Top 10 Slot Receivers Of All Time

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A good quarterback can make or break an NFL team, but in many instances, a good wide receiver can make or break a quarterback.

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The prototypical wide receiver is tall enough that a 5’10” or 5’11” cornerback can’t cover him, he’s fast enough to get open, even in double coverage, and he needs sure hands to be able to secure a catch in traffic. The ability to block isn’t always a requirement, but it’s a bonus that can prolong the career of an otherwise mediocre talent.

What I Looked At to Compile My Rankings:

Wide receivers are primarily judged by the main receiving statistics – catches, yards, yards per catch, and touchdowns. What a wide receiver can do when he’s not paired up with an elite quarterback is sometimes the ultimate test; nearly any wide receiver can look good with Peyton Manning throwing to him, but what if his quarterback is an average talent? Can that receiver still get open and still make plays?

Individual accolades like Pro Bowl selections and First-Team All-Pro honors go a long way, as do AP Offensive Player of the Year awards (no wide receiver in the modern era has won league MVP). I also focused on what a receiver did in the postseason, when up against the stiffest competition. Did he disappear or did he make the best catches when the stage was the biggest?

They are and they Top 10 Slot Receivers Of All Time are getting more commonplace every day as online casinos fight to provide the best possible service and, therefore, get your attention above the others. For more information, check out our page on the best mobile casino sites here. After all, when you look at the NFL’s all-time reception leaders, only two guys who played with Brady during their careers land near the top of the list. I n honor of Brady’s four touchdowns to four different receivers in New England’s 2016 win over the Buffalo Bills, let’s look at the five best wide receivers Brady has ever had in his.

Statistics don’t tell the whole story; I want to know what receivers would help a new team – with a completely random quarterback, in a new offense, and in a new system. Is the receiver physically powerful enough to make plays, or did he succeed largely because of his quarterback/head coach?

I ranked 100 receivers on this list, so I broke the article into three parts for easier reading. This part will focus on the receivers ranked 20 through 1; Part II included wide receivers 50 through 21; and Part I was wide receivers ranked 100 through 51.

Click here to read Part I (#100-51).

Click here to read Part II (#50-21).

20. Pete Pihos (1947-1955)

At a time when passing still reigned secondary to a running game, Pete Pihos was a special player, and he seemed to get better as time went on. Pihos led the NFL in receptions each of his final three seasons, abruptly retiring after he posted a 62/864/7 receiving line and earned an All-Pro selection. Pihos played both ways, serving as a defensive end on the other side of the ball, and finishing with six Pro Bowls and five AP All-Pro selections. He also played a key role for the Philadelphia Eagles teams that repeated as champions from 1948 to 1949

19. Isaac Bruce (1994-2009)

Isaac Bruce put up extraordinary numbers during his playing career, finishing with the fourth-most receiving yards at his position (15,208) in NFL history. Bruce topped 1,000 eight times, putting up a ridiculous 1,781 in his second season, a total that would have set a league record had it not occurred the same season that Jerry Rice totaled 1,848. Bruce was never a First-Team All-Pro and made ‘just’ four Pro Bowls, which may be why he isn’t in the Hall of Fame yet, but he will get in sooner than later. Bruce is one of just three receivers with 1,000 catches and 15,000 receiving yards, and he caught a 73-yard touchdown reception from Kurt Warner in the 1999 Super Bowl (which remarkably, wasn’t even his longest touchdown catch that postseason).

Top Receivers All Time Nfl

18. Tommy McDonald (1957-1968)

It’s a wonder that Tommy McDonald was able to have an NFL career at just 5’9”, 178 pounds, let alone be one of the greatest wide receivers the league has ever seen. McDonald – who was the last non-special teams player to play without a facemask – missed just three games in his first 11 seasons.

He made six Pro Bowls in his career, topping 1,000 yards three times and leading the NFL in touchdown catches twice. McDonald retired sixth all-time in receptions, fourth in receiving yards, and second to just Don Hutson in touchdown catches. McDonald played a big role for the Philadelphia Eagles in their 1960 championship title, securing the game’s first touchdown on a 35-yard grab from Norm Van Brocklin.

Top 10 Receivers All Time

17. Calvin Johnson (2007-2015)

In terms of positional dominance, Calvin Johnson should be ranked higher than 18th on an all-time greatest wide receivers list. He’s a physical freak like the NFL may never see again; he’s 6’5”, 239 pounds, and can run a 4.35 40-yard dash. It’s no wonder he can do this to opposing defensive backs. Johnson’s career 86.07 receiving yards-per-game average is the highest ever by a retired wide receiver. Johnson’s accolades are overwhelming – he made six Pro Bowls and three First-Team All-Pro selections in nine seasons. He was the fastest player to top 10,000 receiving yards. He broke Jerry Rice’s single-season record for receiving yards (1,964) and averaged 1,467 over a five-year span. And in the playoffs, no one could stop Johnson – in two postseason contests, he’s averaged a 8.5/148/1 statline.

Sure, Johnson benefited from a pass-happy offense in which quarterback Matthew Stafford has been allowed to throw the ball over 40 times per game regularly. But that’s not what keeps him from ranking higher. Simply put, what keeps him from ranking in the top 10 or 15 – or even five, which may have been the case if he had kept playing – is his shortened career. Johnson is 36th at his position in receptions, 26th in yards, and 20th in touchdown catches. If he had kept playing, he would shoot up those all-time lists, but as of now, his career – especially in the pass-inflated era – doesn’t quite hold up to others who were nearly as good and played substantially longer.

16. Sterling Sharpe (1988-1994)

If he hadn’t gotten injured and been forced to retire prematurely, Sterling Sharpe would assuredly be in the top 10 at his position. As it stands, he should still be in the Hall of Fame, even though he played just seven seasons.

Sharpe was listed at 5’11”, 207 pounds, but played as if he was the biggest man on the field. In his autobiography (Reggie White in the Trenches), Reggie White talked about how Sharpe used to practice with every positional group on the field, and how Sharpe probably could have been a star at all of them.

It’s ironic that a neck injury forced Sharpe to retire after just seven seasons because he never missed a game during his playing days. Sharpe soaked up targets as Brett Favre’s primary receiver in Green Bay, leading the NFL in receptions three times and twice setting the single-season mark for catches (he broke his own record the second year). There are two receivers since the NFL-AFL merger to lead the league in catches at least three times; Sharpe is the only one who wasn’t a slot receiver (Wes Welker did it).

Sharpe’s retirement came after an 18-touchdown season in which he made his fifth Pro Bowl, and right before a string of three consecutive MVP awards by Brett Favre; imagine what Sharpe would have done in that offense. Sharpe caught 13 touchdowns in his final six NFL games. His career postseason numbers are insane – two games, 11 catches, 229 yards, and a ridiculous four touchdown grabs. Sharpe should be an easy Hall of Famer, even in his abbreviated career.

15. Marvin Harrison (1996-2008)

It’s amazing that Marvin Harrison was able to carve out a career as one of the most productive statistical wide receivers in NFL history, considering he was barely six feet tall and just 175 pounds. Harrison had the benefit of playing with Peyton Manning, but he was also a highly-talented wideout who excelled as a route runner.

Harrison’s pure receiving numbers hold their own against almost everyone who ever played. Over an eight-year span (1999-2006), Harrison averaged 103 catches, 1,402 yards, and 13 receiving touchdowns per season. Twice he led the league in receiving yards. He set the single-season record in receptions (143), absolutely shattering the previous mark held by Herman Moore (123 in 1995). Harrison made the Pro Bowl every year, earned three First-Team All-Pro selections, and missed just two total games due to injury.

Here’s what keeps Harrison from moving higher on this list. He was clearly helped from playing with Manning. In the two seasons prior to Manning joining the Indianapolis Colts, Harrison averaged just a 68/851/7 statline. Harrison was completely underwhelming in the postseason, finishing with just two touchdowns in 16 games – and both occurred in the same contest. Take away the 2003 postseason, and Harrison never topped five catches or 63 yards in 13 career playoff games.

14. Torry Holt (1999-2009)

Torry Holt had a pretty similar career to Marvin Harrison. They were of similar build, played in the same era, and both did almost all their work in an eight-year stretch. Each also played with a borderline Hall of Fame receiver across him (Isaac Bruce with Holt and Reggie Wayne with Harrison). Holt averaged a 94/1,384/8 line from 2000-’07, earning seven Pro Bowl selections, and leading the NFL in receptions twice.

Holt ranks one spot higher because he played with quarterbacks that weren’t quite as good as Harrison’s – Kurt Warner was league MVP in 2001, but he faded and Marc Bulger was just average. Holt had better postseason numbers, catching touchdowns in four of his 10 career playoff games, including one in the 1999 Super Bowl win over Tennessee (when Holt was just a rookie). Holt was ridiculously durable for an undersized receiver, missing just three total games in 11 seasons.

13. James Lofton (1978-1993)

James Lofton isn’t always remembered among the finest wide receivers to ever play, but he’s been a legitimate downfield threat for two decades. Lofton was the first player ever to top 14,000 receiving yards, and his 18.3 yards-per-reception average is by far the highest of the nine receivers with as many yards.

Lofton topped 1,000 yards six times, including 1,072 yards at age 35 for the AFC champion Buffalo Bills. He twice topped the league in yards per catch, and he was durable enough to play every regular-season game for the first nine seasons of his career. Lofton finished with eight Pro Bowls and eight postseason touchdowns in just 13 games.

12. Larry Fitzgerald (2004-Active)

Larry Fitzgerald is a special player. He’s been the face of the Arizona Cardinals franchise since he was drafted, and he’s coming off a 109/1,215/9 season at the age of 32. Fitzgerald’s best attribute is his ability to make contested catches and score in the red zone; he’s led the league in touchdowns twice and next season, he’ll become the seventh receiver ever with 100 career TD catches. Fitzgerald has an outside chance to eventually move past Cris Carter, Marvin Harrison, and Tim Brown into third place all-time.


Fitzgerald is one of the best postseason performers in history. He’s scored 10 touchdowns in nine playoff games. In 2008, he went over 100 yards with a touchdown in all four games. There was the should-be game-winner against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl. There was the three-touchdown performance in the first half of the NFC Championship Game against the Eagles. Remember the famous Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary game against Arizona this past year? All Fitzgerald did was catch eight passes for 176 yards and a touchdown. He’ll one day be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and hopefully he’ll have a Super Bowl ring to go with it.

11. Andre Johnson (2003-Active)

There’s probably a consensus that Larry Fitzgerald has had a better career than Andre Johnson, but that’s doing an injustice to Johnson. Look at the list of quarterbacks Johnson has played with: aside from Matt Schaub, it’s a who’s-who of mediocre quarterbacks: David Carr, Sage Rosenfels, Case Keenum, Tony Banks, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Hasselbeck, and Ryan Lindley. None of those quarterbacks has sniffed the Pro Bowl.

That makes Johnson’s career numbers even more astounding. Johnson has had injury issues throughout his career, but he’s still compiled Hall of Fame numbers. He’s one of seven receivers in history with at least 1,000 receptions and 14,000 yards, and he’s done it in fewer games (185) than any of the others. Johnson hauls in targets, having caught 100 passes five times, twice leading the league. There are just three receivers since the merger to have led the league in receptions and yards multiple times – Johnson, Marvin Harrison, and Jerry Rice. That’s elite company.

Even in the postseason – a place where Johnson hasn’t been too often – he’s been a strong performer. He’s averaged six catches and 89 yards in his four playoff contests.

10. Michael Irvin (1988-1999)

There are few wide receivers who could compete with Michael Irvin on a pound-for-pound basis; The Playmaker was the heart and soul of a Dallas Cowboys dynasty that won three Super Bowls in the ‘90s. As Irvin went, the Cowboys went. There’s no denying Irvin had a boatload of off-the-field issues that would get him in serious hot water with Roger Goodell in today’s era, but Irvin also had a work ethic that was difficult to top.

Irvin was a first-round draft pick in 1988, but he struggled his first three seasons, and the Cowboys won a total of just 11 games. Once Irvin became a Pro Bowler in 1991, Dallas won its first playoff game under Jimmy Johnson, and the next year began a string of three championships in four years. Then in early ’96, Irvin was infamously arrested for cocaine possession, and the Cowboys won just one playoff game for the rest of his career.

When he was on top of his game, Irvin was nearly unstoppable. He averaged 83 receptions and 1,286 yards over an eight-year period from 1991 to 1998, and the only time he missed was due to a five-game suspension. Irvin earned ‘just’ one First-Team All-Pro selection during that span due to an influx of wide receiver talent around the league in Jerry Rice, Cris Carter, Sterling Sharpe, and Herman Moore.

But Irvin was at his best in big games. His 1,315 postseason receiving yards are more than any other player in history but Rice. Irvin hauled in eight touchdowns, including two in a span of 18 seconds in the Super Bowl. His career abruptly ended with his infamous spinal injury, but he was an easy Hall of Famer come election time.

9. Raymond Berry (1955-1967)

Raymond Berry was a one-year starter in high school and just a 20th round draft pick by the Baltimore Colts in 1954, so he was pretty fortunate that the Colts grabbed a quarterback in Johnny Unitas who would turn into one of the greatest to every play.

Berry caught just two total touchdowns in his first two seasons, then became a legitimate star. He made seven Pro Bowls and three First-Team All-Pro teams in an eight-year span. He led the league in receptions three consecutive years and yards three times in four seasons. In fact, here’s a complete list of all the receivers to lead the NFL in receptions, yards, and touchdowns at least twice each: Jerry Rice, Don Hutson, Lance Alworth, and Berry.

Berry was a big-time playoff performer. In the Colts’ overtime win over the New York Giants in the 1958 NFL championship (The Greatest Game Ever Played), Berry set a championship game record with 12 catches (for 178 yards and a touchdown!). In the final drive of regulation and the overtime session, he came up with five big catches.

8. Tim Brown (1988-2004)

All Tim Brown did for his entire NFL career was just produce, year after year, despite rarely having great quarterback play. He caught passes from Rich Gannon, who had a great late-career run and won an MVP award, but aside from that, it was mediocre passers like Jay Schroeder, Jeff Hostetler, Billy Joe Hobert, Jeff George, Wade Wilson, Todd Marinovich, and Steve Beuerlein.

Brown was a Heisman Trophy winner in college and went sixth overall in the draft, and while it took him a little to get started – just 11 starts and 1,552 receiving yards in his first four seasons – he eventually became a perennial Pro Bowler and 1,000-yard receiver.

Rom 1993-2002, Brown started 160 of a possible 160 games. He topped 80 receptions every season but one. He averaged nearly 1,200 receiving yards per year, putting up nine 1,000-yard campaigns. Brown finished his career with nine Pro Bowls (eight as a receiver, one as a returner), and while he was never an AP First-Team All-Pro selection, he finished with numbers that hold up pretty well against other wide receivers.

Brown’s 1,094 receptions are fourth best ever among receivers, he’s fifth in receiving yards at 14,934, and he’s tied for sixth in touchdown catches at 100. Because he was a dynamic returner early on – over 4,500 career return yards and four scores – Brown is fifth in total all-purpose yards (19,682), trailing just Jerry Rice, Brian Mitchell, Walter Payton, and Emmitt Smith.

7. Cris Carter (1987-2002)

Buddy Ryan got it right when he said that all Cris Carter does is catch touchdowns. Carter caught 130 of them in his career, more than all but three wide receivers in the history of the league. He led the NFL on three separate occasions and posted a ridiculous 65 over a five-year span in the prime of his career.


Carter had the prototypical size for a wide receiver (6’3”, 208 pounds), and once he moved on from his early-career drug issues, he was a dynamic playmaker for the Minnesota Vikings. What made Carter so special was his ability to score in the red zone. He holds the NFL record with nine touchdown grabs from a yard away, along with records for scores from inside two yards (16), four yards (28), five yards (36), six yards (44), and seven yards (48).

Carter also put up a ton of catches and yards, finishing with 1,101 receptions (the third-most ever for his position), along with 13,899 yards (11th). At one point, he even held the single-season record for receptions in a season (122), and he was a deserving Hall of Famer who should have been elected in his first year of eligibility.

6. Steve Largent (1976-1989)

When he retired in 1989, a legitimate case could be made for Steve Largent as the NFL’s greatest receiver since the merger. Largent held many major receiving records – career receptions (819), yards (13,089), and touchdowns (100), plus a streak of 177 consecutive games with a catch. Not bad for a player who was so ineffective as a rookie that the Houston Oilers traded him to Seattle before he played a down.

Largent made seven Pro Bowls and three First-Team All-Pro squads, and twice he led the league in receiving yards. If you ignore the strike-shortened 1982 campaign, Largent topped 1,000 receiving yards in eight consecutive seasons. And he did that with Dave Krieg and Jim Zorn – while Krieg was a solid quarterback who made a few Pro Bowls with Largent, the duo combined wasn’t near the caliber of what Jerry Rice got (Joe Montana/Steve Young) or Marvin Harrison (Peyton Manning) or Cris Carter (Randall Cunningham/Warren Moon) or Randy Moss (Daunte Culpepper/Tom Brady).

5. Lance Alworth (1962-1972)

Lance Alworth was maybe the greatest player in American Football League history. The eighth overall pick in 1962, he was a First-Team All-Pro by 1963 and earned that distinction for six consecutive seasons. An AFL First-Team All-Pro doesn’t have quite the bearing of one earned in the more modern National Football League, but still, Alworth is one of three receivers with at least six such nominations – the others are Jerry Rice and Don Hutson.

Alworth was a track star in college and he parlayed that speed into becoming one of the game’s most dangerous deep threats. He averaged 1,250 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns over a seven-year span, and don’t forget that this was in a 14-game schedule. Alworth completely dominated the league, leading in receptions three times, yards three times, and touchdowns three times.

Once he transitioned to the modern NFL (1970), Alworth wasn’t nearly as efficient. He put up just 608 yards for the San Diego Chargers in ’70, then 682 in two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys before he was done at age 32. It’s awfully young for a player to retire, and a few more good seasons would have moved Alworth up to the third spot on this list.

4. Terrell Owens (1996-2010)

Ignore the fact that the voters didn’t put him in the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Terrell Owens is one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play the game, regardless of the controversy he caused on and off the field. Sure, he stood on the star in Dallas’s stadium, he pulled a Sharpie out of his pocket, and dumped popcorn on his face after a touchdown celebration. Those weren’t the real problems. The real issues were the controversy he caused with every team he played for, and that’s why the voters kept him out of Canton.

On the field though, T.O. was unstoppable. He was a 6’3”, 226-pound force of nature who picked up a ton of yards after the catch, was fearless across the middle, and excelled as a downfield blocker. Six times T.O. made the Pro Bowl, five times he was a First-Team All-Pro selection, and he currently ranks second to just Jerry Rice in receiving yards (15,934) and third to Rice and Randy Moss in receiving touchdowns (153). Owens led the NFL in touchdown catches three times and a ridiculous seven times he posted 13 touchdown grabs in a season.

Remember what Owens did for the 2004 Eagles? This teams steamrolled through the NFC that season, starting with T.O. hauling in three touchdown grabs in his first game with the team. He made Donovan McNabb a better quarterback; in fact, McNabb was the first passer ever to throw for at least 30 touchdowns with fewer than 10 interceptions.

Owens never won a Super Bowl ring, but he was a tremendous playoff performer. He caught nine passes for 122 yards in the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl loss, famously playing on a still-injured ankle. He came down with the game-winning Redemption Reception for the San Francisco 49ers back in the day, and put up a ridiculous 9-177-2 statline in the Niners’ comeback win against the New York Giants in 2002.

3. Randy Moss (1998-2012)

You can take Terrell Owens, but I’ll take Randy Moss. Moss was a greater physical specimen, a rare talent that the NFL has only seen a handful of times in its history. Moss was a catalyst for two of the greatest offenses to ever play – the 1998 Minnesota Vikings (556 points scored) and then the 2007 New England Patriots (589) – although neither then won the Super Bowl.

Moss had similar career numbers to Owens – they rank second and third among receivers in both yards and touchdowns; Owens has more yards (15,934 to 15,292) but Moss wins the touchdown edge (156 to 153). Defensive backs had simply no answer for the 6’4” Moss when he was at his best. Moss caught two touchdowns in his first-ever NFL game and a record 17 as a rookie. He led the league in touchdown catches a ridiculous five times and caught 90 touchdowns in 109 games with the Vikings. He was simply a one-man wrecking crew for opposing cornerbacks and a colossal headache for defensive coordinators.

After two middling seasons in Oakland, Moss revived his career with Tom Brady and the Patriots, hauling in a single-season league record 23 touchdowns in 2007 and 50 in just 52 games with New England (plus what should have been the game-winner in the ’07 Super Bowl if the defense could have held on). He retired after an awkward 2010 season in which the Patriots traded him to Minnesota for a third-rounder, then the Vikings waived him a month later, and then the Tennessee Titans got six catches out of him in eight games. (Moss came back in 2012 to play an abbreviated role for the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers, but that was even more awkward than ’10).

As it stands, Moss is probably the greatest downfield threat the league has ever seen. He may have played when he wanted to play, but I’ll gladly take a guy on my team who averaged a 77/1,205/12 statline in his first 12 seasons. That’s ridiculous production and worthy of the third overall spot on this list.

2. Don Hutson (1935-1945)

For the first 60-plus years of pro football, Don Hutson was the greatest wide receiver this league has ever seen, and a case could be made that he’s the best of all-time. Before Hutson, passing was an abnormality. Look no further than the fact that the year before Hutson joined the league (1934), the league’s passing champion, Arnie Herber, threw for 799 yards and eight touchdowns all season.

Hutson, a superstar player at Alabama, didn’t waste any time in dominating the NFL. He caught an 83-yard touchdown pass from Herber on his first-ever play. As a rookie, Hutson led the league in receiving touchdowns (6) and total touchdowns (6). Over his 11 seasons, there wasn’t a defender in the league that could cover Hutson one-on-one.

Hutson led the NFL in receiving touchdowns nine times, receptions eight times, and receiving yards seven times. Starting in 1938, Hutson was a First-Team All-Pro each of his final eight seasons. Hutson was voted league MVP in 1941, but then turned around in 1942 and won the MVP again in what still stands as the greatest season by a wide receiver in history.

Hutson caught 74 passes for 1,211 yards and 17 touchdowns. That year, the next-best receiver finished with 27 receptions. That would be like someone topping Antonio Brown’s 136 receptions in 2015 by putting up 373. The next-best receiver in yards had 571 yards. For last year’s yardage leader, Julio Jones, to do that, he would need to have 3,968. Simply put, the NFL wasn’t quite ready for what Hutson did in 1942, or his career, for that matter.

Everyone knows the Green Bay Packers were a dynasty in the 1960s, but Hutson was a catalyst for three championship Packers teams between ’36 and ’44. Hutson also played defensive back (30 career interceptions) and kicked (193 points). He was maybe the greatest non-QB of the first 40-plus years of football, at least until Jim Brown came around, and the only thing stopping him from being the greatest wide receiver of all-time is the fact that, well, he’s not Jerry Rice.

1. Jerry Rice (1985-2004)

I wish I was old enough to have had the absolute privilege of watching Jerry Rice.

There’s never been a wide receiver like him and there never will be again. You’ll see receivers enter the league and have peaks that may compare to what Rice did – Antonio Brown, Calvin Johnson, Randy Moss. But today’s era is an era more inflated by high-volume passing and rules that cater to quarterbacks and receivers. And here’s the difference between those other guys and Rice – they decline when they turn 30 or soon thereafter. Megatron was a once-in-a-generation talent, but you think he can approach what Rice did? Please. Megatron hung up his cleats at age 30. Rice had more yards after the age of 30 (13,823) than Johnson did in his career (11,619). I cannot overstate enough that there will never be another receiver with the production that Rice put up.

Rice didn’t blow away scouts with his size/speed combination – he was 6’2”, 200, and ran just a 4.6 40-yard dash. But he had game speed. He ran routes as precise as they’ve ever been done. He gained a ton of yards after the catch. He was an unbelievable blocker. He caught everything. And he managed to play until he was 42 years old because of an unparalled work ethic.

Let’s get into Rice’s career statistics. He caught 1,549 passes for 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns. That’s 447 more receptions than the next-highest receiver (Marvin Harrison). That’s 6,961 more yards than the next-highest receiver (Terrell Owens). And that’s 41 more touchdowns than Moss brought in. Rice made 13 Pro Bowls, three more than any other wide receiver. He was a First-Team All-Pro in 10 different seasons. That’s as many First-Team All-Pros as Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Tim Brown, Isaac Bruce, and Michael Irvin made combined.

Rice led the league in receiving yards six times. No other receiver since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger has done it more than twice. Rice set the league’s single-season record for receiving yards (1,848) in 1995. That mark has since been broken by Calvin Johnson, although Johnson did so on a team that threw the ball nearly 100 more times (a single-season record 740). Rice set the record for receiving touchdowns (22) in a strike-shortened season, meaning he did so in just 12 games. It took Randy Moss until the fourth quarter of 2007 to break that mark. Rice even scored touchdowns as a runner – he had 87 rushes in his career for 645 yards (a 7.4 yards-per-carry average) and 10 touchdowns.

What sets Rice apart from other all-time greats (Sterling Sharpe and Michael Irvin in particular) is durability. Rice never missed a game due to injury in his first 12 seasons. He tore his ACL and MCL in Week 1 of the 1997 campaign, then actually came back three months later and still played (although he broke his kneecap in the season finale). Rice returned at age 35 in 1998 to put up a 82/1,157/9 statline, and he had another 6,440 yards and 43 touchdowns after those ligament tears. Rice finished his career with 303 games played. No other receiver has come close (the next-best is Tim Brown/Irving Fryar at 255). Rice’s 303 games played are more than any non-kicker/punter ever, and his 284 starts trail just Brett Favre and Bruce Matthews.

Rice was blessed to play with two of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time in Joe Montana and then Steve Young. But you think those guys weren’t helped by Rice, who was pretty much always open? Rice helped turn Rich Gannon into a league MVP in 2002.

We still haven’t even gotten into Rice’s postseason accolades, and this only enhances his legacy as perhaps the greatest football player of all-time. Rice played in the playoffs in 15 different seasons, reaching four Super Bowls and winning three (all with the Niners). Rice is miles ahead of his next competitor in career postseason stats: 151 receptions, 2,245 yards, and 22 touchdowns. Rice was a two-time Super Bowl MVP and very easily could have won three.

His career performances in the Super Bowl:

11 receptions, 215 yards, 1 TD in 20-16 win over Cincinnati in 1988

7 receptions, 148 yards, 3 TD in 55-10 win over Denver in 1989

10 receptions, 149 yards, 3 TD in 49-26 win over San Diego in 1994

5 receptions, 77 yards, 1 TD in 48-21 loss to Tampa Bay in 2002

His worst Super Bowl outing was a 5-77-1 performance at the age of 40, against a defense that ranked No. 1 in yards allowed, points allowed, and passing touchdowns allowed. In the 1988-’89 postseasons, Rice caught 11 touchdowns in six games. Only one other receiver in history has even scored 11 postseason touchdowns in his career.

One final mention on Rice’s greatness: you could legitimately split his career into two halves and you’d have two Hall of Famers. Say he ‘retired’ after the 1992 season, his eighth in the league.

Here’s Part I of his career: 124 games, 610 receptions, 10,273 yards, 103 touchdowns, 7 Pro Bowls, 6 First-Team All-Pros, 2 rings, 1 SB MVP, 11 postseason touchdowns, 3 seasons leading NFL in yards and 5 in touchdowns, single-season record 22 TD catches (Lance Alworth but better)


Here’s Part II of his career: 179 games, 939 receptions, 12,622 yards, 94 touchdowns, 6 Pro Bowls, 4 First-Team All-Pros, 1 ring, 11 postseason touchdowns, 3 seasons leading NFL in yards and once in touchdowns (Torry Holt but better)

There’s no other receiver whose career could be split up like that and maybe just a handful of professional athletes to ever play (Babe Ruth, Peyton Manning, Wayne Gretzky). That’s what makes Rice the greatest wide receiver of all-time.

In the 2019 regular and postseason, per Pro Football Focus data, slot receivers regardless of position (receivers, running backs, and tight ends) accounted for 32% of all targets, 31.6% of all receptions, 32.3% of all receiving yardage, and 34.3% of all receiving touchdowns. In a league where the three-receiver set is by far the default formation (it happened on 69% of all snaps last season, per Sports Info Solutions), having a versatile and productive slot receiver is an absolute necessity in the modern passing game.

Moreover, there is no one kind of slot receiver in the modern NFL. It used to be that you wanted the shorter, smaller guy inside, and your bigger, more physical receivers on the outside. Then, offensive coaches started to realize that by putting bigger receivers and tight ends in the slot, you could create mismatches with slower linebackers and smaller slot cornerbacks. Teams countered this by acquiring linebackers built like safeties, eager to do more than just chase after run fits, and also by moving their best cornerbacks into the slot in certain situations.

Now that offensive and defensive coaches have worked hard to create as many schematic and personnel ties in the slot as possible, the best slot receivers are the ones who consistently show the ideal characteristics for the position. These receivers know how to exploit defenders who don’t have a boundary to help them — they’ll create inside and outside position to move the defender where they want him to go. They understand the value and precision of the option route, and how you can hang a defender out to dry with a simple “if this/then that” equation based on coverage rules. They know how to work in concert with their outside receivers to create route combinations which create impossible math problems for defenses. And they know how to get open in quick spaces.

But don’t automatically assume that slot receivers are just taking the dink-and-dunk routes — they’re actually tasked to catch everything from quick slants to vertical stuff down the seam and up the numbers. Last season, per PFF data, the NFL average for yards per completion for outside receivers was 11.28. For slot receivers, it was 11.63. So, over time and based on the play design and the makeup of the receivers, teams could find just that many more yards by throwing to their slot targets.

The best slot receivers in the game bring unique and highly valuable traits to the game, and here are the best among them.

More Top 11 lists: Slot defenders Outside cornerbacks Safeties Linebackers Edge defenders Interior defensive linemen Offensive tackles Offensive guards Centers Outside Receivers

Honorable Mentions

Had we dropped the qualifying floor to under 50% slot snaps, two guys would have easily made it — Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, and Baltimore’s Marquise Goodwin. Evans led all slot receivers with at least 25 targets with a passer rating when targeted of 151.3, and Brown was an absolute force against defenses in the slot — especially when he was using his speed in empty formations.

San Francisco’s Deebo Samuel, who was probably the MVP of the first half of Super Bowl LIV before things started to go backward for his team, would have received a mention as well — Samuel had just 33 targets, but caught 28 of them and helped his quarterback to a 135.3 rating when he was targeted in the slot. Kansas City speed receiver Mecole Hardman had just 23 a lot targets, but he was also highly efficient with them, helping his quarterbacks to a 133.9 rating. Though Danny Amendola was the only Lions receiver to make the 50% threshold, both Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay were highly efficient when tasked to move inside. Other former slot stars like Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs and Minnesota’s Adam Thielen saw their roles change more to the outside in 2019 from previous seasons.

Of the receivers who actually qualified, Nelson Agholor of the Eagles was quietly efficient and had just two drops in the slot last season — which would go against several memes on the subject. Buffalo’s Cole Beasley just missed the cut, through he was one of several receivers on the Bills’ roster who didn’t always get the accuracy and efficiency they deserved from quarterback Josh Allen. And though Randall Cobb was productive for the Cowboys last season and should be so for the Texans in 2020, his nine drops as a slot man… well, we can only have one guy with nine slot drops on this list. More on that in a minute.

Now, on to the top 11.

Willie Snead IV Julian Edelman Tyler Boyd Jared Cook Golden Tate Keenan Allen Larry Fitzgerald Allen Robinson Cooper Kupp Chris Godwin Tyler Lockett