The 50 Greatest Wide Receivers/Tight Ends in NFL History (Revised and Updates, 2012 edition)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Part of a series.  Previous installment is here.

Part of a series.  Previous entry is here.

Andre Johnson is probably a year away.

50. Lynn Swann Steelers '74-82
-Just here for the titles; he only had 3 good seasons. But the postseason counts and I think he deserves this slot for at least one more year.  Absolutely not a Hall of Fame career. 

49. Mike Ditka Bears/Cowboys '61-72
-Five good years to start his career and then essentially just a guy once he turned 27.  Jerry Smith maybe has a beef with this pick. 

48. Ozzie Newsome Browns '78-90
-Solid but not spectacular really all the way through his 20s.  

47. Stanley Morgan Patriots '77-90
-Where did his 1986 come from?  A few good years early in his career, leading the league in yards per catch 3 straight seasons, and then when he was 31 he had about twice as many receptions as in any other season in his career.  

46. Harold Carmichael Eagles '71-84
-4 good seasons, spread throughout his career; Swann's 50th, but the other 4 guys so far could be in any order.  

45. Billy Howton Packers/Cowboys '52-63
-4 good years, really profiles like the guys in this section. 

44. Herman Moore Lions '91-02
-5 good seasons, his 123 catch '95 is pretty easily the best season on the board so far.  

43. Hines Ward Steelers '98-11
-6 good seasons, most of anyone on the board so far.  Long, productive career.  

42. Cliff Branch Raiders '72-85
-5 good seasons and his '74 is the second best season on the board so far.  

41. Drew Pearson Cowboys '73-83
-Profiles like Branch, take a look at how they compare from ages 23-7. You could flip them if you wanted.

40. Chad Johnson Bengals '01-
-His 5 year window started a couple of years after Branch/Pearson but its essentially the same career, five good years in his 20s makes up the heart of his career.  His 2005 is the new second best year on the board. 

39. Steve Smith Panthers '01-
-His profile is very different, 4 good years but spread all over his career; his '05 is the new third best season on the board.  

38. John Mackey Colts '63-72
-Like Ditka, 4 good years in the heart of his 20s.  

37. Otis Taylor Chiefs '65-75
-4 good seasons including the new best on the board, his 22+ yards per catch '66. 

36. Bob Hayes Cowboys '65-75
-6 good seasons including a 26 yards/catch '70. 

35. Jimmy Smith '92-05 Jaguars
-8 good seasons, most of anyone on the board so far; was solid well into his 30s.  

34. Harold Jackson '68-83 Rams/Patriots/Eagles
-6 good seasons, really fits in this section right around a Smith and Hayes.  

33. Gary Clark '85-95 Redskins
-5 good seasons, fits in this section. 

32. Fred Biletnikoff Raiders '65-78
-4 good seasons inside a long, solid career.  It's a challenge to order this whole section of receivers.

31. Kellen Winslow Chargers '79-87
-Like Mackey/Ditka with number of good seasons, his top end was higher that either. 

30. Jackie Smith Cardinals '63-78
-He was Ditka/Mackey but in addition to matching their peaks had a longer shelf life.  

29. Rod Smith Broncos '95-06
-8 good seasons and his peak run came in his 30s.

28. Elroy Hirsch '46-57 Rams
-His '51 is the new second best season on the board, 17 touchdowns and over 124 yards a game.

27. Henry Ellard '83-98 Rams
-5 good seasons. 

26. Andre Reed '85-00 Bills
-6 good years right in the meat of his 20s.  

25. Art Monk '80-95 Redskins
-5 good seasons and the titles.  

The 25 Best WR/TE Of All Time

25. Art Monk '80-95 Redskins
-5 good seasons and the titles.  

24. John Stallworth '74-87 Steelers
-5 good seasons and the titles.  

23. Bobby Mitchell '58-68 Redskins/Browns
-7 good seasons, just always good.  I can't spell Redskins, incidentally, I always invert the k and the s.

22. Antonio Gates Chargers '03-
-7 good years, it sort of looks like his most productive days ended after 09.

21. Charlie Joiner Chargers '69-86
-5 good years and then crazy longevity.  

20. Shannon Sharpe Broncos '90-03
-6 good years, the titles edge him past Gates on the TE board.  

19. Torry Holt
-6 good seasons including 2000, a top 5 season on the board.  

18. Cris Carter Vikings '87-02
-6 good years and crazy longevity

17. James Lofton '78-93 Packers
-6 good years and crazy longevity

16. Tim Brown Raiders '88-04
8 good years and crazy longevity; when looking at the Art Monk guys, the guys who played a long time and were productive without any huge years, Brown had a better career than anyone on the list to this point. 

15. Don Maynard Jets '58-73
5 good seasons

14. Charley Taylor Redskins '64-77
-8 good seasons, like Bobby Mitchell but just a little bit better.  

13. Isaac Bruce Rams '94-09
-7 good seasons, longevity, and a slightly better top end than any of the other longevity guys so far, I think I take Bruce over Brown/Carter/Lofton/Monk/Reed

12. Lance Alworth Chargers '62-72
-7 good seasons, all peak, good and then done.  

11. Reggie Wayne Colts '01-11
-8 good seasons, just thick with value for almost his entire career.  

 The Ten Best Wide Receivers in NFL History

10. Steve Largent Seahawks '76-89
-9 good seasons, superconsistent, lacking any top end season.  

9. Paul Warfield Browns/Dolphins '64-77
-8 good seasons and titles, a slightly better profile than Alworth/Wayne

8. Raymond Berry Colts '55-67
-7 good seasons, titles, his top end a little higher than Warfield/Largent.  

7. Don Hutson Packers '35-45
-You want to grain of salt his numbers a tick given the wartime competition, but pretty clearly the top receiver of the era, and its fair to call his 1942, averaging 110+ yards a game, the best year on the board so far.  

6. Michael Irvin Cowboys '88-99
-7 good to great years, in that Alworth/Berry/Warfield line, his top end was better than theirs.

5. Tony Gonzalez Chiefs '97-
11 good years; more than anyone on the list - he's Largent, but more so and a tight end; there is no good debate about the best tight end of all time.  

4. Randy Moss Vikings/Patriots '98-10
-9 good to great years, like Irvin but more so, even Irvin's postseason advantage, and its significant, doesn't quite get him past Moss, although it's superclose. Moss's 23 touchdown 2007 is the new best season on the board.  

3. Terrell Owens 49ers/Cowboys '96-10
-9 good years, his very best isn't as good as either Irvin or Moss, but when TO wasn't "good", he was still a valuable football player - Owens in Buffalo, valuable; Owens in Cincinnati, valuable - he could still play right up until the calls stopped coming.  It wasn't like he shot someone....

2. Marvin Harrison Colts '96-08
-Just killed it 8 years in a row; top end of the league right up until he totally fell off the table and was out of the league.  For a game out of this group you take Moss, for one play, it's maybe Irvin, but for a block of five years, take Harrison.  This group is super bunched together; there are no wrong answers from this list for who is the second best receiver ever.

1. Jerry Rice 49ers '85-04
-There's only one answer for who is the best receiver ever.  The most good seasons?  Rice-14.  The best receiving season ever?  Rice-1994.  Second best?  Rice-1993. The best run for any receiver ever?  Rice from '93-5. Postseason?  Forget it.  Pick any two receivers you like, add them up and you still take Rice.  If anyone ever tells you there's a different choice for best ever, never speak to that person again.

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