10. Marvin Harrison
Though recently becoming a free agent, Marvin Harrison is amazing. His hands, and quick reaction time solidified his placement on the highest of stages. With an amazing quarterback destined for the hall of fame in Peyton Manning tossing the pigskin his way, Harrison shattered record after record and holds many of these records to this day. Though he will probably retire soon, his career has been both illustrious and hard-fought.
9. Charley Taylor
An eight time pro bowl selection, Charley Taylor solidified the modern receiver. He held many records at the time of his retirement and the Redskin would tear apart opposing defenses as if they weren’t even there. He was selected to the 1960s All Decade team and could just as easily been selected to the 1970s team.
8. Michael Irvin
In only 10 years of play, “The Playmaker” was part of the Dallas Cowboys’ Triplets in the 1990s alongside Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman. Irvin is third all time, behind only Jerry Rice and Don Maynard in 100-yard receiving games with 47. Irvin played in three Super Bowls with the Cowboys, and gained three rings in those three games. Though some believe he could have shattered records if he had stayed in the game longer, Irvin suffered a cervical spinal cord injury in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles abruptly ended his career.
7. Steve Largent
Though not necessarily known for his incredibly athleticism like most of the players listed here, Steve Largent knew the game of football. His timing was precise, his cuts sharp, and his hands: exceptional. Largent’s tenure with the Seahawks granted him seven pro bowl selections. At the time of his retirement, he held records in every career receiving category: receptions, receiving touchdowns, and receiving yards.
6. Cris Carter
An eight-time pro bowler in eight consecutive years, Cris Carter is a game changer. Though the Vikings never could squeak out a Super Bowl win, the blame can never rest on Carter. His expert route running, sticky hands, and incredible acrobatic leaps defined him as one of the best in the business of his time, and this writer believes, of all time.
5. Paul Warfield
A Redskin in the 60s and a Dolphin in the 70s, Paul Warfield played the game as if there was nothing else except the ball and the end zone. His colleagues dubbed him as “poetry in motion”, he had the ability to cut, swivel, and turn a five yard quick pass into a fifty yard touchdown. This is further exemplified by his career 20.1 yards per reception, a testament to both his speed and determination.
4. Don Hutson
Originally hired by Packers’ Coach Curly Lambeau to play for an unheard of $300 a game after seeing him help the Alabama Crimson Tide to a Rose Bowl win, Don Hutson was the first “modern” wide receiver in NFL history. He also played a bit of safety and placekicker during his time with Green Bay in the 1930s and 40s, leading the league in extra point attempts made, as well as cashing in 30 interceptions in his tenure. He set 18 records, and in a time where the run dominated the game and pass interference was virtually non-existent, caught a then-record 99 touchdown passes, which wasn’t broken until 54 years later, when Steve Largent got his 100th and final in 1989. To this day, Hutson holds the record for most receiving touchdowns per game with .85.
3. Lynn Swann
They say quarterbacks make their receivers look good, and for the most part they would be right. In this case, however, Lynn Swann made Terry Bradshaw look good. Don’t hear me knocking Bradshaw at all, but if you watch the video at the link above, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Helping the Steelers to four Super Bowl wins, most notably Super Bowl X, in which he caught four catches in amazing fashion, cashing in 161 yards in their 21-17 win, earning the first Super Bowl MVP ever to be handed to a wide receiver. A three-time pro bowler, he was also elected to the 1970s All Decade Team.
2. Randy Moss
Many believe Randy Moss has the best hands ever, and I wholeheartedly concur. If a ball is in the air, and Moss is anywhere near it, there is never a question if he will come down with it. Randy Moss made the one-handed catch ordinary. He turned the spectacular into the the routine, cashing in seven pro bowl selections, 926 receptions, 14,465 receiving yards, and 148 receiving touchdowns (2nd all time), and he’s still only 33 years old. After finally reaching the Super Bowl with the Patriots in 2007, he was dubbed the comeback player of the year and continues to dazzle fans with his amazing play.
1. Jerry Rice
With two hall of fame quarterbacks tossing the pigskin his way in Joe Montana and Steve Young, Jerry Rice had it all. Speed, soft hands, quickness, but most importantly, it’s what he did after the catch that catapults him passed everyone else. Rice had the ability, the swagger, and the desire to be better than everyone else, and he was.
Honorable Mentions: Terrell Owens, Jackie Smith, Don Maynard, Tim Brown, Art Monk, Drew Pearson, Larry Fitzgerald