Top 10 receivers of the decade

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Some would say the decade doesn’t end until December 31, 2020. To those we say, “We don’t care what you say.” Most say it ends next Tuesday. So, like pretty much everyone else, we’re creating Top 10 lists for the last 10 years. Now, the receivers.

1. Julio Jones. He entered the league with high expectations when the Falcons made a huge jump in round one nearly nine years ago to get him. He has delivered, with more receiving yards than anyone else in the decade (12,047), and a level of ability that constantly commands extra attention from defenses. He’s a two-time All-Pro who has led the league in receiving twice, and who has made it to seven Pro Bowls. Eventually, he’ll have a bronze bust in Canton.

2. Antonio Brown. Dominant for most of the decade, Brown’s reputation took a major hit this year with his endless off-field shenanigans. The ensuing lost season perhaps kept him from the No. 1 spot. He still outperformed every receiver in the decade from a receptions standpoint, with 841. Like Jones, Brown led the league in receiving yardage twice and made it to seven Pro Bowl rosters. Unlike Jones, Brown was a first-team All-Pro four times, helping flip a Pittsburgh franchise from being known for defense to being dominant on offense. He’ll be remembered for reasons other than his skills and abilities, unfortunately.

3. Larry Fitzgerald. Steady, consistent, and effective, Fitzgerald in the past decade has gone from great player to sure-fire Hall of Famer to one of the finest players of all-time, at any position. A consummate professional who has endured without complaint or agenda a revolving door of mediocrity at quarterback, Fitzgerald has shown up for work, done his job, and done it very well, with 751 catches for 9,051 yards and 61 touchdowns during the past 10 seasons for the Cardinals.

4. Calvin Johnson. The single-season receiving yardage leader with 1,964 in 2012, Johnson would be even higher on the list if he’d played deeper into the decade. But he surprisingly retired after the 2015 season, with numbers in six seasons that are still more than enough to get him on the list. Dominance characterized his run in the NFL, and a two-year run starting in 2011 generated more than 3,600 receiving yards. His eventual Hall of Fame case is an intriguing one; he burned very bright for a relatively short period of time — without a single postseason win to show for his tenure in Detroit.

5. DeAndre Hopkins. A great player who at times hasn’t gotten the opportunities that would have allowed him to be even greater from a performance standpoint, Hopkins has been the most consistent and potent threat in Houston’s offense throughout the seven years since he entered the league. With five 1,000-yard seasons and a pair of first-team All-Pro designations, Hopkins had more catches and receiving yards in the past decade than Johnson, in one additional season.

6. A.J. Green. Arriving like Julio Jones in 2011, Green started his career with five straight 1,000-yard seasons and seven straight Pro Bowls for the Bengals. Injuries began to take a toll in 2016, and he missed all of 2019 due to an injury suffered during training camp. He still has more than 8,900 receiving yards and 600 catches. It will be interesting to see what he does in a new decade, possibly with a new team.

7. Demaryius Thomas. A pass-catching machine during the Peyton Manning heyday in Denver, Thomas had two so-so seasons with bad quarterbacks until Peyton arrived, sparking a three-year run of 1,434, 1,430, and 1,619 receiving yards and 35 total touchdown receptions. Thomas’ production tailed off significantly post-Peyton, but the first-round pick from the first year of the decade deserves a spot among the best players at the position of the decade, with 724 catches, 9,763 yards, and 63 touchdowns.

8. T.Y. Hilton. An instant success from the moment he arrived in 2012, Hilton has quietly racked up big numbers (549 catches, 8,526 yards, 45 touchdowns) as the clear-cut No. 1 option in the Colts’ passing game, both with and without Andrew Luck. Injuries have made this a down season for Hilton. He’s still among the very best of the past decade.

9. DeSean Jackson. A speed burner who can singlehandedly transform an offense, Jackson has been a factor since arriving in 2008. From Philly to Washington to Tampa back to Philly (albeit for only one game this season), Jackson still strikes Randy Moss-style fear in defenses, given Jackson’s ability to take the top off a defense — and in turn to open up everything else underneath. His numbers for the decade are more than solid (474 catches, 8,352 yards, 44 touchdowns, 17.6 yards per catch), but it’s the constant threat of what he might do that helped make every offense for which he played better than it would have been without him.

10. Dez Bryant. The only receiver who spawned a catch phrase this decade, Dez caught it plenty of times during his career in Dallas that stretched from 2010 through 2017. An Achilles’ tendon tear derailed his in-season effort to help the Saints last year, and he hasn’t played since leaving Dallas. He did more than enough in those eight seasons, with 531 catches, 7,459 yards, and 73 scores — all coming from one spot (the X position) in a meat and potatoes offense that did little to help him get open. If he’d played for a team that did more than rely on him to use his size and speed to kill what he ate, his numbers would have been even better.

Earning consideration but missing the cut: Mike Evans (it was basically a coin flip between him and Bryant), Emmanuel Sanders (generally underrated but ultimately not potent enough), Jordy Nelson (7,900 receiving yards and 68 touchdowns got him close to the top 10), Brandon Marshall (if he’d started his career in 2010 instead of 2006 he’d be close to the top), Odell Beckham Jr. (unfulfilled potential), Andre Johnson (not enough great years this decade), Michael Thomas (arrived too late in the decade), Jarvis Landry (very solid, but not enough of a consistent game-changer), Doug Baldwin (numbers weren’t strong enough), and Julian Edelman (the only Super Bowl MVP of the bunch, but not enough production in the regular season).

93 responses to “Top 10 receivers of the decade

  1. Solid list, we have been blessed with some great receivers in this decade, looking forward to seeing the younger generation develop further

  2. Interesting. Don’t see Mike Thomas on this list. Time for a new new deal.

    Regards,,

    Julio in Atlanta

  3. One more possible honorable mention: Doug Baldwin. He went from an undrafted afterthought to the #1 receiver for Seattle for several years. Not sure he’s truly top 10, bur certainly deserving a mention for his accomplishments.

  4. All jokes aside. The Ben Roethlisberger/Antonio Brown connection was a thing of beauty to watch. The chemistry those two had on the field was magical. Those six years of dominance I thought would be unmatched for awhile, but Michael Thomas is on the verge of being even better. Either way, the receivers this decade have been top notch to watch.

  5. Interesting, only one has a ring.

    Regarding Edelman, why doesn’t playoff production matter here? His catches in the 4th quarter of Super Bowls XLIX and LI alone should earn him a spot on this list.

  6. Robot Impurity says:
    December 26, 2019 at 5:20 pm
    One more possible honorable mention: Doug Baldwin. He went from an undrafted afterthought to the #1 receiver for Seattle for several years. Not sure he’s truly top 10, bur certainly deserving a mention for his accomplishments.

    0 0 Rate This

    I see what you are saying. Doug Baldwin is the definition of the saying “talent doesn’t mean a thing without practice.” I appreciate the hard work Doug put in to be at the top of his game, also he and Wilson had great chemistry as well. They were a joy to watch.

  7. You did a much better job on this list than the LBs or D lineman.I could be tempted to move them around a bit but I think you hit on the best receivers. Jordy Nelson maybe ???

  8. tb12greatest says:
    December 26, 2019 at 5:21 pm
    Julian Edelman should be number 1. He has more Super Bowls than everyone on this list…

    3 7 Rate This

    I understand your statement, but c’mon dude. There are other great players in the league that deserve recognition for there accomplishments. Not every player is going to get the chance to play for a great organization like New England. Edelman’s stats are pedestrian at best in the regular season, and I believe this is where stats are being appreciated more.

  9. This list demonstrates how far behind actual football coaches and football strategy traditional thinking is. Slot receivers and those with flexibility move chains, create mismatches, and help win SBs. Edelman needs to be on this list–not in the top 3 but he’s had a far greater impact than Demaryus Thomas.
    I’d put him behind AJ but ahead of DeAndre.

  10. Some would say the decade doesn’t end until December 31, 2020. To those we say, “We don’t care what you say.”
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Touche

  11. 6burgh says:
    December 26, 2019 at 5:35 pm
    tb12greatest says:
    December 26, 2019 at 5:21 pm
    Julian Edelman should be number 1. He has more Super Bowls than everyone on this list…
    3 7 Rate This
    I understand your statement, but c’mon dude. There are other great players in the league that deserve recognition for there accomplishments. Not every player is going to get the chance to play for a great organization like New England. Edelman’s stats are pedestrian at best in the regular season, and I believe this is where stats are being appreciated more.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Classy counterpoint. Appreciate you. Happy new year!

  12. Remember when it was 1 2 Wallace Brown. That big money deal in Miami was a ticket to oblivian for Mike.

  13. If I were drafting a receiver for the decade, Edelman would be in my top 10—statistics plus intangibles (big plays on the big stage, tenacious blocker, attitude).

  14. DeSean Jackson was never elite in any year. No way hes top 10 over the course of the decade. If being good and inconsistent(or down because of injuries) makes you top 10, Edelman deserves to be there before Jackson. And I’m not an Edelman drum beater.

  15. Glad to see you went swayed by a one handed catch and put OBJ on this list. So many people would put him in the top three. Dude drops so many passes and is just a cancer. He was a product of playing in a big market and alot of targets. Most over rated this decade is OBJ.

  16. 6burgh says:
    December 26, 2019 at 5:35 pm
    tb12greatest says:
    December 26, 2019 at 5:21 pm
    Julian Edelman should be number 1. He has more Super Bowls than everyone on this list…

    3 7 Rate This

    I understand your statement, but c’mon dude. There are other great players in the league that deserve recognition for there accomplishments. Not every player is going to get the chance to play for a great organization like New England. Edelman’s stats are pedestrian at best in the regular season, and I believe this is where stats are being appreciated more.
    ————————————————-

    That’s like taking Peyton Manning’s regular season stats over Tom Brady with his post season numbers. I’ll take Brady any day. Edelman showed up in the big moments. Most of the guys on this list couldn’t lead their team to where they could have a big moment. I believe Edelman is second only to Jerry Rice in post season receptions.

  17. I’d take Tyreek Hill over any of the names on the list, and you would too if you have any clue about the easiest of ways to destroy a defense.

  18. Jones, AB, Fitzgerald, CJ. Just those four makes this an impressive list. All four of those (and a few others in the list) will likely be in the HoF.

    If AB weren’t such a head-case he would probably have been #1 on that list.

  19. Those are 10 great receivers, but Michael Thomas and Mike Evans should be on this list. Larry Fitzgerald is unbelievable. With the exception of Kurt Warner, Carson Palmer, and Kyler Murray, here are the QBs throwing to him over his career (I am NOT making this up):
    Josh McCown
    Shaun King
    John Navarre
    Matt Leinart
    Tim Rattay
    John Skelton
    Rich Bartel
    Kevin Kolb
    Ryan Lindley
    Brian Hoyer
    Drew Stanton
    Blaine Gabbert
    Sam Bradford
    Mike Glennon
    Josh Rosen

    Unbelievable.

  20. Deshaun Jackson on this list is a joke! In the past decade, he only cracked 1000 yards 3 times, and one of those years was for 1005 yards. “…it’s the threat of what he might do…” By that logic, there should be a top 10 list for “those players that had the most potential of the decade.” That’s a list more appropriate for Jackson and Dez. Not best of…

  21. I’m a Vikings fan and I’d put Jordy Nelson in the top 10. As much as I rooted against him the guy was class act and never took a play off. it’s not always about numbers (which he delivered year after year) but character as well.

  22. @footballpat

    And there’s nothing wrong with taking Brady over Manning. Both are great from different stand points. Brady is a product of Belichicks system. Brady is quoted himself saying he’s nothing without the coaching system that’s in place in New England. Manning has taken 4 different head coaches to the Super Bowl. Manning revolutionized the QB position. Brady was a game manager, a very good one btw, but he never became cerebral until he studied how Peyton played the game. Edelman is clutch, and he shows up in the big moments, won’t ever take that away from him, but he is also a product of Belichicks system. A very low percentage of players that leave New England stay as successful as they were in New England. Which should tell you how great Belichicks system is. Either way, if Edelman somehow became a free agent and the Steelers signed him, I wouldn’t be upset at all.

  23. Michael Thomas being snubbed on this list is crazy to say the least. I would take CantGuardMike over anyone on this list.

  24. Robot Impurity says:
    December 26, 2019 at 5:20 pm
    One more possible honorable mention: Doug Baldwin. He went from an undrafted afterthought to the #1 receiver for Seattle for several years. Not sure he’s truly top 10, bur certainly deserving a mention for his accomplishments
    —————————————————————————————-
    He is on there, but his name isn’t bolded. “Doug Baldwin (numbers weren’t strong enough)”

  25. Marques Colston should probably be on this list…or just outside the top 10…9759 yards & 72 TDs….

  26. Michael Thomas supposedly “arrived too late” yet his numbers (only 4 years worth mind you) still match up favorably with at least half the players on this list. I wouldn’t take anyone in numbers 6 through 10 over him, and none of the other honorable mentions either.

  27. I’m sure DeSean Jackson being on the list is just to stir discussion, but Mike Evans is a glaring omission. He singlehandedly got Johnny Manziel drafted in the first round, and made Fitzpatrick and Jameis serviceable at times.

  28. Keep over rated scared to take a hit obj off the list. If there was a most overrated list he would be #1 on it. One ha ded catches in practice and warmups dont win games. Especially when you cant make two handed ones for simple first downs. I cant believe the fan fare that man gets. Dont forget his lone playoff game was a forgetful 3 drop performance vs the packers.

  29. Can we stop with this Super Bowl performances nonsense? If that was enough to get you a top 10 slot, Joe Flacco would be on the QB list. Top 10 of a decade means performance throughout the decade, not a few important games in the decade.

  30. Jacoby Jones should be on this list for doing the unthinkable… winning a Super Bowl with JOE FLACCO.

    We all know who the REAL SUPER BOWL MVP IS… and it aint no Joe Flacco! Jacoby… you the man!

  31. Can’t complain about this list. This list is about overall production. That’s why Edelman isn’t on it.

    He ranks 170 th in career yards and 77 in catches. No chance he deserves to be on this list. He’s great in the big spots but he’s not a HoF wr or all time great. Get real.

    Imagine the stats Julio or Larry would rock in this offense.

  32. If playing for a great team and coming up big in super bowls wasn’t a major factor in status Stanley Morgan would be in the HOF.

    Feel free to put a couple of players ahead of Edelman but 10? Does moving the chains and blocking not count? Does toughness not count?

    25% of the yards losing QBs and receivers have is due to prevent defenses in garbage time and the other 75% is inflated by a strategy of going for broke from the opening kickoff hoping to get a lead.

  33. DeSean Jackson has 4,000 more yards and 20 more TDs than Edelman. Thats all.

    thejetssuck2001 says:
    list is a joke if desean jackson makes it and julian edelman doesnt. thats all.

  34. Calvin Johnson is #1 and there isn’t no argument. Had he played on a good team, he wouldn’t have easily been the best WR of all time. The man had the size, the strength, and the speed.

  35. Belichick could have drafted Dez in the 1st round but chose to trade the pick to Jerry knowing he would pick Bryant.

    Belichick drafted Edelman in the 7th round not even knowing where he would play but realized he couldn’t pass on drafting him. He turned the college QB into a special teams player and slot receiver. Early in his career he warned Welker Edelman would replace him. He moved him outside, had him run reverses and end sweeps, and even had him throw TD passes.

    Anyone who thinks half the guys on this list positively compare to Edelman don’t understand the NFL game. Talent only takes you so far. Winners win.

  36. Edelman should at least make #10. This isn’t Top 10 of the decade’s regular seasons, it’s the decade period. And you can’t just leave out postseason and Super Bowls, post season moments make up most of what we remember from this decade.

  37. This is the best list, so far. Mainly for leaving Edelman off. Edelman is a system, slot receiver. You put him at the outside #1 spot on another team, dude would probably be benched. How many NE receivers did anything before getting to NE or after leaving NE? Only Randy Moss. Edelman has good playoff complied numbers, but most guys don’t get the benefit of numerous playoff games. People are trying to put him in the HOF. Hey, PEDelman, how about making a Pro Bowl first?

  38. Ok, they said ‘receivers’, not ‘wide receivers’, and Gronk is not on the list?
    Plus, this seems to be a list of the last 5 years, not 10.
    That said, what about Jordy? Roddy? Reggie Wayne? Colston? Steve Smith? Santana Moss?
    The guys listed are no doubt GREAT, but you missed on a couple.
    You pick one that has been in the league 3 years, but you don’t pick one that
    was great the first 3 years of the decade?????

  39. Those are 10 great receivers, but Michael Thomas and Mike Evans should be on this list. Larry Fitzgerald is unbelievable. With the exception of Kurt Warner, Carson Palmer, and Kyler Murray, here are the QBs throwing to him over his career (I am NOT making this up):
    Josh McCown
    Shaun King
    John Navarre
    Matt Leinart
    Tim Rattay
    John Skelton
    Rich Bartel
    Kevin Kolb
    Ryan Lindley
    Brian Hoyer
    Drew Stanton
    Blaine Gabbert
    Sam Bradford
    Mike Glennon
    Josh Rosen

    ——————–

    Sir, how DARE you leave the greatness of Max Hall and Tim Hasselbeck off of this list!?!?!?

  40. Regarding the 07 Patriots, we were told regular season stats mean nothing. Now, it’s the postseason that’s irrelevant. So confusing…..

  41. Edelman needs to put up stats in both seasons not just the postseason. Hines Ward put up numbers in both and will never be a Hall of Famer. And let’s be honest Ward and Edelman are the same player…only Ward has better numbers.
    Everyone forgets the Patriots are built on the “team” mentality…well that works for winning but not for individual recognition. The Pat’s have dominated but only Brady has put up the individual numbers for the Hall of Fame.

  42. What is this fascination with Edelman? When people starting mentioning him for the HOF, I thought it was a joke. Seriously! Like one poster said, if you put him in for playoff performances, then you gotta put Flacco in. His playoff numbers are staggering! But no way Flacco gets a sniff, and that’s my dude, I love all he has done for the Ravens, but no HOF.
    First of all, you got two legendary players from NE who aren’t in the hall that probably should be: Stanley Morgan and Harold Jackson.
    Then you got guys like Cliff Branch, feared more than Biletnikoff and 3x times SB champ. Preston Pearson, 70s half-decade team. Otis Taylor, AFL great. All, not in the Hall!
    Guys please don’t forget and pay respect to the greats and stop bringing up Edelman’s name. Troy Brown, David Givens and Wes Welker…that’s your lane Julian, stay in it!

  43. Alright, most stuff I can definitely brush off, but I will admit to getting TRIGGERED when it comes to the Julian Edelman debate 🙂

    You simply cannot compare Edelman’s raw numbers to a list of outside receivers, because they really do not play the same position. Julian Edelman is, simply put, the best slot receiver in the history of the NFL. Slot receivers necessarily get less yardage because they are navigating a far more crowded area of the field, but their value to a given team is immense and imo, just as much as outside receivers who get more yards and glory. They should be considered separately. He’s also a top 10 punt returner ever, but that shouldn’t be considered for this, just for the HoF debate 😉

    I just wish people would stop comparing slot receivers to outside receivers.

  44. Bryant should be on the list. He was once tops at his craft, but had a sub-par last couple of years. That should not diminish his greatness. All those awful years of QB play did not stop Kurt Warner from getting in the HOF.

  45. The idea of Edelman sniffing this list is an insane one. The list is for best receivers of the decade. Not role players who played on the best team. It’s a production-based list and Edelman is not in the stratosphere.

  46. At one I would put Fitz, who NOT ONCE in a very long career was ever in trouble with the league, his team or the law. NOT ONCE did he ever say a disparaging word about anyone on planet earth. He never complained, never even hinted about wanting more targets or a QB upgrade or being unhappy with his contract.

    Plus he has the numbers.

    Compare to the many divas, burnouts, malcontents and all-around jerks we see come and go.

    As far as counting post-season, of course it is the Patriots fans who are whining about it. “Stats are for losers” is their favorite refrain, but apparently the PFT top-10 lists are EXTREMELY important to them

  47. HAHAHAH!!!! Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson and TY Hilton on this list and Michael Thomas, Edelman, Steve Smith Sr., Mike Evens, Keenan Allen, Brandon Marshall…hell even Vincent Jackson put up great #s for several years in the early 2010’s.

    Bryant, Jackson and Hilton were way overrated.

  48. How does CGM not have enough seasons for consideration when Patrick Willis made the list for LBs, despite the fact that he only really played 4 seasons this decade, 2010-2013, with his last season… 2014 brought the surprise retirement after his toe injury…being a wash?

  49. Obviously, I’m a Pats apologist. But It’s not all about raw numbers. Who do I want when the money is on the table? Who is tough enough to play through multiple injuries, get slammed over the middle and bounce up and talk smack? Time after time. Who do I trust to get 8 yrds on 3rd and 7. Who has never held up his team for big money, because he wants to win? That’s Julien Edelman.

  50. You simply cannot compare Edelman’s raw numbers to a list of outside receivers, because they really do not play the same position.
    ________________________________

    While I agree Edelman should be off the list, you do have a point to your comparison argument. But what does the #1 slot receiver get you? It’s like being the #1 special teamer.

  51. slammed over the middle and bounce up and talk smack? Time after time. Who do I trust to get 8 yrds on 3rd and 7. Who has
    _________________________

    Exactly, 8 yards and that’s supposed to put him in the top 10? What about running the full route tree and being a real receiver, deep outs and bombs. He is basically a RB coming off the line. Doesn’t he currently lead the league in drops? Why? The passes are only 5 yards. If Pats didn’t make the post season consistently, this would not be a discussion.

  52. carloswlassiter says:
    December 27, 2019 at 7:54 am

    How come the teams with these so-called Top 10 WRs never win anything?
    _______________________________

    And what does that comment have to do with picking the top receivers? Nothing at all.
    And to answer your question, football is team sport. Ever heard of Rice, Irvin, Swann, Harrison, Pearson, Branch, Bruce? Do I need to go on?

  53. carloswlassiter says:
    December 27, 2019 at 7:54 am

    How come the teams with these so-called Top 10 WRs never win anything?

    ================

    Seriously? Ever heard of the draft? It’s where the worst franchises get a chance to pick the best players.

  54. p.s. For those thinking Michael Thomas is too slow because of his 40 time, you should know that his 40 times were as fast or faster than the 2nd and 3rd guys on this list. He ran a 4.56 AT THE COMBINE AND 4.43 at OSUs pro day.

  55. Neither Dez Bryant nor Desean Jackson belong on this list. Being a great receiver (or great at any position) isn’t just about being able to make big plays or running up stats for a fantasy team. Consistency, longevity, and helping your team win games – especially big games, have to factor in, too. What big games have the top ten here helped their team win?

  56. A couple of mentions of Colston here. I think the most underrated if not overlooked WR of the decade. Maybe you don’t put him in the top 10 but he’s not far off and the guy never made a pro bowl or a headline. Helluva player taken second to last in the entire draft from a school that no longer plays football.

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