Who is the best wide receiver of all time? Most people would agree that the best is Jerry Rice. But when making a list of the top 10 or top 20 receivers of all time, the debate begins. As long as there is football, this will be a hot topic of discussion. I will answer this question in a different way by listing the best wide receivers of all time by alphabet. Each letter of the alphabet will have one selection, two if it extremely difficult to choose only one. This list is not solely based on statistics, because receivers from the past 30 years have accumulated higher receptions, yardages and touchdowns than those form previous eras when football was a more run and defensive oriented game. Enjoy, and I welcome comments and debates on my selections.
A: Lance Alworth, 1962 – 1972
Lance Alworth was born on August 3, 1940, in Houston, Texas. Alworth was drafted out of Arkansas by the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL and the Oakland Raiders of the AFL in 1962. He was a 7 time Pro Bowler and 6 time First-Team All-Pro. Alworth had 7 consecutive seasons of more than 1,000 yards receiving. He lead the league in receptions, yards, and touchdowns 3 times each. He retired with 542 receptions, 10,266 yards receiving and 85 touchdowns. Lance Alworth was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978.
B: Raymond Berry, 1955 – 1967
Raymond Berry was born on February 27, 1933, in Corpus Christi, Texas. Berry was drafted out of SMU by the Baltimore Colts in 1954. He was a 6 time Pro Bowler and 3 time First-Team All-Pro. Berry lead the league in receptions and yards 3 times each and touchdowns twice. He helped the Colts win NFL Championships in 1958 and 1959. He finished his career with 631 receptions, 9,275 yards, and 68 touchdowns. Raymond Berry was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973.
Fred Biletnikoff, 1965 – 1978
Fred Biletnikoff was born on February 23, 1943, in Erie, Pennsylvania. Biletnikoff was drafted out of Florida State by the Oakland Raiders in 1965. He was a 6 time Pro Bowler, 2 time First-Team All-Pro and Super Bowl MVP. He set a record at the time of 11 consecutive seasons of 40 or more receptions. He retired with 589 receptions, 8,974 yards and 76 touchdowns. Fred Biletnikoff was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988.
C: Chris Carter, 1987 – 2002
Chris Carter was born on November 25, 1965, in Troy, Ohio. Carter was drafted out of Ohio State by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1987 Supplemental Draft. He was an 8 time Pro Bowler and 2 time First-Team All-Pro. Carter had 122 receptions in 1994 and again in 1995. He scored 65 touchdowns over a 5 year period from lead the league in touchdowns in 1995 to 1999, and lead the league in touchdowns receiving 3 times. He retired with 1,101 receptions, 13,899 yards, and 130 touchdowns. Chris Carter was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.
D: Donald Driver, 1999 – 2012
Donald Driver was born on February 2, 1975 in Houston, Texas. Driver was drafted out of Alcorn State by the Green Bay Packers in 1999. He was a 3 time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion. Driver is the Packers all time leading receiver, and had over 1,000 yards receiving in a season 7 times. He retired following the 2012 season with 743 receptions, 10,137 receiving yards, and 61 touchdowns.
E: Henry Ellard , 1983 – 1997
Henry Ellard was born on July 21, 1960, in Fresno, California. Ellard was drafted out of Fresno State by the Los Angeles Rams in 1983. He was a 3 time Pro Bowler and 2 time First-Team All-Pro. He lead the league in receiving yards in 1988, and 7 times had over 1,000 yards receiving in a season. Henry Ellard retired with 814 receptions, 13,777 receiving yards, and 65 touchdowns.
F: Larry Fitzgerald, 2004 – Present
Larry Fitzgerald was born on August 31, 1983, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Fitzgerald was drafted out of Pittsburgh by the Arizona Cardinals in 2004. He is a 6 time Pro Bowler, First-Team All-Pro selection in 2008. Fitzgerald lead the league in receptions in 2005, and in touchdowns in 2008 and 2009. Through the 2012 season, Larry Fitzgerald has 764 receptions, 10,413 yards and 77 touchdowns.
G: Roy Green, 1979 – 1992
Roy Green was born on June 30, 1957, in Magnolia, Arkansas. Green was drafted out of Henderson State by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1979. He was a Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro in 1983 and 1984. Green lead the league in receiving touchdowns in 1983 and in receiving yards in 1984. He had 3 seasons with 1,000 or more yards receiving and retired with 559 receptions, 8,965 yards, and 66 touchdowns.
H: Marvin Harrison, 1996 – 2008
Marvin Harrison was born on August 25, 1972, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Harrison was drafted out of Syracuse by the Indianapolis Colts in 1996. He was an 8 time Pro Bowler, 3 time First-Team All-Pro, and Super Bowl champion. He had 4 consecutive seasons of 100 or more receptions, and 8 consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more receiving yards. Marvin Harrison, who played his entire career with the Colts, retired with 1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards, and 128 touchdowns.
Don Hutson, 1935 – 1945
Don Hutson was born on January 31, 1913, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Hutson was signed by the Green Bay Packers in 1935. He was a 4 time Pro Bowler and 8 time First-Team All-Pro. Hutson was the first star receiver of the NFL. He lead the league in receptions and touchdowns 8 times, and 7 times in receiving yards. Hutson retired with 488 receptions, 7,991 yards, and 99 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1963 and passed away on June 26, 1997.
I: Michael Irvin, 1988 – 1999
Michael Irvin was born on March 5, 1966, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Irvin was drafted out of Miami (Florida) by the Dallas Cowboys in 1988. He was a 5 time Pro Bowler, First-Team All-Pro in 1991, and 3 time Super Bowl champion. Irvin had 7 seasons with 1,000 or more yards receiving and lead the league in receiving yards in 1991. His career was cut short due to a neck injury in Philadelphia in 1999. Irvin retired with 750 receptions, 11,904 yards, and 65 touchdowns. Michael Irvin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.
J: Charlie Joiner, 1969 – 1986
Charlie Joiner was born on October 14, 1947, in Many, Louisiana. Joiner was drafted out of Grambling by the Houston Oilers in 1969. He was a 3 time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro in 1980. Joiner was one of the most durable receivers and missed only one game in his last 13 seasons. He retired with 750 receptions, 12,146 yards, and 65 touchdowns. Charlie Joiner was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.
Andre Johnson, 2003 – Present
Andre Johnson was born July 11, 1981, in Miami, Florida. Johnson was drafted out of Miami (Florida) by the Houston Texans in 2003. He is a 6 time Pro Bowler and 2 time First-Team All-Pro. Johnson has lead the league in receptions and yards twice, and has 6 seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving. Through the 2012 season, Andre Johnson has 818 receptions, 11,254 yards, and 56 touchdowns.
L: Steve Largent, 1976 – 1989
Steve Largent was born September 28, 1954, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Largent was drafted out of Tulsa by the Houston Oilers in 1976. He was acquired by the Seahawks in a preseason trade with the Oilers in 1976. Largent was a 7 time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro in 1985. One of the most consistent receivers of his era, Largent had 8 seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving. Steve Largent retired with 819 receptions, 13,089 yards, and 100 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.
M: Randy Moss, 1998 – Present
Randy Moss was born on February 13, 1977, in Rand, West Virginia. Moss was drafted out of Marshall by the Minnesota Vikings in 1998. He is a 6 time Pro Bowler and 4 time First-Team All-Pro. Moss lead the league in touchdown receptions 5 times, and 10 times had over 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Through the 2012 season, Randy Moss has 982 receptions for 15,292 yards, and 156 touchdowns.
Art Monk, 1980 – 1995
Art Monk was born on December 5, 1957, in White Plains, New York. Monk was drafted out of Syracuse by the Washington Redskins in 1980. He was a Pro Bowler in 1984, 1985, and 1986, was First-Team All-Pro in 1984, and 3 time Super Bowl Champion. Monk had more than 1,000 yards receiving in a season 5 times. He retired with 940 receptions, 12,271 yards, and 68 touchdowns. Art Monk was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.
N: Dennis Northcutt, 2000 – 2009
Dennis Northcutt was born on December 22, 1977, in Los Angeles, California. Northcutt was drafted out of Arizona by the Cleveland Browns in 2000. He was a receiver and punt returner for 3 teams during his 10 year career. Northcutt lead the league in punt return touchdowns in 2002. He retired with 399 receptions, 3,941 yards, and 18 touchdowns.
O: Terrell Owens, 1996 – 2010
Terrell Owens was born on December 7, 1973, in Alexander City, Alabama. Owens was drafted out of Tennessee-Chattanooga by the San Francisco 49ers in 1996. He was a 6 time Pro Bowler and 5 time First-Team All-Pro. Owens lead the league in receiving touchdowns 3 times, and had 9 seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards. Through the 2012 season, Terrell Owens has 1,078 receptions, 15,934 yards, and 153 touchdowns.
P: Drew Pearson, 1973 – 1983
Drew Pearson was born on January 12, 1951, in South River, New Jersey. Pearson was signed out of Tulsa as an undrafted free agent by the Dallas Cowboys in 1973. He was a 3 time Pro Bowler, 3 time First-Team All-Pro, and Super Bowl champion. Pearson lead the league in receiving yards in 1977 and twice had over 1,000 yards receiving in a season. Drew Pearson retired at the age of 32 with 489 receptions, 7,822 yards, and 48 touchdowns.
Q: Mike Quick, 1982 – 1990
Mike Quick was born on May 14, 1959, in Hamlet, North Carolina. Quick was drafted out of North Carolina State by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1982. He was a 5 time Pro Bowler and 2 time First-Team All-Pro. Quick had 3 consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more yards receiving from 1983 through 1985. He tied an NFL record with a 99 yard touchdown reception against the Atlanta Falcons in a game in 1985. One of the best receivers of his era, his career was cut short due to injuries. Mike Quick retired with 363 receptions, 6,464 yards, and 61 touchdowns.
R: Jerry Rice, 1985 – 2004
Jerry Rice was born on October 13, 1962, in Starkville, Mississippi. Rice was drafted out of Mississippi Valley State by the San Francisco 49ers in 1985. Arguably the greatest receiver of all time, Rice was a 13 time Pro Bowler, 10 time First-Team All-Pro, and 3 time Super Bowl champion. Rice lead the league in touchdown receptions 6 times, yards receiving 6 times, and 14 times had over 1,000 yards receiving in a season. He made the Pro Bowl with the Oakland Raiders in 2002 at the age of 40. Jerry Rice retired with 1,549 receptions, 22,895 yards, and 197 receiving touchdowns. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.
S: John Stallworth, 1974 – 1987
John Stallworth was born on July 15, 1952, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Stallworth was drafted out of Alabama A&M by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974. He was a 4 time Pro Bowler, 4 time Super Bowl champion, and First-Team All-Pro in 1979. Stallworth had over 1,000 yards receiving 3 times. He finished his career with 537 receptions, 8,723 yards, and 63 touchdowns. John Stallworth was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.
Lynn Swann, 1974 – 1982
Lynn Swann was born on March 7, 1952, in Alcoa, Tennessee. Swann was drafted out of USC by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974. He was a 3 time Pro Bowler, 4 time Super Bowl champion, and First-Team All-Pro in 1978. Swann lead the league in touchdowns in 1978. One of the best receivers of his time, Swann retired at the age of 30 with 336 receptions, 5,462 yards, and 51 touchdowns. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.
T: Charley Taylor, 1964 – 1977
Charley Taylor was born on September 28, 1941, in Grand Prairie, Texas. Taylor was drafted out of Arizona State by the Washington Redskins of the NFL and the Houston Oilers of the AFL. Taylor signed with the Redskins and began his career as a running back. He was a 8 time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro in 1967. Taylor lead the league in receptions in 1966 and 1967. He retired with 649 receptions, 9,110 receiving yards and 79 receiving touchdowns. Charley Taylor was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984.
U: Rick Upchurch, 1975 – 1983
Rick Upchurch was born on May 20, 1952, in Toledo, Ohio. Upchurch was drafted out of Minnesota by the Denver Broncos in 1975. He was a 4 time Pro Bowler and 3 time First-Team All-Pro. Upchurch was an excellent punt and kickoff returner and a good receiver during his 9 year career. He lead the league in punt return touchdowns 3 times. Rick Upchurch retired with 267 receptions, 4,369 yards, 24 receiving touchdowns, and 8 punt return touchdowns.
V: Tamarick Vanover, 1995 – 2002
Tamarick Vanover was born on February 25, 1974, in Tallahassee, Florida. Vanover was drafted out of Florida State by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1995. He scored 8 touchdowns as a punt and kickoff returner during his 6 year NFL career. In 77 career games, Tamarick Vanover had 39 receptions, 564 yards, and 3 receiving touchdowns.
W: Hines Ward, 1998 – 2011
Hines Ward was born on March 8, 1976, in Seoul, South Korea. Ward was drafted out of Georgia by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1998. He was a 4 time Pro Bowler and 2 time Super Bowl champion. Ward had 6 seasons with more than 1,000 yards receiving. He spent his entire 16 year career with the Steelers, and retired with 1,000 receptions, 12,083 yards, and 85 receiving touchdowns.
Reggie Wayne, 2001 – Present
Reggie Wayne was born November 17, 1978, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Wayne was drafted out of Miami (Florida) by the Indianapolis Colts in 2001. He is a 6 time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl champion, and First-Team All-Pro in 2010. Reggie Wayne has 8 seasons with at least 1,000 yards receiving. He has played his entire career with the Colts, and ended the 2012 season with 968 career receptions for 13,063 yards, and 78 touchdowns.
Y: Mike Young, 1985 – 1994
Mike Young was born on February 21, 1962, in Hanford, California. Young was drafted out of UCLA by the Los Angeles Rams in 1985. He played for the Rams, Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, and Kansas City Chiefs during his 10 year career. Mike Young retired with 144 receptions, 2,034 yards, and 14 touchdowns.
Z: Dominique Zeigler, 2008 – 2010
Dominique Zeigler was born on October 11, 1984 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Zeigler was undrafted out of Baylor in 2007. He was signed to the San Francisco 49ers active roster in the middle of the 2008 season. Zeigler played in 8 games with the 49ers in 2080 and 11 games in 2010. Dominque Zeigler has 14 career receptions for 195 yards. As of the end of the 2012 season, he is a free agent.
Honorable mention: Tim Brown, Isaac Bruce, Harold Carmichael, Tom Fears, Irving Fryar, Joey Galloway, Torry Holt, Keyshawn Johnson, James Lofton, Brandon Marshall, Don Maynard, Tommy McDonald, Andre Reed, Rod Smith, Paul Warfield