Top wide receivers in history

Re: Top wide receivers in history

Postby conace21 » Mon Nov 04, 2019 10:01 pm

Rupert Patrick wrote:I know this is going to border on sacrilege, but why is Jerry Rice, by almost universal acclaim, the greatest wide receiver ever? Is it the longevity? Or the combination of skills? He was fast, but he didn't have breakaway speed. He had good hands, but he wasn't Steve Largent. Did he run his routes better than everybody else? Did he have that way of making the impossible catch? Was it the intangibles? Other than longevity, he doesn't pencil out at the top of any of the lists among the best receivers. This "Best Ever" discussion with Rice didn't start later in his career, it was already being discussed in the early 90's, and even back then, I just didn't see it. I do think the performance level for as many years as he did it put him well over the top in Career Value, as no receiver was effective as long as Rice was, but as far as Peak Value is concerned, is he the best ever?

Rice had the advantage of playing the majority of his career with two Hall of Fame Quarterbacks, along with Rich Gannon, who played at a HOF level when Rice was with the Raiders. It was a chicken-and-egg thing with Rice and his QB's; he made them better, and they in turn made him better. He had the advantage of playing in a lot of postseason games. Rice managed to stay healthy, only suffering one major injury during his career, and other than that 1997 season, never missed a game in his career. He was in the right place at the right time his entire career, perhaps in the most career optimal situation for any player in pro football history along with Tom Brady.

I used to say that Walter Payton was arguably the greatest running back ever despite the fact he wasn't the biggest, or fastest, or had the best moves, but it was the total package. Payton, however, succeeded in less than optimal positions where he was carrying the team on his back for most of his career. Peyton pretty much had to fight for every yard he ever gained.

This isn't a knock on Rice, I totally agree he is the greatest receiver ever based on longevity/career value, but did his skills alone make him the best total package? And what about Peak Value? And does the fact he played his career with Montana, Young and Gannon have to be factored into the discussion when compared to guys like who didn't play for the same calibre quarterbacks?



Rice's longevity is just icing on the cake. If he had retired after 1994, he would have been a 1st ballot HOF player. He would have been a borderline candidate based just on the second decade in the NFL. (2 All Pro seasons, one 2nd Team All Pro season, 4 Pro Bowls.)
Rice gets acclaim as the greatest because of his production, not because of his combination of skills. He was 1st Team All Pro ten times in an eleven year period. He led the league in catches 2x, yards 6x, and touchdown catches 6x. He was consistently the best while he was playing. Sterling Sharpe may have surpassed him for 2-3 seasons.
He did have great QB's throwing him the ball. But in 1986, Montana missed half the season after back surgery. Rice caught 40 passes for 820 yards and 9 TD's, from Jeff Kemp and Mike Moroski in those 8 games. He had more yards and TDs in those 8 games than the 8 in which Montana started. In one calendar year, from 10/22/95 to 10/14/96, he caught seven touchdowns from Elvis Grbac, and only five from Steve Young.

Rice did not have great stopwatch speed, but he was similar to Emmitt Smith in that he didn't lose much speed with his equipment on, or with the ball in his hands. I don't recall seeing him get caught from behind very much (in his prime.) Rice could make spectacular catches (I recall him going up for a long ball in SB XXII, and again in the 1994 season opener vs Raiders when he set the record for touchdowns in a career) but nothing like a Randy Moss. Of course, with Montana and Young, he wasn't required to make spectacular catches very often.
Rice's work ethic was second to none, and he maximized his skills. He and Montana had the slant pass down to a T. Rice ran the route exactly as it was supposed to be run, and Montana, with his amazing accuracy, put the ball exactly where he needed to so Rice could catch it and never break stride. I recall John Madden wrote in a book that Rice's production suffered slightly when Steve Young took over, because Young, being a left handed QB, turned a fraction later before throwing the slant and Rice's timing was off just a bit. He may catch the ball, but he slowed just a half step, and that was the difference between a 12 yard gain and a 40 yard gain. Eventually, they got their timing down, but it just indicates how Rice was not one to succeed on natural skills.
Last edited by conace21 on Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Top wide receivers in history

Postby JeffreyMiller » Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:01 am

conace21 wrote:
Rupert Patrick wrote:I know this is going to border on sacrilege, but why is Jerry Rice, by almost universal acclaim, the greatest wide receiver ever? Is it the longevity? Or the combination of skills? He was fast, but he didn't have breakaway speed. He had good hands, but he wasn't Steve Largent. Did he run his routes better than everybody else? Did he have that way of making the impossible catch? Was it the intangibles? Other than longevity, he doesn't pencil out at the top of any of the lists among the best receivers. This "Best Ever" discussion with Rice didn't start later in his career, it was already being discussed in the early 90's, and even back then, I just didn't see it. I do think the performance level for as many years as he did it put him well over the top in Career Value, as no receiver was effective as long as Rice was, but as far as Peak Value is concerned, is he the best ever?

Rice had the advantage of playing the majority of his career with two Hall of Fame Quarterbacks, along with Rich Gannon, who played at a HOF level when Rice was with the Raiders. It was a chicken-and-egg thing with Rice and his QB's; he made them better, and they in turn made him better. He had the advantage of playing in a lot of postseason games. Rice managed to stay healthy, only suffering one major injury during his career, and other than that 1997 season, never missed a game in his career. He was in the right place at the right time his entire career, perhaps in the most career optimal situation for any player in pro football history along with Tom Brady.

I used to say that Walter Payton was arguably the greatest running back ever despite the fact he wasn't the biggest, or fastest, or had the best moves, but it was the total package. Payton, however, succeeded in less than optimal positions where he was carrying the team on his back for most of his career. Peyton pretty much had to fight for every yard he ever gained.

This isn't a knock on Rice, I totally agree he is the greatest receiver ever based on longevity/career value, but did his skills alone make him the best total package? And what about Peak Value? And does the fact he played his career with Montana, Young and Gannon have to be factored into the discussion when compared to guys like who didn't play for the same calibre quarterbacks?



Rice's longevity is just icing on the cake. If he had retired after 1994, he would have been a 1st ballot HOF player. He would have been a borderline candidate based just on the second decade in the NFL. (2 All Pro seasons, one 2nd Team All Pro season, 4 Pro Bowls.)
Rice gets acclaim as the greatest because of his production, not because of his combination of skills. He was 1st Team All Pro ten times in an eleven year period. He led the league in catches 2x, yards 6x, and touchdown catches 6x. He was consistently the best while he was playing. Sterling Sharpe may have surpassed him for 2-3 seasons.
He did have great QB's throwing him the ball. But in 1986, Montana missed half the season after back surgery. Rice caught 40 passes for 820 yards and 9 TD's, from Jeff Kemp and Mike Moroski in those 8 games. He had more yards and TDs in those 8 games than the 8 in which Montana started. In one calendar year, from 10/22/95 to 10/14/96, he caught seven touchdowns from Elvis Grbac, and only five from Steve Young.

Rice did not have great stopwatch speed, but he was similar to Emmitt Smith in that he didn't lose much speed with his equipment on, or with the ball in his hands. I don't recall seeing him get caught from behind very much (in his prime.) Rice could make spectacular catches (I recall him going up for a long ball in SB XXII, and again in the 1994 season opener vs Raiders when he set the record four touchdowns in a career,) but nothing like a Randy Moss. Of course, with Montana and Young, he wasn't required to make spectacular catches very often.
Rice's work ethic was second to none, and he maximized his skills. He and Montana had the slant pass down to a T. Rice ran the route exactly as it was supposed to be run, and Montana, with his amazing accuracy, put the ball exactly where he needed to so Rice could catch it and never break stride. I recall John Madden wrote in a book that Rice's production suffered slightly when Steve Young took over, because Young, being a left handed QB, turned a fraction later before throwing the slant and Rice's timing was off just a bit. He may catch the ball, but he slowed just a half step, and that was the difference between a 12 yard gain and a 40 yard gain. Eventually, they got their timing down, but it just indicates how Rice was not one to succeed on natural skills.


Hey Rupert, I'm with you. I picked Moss and it wasn't very well received ...
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Re: Top wide receivers in history

Postby BD Sullivan » Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:24 am

Rice's "lack" of speed and the caliber of his college opponents were the main reasons he was the third WR selected behind Al Toon and Eddie Brown in 85. While those two were productive receivers (with Toon's NINE concussions :o shortening his career), they obviously paled in comparison to what Rice did.
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Re: Top wide receivers in history

Postby JuggernautJ » Wed Nov 06, 2019 2:48 am

What kind of a blocker was Randy Moss?
How good a teammate was he?

"I play when I want to play" versus the Rice work ethic...
There's more to making a positive contribution to a football team than running fast and making sensational catches.

That said, Randy Moss did run really fast and make some damn amazing catches...
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Re: Top wide receivers in history

Postby racepug » Sat Feb 20, 2021 11:53 pm

No surprises: Jerry Rice, Raymond Berry, Steve Largent, and Lance Alworth are all up there. I remember Rice and Largent from the 1980s and each of them was fantastic. I'm a HUGE fan of each of them. But if I had to pick one WR who was an absolute nightmare for DBs, it would be Randy Moss. Dude had everything - height, speed, hands, toughness, moves. I can't imagine any DB going up against him being able to sleep for the week leading up to the game. An absolute freak of nature. His only reported "weakness" was his attitude and even that, by at least some accounts, has been overstated.
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Re: Top wide receivers in history

Postby racepug » Sun Feb 21, 2021 12:19 am

Jeremy Crowhurst wrote:I'm not sure exactly what "top" means, but....

1. Rice
2. Owens
3. Sharpe
4. Berry
5. Hutson

Hutson for me is really hard to rate for multiple reasons - to borrow from Chris Rock, all those affirmative action-yards and TDs, the weakened talent pool during the war, and the Bill Walsh effect - getting the benefit of being the first to play in a new scheme. It may be that Hutson should be second, maybe lower down in the top ten. But man, 30+ interceptions on top of his receiving numbers?

Anyway....
My only "beef" with Don Hutson, 'cause he was obviously GREAT, is: just how well-equipped were teams to deal with top-notch, speedy receivers back then? In other words - how would Don Hutson have done against the best DBs to come along after his playing days were over?
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Re: Top wide receivers in history

Postby Brian wolf » Sun Feb 21, 2021 2:10 am

My Top 5 Wideouts

Warfield
Rice
Alworth
Harrison
Hutson

Next Five

Moss
Berry
Largent
Lofton
Swann
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Re: Top wide receivers in history

Postby JohnH19 » Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:51 am

racepug wrote:
Jeremy Crowhurst wrote:I'm not sure exactly what "top" means, but....

1. Rice
2. Owens
3. Sharpe
4. Berry
5. Hutson

Hutson for me is really hard to rate for multiple reasons - to borrow from Chris Rock, all those affirmative action-yards and TDs, the weakened talent pool during the war, and the Bill Walsh effect - getting the benefit of being the first to play in a new scheme. It may be that Hutson should be second, maybe lower down in the top ten. But man, 30+ interceptions on top of his receiving numbers?

Anyway....
My only "beef" with Don Hutson, 'cause he was obviously GREAT, is: just how well-equipped were teams to deal with top-notch, speedy receivers back then? In other words - how would Don Hutson have done against the best DBs to come along after his playing days were over?


Players can only be assessed by their level of dominance in the era they played in. Hutson absolutely dominated his era just like Otto Graham did in his, Jim Brown did in his, and Jerry Rice did in his.
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Re: Top wide receivers in history

Postby rhickok1109 » Tue Feb 23, 2021 9:38 am

racepug wrote:
Jeremy Crowhurst wrote:I'm not sure exactly what "top" means, but....

1. Rice
2. Owens
3. Sharpe
4. Berry
5. Hutson

Hutson for me is really hard to rate for multiple reasons - to borrow from Chris Rock, all those affirmative action-yards and TDs, the weakened talent pool during the war, and the Bill Walsh effect - getting the benefit of being the first to play in a new scheme. It may be that Hutson should be second, maybe lower down in the top ten. But man, 30+ interceptions on top of his receiving numbers?

Anyway....
My only "beef" with Don Hutson, 'cause he was obviously GREAT, is: just how well-equipped were teams to deal with top-notch, speedy receivers back then? In other words - how would Don Hutson have done against the best DBs to come along after his playing days were over?

The flip side of that is to ask how Hutson would have done if the NFL had had unlimited substitution during his career, wince it was unlimited substitution that allowed those better DBs to come along.

For the first four years of his career, Hutson wasn't a full-time player because, at his size, he was a defensive liability. He didn't start if the Packers had to kick off and he often didn't start even if they were going to receive the kickoff.

Lambeau picked his spots with Hutson, putting him into the game when he thought he would have the most impact.

In 1939, Larry Craig joined the Packers as a rookie. Craig had been a quarterback (blocking back) at South Carolina, but Lambeau used him as a QB on offense and as an end on defense, allowing Hutson to move to safety, making him a starter for the first time.

I know that Hutson's phenomenal numbers in 1942 are downgraded by many becaUse of the supposed dilution by the draft. But...I wonder why Jim Benton didn't achieve similar numbers that season. Benton was generally considered the second best receiver to Hutson from 1938 through 1940. In those three seasons, he caught a total of 70 passes for 806 yards and 15 TDs. During that period, Hutson caught 107 passes for 1088 yards and 22 TDs.

Benton coached high school football in 1941 but he returned to the NFL in 1942, when he caught 23 passes for 345 yards and 1 TD. His 23 receptions was second to Hutson's 74 catches for 1211 yards and 17 TDs. Benton caught just 1 more pass than he had in 1940; why didn't his numbers improve more against the diluted competition in 1942.

One more question: How well would Rice have done if he had had to play defense throughout his career?
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Re: Top wide receivers in history

Postby Eagles One » Tue Feb 23, 2021 12:47 pm

Torry Holt who is yet to be inducted into the HOF. A 7x Pro Bowler, 1x All Pro, 2x league leader in reception yardage and 2000s All Decade Team. Is it far-fetched to think he is worthy of top 10 status?
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