The best wide receiver draft classes of all time


Stacked huge receiver lessons have turn out to be the norm in NFL drafts, and 2021’s seems set to proceed this latest April custom. A number of eras have seen a number of wideout drafts make main impacts, nevertheless. Listed here are the highest receiver lessons in NFL historical past.


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The fourth-round choose that turned Steve Largent was handed round twice earlier than touchdown within the Oilers’ arms. Nonetheless, Houston traded Largent to Seattle for a 1977 eighth-rounder. That turned out to be pricey for a Houston workforce set to problem Pittsburgh as a result of Largent performed 14 Seahawks seasons and landed on the NFL’s All-Century Staff. This draft included only one receiver (Cincinnati’s Billy Brooks) chosen within the high 50, however Rounds 2-4 unveiled high quality depth — Professional Bowlers Sammy White (Vikings) and Pat Tilley (Cardinals), together with 12-year Chief Henry Marshall and nine-year Dolphin Duriel Harris.



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This draft featured early clunkers; Kevin White, Devin Smith, and Dorial Inexperienced-Beckham crashed early. After these picks, nevertheless, receiver anchors emerged. Tyler Lockett (Spherical 3) morphed from ace returner to a participant that raised Russell Wilson’s sport; Stefon Diggs (Spherical 5) could have modified Josh Allen’s profession. Even slot staple Jamison Crowder (Spherical 4) has produced in a number of cities. Diggs and Amari Cooper (fourth general) give this class elite route-running chops, and fellow first-rounder DeVante Parker has confirmed helpful after a number of down years. This batch of late-twentysomethings nonetheless has upward mobility.



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Vince Lombardi’s second draft choose as Packers coach turned Boyd Dowler, who starred on all 5 Lombardi-era championship groups. Two of the 12-year Packer’s 5 playoff TDs got here within the “Ice Bowl.” Artwork Powell, nevertheless, was by far this class’s most efficient cross catcher. An Eagles Eleventh-rounder, Powell blossomed within the AFL — with the Raiders and New York Titans — and have become one among his period’s premier scorers. A Giants second-rounder, Buddy Dial delivered as a Steelers deep risk (two Professional Bowls), and Elbert Dubenion — a Browns 14th-rounder — performed on two Payments title groups, averaging a staggering 27.1 yards per catch in 1964.



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4 wideouts made the Professional Bowl out of this class; two performed properly into the Nineteen Nineties. Drew Hill proved to be an all-time late bloomer, going from Rams backup to Warren Moon’s chief air help in Houston. Hill, a Twelfth-round discover, and longtime Cardinals cog Roy Inexperienced (Spherical 4) had been two of the Nineteen Eighties’ high receivers. The draft’s high goal taken, Jerry Butler (fifth general), posted a 255-yard sport and three 800-yard seasons. However a knee harm altered his profession. The 49ers made this draft’s most memorable receiver add. Tenth-rounder Dwight Clark made two Professional Bowls, began for 2 Tremendous Bowl groups, and made probably the most well-known reception in NFL historical past.



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Whereas this draft carries robust “what if?” vibes, its members completed lots. Hakeem Nicks’ 444 yards within the 2011 playoffs are the second-most in a postseason; the lanky goal was essential to the Giants’ fourth Tremendous Bowl title. Percy Harvin displayed electrical skill as a returner and slot participant. Accidents ended every first-rounder’s profession earlier than 30. One of many quickest receivers in NFL historical past, Wallace was a part of the Steelers’ infinite receiver meeting line. The third-rounder produced for 4 groups and had the Packers on the ropes in Tremendous Bowl XLV. Kent State QB-turned-seventh-rounder Julian Edelman additionally performed in a number of postseasons.



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A Mt. Rushmore draft included some shaky early-round receiver picks, however the accomplishments of the primary two wideouts off the board — A.J. Inexperienced (No. 4) and Julio Jones (6) — elevates it. The Falcons fleeced the Browns in arising 17 spots for Jones, who could also be the most effective participant in franchise historical past. Inexperienced could also be second-best in Bengals’ annals. Randall Cobb and Torrey Smith additionally arrived in 2011 and crafted careers as high-end auxiliary choices. The Chiefs and Lions whiffed on the third and fourth receivers taken, Jonathan Baldwin and Titus Younger, however Jones and Inexperienced’s 14 complete Professional Bowls greater than cancel that out.



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The Saints, Packers, and Chargers hit on their first-round picks — Wes Chandler (third), James Lofton (sixth), and John Jefferson (14th) — in a top-heavy draft; these three later intersected. The crossovers concerned Jefferson, Air Coryell 1.0’s high expertise. Jefferson scored 43 TDs in three Bolts seasons, however a 1981 contract deadlock led him to Inexperienced Bay, the place he teamed with Lofton. Days later, the Chargers acquired Chandler to kind Air Coryell 2.0. He nonetheless holds the single-season receiving yards-per-game report. A Corridor of Famer, Lofton lasted for much longer, starring for off-grid Packer groups earlier than reaching three Tremendous Bowls as a Invoice. 



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Megatron couldn’t match Harold Carmichael’s dimensions. No receiver might. The Eagles landed the 6-foot-8 Corridor of Fame-bound goal within the seventh spherical, forming a robust all-Harold receiving corps. J.D. Hill turned this draft’s first receiver taken (fourth general), however the Payments moved on from the one-time Professional Bowler after 5 seasons. Mel Grey (Spherical 6) ended up as this draft’s second-best wideout, serving to Don Coryell’s first head-coaching attempt result in two NFC East crowns. Frank Lewis (No. 8) performed 13 seasons with the Steelers and Payments, gathering rings with the previous and starring in his 30s for the latter.



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A key a part of Randy Moss’ legacy consists of his slide to No. 21 in 1998. The Vikings chosen maybe the NFL’s biggest huge receiver expertise and paired him with Cris Carter for a number of seasons. This led to a 15-1 season and the NFL’s scoring report. The Titans took a receiver forward of Moss, and though Kevin Dyson is a part of a storied NFL play (the “Music Metropolis Miracle”), he was out of the league by 2004. This draft additionally housed speedy returner Tim Dwight, possession man Joe Jurevicius and Biggest Present on Turfer Az Hakim. However Hines Ward was the opposite prize. The Georgia QB-turned-Spherical 3 choose performed 14 Steelers seasons and began in three Tremendous Bowls.



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Depth buoys this class, which lacks a Corridor of Famer however consists of many Tecmo Tremendous Bowl starters. The Oilers acquired agile chain mover Ernest Givins in Spherical 2, whereas the 49ers discovered Jerry Rice’s operating mate — John Taylor — in Spherical 3. The Bengals selected a first-round receiver — Tim McGee — for the second straight 12 months. All three made Professional Bowls. So did Webster Slaughter, a second-round Browns choose who performed 12 seasons. One of many Broncos’ “Three Amigos,” Mark Jackson joins Taylor in NFL Movies lore after closing out “The Drive.” Invoice Brooks (Spherical 4, Colts) amassed 8,000 yards in an 11-year profession that lacked QB stability.



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Just one first-round wideout went 15 years in the past, Santonio Holmes. The Tremendous Bowl XLIII MVP powered the Steelers to title No. 6 however lacked the manufacturing of three later-round picks. Greg Jennings (Spherical 2) and Marques Colston (Spherical 7) joined Holmes in gathering rings, whereas Brandon Marshall (Spherical 4) sits twenty third in all-time receiving yards. The Broncos fourth-round choose wore out his welcome often, however the big-bodied receiver produced virtually all over the place and nonetheless holds the single-game reception report (21). Additionally on this draft: Devin Hester, a median receiver who did contribute elsewhere on the sector.



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A operating again outlined this receiver class. The Browns selected Bobby Mitchell in Spherical 7; the velocity again fashioned a borderline unfair backfield duo with Jim Brown for 4 years. In opposition to Brown’s needs, Cleveland traded Mitchell to Washington in 1962. Washington moved Mitchell to huge receiver and noticed the Corridor of Famer lead the NFL in yardage in his first two seasons on the job. The Rams selected Pink Phillips fifth general; he loved a 10-year profession. The Cardinals did properly on this draft, buying Giants fifth-rounder Bobby Joe Conrad and pairing him with perennial Professional Bowler Sonny Randle, a Spherical 19 discover. St. Louis workforce success didn’t observe.



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Nonetheless in improvement, this class rapidly confirmed an all-time ceiling. Its members preserve vying to find out its WR1 standing. Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, Davante Adams, and Brandin Cooks have mixed for 16 Professional Bowls. John Brown was additionally on this class. Whereas the Payments’ trade-up for Sammy Watkins (No. 4 general) didn’t work out, the injury-plagued wideout delivered large playoff moments for the Chiefs. This class’ late-20s/early-30s years might conceivably carry it to best-ever standing or shut. It ushered in an period of tantalizing receiver teams within the draft.



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Most likely the most effective participant in Jets historical past was out there in 1957’s ninth spherical. Don Maynard was a Giants draftee who hung out in Canada earlier than establishing himself with the AFL’s Titans (later the Jets) within the Sixties. Function participant/character Tommy McDonald joins Maynard within the Corridor of Fame; the Oklahoma operating again caught 13 TD passes for the 1960 champion Eagles and was a productive journeyman earlier than that was a factor. All-Decade wideout Del Shofner (Spherical 1) starred with the Rams and Giants; Jimmy Orr, who turned one among Johnny Unitas’ many weapons within the ’60s, went in Spherical 25. It was a much less refined scouting period.



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This draft’s two top-10 receiver picks — David Terrell (Bears) and Koren Robinson (Seahawks) — didn’t pan out. Fellow first-rounder Rod Gardner lasted solely till 2006. Nonetheless, the opposite two Spherical 1 decisions — Miami Hurricanes Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne — performed 14 seasons. Marvin Harrison’s apprentice stays on the Corridor of Fame bubble. Arguably the Panthers’ GOAT, Steve Smith (Spherical 3) may even obtain robust Canton consideration. The Bengals fashioned their major 2000s receiving duo in ’01, drafting Chad Johnson in Spherical 2 and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in Spherical 7. The latter usurped top-five 2000 choose Peter Warrick as Ocho’s sidekick.



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Although not a Corridor of Famer, Henry Ellard sits Fifteenth on the all-time receiving yards record. The Ram velocity service provider retired 22 years in the past. 1983’s seven-Corridor of Famer first spherical solely included one receiver — Olympian Willie Gault. The sprinter delivered for the Bears on the sector and within the recording studio. Mark Clayton authored this class’s highest peak, setting an NFL receiving landing report in 1984 and rising from the eighth spherical to turn out to be a go-to Dan Marino goal for practically a decade. USFL-bound Anthony Carter — a Dolphins choose whose rights had been later traded — surfaced later because the go-to man on a number of Vikings playoff groups.



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Of their ultimate Cleveland 12 months, the Rams took Elroy “Loopy Legs” Hirsch in Spherical 1 and Tom Fears 10 rounds later. Every began for the workforce’s record-setting 1950 offense and got here up large when the Rams received the NFL title a 12 months later. Each have been within the Corridor of Fame for 50-plus years; Hirsch landed on the NFL’s a centesimal Anniversary Staff. Drafted in between: Pete Pihos, who began for 2 Eagles championship groups and delivered a prolific receiving stretch in his early 30s. The Corridor of Famer retired after main the NFL in catches three years operating. This was the primary of two drafts to characteristic three Canton-bound wideouts.



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This deep class combined longevity, data, {hardware}, and nicknames. The Lions started the run with Herman Moore at No. 10. The previous single-season reception report holder’s three first-team All-Professional honors are quite a lot of of the period’s Corridor of Famers. Spherical 12 choose Keenan McCardell performed 16 years. McCardell, Cowboys first-rounder Alvin Harper, and Giants third-rounder Ed McCaffrey mixed to win six Tremendous Bowls as key starters. Jake Reed posted 4 1,000-yard seasons as Cris Carter’s pre-Randy Moss wingman, and Shawn Jefferson, Michael Jackson, Mike Pritchard, and Jeff Graham additionally compiled stable careers. Notre Dame celebrity Rocket Ismail went in Spherical 4 however started his profession within the CFL.



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Each Lynn Swann and John Stallworth hovered on the Steelers’ first-round radar. By the point Spherical 4 got here round, Stallworth, a small-school product, was nonetheless on the board. They’re a part of arguably the finest draft class one workforce has ever assembled. Every Corridor of Famer turned a big-play staple after working as a rookie-year backup. Nat Moore (Spherical 3) resides behind solely the Marks Brothers on the Dolphins’ all-time receiving record, whereas Oilers Fifteenth-rounder Billy “White Sneakers” Johnson crafted a top-tier return-man profession. Although the Steeler duo hogged playoff spotlight reels, Colts deep risk Roger Carr (Spherical 1) performed 10 seasons.



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Three of this draft’s hits caught many Peyton Manning passes. Josh McDaniels’ transient Broncos keep is thought for blunders, however simply earlier than his Tim Tebow trade-up, he drafted Demaryius Thomas. In Spherical 3, the Broncos landed Eric Decker. These two helped carry Manning to Denver; Emmanuel Sanders later helped guarantee his QB received a second ring. Dez Bryant and Golden Tate turned 2010s NFC mainstays. Antonio Brown, nevertheless, outflanks his Professional Bowl classmates by a large margin. The polarizing nice is the trendy Steeler receiver manufacturing facility’s defining choose (Spherical 6 out of Central Michigan) and will likely be on the Canton radar.



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By means of a receiver lens, this spherical of the NFL-AFL bidding conflict went to the upstart league. The AFL’s Raiders, Chiefs, and Chargers received out on Fred Biletnikoff, Otis Taylor, and Gary Garrison. The Eagles drafted each Taylor and Garrison, whereas the Lions misplaced Biletnikoff — a third-round NFL choose and second-round AFL alternative — to the Raiders. The Stickum hound catalyzed the Raiders’ ascent, taking part in 14 seasons en path to Canton. Taylor’s TD seize put the Vikings away in Tremendous Bowl IV, whereas Garrison made 4 Professional Bowls alongside Lance Alworth. The NFL received out on Roy Jefferson, an important Nineteen Seventies commerce get for Baltimore and Washington, and 11-year Ram Jack Snow.



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A seminal NFL second occurred when the reigning champion 49ers (18-1 in 1984) moved up 12 spots, by way of the Patriots, to land Mississippi Valley State’s Jerry Rice at No. 16. The Jets and Bengals, respectively, selected Al Toon and Eddie Brown forward of Rice. Each loved high quality careers; concussions lower Toon’s brief. Every was a Professional Bowler and WR1 on a playoff workforce. However nonetheless. This banner draft for non-Division I faculties continued in Spherical 4 when the Payments took Andre Reed out of Kutztown. The Payments’ catch-and-run maven joined Rice in Canton. This draft additionally introduced the oldest of John Elway’s “Three Amigos” — Vance Johnson — to Denver and dispersed Professional Bowler Eric Martin to New Orleans.



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A 12 months earlier than the AFL’s wideout coups, the NFL nabbed 1964’s prized cross catchers. The second draft with three Corridor of Fame wideouts included two in Spherical 1 — Charley Taylor (Washington, No. 3) and Paul Warfield (Cleveland, No. 11). Taylor was not the primary receiver chosen. Professional Bowler Dave Parks went first general to the 49ers. An All-Century wideout, Warfield later ignited the Dolphins after a 1970 commerce. Taylor teamed with Bobby Mitchell for years and confronted Warfield in Tremendous Bowl VII. Earlier than they stole Roger Staubach in Spherical 10, the Cowboys took Olympic 100-meter champ, Bob Hayes, within the seventh. Don Meredith’s high deep risk joined Staubach in Canton.



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We come to a generational, Rakim-v.-Biggie-style debate. The argument for 1988 hinges on Sterling Sharpe, the Packers’ No. 7 general choose, and a participant on a historic tempo earlier than a career-ending neck harm in 1994. This draft nonetheless consists of two Corridor of Famers — first-rounders Tim Brown and Michael Irvin — together with five-time Professional Bowl Charger/Bronco Anthony Miller. All went in a monster first spherical. Spherical 2 included the NFL’s single-game receiving chief (Flipper Anderson), longtime Saints and Lions starter Brett Perriman, and the Seahawks’ No. 2 all-time air-yardage man Brian Blades. Quinn Early (Spherical 3) additionally performed 12 seasons. This can be a tough beat, however…



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Staff ’90s on this debate consists of two Corridor of Famers, 4 10,000-yard receivers, and eight Professional Bowlers. The Jets started the draft with Keyshawn Johnson — the final receiver to go No. 1 — and the Colts grabbed Marvin Harrison with a first-round choose obtained by way of 1994’s Jeff George commerce. A 12 months after buying and selling up for J.J. Stokes, the 49ers discovered Jerry Rice’s true inheritor obvious in Terrell Owens (Spherical 3). This class’s depth, nevertheless, wins out. First-rounder Eric Moulds made three Professional Bowls and took the Payments’ WR1 baton from Andre Reed; Joe Horn (Spherical 5) made 4 as a Saint; Muhsin Muhammad (Spherical 2) performed 14 seasons; the Giants relied on Amani Toomer for over a decade. Additionally together with Terry Glenn, Bobby Engram, and Eddie Kennison, this draft stays the bar 25 years later.

Sam Robinson is a Kansas Metropolis, Mo.-based author who principally writes in regards to the NFL. He has coated sports activities for practically 10 years. Boxing, the Royals and Pandora stations that includes feminine rock protagonists are a few of his go-tos. Often fascinating tweets @SRobinson25.


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