bowl MVP.

Ward’s success is actually kind of weird. He’s not a real big guy, he wasn’t fast for the position, and despite a reputation to the contrary, he didn’t have great hands. But he was a good route runner, very tough, and universally acknowledged as the finest blocking receiver of his generation. I suppose this is also where I acknowledge that Ward was widely viewed as a dirty player. In March 2009, the NFL instituted a rule change, informally known as the Hines Ward Rule, that prohibited certain blindside blocks.

Ward was a high school quarterback, and I remembered him throwing passes in the NFL, but apparently my memory inflated that part of his career: Ward’s pro passing line was just 1-of-2, for 17 yards, plus a sack. However, he also had 57 rush attempts, for 428 yards and a touchdown. Ward was a hard-nosed possession receiver, a dedicated blocker, and a great team player who won two Super Bowl rings.

2005-2014

Fastest Receiver: Mike Wallace

Best Deep Threat: see below

Best Hands: Larry Fitzgerald

Best Possession Receiver: Reggie Wayne

Toughest Receiver: Anquan Boldin

Underrated in 2016: Anquan Boldin

Most Accomplished Postseason WR: Larry Fitzgerald

Best Single Season: Calvin Johnson, 2012

Best Overall WR: Calvin Johnson

In contrast to naming Torry Holt the best receiver of the ’00s, I didn’t quite have the guts to claim that Brandon Lloyd had the best hands of this decade. Lloyd was unfocused and inconsistent, and he only had one 1,000-yard season. In 2010, Lloyd led the league in receiving yards (1,448) and scored 11 TDs, despite catching passes from Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow. He didn’t have a great career, but when his head was on straight, he was marvelous.

Honestly, Calvin Johnson is probably the greatest deep threat of this decade. Although he only played eight of the 10 seasons, Johnson had the most 20-yard receptions (174) and the second-most 40-yard receptions (38). He had the third-most touchdowns and the third-highest receiving average. But the single most explosive receiver of the decade was DeSean Jackson. D-Jax had 48 40-yard receptions in this decade, by far the most. In the 25 years since that stat became official, Jackson has the second-highest single-season total (13) and is tied for the fourth-highest (10), the only player — including Randy Moss — with two seasons in double digits. Including returns, he has 20 TDs of at least 60 yards, which trails only Jerry Rice and is tied for second all-time. Jackson’s 17.7 receiving average was the highest of the decade, and his 22.5 average in 2010 is the highest for any 1,000-yard season since 1990.

At the same time, you could make a “best deep threat” argument for Vincent Jackson. V-Jax had a 17.0 average, second only to DeSean, but compared to D-Jax, he had many more catches (+80), yards (+1,078), first downs (+117), and TDs (+16). Vincent Jackson has six 1,000-yard receiving seasons, with four different quarterbacks: Philip Rivers, Josh Freeman, Mike Glennon, and Josh McCown. He’s a downfield threat no matter who’s throwing the ball.

Mike Wallace appears to have squandered his potential, but his terrific speed facilitated back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and two years with double-digit TDs. In 2010, Wallace had the most 100-yard receiving games in the NFL. His receiving average dropped radically when Hines Ward retired.

Among the wide receivers I rank in the top 50 all-time, only one — through a quirk of chronology — does not have a full profile in this series. Steve Smith has nearly 1,000 catches, nearly 14,000 yards, and 84 career TDs. That includes six return TDs in his first three seasons. Smith also has eight 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and he was first-team all-pro in 2005. Smith is a five-time Pro Bowler, and he’s been excellent in the postseason, with 11 TDs and 1,001 receiving yards in 11 games. He’s an incredibly determined playmaker, and his intensity is less destructive than Terrell Owens’. Chase, who thinks even more highly of Smith than I do, has written about Smith very favorably.

Roddy White had six consecutive seasons of at least 1,150 yards, including three seasons over 1,350. White was first-team all-pro in 2010, when he led the NFL with 115 receptions. Michael Irvin (1991-93), Jerry Rice (1993-96), Marvin Harrison (1999-2002), and Roddy White (2010-12) are the only receivers with three straight seasons of 70+ first downs.

Wes Welker had five seasons with over 110 catches, and five 1,000-yard receiving seasons, including three years over 1,300. Welker was first-team all-pro in 2009 and 2011, and probably deserved it both years. His receiving average is among the lowest of all time (11.0), but I don’t think most fans understand the magnitude of his accomplishments. Welker also gained 6,722 yards as a returner, and he made two extra points and a field goal. Also, and I don’t want to make too much of this, but I think Welker’s success opened the door for white wide receivers, who were basically extinct for 20 years before him. I don’t know if players like Eric Decker and Jordy Nelson would have gotten the same opportunities without Welker’s success.

Anquan Boldin
Arizona Cardinals, 2003-09; Baltimore Ravens, 2010-12; San Francisco 49ers, 2013-15
1,009 receptions, 13,195 yards, 74 TD

In his first regular-season game, Anquan Boldin broke Hugh Taylor’s 56-year-old rookie record for yardage. Boldin caught 10 passes for 217 yards and 2 TDs (he also lost a fumble). He won Rookie of the Year honors, with 101 catches for 1,377 yards, both figures third-best in the NFL.

It was the first of seven 1,000-yard seasons, including 1,179 yards in 2013, when the 49ers threw the fewest passes in the NFL. The rest of the WRs on the team combined for 35 receptions for 448 yards and 1 touchdown. Run-oriented offenses have limited Boldin’s statistical production in the second half of his career, but he’s remained a key part of the offense. After leaving Arizona, Boldin led the Ravens and Niners in receptions and receiving yards every season.1 He’s also one of the best blocking WRs of this generation. There’s a comparison to be made between Boldin and Hines Ward.

Two years ago, Chase noted, “Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin have each played in 156 games. And they’ve produced nearly identical receiving numbers, with Fitzgerald at 11,367 yards and Boldin at 11,344 yards. But Boldin’s teams have averaged 558 pass attempts, compared to 590 for Fitzgerald.” Reputation ranks Fitz far ahead, but there’s a case to be made that Boldin has actually done more for his teams.

In the 2012 playoffs, Boldin had 380 yards and 4 TDs in four games, including 104 and a touchdown in Super Bowl XLVII. He has 1,033 yards in 14 career postseason games.

Larry Fitzgerald
Arizona Cardinals, 2004-15
1,018 receptions, 13,366 yards, 98 TD

On January 3, 2009, Larry Fitzgerald had 101 yards and a touchdown in a 30-24 playoff win over the Atlanta Falcons. The following week, on January 10, Fitzgerald had 166 yards and a TD in the divisional round of the playoffs. In the NFC Championship Game, Fitz had 152 yards and 3 touchdowns. In Super Bowl XLIII, he tallied 127 yards and 2 TDs, including a go-ahead, 64-yard touchdown with 2:37 remaining. Altogether, Fitzgerald had 546 yards and 7 TDs in the 2008 NFL postseason. He had 82 yards and 2 TDs in his first playoff game the next season, and 176 yards and a TD in the divisional round of the 2015 postseason.

Fitzgerald is a nine-time Pro Bowler. He’s had seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons, including four 1,400-yard seasons. He’s led the NFL in receptions (2005) and tied for the lead in receiving TDs twice (2008 and ’09). He’s caught double-digit TDs five times. Fitzgerald is big (6-3, 225) and strong, a physical receiver and a good blocker. He’s a good route runner and he has good hands. He’s smart and focused, a consistent performer and a team player, and he’s saved his best moments for the biggest moments.

From 2005-14, Fitzgerald had the second-most catches, yards, first downs, and touchdowns in the NFL. Curiously, the leader in each category was different: Wes Welker (receptions), Andre Johnson (yards), Reggie Wayne (first downs), and Antonio Gates (TDs).

Andre Johnson
Houston Texans, 2003-14; Indianapolis Colts, 2015
1,053 receptions, 14,100 yards, 68 TD

In 2008 and 2009, Andre Johnson became just the second receiver in history with back-to-back 1,500-yard seasons (Marvin Harrison, 2001-02). In both years, Johnson was clearly the best receiver in the league. In ’08, he led the NFL in receptions, led in yardage by 144, and led by a huge amount in first downs (79; no one else had more than 66). In ’09, he led the league by 221 yards. I remember a play that season in which Johnson caught a pass around the 5-yard line, and ran over three defenders to score a touchdown. Wide receivers aren’t supposed to bowl down tacklers, but Johnson did.

He had five 100-catch seasons and seven 1,100-yard seasons, including four 1,400-yard seasons. He is the only player in NFL history with three 1,550-yard receiving seasons. Johnson’s peak was remarkable. Setting aside an injury year in 2011, during his five full seasons from 2008-13, Johnson’s average stat line read: 105 receptions, 1473 yards, 71 first downs, 7 TDs. To average those figures over five years is almost unbelievable. To put those numbers in context, in the six seasons from 2008-13:

  • Only eight other players had 105 receptions in one season. Reggie Wayne and Wes Welker were the only players to do it more than once.
  • Only six other receivers had 1473 yards in a season. Calvin Johnson was the only player to do it more than once.
  • Only six other receivers had 71 first downs in a season. Andre Johnson had 79 first downs twice. The only other player to hit that mark even once was Calvin Johnson.

To the extent there’s a statistical argument against Andre Johnson’s greatness, it’s his relatively low TD total. But that’s easily explained: Johnson spent the first half of his career on bad teams that didn’t spend much time in the red zone, and the second half of his career on a team with Arian Foster. Johnson reminds me a little bit of the tight ends who were basketball players. He was so physical, and he challenged defenders and fought for the ball. Johnson is 17 catches and 245 yards shy of tying Reggie Wayne for 7th all-time in receptions and 8th in receiving yards.

Calvin Johnson
Detroit Lions, 2007-15
731 receptions, 11,619 yards, 83 TD

Most receiving yards per game, minimum 100 games:

1. Calvin Johnson, 86.1
2. Torry Holt, 77.4
3. Marvin Harrison, 76.7
4. Andre Johnson, 76.2
5. Jerry Rice, 75.6

This list is dominated by recent players, because the game favors passing now, and the list favors players with short careers, who retired before age or injuries caused their play to decline. But Calvin Johnson is just all by himself.

There’s an argument to be made that Johnson’s stats are inflated by Detroit’s pass-heavy offense, and obviously there’s some truth to that. But I also think it’s true that the Lions passed so often because they had Megatron to throw to. The impact of Detroit’s play-calling on Johnson’s stats has been exaggerated; over the course of Johnson’s career, he ranked third in targets, with one of the highest yards-per-target figures in football. Johnson routinely made jaw-dropping plays; he was visibly the best receiver in the league.

No receiver in history is quite like Johnson, but the best comparison might be Randy Moss. Johnson is bigger than Moss — 6-foot-5, 237 pounds — and more physical. As a draft prospect, his NFL combine and pro day performances were stunning: 4.35 40-yard dash — the fastest ever by a player so tall — 11′ 7″ broad jump, 42.5″ vertical leap.2 Johnson also had good hands and excellent football sense. Richard Sherman described the challenge of guarding Johnson: “They tell you he’s 6′ 5″ and runs a 4.3 40. Then you get out there, and he’s faster than you think, quicker than you think. Taller and stronger than you think. You’ll have three or four guys sitting on him in coverage, and [Matthew] Stafford throws it up there, and he makes the play … Calvin’s playing ball at a different level from anyone else.”

Johnson had four 1,300-yard receiving seasons, two 1,600-yard seasons, and four years with 12 or more receiving TDs. He had 329 yards in a game, the highest ever in a four-quarter (non-overtime) game. Over his brief but electric career, Johnson set or tied numerous records, including most 200-yard receiving games in a season (3) and career (6). The former includes a playoff game in which Johnson caught 12 of 15 targets, for 211 yards and 2 TDs. All six 200-yard games came in a 27-game span. Johnson holds the single-season record for receiving yardage (1,964), as well as the records for back-to-back seasons (3,645) and three consecutive seasons (5,137). I might be willing to argue that Calvin Johnson had the greatest peak of any receiver in the history of this sport.

Johnson announced his retirement in March, and I hope he’ll reconsider in the future, but if he stays away, his 1,214 receiving yards in 2015 would be the most ever in a player’s final season.

Reggie Wayne
Indianapolis Colts, 2001-14
1,070 receptions, 14,345 yards, 82 TD

Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison are one of the most interesting receiving tandems in history. Partly that’s because they were so successful, combining for 17,155 yards and 134 touchdowns in their eight seasons together. Both caught over 1,000 passes in their careers, and both gained over 14,000 yards. But what’s really interesting is how similar they were.

Most great receiving duos complement each other: a possession guy and a deep threat. The strengths of the one play to the weaknesses of the other. But Harrison and Wayne were essentially the same style player. They were both listed 6 feet even and under 200 pounds. Neither was particularly fast, and both were essentially possession receivers. In fact, they are the only players with five seasons of 70 or more first down receptions. (Jerry Rice probably did so, too, but only four of them are official.)

What allowed Harrison and Wayne to excel, besides Peyton Manning, was their dedication, intelligence, and precision. Both were excellent route runners, and both had good hands. They were good at reading defenses, and combined with the work put in with Manning, that helped them adjust to exploit openings. Harrison and Wayne are probably the two best receivers I’ve ever seen at tapping their toes in bounds on the sideline or in the corner of the end zone. They were unstoppable on out patterns and curls, but if you played them outside, they’d go in and Peyton would hit them on a slant or a post.

From 2005-2014, Wayne gained 597 first downs, most in the NFL, and he made a ton of jaw-dropping catches, particularly those that required dragging a foot in bounds. He had eight 1,000-yard receiving seasons, including four 1,300-yard seasons. He had four years with 100 receptions, and three with double-digit TDs. He had 221 yards and 2 TDs in a playoff game. Wayne led the NFL in receiving yards in 2007, made six Pro Bowls, and was first-team all-pro in 2010.

  1. Editor’s note: Boldin also became just the 7th wide receiver to start for two different teams in the Super Bowl. []
  2. That’s 8 inches more than A.J. Green, 23%. []
  • So yes or no to Terrell Owens for the Hall of Fame?

    • In my opinion, yes, and it shouldn’t even be a question. I think people found him obnoxious (understandably so, he was) and so they hold this against him even in evaluating his on-field performance. But a back of the envelope analysis looking at his teams’ records, as well as their records the season before he got there and the season after he left, suggest that his rep as a somebody who detracted from the team is overblown. His teams got better when he arrived and worse when he left.

      Plus, don’t forget, this is a guy who caught the game-winning pass surrounded by defenders in “The Catch II,” who annihilated the Giants secondary in that great playoffs comeback, and who was the only consistent offense for the Eagles in the Super Bowl after returning early from a bad leg injury.

      Would he have been even better if he was less selfish? Of course. But everybody would be better if you took away their worst qualities.

      • Just to follow up: If I did the arithmetic correctly, teams on which TO played had a .567 winning percentage. Those same teams had a combine .531 winning percentage in the year immediate before he arrived and the year immediately after he left.

      • “His teams got better when he arrived and worse when he left.”

        You must be measuring this differently than I do.

        • Yazan Gable

          It’s overly simplistic to frame it in that way.

          As Owens arrives the 49ers lost Steve Young and released Jerry Rice, along with now being led by Steve Mariuchi and having Jeff Garcia as QB. Not that Garcia and Mariuchi are bad, but it certainly wasn’t gonna be Seifert and Young of the previous half decade.

          The Eagles managed a Super Bowl berth the first year with Owens and the 2nd year with him he put up ridiculous numbers despite only being able to play 7 games (7 of their 10 losses that season were without him, too.)

          As for the Cowboys, they got better offensively when Owens joined the team (Bledsoe was replaced with Tony Romo too, which of course goes to show that it’s more than just one player influencing these things.) If not for Romo getting hurt for the final 3 games which helped complete an 8-4 choke by the Cowboys to end 9-7 they probably end with a better record the final year Owens is in Dallas, too.

          As for the Bengals, in 2011 they replaced Carson Palmer (who was not playing as well then as he is now) and old Terrell Owens with AJ Green and Andy Dalton. Not to mention having half as many injuries as before.

          I imagine you used more than just record standings for this, but there was more going on with these teams than just TO arriving and leaving to influence their records.

          • I take issue with some of that, but I was refuting a specific sentence. The previous comment said, “His teams got better when he arrived and worse when he left.” That’s not true.

            • Yazan Gable

              I still don’t think “The Eagles, Cowboys, and Bengals all got better when they released Owens” is a meaningful statement in the original piece. To me, at least, the statement is like saying “the Jets were a better team when Ryan Fitzpatrick was their quarterback.” It’s true, but there are plenty of other factors that played into their success even though he does have a hand in it.

              • That’s one sentence out of a 341-word profile. I like to think I offered a balanced look at the ups and downs of his career, and that sentence is only a tiny part of it.

                • Yazan Gable

                  It represents most of your opinion expressed in the piece on Terrell Owens, though, when it comes to the influence he had on the teams he played for. It is three quarters of the sentiment expressed regarding TO in his section, unless you felt it was unnecessary to spend extended time discussing his achievements like you did for Jerry Rice and Randy Moss whose successes are well-known.

                  Either way, how you look at his stops at the Cowboys and Eagles can vary depending on what you consider success: the Eagles made their only Super Bowl since 1980 when he joined the team and the team went to crap his 2nd year there, so in one way it can be seen as a wash and another it can be seen as just latching onto a rising team in ’04 and him destroying the team in 2005. The Cowboys’ first year with him was better by DVOA than the previous year and in his 2nd year they went 13-3. The 3rd year, where the offense did get worse, if Tony Romo doesn’t get hurt and replaced for the final 3 games they could have done better than 9-7. The Bengals in 2010 had twice as many players left on injured reserve than in 2009 and 2011 (not to mention the introduction of Andy Dalton and AJ Green) which would have probably had a larger effect on their team than just adding Terrell Owens.

                  With regards to its balance, I’m not sure how much weight listing his achievements in 68 out of 341 words is supposed to carry, but when looking at these well-written and investigated articles I’m much more interested in your commentary and interpretation of their place in that era and their achievements. For what I look to get out of these articles, listing his stats and awards at the beginning and then spending the rest of the profile talking about his toxicity is an imbalanced look at his career. Using team record standings before, during and after his arrivals (as you’ve done when discussing his influence on teams in the comments) feels like it’s masking the reasons why the teams got better or worse without him and replacing it with numbers that indicate the total team’s performance (he’s not playing in coverage or pass rushing.) Talking perhaps about the efficiency of the team’s offense with and without him or
                  including how personnel changes and bad injury years may have influenced
                  the teams’ success would be more persuasive to me than listing records and saying that teams got worse with him around.

                  • I’m not going to convince you on Owens. That’s fine. And I’m sorry you didn’t like the article. Everyone reading this knows what Terrell Owens did well, and I highlighted a positive stat most people don’t know: Owens is one of only three Modern-Era wide receivers named first-team all-pro five times. But Owens’ legacy, I think, is as much as about his controversies and negative affect on his teams as it is about his impressive statistical accomplishments. Dismissing the team stats I cited in the comments — my argument is that he was a toxic influence on the team — puzzles me, and I think the data is reasonably straightforward. Whatever.

                    I do think the way you framed his time with the Eagles is pretty ridiculous, though. Starting in 2000, that team went 11-5, 11-5, 12-4, and 12-4, and made three straight NFC Championship Games. With Owens in ’04, they went 13-3 and won a historically weak NFC. Framing it as “the Eagles made their only Super Bowl since 1980”, while literally true, is misleading and intellectually dishonest. It’s not like he joined a rag-tag bunch of misfits and made them contenders. And not that it’s a big deal, but I counted 116 words of praise, not 68. I hope you’ve been enjoying the series other than the Owens section.

                    • Yazan Gable

                      I have been enjoying the series and this article too, I only disagreed with the Terrell Owens section. I think that he not getting picked for the Hall of Fame this first year is less because of his toxicity toward team chemistry and more as helpful excuse to not make him a first ballot Hall of Famer. Not that this is why you feel he isn’t, and I understand your position. I just disagree is all.

    • Adam

      Absolutely yes. Is this even a question in some people’s minds?

      • I have read many comments from humans who think he doesn’t belong on account of his behavior. Personally, I think he’s a no brainer top 10 guy who gut-punched entanglement. Also, I am biased – he was my second favorite player when I was in high school, behind Derrick Brooks.

        • Adam

          Yeah there’s no rational way to put Owens outside the top 10 all time. He was great everywhere he played, even in his old age. As far as his behavior, I’d much rather see a diva make the HoF than a lowlife or criminal.

          • Darn, I’m irrational.

            • Adam

              Who are the 10 you put above Owens?

              • Owens wouldn’t make my top 30.

                • Adam

                  If Owens had suffered a career ending injury after the ’02 season, would you rate his career more highly than you do now?

            • Adam

              I shouldn’t have used the word “rational” in that context. There are indeed rational unorthodox views.

    • Guess I’m the idiot.

      I’m taking a wait-and-see approach on Owens’ HOF candidacy; my mind isn’t made up. If I had to vote today, I’d vote no. It’s not just because I found his behavior distasteful. I think Cris Carter is a jerk, but I’m glad he’s in the Hall of Fame. Darren Sharper is a rapist. I think he should be in the Hall of Fame, and I hope we’ll all think about what an asshole he is since he’ll be in jail instead of at the ceremony. O.J. Simpson is (probably) a murderer; I’m glad he’s in. Jim Tyrer was a murderer; I think he should be in Canton. The PFHOF doesn’t have a character clause, and I’m glad. But Terrell Owens’ bad behavior hurt his teams. I think that from 2005-10, Owens mostly made his teams worse. And without those seasons, I don’t think he has a Hall of Fame career.

      The stats — if you apply any kind of reasonable context — support this view. Dry statistical background in italics:

      (The 1996 49ers went 12-4, up one game from 11-5 the previous season. That’s not meaningful, and to the extent it is, it probably wasn’t because of Owens’ 35 catches for 520 yards and 4 TDs. The Niners dropped from 7-9 to 2-14 in their first year (2004) without Owens, but I think that owes more to replacing Steve Mariucci and Jeff Garcia with Dennis Erickson and Tim Rattay — for which Owens deserves at least partial blame — than it does to losing T.O.

      The Eagles rose from 12-4 to 13-3 in their first year with Owens, then dropped to 6-10 when he destroyed their locker room in 2005 and rebounded to 10-6 in their first year without him.

      The Cowboys went 9-7 in ’05, added T.O., and went 9-7 again. In 2008, their final year with Owens, the Cowboys went 9-7. In 2009, they went 11-5.

      The Bills went 7-9 in ’08, 6-10 in their one year with Owens, and 4-12 without him in 2010.

      The Bengals went 10-6 in 2009, 4-12 in their one year with Owens, and 9-7 without him in 2011.)

      In summary, the Niners fell apart around the time Owens left, but that was clearly larger than his absence. The Eagles’ burgeoning dynasty collapsed under the strain of Owens’ tension. Dallas got better when Owens left. He had little to no obvious effect on the Bills. The Bengals were distinctly worse during Owens’ brief tenure.

      I’m not a firm NO on Owens. But a football player’s job isn’t to catch passes — and even there I have issues; Owens had alligator arms and so-so hands — it’s to help his team win games. I think over the later part of his career, Owens made it harder for his team to win games. The Eagles, Cowboys, and Bengals all got better when they released Owens.

      • That’s an interesting take, and one I am sure many would agree with. I think you are looking at this through the lens of your own perspective, which is really the only way we tend to look at anything. You believe a receiver’s job is to help his team win. That’s good. Maybe some people don’t believe that. Maybe some people believe that a receiver’s job is, as you said it wasn’t, to catch passes.I’m not saying I believe that or don’t, but to state an opinion as a fact is not something I’d hope to see from an objective analyst.

        • You mean that a player’s job is to help his team? I wasn’t aware that was a disputed matter.

          • Different people have different priorities. I am sure there are many players, even great ones, who would put personal success over team success. Even Jerry Rice had tantrums when he didn’t get the ball enough in a win (he also helped his teams win quite a bit, even if they were already pretty great at winning before he got there).

            • Aren’t you arguing different things here? I don’t believe Owens’ or Rice’s or anyone else’s motivations matter as long as they don’t interfere with team success. Perhaps we disagree on whether or not Owens made his teams better. I’m fine with that. But a player’s job is to help his team, and I’m not prepared to respectfully disagree on that point.

              If you told a coach or a GM or an owner, “If you sign this guy he is going to catch 13 touchdowns, and you’ll lose two more games than last season because he’s locker room poison,” no team would sign him, and that would be the correct decision. I believe that in the second half of his career Owens was that kind of player. And maybe I’m wrong, but the basic philosophy — that a player who makes his team worse is not a great player — I’m not prepared to bend on.

              • You are looking at this from a owner’s or GM’s point of view, and that’s fine. But, again, it is not the only point of view, even if it’s one you happen to share. There are players who would prefer TO’s career to that of someone like Rod Smith, even if Smith was undeniably a better teammate. There are fans who would rather watch a dynamic player make amazing plays and couldn’t care less if the team wins or loses. Heck, there are fans who don’t have a team at all, can’t name a single offensive lineman, and just root for the superstars. There may even be owners who don’t care too much about the standings as long as they have famous players selling tons of merchandise. What you value helps shape what you recognize a player’s role to be.

                • I don’t think I was approaching anything from an owner’s or GM’s point of view. I wouldn’t even know how to do that. I approached this as a fan, Bryan. I like to see my favorite teams win. I wouldn’t have wanted Terrell Owens on my favorite team.

                  “There are players who would prefer TO’s career to that of someone like Rod Smith.” Of course there are. Most of them, I imagine, because Owens is perceived as a better player. Hell, I think T.O. had a better career and was a better player than Rod Smith. Owens made more money, got more public acclaim, he’s better-known. Does that make him a Hall of Famer? Whew, those sure aren’t my criteria. I can’t imagine they’re yours, either.

                  “Fans who don’t have a team at all, can’t name a single offensive lineman, and just root for the superstars” should not determine how we assess greatness; we can’t cede these arguments to the least-educated voices. We already see this in politics; heaven forbid it become our standard in football, too. Just because a certain number of underinformed people hold a view does not make it a valid approach. Being so open-minded that you don’t reject any perspective, no matter how ill-considered, becomes counter-productive.

                  A receiver’s job, objectively, is not limited to catching passes. Every WR is called upon to block sometimes. A player who doesn’t do that has a deficiency in his game. How much does it matter? Reasonable people can disagree on that. It may not be disqualifying, but it’s certainly part of his job, and if he’s not doing it, that has some bearing on our assessment of him as a player. Receivers are not only expected to make important catches and to block, they are expected to run routes that create opportunities for their teammates. They are expected to avoid penalties. They are expected to stay in shape, to help their teammates in practice and meetings, to respect their coaches, to make the bus on time. Some of those factors are nebulous and hard to quantify, and some of them are more important than others, but a player who’s not meeting those expectations has short-comings that should factor into any educated assessment of his career.

                  Whatever razzle-dazzle about perspective we throw out there, when we’re
                  talking about the greatest players of all time, a player who made his teams
                  worse did not fulfill his job. Maybe he had hands of stone and feet of lead, maybe he ran the wrong routes and didn’t block, maybe he undercut his coach and quarterback, on and on. Terrell Owens was a phenomenal talent; I’m not sure he was a great football player.

                  • I doubt you and I will come to an agreement on this. It’s probably best to save further energy.

                • Adam

                  Glad you brought this up. We have this utopian ideal that athletes should be 100% committed to their teams at all times, even if it comes at the expense of their own glory. But human nature says this ideal is unrealistic. All people, and especially hyper competitive people, want to be recognized for their work. And let’s be honest, a superstar on a 7-9 team receives more adulation (and beautiful women) than an annoymous team-first guy on a SB team. While I generally prefer team oriented players, I don’t have as much animus toward the egotistical stat gobblers as most fans. If I were in their shoes, my ego might inflate and my priorities might change, so I try not to judge the motivation of individual players.

                  • I don’t want to put words in Brad’s mouth, but I’m going to put words in Brad’s mouth. My understanding is that he is more concerned with the outcome of a player’s motivations rather than the motivations themselves. It isn’t a view I share completely, but it’s certainly not an invalid one.

                    • If I’m understanding you correctly, yes, that is an accurate assessment of my position.

                    • I think you have an accurate understanding of my understanding of your understanding.

      • The thing is if you look at what TO’s teams did *overall*, not just in his final year with a team then he was consistently on winning teams.

        As I mentioned below TO’s career winning percentage is .567. If you consider the 10 seasons of the teams on which he played the year before he arrived and the year after he left (five teams, two seasons each), you get a winning percentage of .531.

        In short, I think TO would wear out his welcome, and that is a knock against him, but before he did so he would catch a bunch of touchdowns and gain a bunch of yards and help his team win. I think his overall record strongly suggests he was very much a net asset.

        • Simpson’s Paradox.

          Owens joined good teams. He spent the first half of his career on the 49ers when they were wrapping up their dynasty years. He joined the Eagles when they were a great team and the Cowboys just as Tony Romo was catching on.

          Counting only a team’s first year without him, you give disproportionate emphasis to the Bills.

          • I don’t think so. You just aren’t counting TO’s best seasons which didn’t come in his last season with a team.

            • I am counting his best seasons: his first seasons. That’s when they had their best records. You’re including the Steve Young years, which [A] I wasn’t arguing about, and [B] inflates the record, because those teams were great before Owens got there.

              • No, you made it sound like he tanked the Cowboys, but you didn’t mention that they had a 13-3 record with him in 2007, his second season with the team. And also after the Cowboys 11-5 season in 2009 they went 6-10, 8-8, and 8-8 the next three years. Where they really better off without TO?

                He seriously disrupted the Eagles in 2005, I will give you that, but he also helped them to a Super Bowl the season before. So… how do those things balance?

                • The missing 13-3 in 2007 is definitely the biggest problem with the methodology I cited. This is pretty weasely, but when I wrote above that “from 2005-10, Owens mostly made his teams worse”, that season was what I had in mind when I wrote mostly.

                  But you’re using different denominators, which you can’t really do. You compared 10 seasons of the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills, and Bengals, in their final season before Owens and their first season after. But you compared it to a 15-year career that includes eight seasons with the 49ers, two with Philly, three in Dallas, and one each in Buffalo and Cincinnati. In one equation, more than half is determined by the Niners, who were a successful team. In the other, SF only makes up 20%. That’s not really a legitimate way of measuring his effect.

                  • I hear what you are saying. But if you only look at first and last years, or if you just discount the Steve Young years, then you are ignoring a lot of TO’s career for which he deserves credit.

                    The problem is there really is no legitimate way of measuring this effect — just varying degrees of illegitimacy.

                    • Terrell Owens had his best years post-Young, so the credit he deserves for those seasons is pretty minimal anyway. It’s misleading to count 1996, when the 49ers went 12-4 and Owens accounted for 13% of their receiving yards, toward Owens being a great team player. If you focus on the last half of his career — which is when I contend that Owens had a negative effect on his teams — the math is less complicated.

                      Perhaps I haven’t been clear: I believe Owens’ narcissism worsened over time. I think Owens was a valuable player from 1997-2002. It’s from 2005 on that I believe he hurt his teams more than helped them. But frankly, if he’s a slam-dunk HOFer, this shouldn’t even be close. At best, it’s close. At worst, dude spent most of his last eight seasons hindering his teams. These are opinions that I believe are very difficult for an objective party to dispute:

                      * Owens made the 49ers worse at the end of his tenure there

                      * Owens ruined the Eagles’ 2005 season and the team was better after he left

                      * The Cowboys got better immediately after Owens left; their dip in 2010 was due to Romo’s injury (and replacing Wade Phillips with Jason Garrett)

                      * Owens did not improve the Bills

                      * The Bengals were significantly worse during Owens’ brief tenure

                      * Owens gained 983 yards in his final season and stated his desire to play in 2011 and 2012, but no one would sign him because he was perceived as a toxic teammate and a distraction

                      I think it’s much less legitimate to include the 49er glory years, ignore Owens’ role in getting Mariucci and Garcia released, and mathematically inflate the importance of the 2-14 2004 Niners and the 4-12 2010 Bills than it is to pass over the ’07 Cowboys.

          • Adam

            “His role in destroying the 49ers for a decade.”

            This is a statement built on speculation and assumption. Even if we concede that Owens had a negative effect on the Niners locker room (fair), it’s a giant leap to claim he had the power to influence the team a decade later. After ’03, Garcia got old and left, Alex Smith was awful, the defense completely cratered, Mike Nolan was a subpar coach, Mike Singletary was a comically bad coach, and the York family is a dumpster fire. I would argue that all of those things had a far greater impact on the Niners than Owens’ negativity.

            • You’re right that there’s a degree of speculation and assumption. But my memory is that Owens played a significant role in Mariucci and Garcia getting released. Garcia wasn’t let go because he got old, he was released because Owens publicly said Tim Rattay was better and Garcia was gay, and the team decided they wanted Owens more than Garcia. Then T.O. left anyway.

              What happened from ’04 on is more about the Yorks, but unless I’m mistaken, T.O. played a significant role in two really deleterious personnel moves besides his own. Those moves affected the franchise for some time afterwards, setting up the disastrous coaching and QB decisions you cited.

              • Adam

                I’ll meet you halfway on this one. I think it’s fair to blame Owens for abruptly shutting the Niners’ SB window, but not fair to blame him for the depths the franchise would fall to. Out of curiosity, how long do you think Mariucci and Garcia would’ve stayed without the Owens drama?

                • Sure, I can agree with that. I think what I wrote in the article, that he was “the catalyst for a decade of losing” is accurate, with the key word being catalyst. As far as Mariucci and Garcia, it’s hard to say. The idiocy of the team’s front office at that time is pretty hard to overstate. I think Garcia would have outlasted Mooch.

    • Josh Sanford

      Yes, even though my football coach brother is shaking his head in shame at me.

  • sacramento gold miners

    Another fascinating article, I now think a dozen of these players have earned the ticket to Canton, four of those are still active. Derrick Mason is very close, but never did have a 100 yard receiving day in 17 playoff games. I’m struggling to think of his signature moment, as productive as he was.

    Also, there may be a perception downside to having two great receivers on the same team at the same time. Either support may be split, or some my feel the QB could have made anyone great.

    • Adam

      Signature moments are vastly overrated in defining a player’s career, and don’t think it’s fair to knock Mason for supposedly not having one. If he had played in a bigger market I’ll bet people would remember more of his big plays.

      • sacramento gold miners

        I look at signature plays as the topping to the career, it’s very difficult to think of a hall of famer without them. I agree about Mason not playing for a storied franchise(or more traditional market), but he really could have helped himself in those 17 playoff games. Always felt Mason was underrated, but not quite worthy of Canton in my book.

  • Adam

    I agree that Holt was marginally better than Moss during this timeframe from a statistical standpoint, but still think Moss was the better player. Teams specifically tailored their game plans to stop Randy Moss, and the double teams he drew opened up space for other receivers. I don’t know that Holt was feared by opponents the way Moss was.

  • WR

    Brad, which do you think is Randy Moss’s best season?

    • That is a tough question. Statistically, probably ’03. There’s obviously a good argument for ’07, as well. But my gut instinct is to say 1998, when he was a rookie. He just terrorized the league. I could go for any of those three, and maybe throw ’99 or ’00 into the mix as well. Today, I think I’ll say ’03. I named Moss Offensive Player of the Year that season. But if you ask me tomorrow, I might answer differently. I’m curious what other people think about this as well. Do you have a favorite?

      • The fact that there are so many seasons in the running is evidence for Moss’s dominance. Were would you, personally, rank Moss on your all-time list? I’d put him as high as fourth (maybe second if I want to be a jerk about the level of competition Hutson and Alworth faced).

        • Top-five.

          • I hope to see your list soon. I read this post and thought “this sounds really familiar.” Then I realized I already read the whole thing at SC.

          • I’m guessing five of the six are, in no particular order: Rice, Alworth, Berry, Moss, and Largent. Not sure who I’d go with in the final spot, but having read much of your writing, I’m inclined to say Harrison or Calvin Johnson.

      • WR

        I think I would choose 2007 as Moss’s best year. That was the season in which he got the TD record, and the Patriots set a record for points per drive that has yet to be broken. That’s probably the most unstoppable NFL offense I’ve ever seen. In the game in Buffalo, Brady was on the field for seven drives, all of which ended in touchdowns, with Moss catching four. The Bills defense literally couldn’t stop them.

      • I completely agree with what you said. I would have said ’98 felt the best but ’03 probably was statistically. In ’98 it felt like he really could just run by everyone and score on every play if he wanted to.

  • LightsOut85

    The other day I was curious if any receivers’ long careers were influencing them ranking with a lower career Yd/G than Johnson, but he still ranks #1 for the first 135 games of any player’s career (although by a much closer margin).

  • Ryan

    Another great recap Brad, Owens came across as the most toxic player in all of professional sports, certainly the modern NFL, I would be pushing all worthy candidates ahead of him, Alex Karras has been arguable held out of the HOF with his gambling history, make Terrell wait please.

    No Brandon Marshall blurb?, adjusting for low pass attempt teams and mediocre quarterback play, seems like a top 40 all-timer, maybe even top 30? Compared with Calvin Johnson, started 6 more games, caught 151 more passes, 21 more first downs, 346 fewer years, 5 fewer touchdowns, caught 4.5% more of total targets, 4 less net fumbles (Fumbles – Recoveries and Forced Fumbles), 11 additional tackles.

    Agreed that Donald Driver and Chad Johnson had similar career stats, Ocho Cinco with a slight edge but a distracting personality at minimum/toxic diva at worst, Chad had a massive 6 year peak while Driver was just ordinary in that regard.

    Best guy with no mention: Marques Colston?

    Best guy from 2010-present: will be interesting to follow Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, AJ Green, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Jeremy Maclin, and Jordy Nelson…can DeSean Jackson get healthy and make a fine run (still only 29)?

    • Thanks, Ryan. Brandon Marshall has a full profile next week. I think top-30 is too aggressive a ranking at this point in his career, but he would make my top 50, maybe top 40. I don’t think the Calvin Johnson comparison is a good one, but Marshall is a tremendous player. I still remember the first game I saw him play.

      • Ryan

        Sweetness, something exciting for next week!

  • Richie

    “Torry Holt averaged 1217 yards per season, the most in history by any player with at least 10 seasons.”

    That looked like one of those tricky stats that work only because Holt’s career seemed to end fairly abruptly.

    But, he ranks 3rd in yards/season of any player to play 11 seasons or fewer. (Minimum 10,000 career yards.) Behind Rice and Harrison. He even ranks 2nd if you drop to 11 seasons. 8 straight seasons of 1,100+ yards is pretty cool.

    Holt also had 2 seasons of 1,600+ yards. Only Calvin Johnson, Marvin Harrison and Antonio Brown have done that. (Nobody has 3 – though Brown could be the first.)