Top 5 Best Ever NFL Wide Receivers, Then and Now - Predictions & Odds
- How do the top-5 all-time WRs measure up to today’s current best?
- As the game of pro football has progressed, so has the position of wide receiver.
- The best WR ever holds records that seem entirely unbreakable.
- Only one of the all-time great receivers has an unfamiliar name.
Completing receptions in the NFL takes soft hands, fast feet, strong arms and the ability to get open, and even after all that it takes a quarterback who can spin the ball accurately, the combination of which creates one of the most effective playmaking positions in the NFL, the wide receiver.
When football began over a century ago, it was the run game that got wins and made champions, but as the ball itself got sleeker and quarterbacks began to throw it more accurately (and farther), the position of wide receiver has become an essential part of every team’s offensive game plan.
Here we take a quick look at the (arguably) top-5 wide receivers now and historically, athletes who have taken their position to its highest levels in various eras of the pro game, and then we see how that expected greatness is reflected in their odds of success during this 2020 season.
Top-5 Wide Receivers THEN
These five Hall of Fame wide receivers are, by far, the best to have ever played the game, though you could argue that Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald belong on that shortlist, too.
Only one player is included from the “older era” of the NFL, but he is considered the best of that time period by most experts.
5. Steve Largent, Seattle Seahawks – 1976-1989, Pro HOF
Career Stats: 819 receptions for 13,089 total yards and 100 touchdowns
If you needed a touchdown, Largent was your man, one of only ten NFL receivers ever to catch a hundred scores, a 7x Pro Bowler who was the best footballer Seattle ever produced.
4. Don Hutson, Green Bay Packers, 1935-1945, Pro and College HOF
Career Stats: 488 receptions for 7,991 total yards and 99 touchdowns
Don who? Hutson was a baller way back when, an 8x First-team All-Pro who led the NFL in receptions eight times and in touchdowns and total receiving yards seven times, a superstar back before television made that easier.
3. Terrell Owens, Various Franchises (Eagles, Cowboys), 1996-2010, Pro HOF
Career Stats: 1,078 receptions for 15,934 total yards and 153 touchdowns
The only beef against Owens is his ability to ruffle feathers, but he could absolutely catch the ball and fly, his almost 16,000 receiving yards the third most ever behind Rice and Larry Fitz.
2. Randy Moss, Various Franchises (Patriots, Vikings), 1998-2012, Pro HOF
Career Stats: 982 receptions for 15,292 total yards and 156 touchdowns,
First-team All-Pro Randy Moss continues to hold the single-season record for receiving touchdowns with 23, which he posted during the 2007 season, currently ranked second overall (to Rice) in total career passing touchdowns.
1. Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers, 1985-2004, Pro and College HOF
Career Stats: 1,549 receptions for 22,895 total yards and 197 touchdowns, all NFL records still.
Rice is the best ever and his numbers will be tough to top – plus the man is an 11x Pro Bowler and was named First-team All-Pro ten different times, not to mention and 3x Super Bowl Champion, a career that is still talked about by young receivers and fans today.
Top-5 Wide Receivers NOW
To get on this shortlist, a receiver must have all the modern attributes of a killer wideout – length, speed, agility, incredibly soft hands and the tendency to get loose after the catch for additional yards.
Every one of these playmakers is all that and more.
5. Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns, age 27
2019 Stats: 74 receptions for 1,035 total yards and 4 touchdowns in 16 games
If OBJ can play that solid with a sports hernia and a quarterback who was constantly scrambling due to a weak front line, imagine what a healthy Odell with a better protected Baker Mayfield will do in 2020.
4. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers, age 27
2019 Stats: 83 receptions for 997 total yards and 5 touchdowns in 12 games
Davante Adams put up huge numbers given he was out for four games due to injury, so expect this precision route runner to come back healthy, ready to joint Aaron Rodgers and company on another playoff run.
3. DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals, age 28
2019 Stats: 104 receptions for 1,165 total yards and 7 touchdowns in 15 games
How well will this veteran do taking passes from a second-year QB like Kyler Murray? The oddsmakers seem to think DeAndre Hopkins will top 1,100+ receiving yards, and that’s having to split targets with one of the best receivers ever, Larry Fitzgerald.
2. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints, age 27
2019 Stats: 149 receptions for 1,725 total yards and 9 touchdowns in 16 games
Thomas was the best at his position last season, and given that his “aging” quarterback, Drew Brees, has limited time left to snag another Super Bowl ring, expect the tandem to be equally impressive in 2020.
1. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, age 31
2019 Stats: 99 receptions for 1,394 total yards and 6 touchdowns in 15 games
For a player on a Falcons team that hasn’t made a splash in a while, Julio Jones continues to post impressive numbers with quarterback Matt Ryan, the success of this duo the key to Atlanta having any playoff chances this season.
NFL Wide Receivers Odds
|NFL Wide Receiver, 2020 Season||Total Receiving Yards +/-||Odds|
|Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons||1300.5||O+101/U-124|
|Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints||1375.5||O / U -110|
|DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals||1150.5||O / U -110|
|Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers||1150.5||O / U -110|
|Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns||1050.5||O / U -110|
Odds taken 30 July, 2020 from DraftKings Sportsbook
Keep in mind the odds in these wagers will shift plenty of times before the actual games are played, so be sure to check back here often to get all the latest numbers.
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager.