The NFL is undoubtedly now a pass-heavy league, with both quarterbacks and wide receivers putting up higher and higher numbers each season. Moving forward, it’s going to be difficult to compare stats from generation to generation due to inflation. Wide receivers are beneficiaries of how the league is now played. Before their greatness gets forgotten due to their “low” numbers, here’s the best receivers from the 2000s.
Jerry Rice is widely considered the best wide receiver in league history, but Moss isn’t that far behind. Moss retired with the third-most career receiving yards with 15,292, second-most touchdowns with 156, led the league in touchdowns five times, named to the Pro Bowl six times, and was a first-team All Pro four times. Moss is best known for his unreal rookie season, where he snagged 17 touchdowns, and his legendary season with the Patriots in 2007 when he caught 23 Tom Brady touchdowns.
T.O was one of the most polarizing players in the league and is the player that comes to mind when you say “diva receiver.” Owens finished his career with the second-most receiving yards with 15,934, only behind Jerry Rice, and 153 touchdowns. Owens had a dominant run from 2000-2004, where he recorded from 1,100-1,400 receiving yards in each season, being named to the First-Team All Pro team three of those four years. During his tenure with the Cowboys, Owens’ crying rant of how Tony Romo is his quarterback will always be a funny reference and forever be attache to him.
Reggie Wayne, along with Marvin Harrison, was Peyton Manning’s go-to target for basically his entire career. Wayne retired eighth all-time in receiving yards with 14,345. Wayne was a model of consistency throughout his career, recording over 1,000 yards in eight out of nine seasons during his prime.
Johnson retired with the 10th most receiving yards all-time, which is pretty remarkable when you think about the quarterbacks he played with. Moss had Brady for a portion, Owens had stints with Steve Young, Donovan McNabb, Tony Romo, and Carson Palmer, and Wayne had Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. Andre Johnson dealt with the likes of David Carr, Matt Schaub, Sage Rosenfels, T.J. Yates, Case Keenum, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Despite his quarterback adversity, Johnson was named to seven Pro Bowls, two first-team and second-team All Pro teams, and led the league in receiving yards twice. Houston may have never been fun to watch, but Johnson was the main draw in buying Texans tickets.
Smith is the last of a dying breed. Smith has the opportunity to pass both Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne in career receiving yards at the end of 2016. Smith is known for his toughness, leadership, and back when the NFL wasn’t the known as the no fun league, his exciting touchdown dances. Smith is one of the more vocal players of his generations and will always provide a sound bite when he had a microphone in front of him.