Top 10 players with the most receiving yards in NFL history

Profile Picture: Andrew Champagne

July 14th, 2021

The NFL has become a passing league, and it’s no surprise that many of the game’s most prolific pass-catchers have racked up their numbers fairly recently. Here’s a deep dive into the players whose receiving yardage totals rank in the top 10 all-time.

10. Reggie Wayne

Receiving yards: 14,345
Team: Indianapolis Colts
Years active: 2001-2014
Accolades: 6x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro, 1x Super Bowl champion

Long part of one of the league's most electric offenses, Wayne led the NFL with 1,510 receiving yards in 2007. He made the Pro Bowl in six of seven seasons between 2006 and 2012, and his career includes eight seasons of 1,000 receiving yards or more.

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Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison (88) escapes Texans defender Dunta Robinson (23). (Photo by Mark Cowan/Icon Sportswire)

9. Marvin Harrison

Receiving yards: 14,580
Team: Indianapolis Colts
Years active: 1996-2008
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 8x Pro Bowl, 3x All-Pro, 1x Super Bowl champion

Far from outspoken, Harrison let his play between the lines do the talking. He recorded 100 or more catches in four consecutive seasons from 1999 through 2002, and in the final season of that stretch, he was targeted an absurd 205 times.

8. Steve Smith

Receiving yards: 14,731
Teams: Carolina Panthers, Baltimore Ravens
Years active: 2001-2016
Accolades: 5x Pro Bowl, 2x All-Pro, 2005 Comeback Player of the Year

After suffering a season-ending injury in 2004, Smith enjoyed a transcendent 2005 campaign where he led the league with 103 receptions, 1,563 yards, and 12 touchdowns. There was plenty more where that came from, and he posted his final 1,000-yard season in 2014 at age 35.

7. Tim Brown

Receiving yards: 14,934
Teams: Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Years active: 1988-2004
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 9x Pro Bowl

A model of consistency, Brown caught at least 76 passes every year from 1993 through 2002 and led the league with 104 receptions in 1997. He was also a terrific return man who paced the league in kick return yardage during his rookie season in 1998.

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Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (88) celebrates after making a touchdown reception against the Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by Jeff Moffett/Icon Sportswire)

6. Tony Gonzalez

Receiving yards: 15,127
Teams: Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons
Years active: 1997-2013
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 14x Pro Bowl, 6x All-Pro

Considered by many to be the best tight end in the history of the game, Gonzalez is the only player at his position with more than 14,000 receiving yards. His 102 catches in 2004 led the league, and despite playing a position that involved blocking some of the game’s top pass-rushers at times, he missed just one game over his final 14 seasons.

5. Isaac Bruce

Receiving yards: 15,208
Teams: Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers
Years active: 1994-2009
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 4x Pro Bowl, 1x Super Bowl champion

Bruce somehow didn’t make a Pro Bowl in 1995 after recording 119 catches, 1,781 yards, and 13 touchdowns. However, he’d be voted to the game four times and wound up being a key part of the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” offense. He eclipsed 1,000 yards in eight different seasons, and he shined in St. Louis’s Super Bowl win over the Tennessee Titans, when he racked up 162 receiving yards and a touchdown on six catches.

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Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss (84) pre-game in action at New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford New Jersey

4. Randy Moss

Receiving yards: 15,292
Teams: Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers
Years active: 1998-2012
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 6x Pro Bowl, 4x All-Pro, 1998 Offensive Rookie of the Year

When Randy Moss was firing on all cylinders, he was one of the most dangerous weapons in football. He led the NFL in touchdown catches five different times, including when he caught 23 touchdowns in 2007 after being acquired by the New England Patriots. There were times when he phoned it in (his 2006 campaign with the Raiders was basically a zombie impression), but at his best, few (if any) have ever been better.

3. Terrell Owens

Receiving yards: 15,934
Teams: San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals
Years active: 1996-2010
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 6x Pro Bowl, 5x All-Pro

It’s hard to think about “what could have been” given T.O.’s insane numbers. However, he didn’t just sour on teams. He actively ruined atmospheres in several locations, most notably by doing sit-ups in his driveway during a dispute with the Eagles. He quietly had a very effective season with the Bengals at age 37, but tore his ACL and retired following a failed comeback with the Seahawks in 2012.

2. Larry Fitzgerald

Receiving yards: 17,492
Team: Arizona Cardinals
Years active: 2004-present
Accolades: 11x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro

Fitzgerald is the lone active player on this list, and his numbers are staggering when you consider he was saddled with mediocre quarterbacks for most of his career. Even so, he’s clearly second on the all-time list and may have enough gas in the tank for one more campaign alongside Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins.

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MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 02: NFL Hall of fame receiver Jerry Rice on the field prior to Super Bowl LIV on February 2, 2020 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL. (Photo by Rich Graessle/PPI/Icon Sportswire)

1. Jerry Rice

Receiving yards: 22,895
Teams: San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks
Years active: 1985-2004
Accolades: Hall of Fame, 13x Pro Bowl, 10x All-Pro, 2x Offensive Player of the Year, 3x Super Bowl champion

There’s no way around it: Jerry Rice is the best wide receiver to ever play the position. Consider this: Not only did he have four seasons of more than 1,500 receiving yards, but he caught 92 passes for 1,211 yards and seven touchdowns AT AGE 40. Even several years past his prime, Rice was running circles around defensive backs barely more than half his age. The list of records he holds is astounding, and it’s tough to imagine many of them getting broken anytime soon.