College Football's 50 Greatest wide receivers of the past 50 years


Staff member
Mar 6, 2018
College football's 50 greatest wide receivers of the past 50 years


You could make the case that the seeds of the modern football passing game, college and pro, were planted around 50 years ago.

Bill Walsh was tweaking the Cincinnati Bengals' offense and crafting what would become the West Coast offense. Don Coryell took what would be known as his Air Coryell offense to the big time, jumping from San Diego State to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973. LaVell Edwards took over as BYU head coach in 1972 and, figuring he had to do something radical to succeed there, took to the air. They would become three of the most influential figures in the modernization of football.

It would take a while for these ideas to percolate to the top of college football, which would be ruled by the wishbone and old-school physicality for a few more years to come. But mad scientists were tinkering.

Let's commemorate the occasion, then, by celebrating the premier FBS wide receivers over these past five decades. Here are the top 50.


50. Sammy Watkins, Clemson​

Years: 2011-13
Career Stats: 240 catches, 3,391 yards, 27 TDs (also: 339 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 1 kick return TD)

One of the most highly touted and important signings of the early Dabo Swinney era, Watkins lived up to his billing, recording 1,219 yards as a freshman and 1,464 as a junior to help boost the profile of a rising Clemson program.


49. J.J. Stokes, UCLA​

Years: 1991-94
Career Stats: 154 catches, 2,469 yards, 28 TDs

A big-play threat throughout his career, Stokes finished seventh in the Heisman voting in 1993 while catching 82 passes for 1,181 yards and 17 TDs, leading the Bruins to a surprising Rose Bowl bid.


48. Steve Largent, Tulsa​

Years: 1973-75
Career Stats: 136 catches, 2,385 yards, 32 TDs

He's known mostly for his exploits with the Seattle Seahawks, but adjusting for the era, his 51-catch, 1,000-yard performance with the Golden Hurricane in 1975 is equivalent to about 90 catches for 1,600 yards today.


47. Herman Moore, Virginia​

Years: 1988-90
Career Stats: 114 catches, 2,504 yards, 27 TDs

Only one Virginia team has ever reached No. 1 in the AP poll: the 1990 team, which resided there for three weeks. Moore was the Cavaliers' most talented player, catching 54 balls for 1,190 yards and 13 TDs that season.


46. Trevor Insley, Nevada​

Years: 1996-99
Career Stats: 298 catches, 5,005 yards, 35 TDs

The 1999 Nevada Wolf Pack went just 3-8 and ranked 60th in scoring offense. That should tell you something about Insley's supporting cast: the senior caught, in all caps, ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-FOUR PASSES FOR TWO THOUSAND SIXTY YARDS, and it wasn't nearly enough.


45. Kirk Gibson, Michigan State​

Years: 1975-78
Career Stats: 112 catches, 2,347 yards, 24 TDs (also: 144 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs)

Yes, that Kirk Gibson. Before going on to win the 1988 National League MVP award in baseball, he was an all-star receiver. His 42-catch, 806-yard performance in 1978 was equivalent to about 75 catches for 1,300 yards today.


44. A.J. Green, Georgia​

Years: 2008-10
Career Stats: 166 catches, 2,619 yards, 23 TDs (also: 105 rushing yards)

Despite playing basically only 2.5 seasons, the former star recruit from Summerville, South Carolina, was one of the sport's steadiest stars, catching between 53 and 57 balls for between 808 and 963 yards in each of his three seasons.


43. Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma​

Years: 2015-16
Career Stats: 126 catches, 2,267 yards, 21 TDs (also: 118 rushing yards, 1 punt return TD)

Despite playing only two years -- at a school that has produced endless wideout talent, no less -- Westbrook stood out. As Baker Mayfield's go-to in 2016, Westbrook caught 80 passes for 1,524 yards and 17 TDs as a senior.


42. Golden Tate, Notre Dame​

Years: 2007-09
Career Stats: 157 catches, 2,707 yards, 26 TDs (also: 227 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs, 1 punt return TD)

After catching just six passes as a freshman, Tate ignited, first to 58 catches for 1,080 yards in 2008, then a Biletnikoff Award-winning 93 for 1,496 as a junior. Bonus points for a memorable leap into the Michigan State band.


41. Danario Alexander, Missouri​

Years: 2006-09
Career Stats: 191 catches, 2,778 yards, 22 TDs (also: 1 passing TD)

Alexander was just beginning to emerge as a go-to star when he tore his ACL late in 2007 and spent most of 2008 as a backup. But in 2009, he put together one of the greatest individual seasons ever: 113 catches for 1,781 yards and 14 TDs. He gained 957 in his last five games. Otherworldly.


40. Aaron Turner, Pacific​

Years: 1989-92
Career Stats: 266 catches, 4,345 yards, 43 TDs

Pacific's program folded in 1995, Turner gave Tigers fans some lasting thrills with three consecutive seasons of at least 1,171 receiving yards. He was the all-time career yardage leader at the time of his departure. (He's 11th now.)


39. Ozzie Newsome, Alabama​

Years: 1974-77
Career Stats: 102 catches, 2,070 yards, 16 TDs

Yes, this is a list of receivers, not tight ends. But before becoming an NFL Hall of Fame TE with the Browns, Newsome came to Tuscaloosa as a 6-foot-4, 195-pound wideout. He even returned punts his junior and senior seasons. I say he qualifies.


38. Troy Edwards, Louisiana Tech​

Years: 1996-98
Career Stats: 280 catches, 4,352 yards, 50 TDs (also: 447 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs, 1 punt return TD)

Edwards' career was more than a single game -- he had two seasons of 1,700+ yards, after all -- but no one has ever made a bigger impression in a single game than when Edwards opened 1998 by catching 21 balls for 405 yards and three scores against defending national champion Nebraska.


37. Tavon Austin, West Virginia​

Years: 2009-12
Career Stats: 288 catches, 3,413 yards, 29 TDs (also: 1,033 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs, 4 kick return TDs, 1 punt return TD)

The perfect weapon for Dana Holgorsen's version of the air raid, Austin was both a deep threat and a jet sweep whiz. He finished eighth in the Heisman voting as a senior while producing 1932 yards from scrimmage (1289 receiving, 643 rushing) and 15 scores.


36. John Jefferson, Arizona State​

Years: 1974-77
Career Stats: 183 catches, 2,937 yards, 20 TDs (also: 47 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD)

Frank Kush's mid-1970s ASU teams so thoroughly dominated the WAC that eventually earned them a Pac-10 bid in 1978. Jefferson was a big reason for that, catching 153 balls for 2,514 yards in his last three years -- equivalent to about 265 for 3,900 today.


35. Mike Hass, Oregon State​

Years: 2003-05
Career Stats: 220 catches, 3,924 yards, 20 TDs

When Mike Riley's second Oregon State tenure began, he inherited a gift in Hass, a former walk-on who caught 176 passes for nearly 3,000 yards in his final two seasons alone and won the Biletnikoff as a senior.


34. Corey Davis, Western Michigan​

Years: 2013-16
Career Stats: 331 catches, 5,278 yards, 52 TDs

Only two FBS players have generated more than 4,600 receiving yards in a career: Insley at 5,005 and Davis at a mind-blowing 5,278. He had three seasons of at least 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he led WMU to an unbeaten season and Cotton Bowl bid as a senior.


33. Wes Chandler, Florida​

Years: 1974-77
Career Stats: 93 catches, 1,994 yards, 22 TDs (also: 356 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs)

How good did a receiver have to be to earn Heisman votes from a run-heavy offense in the 1970s? Well, Chandler was that good. He caught 44 balls for 967 yards and 10 scores as a junior before finishing 10th in the Heisman voting (and going third in the draft) as a senior.


32. Mike Evans, Texas A&M​

Years: 2012-13
Career Stats: 151 catches, 2,499 yards, 17 TDs

It's not just that Evans was the best receiver in the SEC in the Aggies' first two years in their new league; it's that he brought his A-game precisely when he did. Against Alabama and eventual national runner-up Auburn in 2013, he caught a combined 18 balls for 566 yards and five scores.


31. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State​

Years: 2011-13
Career Stats: 226 catches, 3,272 yards, 24 TDs (also: 340 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs)

Originally a UCLA commit, Cooks instead went north to Corvallis, where he eventually became the second Beaver in a decade to win the Biletnikoff. He did most of his damage in his last two seasons: 3,281 receiving yards, 299 rushing yards and 23 combined TDs.


Staff member
Mar 6, 2018

30. Marqise Lee, USC​

Years: 2011-13
Career Stats: 248 catches, 3,655 yards, 29 TDs (also: 146 rushing yards, 2 kick return TDs)

Let's put it this way: Lee averaged more than 1,200 receiving yards per year despite being limited by injury for most of his final season. In 2012 alone, he caught 118 balls for 1,721 yards and 14 scores. Even by USC's standards, his totals were wild.


29. Terrance Williams, Baylor​

Years: 2009-12
Career Stats: 202 catches, 3,334 yards, 27 TDs

Baylor produced an endless array of prolific receivers at the turn of the past decade, but Williams' 2012 production stood out the most: 97 receptions, 1,832 yards, 12 TDs. In the Bears' famed 70-63 loss to WVU that year, he caught 17 passes for 314 yards!


28. Mike Williams, USC​

Years: 2002-03
Career Stats: 176 catches, 2,579 yards, 30 TDs (also: 1 passing TD)

Williams made a maximum impression in a minimal amount of time. He caught 81 passes for 1,265 yards and 14 TDs as a true freshman as USC surged back into national prominence, then caught 95 for 1,314 and 16 scores. And then he was gone, challenging the NFL's early draft eligibility rules, sitting out a season, and going 10th in the 2005 draft.


27. Tyler Lockett, Kansas State​

Years: 2011-14
Career Stats: 249 catches, 3,710 yards, 29 TDs (also: 192 rushing yards, 4 kick return TDs, 2 punt return TDs)

If you were watching a Kansas State game in 2013 or 2014, and QB Jake Waters dropped to pass, you and everyone in the stadium knew where he wanted to go with the ball: to Lockett, who was somehow always wide open. His last two years, he caught 187 balls for 2,777 yards and 22 TDs. Oh yeah, and he was the best return man in the country in 2011-12, too.


26. Braylon Edwards, Michigan​

Years: 2001-04
Career Stats: 252 catches, 3,541 yards, 39 TDs

The Detroit product and track star could either outjump or run past outclassed defenders. He produced three masterful seasons -- 67 catches for 1,035 yards and 10 scores, then 85 for 1,138 and 14, then 97 for 1,330 and 15 -- and helped Michigan to two Rose Bowls.

Let's pause in the middle to honor four players who technically didn't qualify for the list but whose performance needs to be mentioned all the same:

Raghib Ismail, Notre Dame (1988-90). He was only sort of a receiver -- he ended up with 1,565 career receiving yards and 1,015 rushing yards. But "Rocket" was the scariest player in college football in both 1989 and 1990, scoring seven times from scrimmage and six times via returns in his career. And his most famous TD didn't even count.

Darrin Nelson, Stanford (1977-81). I actually had Nelson as a serious top-50 candidate until I remembered he wasn't a wide receiver -- he was a running back! He averaged 54 catches for 592 yards per year in the late-1970s (equivalent to about 925 yards per year today) while also averaging 1,008 rushing yards. Way ahead of his time.

Kyle Pitts, Florida (2018-20). In just eight games last season, Pitts caught 43 balls for 770 yards and 12 scores -- a pace for 1,250 yards over 13 games -- and gave Florida nonstop matchup advantages. The problem: he was a 6'6, 245-pound tight end.

Howard Twilley, Tulsa (1963-65). The most ahead-of-his-time player in college football history, Twilley's career played out before this 50-year sample, but his 1965 receiving totals -- 134 catches for 1,779 yards and 16 touchdowns -- would have earned All-American status 60 years later. That's the approximate equivalent of 200 catches for 2,800 yards today.


25. Amari Cooper, Alabama​

Years: 2012-14
Career Stats: 228 catches, 3,463 yards, 31 TDs

You don't see former Bama star Julio Jones on this list simply because he wasn't asked to do a lot -- he averaged under 900 receiving yards per season. The next great Bama receiver of the Saban era, however, did quite a bit more: After 1,736 yards in two seasons, Cooper exploded for 1,727 and 16 scores as a junior.


24. Torry Holt, NC State​

Years: 1995-98
Career Stats: 191 catches, 3,379 yards, 31 TDs (also: 119 rushing yards, 2 kick return TDs)

NC State has not lacked for star talent through the years, but the Wolfpack's best product might not have been Philip Rivers or Russell Wilson -- it might have been this Hargrave Military Academy product, who caught 150 balls for 2,703 yards in his past two seasons, winning the Biletnikoff as a senior.


23. Michael Irvin, Miami​

Years: 1985-87
Career Stats: 143 catches, 2,423 yards, 26 TDs

The U boasted an incredible amount of star power in the mid-1980s, and both blowouts and ball distribution might have tamped down this star's stats a bit. But the high-personality Irvin still averaged the modern-day equivalent of about 75 catches for 1,250 yards per season at the Orange Bowl.


22. Marcus Harris, Wyoming​

Years: 1993-96
Career Stats: 259 catches, 4,518 yards, 38 TDs

Without Marcus Harris at Wyoming, we might not have gotten Drew Brees at Purdue. Harris averaged 1,501 yards per season from 1994-96 in Joe Tiller's Basketball on Grass offense, and he was the star of the 10-win 1996 squad that got Tiller hired away by the Boilermakers. Quite the butterfly effect!


21. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma​

Years: 2008-11
Career Stats: 349 catches, 4,586 yards, 45 TDs (also: 97 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 2 kick return TDs)

No power-conference receiver has ever gained more career receiving yards than Broyles (a feat made even more impressive by the fact that he missed four games during his senior season), and only Michael Crabtree's 134-catch campaign in 2007 can top the 131 Broyles generated in 2010.


20. Wendell Davis, LSU​

Years: 1985-87
Career Stats: 183 catches, 2,708 yards, 19 TDs

The mid-1980s were not the most prolific years for college football receivers -- in 1986, for example, only five players recorded over 1,000 receiving yards. But Davis caught 152 passes for 2,237 yards in 1986-87, the equivalent of about 240 catches for 3,350 yards today.


19. Charles Rogers, Michigan State​

Years: 2001-02
Career Stats: 135 catches, 2,821 yards, 27 TDs (also: 110 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 1 punt return TD)

It took the late Rogers just two seasons to break both Kirk Gibson's school record for career touchdowns and Randy Moss' NCAA record for consecutive games with a TD. He was a perfect receiver specimen at 6-3, 200, and he split his production almost perfectly: 67 catches for 1,470 yards one year, 68 for 1,351 the next. An unbelievable prospect.


18. Hart Lee Dykes, Oklahoma State​

Years: 1985-88
Career Stats: 211 catches, 3,275 yards, 30 TDs

In any year, catching 74 passes for 1,278 yards and 14 touchdowns, as Dykes did during OSU's 10-win 1988 season, would be extremely impressive. Doing so in 1988, however, is equivalent to catching about 100 balls for 1,700 yards today. No wonder he ended up a first-round draft pick.


17. Josh Reed, LSU​

Years: 1999-2001
Career Stats: 167 catches, 3,001 yards, 17 TDs (also: 63 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD)

Ousted LSU coach Gerry DiNardo left his successor, a guy named Nick Saban, the ultimate gift in Reed, who switched from RB to WR as a sophomore and, in just his second year in the position, gained 293 yards against Alabama on his way to a 94-catch, 1,740-yard breakout as a junior. Just imagine what he might have done with more experience at the position!


16. James Washington, Oklahoma State​

Years: 2014-17
Career Stats: 226 catches, 4,472 yards, 39 TDs (also: 70 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD)

Only one player had more than nine catches of 50+ yards in 2016-17: Washington, who had 13. Maybe the best pure deep threat of the 2010s, he averaged 19.8 yards per catch for his career with 39 touchdowns. He was well-rounded, too, catching over 70 balls twice; it's probably not a coincidence that OSU's offense has regressed considerably since he left for the pros.


15. Reidel Anthony, Florida​

Years: 1994-96
Career Stats: 126 catches, 2,274 yards, 26 TDs (also: 56 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 1 kick return TD)

It's hard to know what to do with the bounty of great receivers Florida produced under Steve Spurrier in the 1990s. From 1995-2001, eight different Gators WRs recorded 1,000-yard seasons, and only one did it twice. Nobody, therefore, had standout career numbers. But of those eight receivers, nobody was as frightening as Anthony in 1996. He averaged 18 yards per catch with an SEC-record (at the time) 18 touchdowns for Spurrier's lone national title team.


14. Ja'Marr Chase, LSU​

Years: 2018-19
Career Stats: 107 catches, 2,093 yards, 23 TDs

It's OK to be a one-year wonder if your one year is like Chase's 2019. After catching just 23 balls in 2018, he, like the rest of the LSU offense, exploded: 84 catches, 1,780 yards (221 in the national title game) and a new SEC-record 20 TDs. He won the Biletnikoff, LSU won the national title, and that was it for his supernova career.


13. Bobby Engram, Penn State​

Years: 1991-95
Career Stats: 167 catches, 3,026 yards, 31 TDs (also: 155 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD)

There weren't that many touches to go around for the Penn State receiving corps in 1994, not with RB Ki-Jana Carter rushing for 1,539 yards. But Engram made the most of his chances, needing only 52 catches to gain 1,029 yards that year as PSU fielded its most perfect offense in school history. Then he topped himself with 1,084 yards the next season.


12. Peter Warrick, Florida State​

Years: 1995-99
Career Stats: 207 catches, 3,517 yards, 32 TDs (also: 188 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs, 2 punt return TDs)

Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick made a lasting impression in 1999's BCS Championship Game, almost single-handedly keeping his Hokies in the game with his arm, legs and incredible athleticism. Unfortunately for Tech, he was only the game's second-best player.

Warrick caught a 64-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, took a punt 59 yards for a score in the second, then iced the national title with a 43-yard catch with 7:42 left. It was the perfect ending for an unbelievable career.


11. Anthony Carter, Michigan​

Years: 1979-82
Career Stats: 161 catches, 3,076 yards, 37 TDs (also: 213 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 2 punt return TDs)

One of the most consistent stars ever at the position, Carter was a three-time All-American who finished 10th in the Heisman voting in 1980, seventh in 1981 and fourth in 1982 while averaging the modern-day equivalent of about 60 catches for 1,100 yards per season. And that was after he had already become a Michigan legend as a freshman, catching a 45-yard game-winner against Indiana as time expired.


Staff member
Mar 6, 2018

10. Keyshawn Johnson, USC​

Years: 1994-95
Career Stats: 168 catches, 2,796 yards, 16 TDs

Johnson is another player who made the most of a brief career and went out in style. Johnson transferred from West Los Angeles College to USC in 1994 and caught 66 balls for 1,362 yards, then one-upped himself with 102 for 1,434 as a senior. In his last game as a Trojan, he destroyed Northwestern's fairy-tale story in the Rose Bowl, catching 12 balls for 216 yards in a 41-32 win.


9. Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech​

Years: 2004-06
Career Stats: 178 catches, 2,927 yards, 28 TDs (also: 40 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD)

From 2004-06, the Georgia Tech offense ranked 89th, 104th and 54th, respectively, in scoring. Just imagine where the Yellow Jackets would have been without the services of the receiver who would become known as Megatron. Johnson almost single-handedly dragged the Tech offense to the ACC championship in 2006, somehow catching 76 balls for 1,202 yards with minimal help. And then he went to the pros and basically did the same thing with the Lions.


8. Tim Brown, Notre Dame​

Years: 1984-87
Career Stats: 137 catches, 2,493 yards, 12 TDs (also: 442 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs, 3 kick return TDs, 3 punt return TDs)

Brown only sort of counted as a receiver at Notre Dame -- like Rocket Ismail after him, he did a little bit of everything after Lou Holtz took over. In two seasons with Holtz, he caught 84 passes for 1,756 yards, rushed 93 times for 398 yards, scored 11 touchdowns from scrimmage and, oh yeah, served as the scariest return man on the planet with two scores on kickoffs and three on punts. He was rewarded for his efforts with a Heisman Trophy.


7. Johnny Rodgers, Nebraska​

Years: 1970-72
Career Stats: 1970-72: 154 catches, 2,679 yards, 27 TDs (also: 836 rushing yards, 14 rushing TDs, 1 passing TD, 7 punt return TDs, 1 kick return TD)

Speaking of dual-threat Heisman winners, Rodgers is known primarily for his greatest play, a punt return score that provided the deciding margin in 1971's Game of the Century against Oklahoma. But he did a lot of the grunt work for the 1971-72 Huskers, catching 115 passes for 1,969 yards, rushing 113 times for 617 yards and scoring 32 TDs from scrimmage while also serving as the baddest return man on the planet.


6. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech​

Years: 2007-08
Career Stats: 231 catches, 3,127 yards, 41 TDs

Mike Leach was known for getting tons of production out of unheralded recruits in his Air Raid system, but in 2007-08, we got to find out what might happen if he had a star. Crabtree was a four-star prospect from Dallas, and quarterback Graham Harrell was a four-star from nearby Ennis, and the duo lit box scores on fire. It took Crabtree just two seasons to record the stats above. He won two Biletnikoff Awards and scored the most famous touchdown in Tech history. He packed a four-year career into 26 games.


5. Desmond Howard, Michigan​

Years: 1989-91
Career Stats: 134 catches, 2,146 yards, 32 TDs (also: 249 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs, 2 kick return TDs, 1 punt return TD)

When a college football fan hears the words "Heisman moment," his or her imagination likely shoots immediately to one specific image: Howard striking the Heisman pose after returning a punt 93 yards for a touchdown against rival Ohio State. It was the ultimate punctuation mark after two dominant seasons in Ann Arbor. The Cleveland native scored on nearly one-quarter of his career receptions (nearly one-third in 1991), and he was an absolute terror, whether fielding a kick, going deep, or taking a handoff behind the line.


4. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State​

Years: 2009-10
Career Stats: 253 catches, 3,564 yards, 40 TDs (also: 84 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 1 blocked punt return TD)

After one year as an understudy in 2009, Blackmon basically transformed into Michael Crabtree 2.0 as a sophomore. Over his next two years in Stillwater, he caught 233 passes for 3,404 yards and 38 TDs and served as the face of the most successful OSU team since 1945, one that came within an eyelash of reaching the BCS championship. He enjoyed a streak of 14 straight games with 100+ yards, and he is, along with Crabtree, one of only two to win the Biletnikoff Award twice.


3. DeVonta Smith, Alabama​

Years: 2017-20
Career Stats: 235 catches, 3,965 yards, 46 TDs (also: 1 rushing TD, 1 punt return TD)

Talk about a perfect career: the eighth reception of Smith's career, a 41-yard touchdown from Tua Tagovailoa, won the national title. The last one, a 42-yard score from Mac Jones, locked up a second. In between were 200+ catches, 40+ scores and the first Heisman win for a receiver since Howard. The skinny 160-pounder from Amite, Louisiana, was a standout even among one of the greatest recruiting classes ever.


2. Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh​

Years: 2002-03
Career Stats: 161 catches, 2,677 yards, 34 TDs

After a year of prep school, Fitzgerald showed up in Pittsburgh and immediately became the Panthers' best player and one of the best receivers in the country. He caught 69 passes for 1,005 yards as a freshman -- 105 yards and three TDs against a top-five Virginia Tech, 159 and two against rival West Virginia -- and then massively raised his game. His 2003 season remains one of the best on record; against double-teams and every defense coordinators could think of, he reeled in 92 balls for 1,672 yards and 22 TDs.

He finished second in the Heisman voting behind Oklahoma's Jason White in 2003, then went third in the draft to the Arizona Cardinals, with whom he spent 17 years.


1. Randy Moss, Marshall​

Years: 1996-97
Career Stats: 174 catches, 3,529 yards, 54 TDs (also: 1 rushing TD)

Was there any other choice? Moss' story is well-told -- he has his own 30-for-30, after all. After getting declined admission to Notre Dame and kicked out of Florida State, he landed at Marshall. In 1996, he caught 78 passes for 1,709 yards and 28 TDs while leading the Thundering Herd to the FCS national title (he caught four TDs in the finale), then, with Marshall jumping to FBS, leaped to 96 catches, 1,820 yards and 26 scores. Product of poor competition? Probably not, considering he then jumped to the pros and caught 982 passes for 15,292 yards and 156 scores.

Even if you don't count his 1996 season because it came at the FCS level, he would have probably finished atop this list due to 1997 alone. He was a video game create-a-player brought to life. We hadn't seen anything like him, and we haven't since.