Jerry Rice retired as not only the greatest receiver of all time but also the greatest player of all time. While Tom Brady may have caught up with Rice as to the latter, there’s still no question as to the former.
Cementing Rice’s brilliance are three major records that have not remotely been challenged in the 16 years since he retired: 1,549 catches, 22,895 receiving yards, 197 receiving touchdowns.
Friday’s PFT Live included a draft of records that are within reasonable reach. One of Rice’s currently is coming close to being toppled. One could potentially fall, in time. The other seems to be safe for years to come.
With 1,378 catches, Larry Fitzgerald is only 171 behind Rice. If Fitzgerald plays three more years, he’ll likely break the record. If he plays only two more years, he’ll need to average 85.5 per season.
In 2019, Fitzgerald had 75 catches. But just two years earlier, he had 109. And with Kyler Murray entering his second second and newcomer DeAndre Hopkins attracting plenty of attention, Fitzgerald could have another couple of solid years of production left.
Rice’s receiving yardage record will take a lot more work. But Julio Jones, entering his 10th season, already has 12,125. He needs another 10,770, and at his current average of 1,347 per year, Jones needs another eight seasons to catch Rice. And he’d be 38 during that eighth season.
But Rice played until he was 42, which is one of the reasons why his final numbers were so far off the charts. Jones, health and desire permitting, could catch him.
Jones also has something else working in his favor: The regular season will be expanded in 2021 to 17 games. (Of course, Jones may end up playing zero games in 2020, along with everyone else.)
A 17-game season may not make much of a difference when it comes to someone catching 197 touchdown passes. Rice has held for eight years a 47-TD lead over Randy Moss, and Fitzgerald trails Rice by 77. Jones, despite his yardage production, needs 140 touchdown catches to tie Rice. (At only 57 touchdown catches, Jones is behind players like Hugh Taylor (1947-54), Mark Duper, Drew Hill, Billy Howton (1952-63), and Jimmy Orr (1958-70).)
No active player has a realistic shot at catching Rice’s touchdown-catch record. Hopkins has only 54 in seven seasons. (He’d need to play 26 years to catch Rice, at that rate.) Odell Beckham and Mike Evans each have 48 in six years. (They’d need to play 25 years, at that rate.)
So while Rice could likely see someone end up with more catches and maybe more yards, his receiving touchdowns mark will likely last for a very, very long time.
For more on records that are within reasonable reach — including a laundry list of interesting and obscure records that are in some degree of danger — check out the video from Friday’s show.