Top 10 NFL wide receivers of all time: Find out who is the greatest WR in the history of the game

Top 10 NFL wide receivers of all time: Find out who is the greatest WR in the history of the game

Kenneth Mwenda
updated at September 9, 2023 at 10:21 AM

The top 10 wide receivers of all time have left an enduring legacy that will continue to inspire future generations of players and fans alike. Regarding the NFL, few positions embody the excitement and grace of the wide receiver. Thus, numerous athletes have showcased their exceptional talent throughout the years, setting records and leaving an indelible mark on the sport.

Top 10 wide receivers of all time: Find out who is the greatest wr in the history of the game
Jerry Rice (80) of the San Francisco 49ers in action during an NFL football game circa 1990 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. Photo: Focus on Sport
Source: Getty Images

In the pantheon of the greatest wide receivers of all time, these ten individuals have carved their names in NFL history. From the record-setting brilliance of Jerry Rice to the game-changing abilities of Randy Moss, each player brought their unique skills and left an indelible mark on the sport.

Top 10 NFL wide receivers of all time

As we move forward into 2023 and beyond, the game continues to evolve, and new talents emerge. However, the legacies of these ten receivers remain untouchable. Their impact on the game transcends statistics and records, defining an era of wide receiver excellence.

10. Calvin Johnson

Best wide receivers of all time
Calvin Johnson (81) of the Detroit Lions celebrates a second-quarter touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles on November 26, 2015, at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. Photo: Leon Halip
Source: Getty Images

Calvin Johnson, known affectionately as "Megatron," was a physical specimen and a dominant force on the field. Standing at 6'5" and possessing a rare combination of size, speed, and athleticism, Johnson redefined what it meant to be an elite wide receiver. His ability to outmuscle defenders, make contested catches, and stretch the field made him virtually unstoppable.

Despite the constant double-teams and defensive schemes designed to contain him, Johnson consistently produced at an exceptional level. His work ethic, humility, and dedication to his craft made him a role model both on and off the field. Johnson's all-time impact at Detroit Lions extended beyond his statistics; he inspired a generation of wide receivers and became a symbol of excellence.

9. Marvin Harrison

Best wide receivers of all time stats
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison (88) slips behind Houston Texans cornerback DeMarcus Faggins (38) for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, on December 24, 2006, in Houston, Texas. Photo: Bob Levey
Source: Getty Images

Marvin Harrison was a model of consistency throughout his career, being among the best wide receivers of all time at the Indianapolis Colts. His precise route running and reliable hands made him one of the most dependable receivers in NFL history. Harrison's chemistry with Peyton Manning resulted in numerous records and a Super Bowl victory.

Harrison, a Syracuse graduate, finished his 13-year career with 128 scores. At the time of his retirement, the Hall of Famer was second in NFL history with 1,102 receptions. From 1999 to 2006, Harrison was a regular in the Pro Bowl, garnering three first-team All-Pro nods during that time.

8. Cris Carter

Top 10 best wide receivers of all time
Cris Carter (80) of the Minnesota Vikings runs upfield after making a catch a pass against the sideline against the New Orleans Saints in the 2000 NFC Divisional Playoff Game at the Metrodome on January 6, 2001, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Joseph Patronite
Source: Getty Images

Eighth on our list of top 10 WR of all time is Cris Carter. His ability to find the end zone was unparalleled during his time in the league. His reliable hands and knack for making difficult catches in traffic made him a favourite target for quarterbacks.

Carter's touchdown receptions and impact in the red zone solidify his place among the all-time greats. He played with the Minnesota Vikings for 12 years, accumulating 12,383 of his 13,899 career yards there. Carter, a two-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowler was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.

7. Larry Fitzgerald

Best wide receivers of all time 2023
Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals makes a reception against the San Francisco 49ers during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on December 26, 2020, in Glendale, Arizona. Photo: Christian Petersen
Source: Getty Images

Larry Fitzgerald's exceptional skills and humble demeanour have made him one of the most respected players in the NFL. His reliable hands, ability to make contested catches and exceptional route running have led to a remarkable career. Fitzgerald's longevity and dedication to the game make him a true icon.

The 2004 third-round choice, who has played his whole career for the Arizona Cardinals, has set numerous team records and moved up the NFL's all-time lists. Stepping into 2018, he had 1,234 catches for 15,545 yards and 110 scores.

6. Steve Largent

Best wide receivers of all time stats
Steve Largent (80) of the Seattle Seahawks in action runs away from linebacker Rob Nairne (58) of the Denver Broncos during an NFL football game in the 1980s at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Focus on Sport
Source: Getty Images

Steve Largent's consistent excellence and remarkable longevity set him apart. Despite lacking elite physical attributes, Largent's precise route running, hands, and football intelligence made him one of the most reliable receivers of his era.

The former wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks broke multiple records and rose to legendary status. He retired as the league's all-time leader in receiving yards and touchdowns.

5. Terrell Owens

Green bay packers best receivers of all time
Terrell Owens (81) of the San Francisco 49ers runs with the ball after a reception pursued by Winfred Tubbs (54) of the New Orleans Saints during an NFL football game on September 14, 1997, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. Photo: Focus on Sport
Source: Getty Images

Terrell Owens brought a unique blend of size, speed, and strength to the wide receiver position. His physicality and ability to overpower defenders made him nearly unstoppable. Owens consistently put up impressive numbers and had a knack for making clutch plays throughout his career.

Owens topped the receiving record lists and appeared in six Pro Bowls throughout the course of his 15-year career with five different teams. He ranks third overall with 153 receiving touchdowns and second overall with 15,934 receiving yards.

4. Lance Alworth

Dallas Cowboys best wide receivers of all time
San Diego Chargers wide receiver Lance Alworth (19) makes a catch during a game against the Boston Patriots on December 7, 1969. Photo: Charles Aqua Viva
Source: Getty Images

Lance Alworth was a trailblazer in the American Football League (AFL) and a pioneer in stretching the field vertically. His combination of speed, agility, and catching ability made him a nightmare for defences. Alworth's numerous accolades and championship wins with the San Diego Chargers solidify his place as one of the game's greats.

He was one of the best wide receivers of all time and played his final season with the Dallas Cowboys in 1972. During his career, he caught 542 passes for 10,266 yards and 85 touchdowns. In 1978, Alworth was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

3. Randy Moss

Kansas City Chiefs' best wide receivers of all time
Oakland Raiders receiver Randy Moss during a game against the Dallas Cowboys at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland on Sunday, October 2, 2005. Photo: Kirby Lee
Source: Getty Images

Few wide receivers in history have possessed the raw athleticism and explosiveness of Randy Moss. His mesmerizing speed and incredible leaping ability made him a nightmare for defenders.

Moss set the single-season touchdown record and consistently left fans in awe with his acrobatic catches. He was a game-changer for the Minnesota Vikings and several other teams throughout his career.

If you ask Randy Moss, he is the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, but he comes in third on our ranking. Moss was an explosive player who concluded his career with 982 receptions, 15,292 yards, and 156 touchdowns over 14 seasons. He was naturally athletic.

2. Don Hutson

Long before the modern passing era, Don Hutson emerged as a game-changer for the Green Bay Packers. With his exceptional speed, route-running skills, and hands, Hutson set the standard for future receivers.

He dominated the league, amassing records and leading the Packers to multiple championships. Don's impact on the game cannot be overstated.

The NFL was controlled by Don Hutson in the 1930s and 1940s. His 11-year career at Green Bay not only made him one of the best wide receivers of all time with 488 catches, 7,991 yards, and 99 touchdowns, but he also contributed to the modernisation of the game.

1. Jerry Rice

Top 10 best wide receivers of all time
NFL Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice on the field prior to Super Bowl LIV on February 2, 2020, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL. Photo: Rich Graessle
Source: Getty Images

No list of the greatest wide receivers of all time is complete without mentioning Jerry Rice. His unparalleled career spanned two decades, during which he revolutionised the game.

Rice holds nearly every significant receiving record, including receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. His remarkable work ethic, route-running precision, and ability to dominate games make him the undisputed number one.

Rice played most of his career with the San Francisco 49ers before suiting for the Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks. He is a three-time Super Bowl champion, two-time Offensive Player of the Year, and one-time Super Bowl MVP.

The 1985 draft's first-round pick has played in 13 Pro Bowls and was named to the First Team All-Pro 10 times. 2010 saw Rice's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Top NFL wide receivers of all time
Photo: (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Whether it was the impeccable route running of Don Hutson, the acrobatic catches of Terrell Owens, or the record-breaking performances of Calvin Johnson, these wide receivers exemplify the best the sport has to offer. Their all-time contributions to their respective teams, from the Green Bay Packers to the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs to the Miami Dolphins, and Buffalo Bills, have left an everlasting impact. Die-hard fans hope to witness future wide receivers who possess the same level of skill, passion, and dedication.

READ ALSO: The 10 best colleges with the most NFL players in the league at the moment

Sports Brief has published an article about the best colleges with the most NFL players in the league. College football teams cannot win without talented players. It has long been agreed upon that a football program's success may be measured by its ability to attract talented young men, nurture their potential, and release them into the professional league's draft.

Colleges with the most NFL players consistently send their best players to the NFL draft, thus having a leg up on the competition. Click the above link to read more!

Kenneth Mwenda photo
Kenneth Mwenda
Kenneth Mwenda is a business and sports writer with over five years of experience. At Sportsbrief, he contributes to writing biographies and listicles.