NFL All Time Receiving Leaders- Who Has The Most Receiving Yards All Time?


17 minutes

Last Updated: May 24, 2024

Scott Kostov

Becoming one of the NFL all time receiving leaders is really hard. The same goes for the NFL rushing leaders. American football is one of the most physically demanding sports out there.

Even if you manage to make it to the league, you would have to play long and well enough to leave a significant legacy. That means avoiding some of the nastiest NFL injuries that are a common occurrence. 

On top of this, it’s still a team game. Skilled position players are especially dependent on the rest of their team. If your QB has a weak hand in windy weather or if he’s not protected by one of the best NFL centers, you probably won’t get the ball downfield.

So who are the players that enjoyed the most success despite these obstacles? If you’re one of the NFL receiving yards leaders in any category, you’ve probably done a lot of things right. Now let’s see who has the most receiving yards of all time depending on position among the NFL all time receiving leaders.

Who is The All Time Leading Receiver in NFL History?

Jerry Rice has the most receiving yards of all time, with 22, 895 in 303 games played. Both of these achievements are NFL records at his position. We’re not cutting corners here. Jerry Rice is the greatest wideout to ever put on an NFL jersey. 

Born on October 13, 1962, Jerry’s illustrious career spanned an astonishing two decades. This solidified his status not just as a player but as an icon of the game we love. In the 1985 NFL draft, the San Francisco 49ers drafted Jerry with the 16th overall pick.

Although his rookie season was relatively modest, Jerry quickly emerged as one of the league’s standout receivers. And by modest we mean, by his standards. Any rookie wide receiver today would love to average 18.9 yards per catch on 49 receptions for 927 yards and 3 TDs in their first season.

Let alone in 1985 when the game wasn’t this explosive and centered around offense. But that didn’t stop Jerry Rice from dominating. Not once, not twice, Jerry Rice led the NFL in receiving yards a staggering 6 times.

As difficult as it is to wrap your head around this fact, imagine what the best defensive backs of all time had to go through when trying to stop him. Spoiler alert, none of them had a chance even with a double team.

In his third season in 1987, Jerry Rice won the Offensive Player of the Year award. During that twelve-game strike-shortened season, Rice caught 65 balls, 22 of which were touchdowns. That NFL record stood until 2007 when Moss caught 23 from Tom Brady. We remember how monumental that was, and Rice did it in just 12 games.

Jerry Rice

  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Teams: San Francisco 49ers (1985–2000), Oakland Raiders (2001–2004), Seattle Seahawks (2004)
  • Stats: 1,549 receptions, 22,895 receiving yards, 14.8 yards per catch

Jerry Rice didn’t become one of the NFL all time receiving leaders by chance. His brilliance was directly tied to his synergy with quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young, which were nothing short of legendary in their primes.

These partnerships propelled Jerry to lead the league in receiving yards and touchdowns multiple times. Joe Montana became one of the youngest QBs to win a Super Bowl in 1985, throwing the ball to Rice.

In the late ’80s, Jerry played a pivotal role in securing back-to-back championships for the 49ers in 1988 and 1989, with the former championship earning him the Super Bowl MVP award. As the NFL ventured into the ’90s, Jerry’s star continued to shine brightly.

He clinched a third Super Bowl title in 1994 and added a second Offensive Player of the Year Award to his accolades. The 49ers released him in 2001 after a knee injury, but a stint with the Oakland Raiders followed suit.

This culminated in a Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl  XXXVII before a 2004 mid-season trade sent him to the Seattle Seahawks. Even into his early forties during his brief tenure with the Broncos, Jerry Rice was highly productive up until his retirement before the 2005 season.

Jerry Rice stands as the career leader in nearly every major statistical category for wide receivers. This includes receptions, receiving touchdowns, receiving yards, and more. His 22,895 career receiving yards are an astounding 5,403 yards ahead of the second-place Larry Fitzgerald. Jerry’s 197 career touchdown receptions are 40 more than the second-placed Randy Moss.

49ers All Time Receiving Leaders

Beyond the numerical supremacy, Jerry’s impact was felt beyond the field. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006 for his efforts in growing the sport of football.

With such an impressive legacy, it’s no wonder he’s the NFL all time receiving leader. He has an impressive 13 Pro Bowl selections to his name. Better yet he has 11 All-Pro nods, with his last and only Second Team placement coming in 2002, at 40 years of age. 10 of these were First-team All-Pro designations, an NFL record both for his position and beyond.

But there’s more to Jerry than records and accolades. He’s remembered for being a clutch player, making those game-winning catches that have become part of NFL history. Some say his famous catching ability was developed in his childhood by catching bricks with his father.

Whatever it was, it helped him become the greatest wide receiver the NFL has ever seen. He was also extremely durable, especially for a skilled position player that was the focus of the defense.

In a career spanning 20 seasons, he missed just 17 regular-season games. His 303 games played as an NFL wide receiver set a record that seems destined to stand the test of time. Whichever way you put it, Jerry Rice was a machine ahead of his time, so it’s no wonder he reigns supreme over all of the NFL all time receiving leaders.

2. Larry Fitzgerald

  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Teams: Arizona Cardinals (2004–2020)
  • Stats: 1,432 receptions, 17,492 receiving yards, 12.2 yards per catch

Larry Fitzgerald is second among the NFL all time receiving leaders. Through 17 illustrious seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Fitz caught more passes than anyone not named Jerry Rice. Safe to say, he was elite.

From being the third overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft to becoming a football icon, Larry Fitzgerald’s saga was a tale of endurance and excellence. At 6’3 and 220 pounds, not even the best NFL cornerbacks of the last 2 decades stood a chance.

And the brother had it all. He had size, strength, and amazing hands, giving him one of the biggest catch radiuses in the history of the game. This, of course, made him lethal in the endzone. 

Fitz didn’t inspire every young receiver we see now with just his longevity and build. His elite route-running ability enabled him to maintain his excellent performance deep into his career. It also made him better in the playoffs.

In 2008, he earned his first and only First-team All-Pro nod, a crowning achievement complemented by two second-team All-Pro honors in 2009 and 2011.

With 11 Pro Bowl selections to his name, Fitz was not just a fan favorite, but a perennial star. Despite having just 3 All-Pro nods throughout his entire career and never peaking as high as other receivers, Fitz still holds a lot of records.

He led the league in receptions and touchdowns twice, although he never led it in receiving yards. Despite this, Larry and the Cardinals were one field goal away from winning the 2008 Super Bowl, thanks to his playoff performance. An NFL playoff record 546 yards and 7 TDs in 4 games proved Fitz was a legend.

3. Terrell Owens

  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Teams: San Francisco 49ers (1996–2003), Philadelphia Eagles (2004–2005), Dallas Cowboys (2006–2008), Buffalo Bills (2009), Cincinnati Bengals (2010)
  • Stats: 1,078 receptions, 15,934 receiving yards, 14.8 yards per catch

You might not like everything T.O said or did. But you don’t need to. If he played for your favorite team, you were probably more than happy to have him. As controversial as he was, nobody could deny talent and production.

He was good enough to become third among the NFL all time receiving leaders. Achieving this in just 15 seasons is impressive on its own. Terrell Eldorado Owens, affectionately known as “T.O.,”  was born on December 7, 1973.

During his remarkable 15-season career, the wide receiver extraordinaire soared to legendary status. His journey to NFL stardom began when he was selected in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. 

After seven seasons dawning the iconic red and gold, Owens took his next step to superstardom by joining the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004. Two years later, he was a part of America’s team, becoming the #1 wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys for the next 3 years.

Terrell Owens didn’t just play, he dominated. Despite never leading the league in receiving yards, he had 9 1000-yard seasons throughout his career. More importantly, he led the league in receiving touchdowns 3 times and reached double digits in that category an impressive 6 times.

Managing to sustain this high level of production deep into his career enabled him to climb the NFL’s all-time rankings in receiving yards and touchdowns, ranking third on both lists.

Despite never winning a Super Bowl, 5 First-Team All-Pro and 6 Pro Bowl selections solidify his spot in NFL history.

4. Randy Moss

  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Teams: Minnesota Vikings 1998–2004, 2010), Oakland Raiders (2005–2006), New England Patriots (2007–2010), Tennessee Titans (2010), San Francisco 49ers (2012)
  • Stats: 982 receptions, 15,292 receiving yards, 15.6 yards per catch

Randy Moss was a biological cheat code. And that made him one of the NFL all time receiving leaders. Born on February 13, 1977, Moss didn’t just become a name in football, he was a symbol of unparalleled skill and jaw-dropping athleticism.

Over the course of his illustrious 14-season career with the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, and the San Francisco 49ers, Moss caught a bit under 1000 balls and etched his name in NFL history as one of the greatest wide receivers to grace the gridiron.

Moss’s career kicked off with the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 1998, thanks to his 1300 yards and league-leading 17 TDs. That’s an NFL rookie record that still stands to this day.

Moss recorded 6 straight seasons with 1000 yards or more, a feat that he accomplished a total of 10 times throughout his career. In eight of those 10 seasons, he had over 10 touchdowns. And he led the league in touchdowns in 5 of them.

People mostly remember his record-setting 2007 season, his first with the New England Patriots and Tom Brady. His 23 receiving touchdowns that year are an NFL record that’s unlikely to be broken soon.

Being one of the fastest NFL players with a blistering 4.33 40-yard dash at 6 ft 4 in, was a weapon that helped him secure contested catches in tight coverage en route to 4 First Team All-Pro selections.

Being a track star as tall as an average lineman left many defenders Mossed as he danced in their endzone.

5. Isaac Bruce

  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Teams: Los Angeles / St. Louis Rams (1994–2007), San Francisco 49ers (2008–2009)
  • Stats: 1,024 receptions, 15,208 receiving yards, 14.9 yards per catch

This name might not ring a bell to newer NFL fans, but longevity never fades into obscurity. 15 seasons with just over a 1000 receptions and 15000 receiving yards make Isaac Bruce fifth amongst the NFL all time receiving leaders.

Born on November 10, 1972, Isaac Isidore Bruce was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft. Bruce’s journey would become unanimous with one of the longest NFL careers with one team.

Isaac Bruce’s story unfolded predominantly in the blue and gold of the Los Angeles and St. Louis Rams, where he etched his name in the annals of NFL history. A key component of “The Greatest Show on Turf,” Bruce played a pivotal role in the Rams’ offensive juggernaut that captivated fans and opponents alike.

His performance during the Rams’ Super Bowl XXXIV victory over the Tennessee Titans not only secured a championship but also solidified his status as a Rams legend. With 4 Pro Bowl selections (1996, 1999–2001) to his name, Bruce was one of the best wideouts at the turn of the millennium.

His 12 TDs and 1165 receiving yards during their SB-winning 1999 NFL were enough for him to garner Second team All-Pro recognition. Despite never making the All-Pro team, Bruce registered 6 seasons of over 1000 receiving yards.

The first of which was his sophomore season, when he became a starter and hung a career-high 1800 yards and 13 TDs on his opponent’s heads. His spot among the NFL receiving yards leaders is well deserved.

6. Tony Gonzalez

  • Position: Tight end
  • Teams: Kansas City Chiefs (1997–2008), Atlanta Falcons (2009–2013)
  • Stats: 1,325 receptions, 15,127 receiving yards, 11.4 yards per catch

Tony Gonzalez became a name synonymous with excellence in the tight end position, and one of the NFL all time receiving leaders during his stellar 17-year NFL journey.

From his early days at the University of California as a two-sport athlete to being the 13th pick in the 1997 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, Gonzalez’s ascension to a top 10 NFL tight end ever was remarkable to witness.

Gonzalez spent 12 formidable years with the Chiefs before a stint with the Atlanta Falcons. At the time of his retirement, he had put up staggering numbers. 15,127 receiving yards and 1,325 receptions are NFL records that still stand as the most by any tight end in NFL history.

Ranking third in overall receptions, sixth in receiving yards, and eighth in receiving touchdowns, Gonzalez’s statistical prowess guaranteed him a spot here among the NFL’s most prolific pass catchers.

While Gonzalez’s illustrious career lacked the coveted postseason success, it doesn’t diminish his greatness. With 14 Pro Bowl appearances, the most for a tight end and second-most in NFL history, and 10 All-Pro selections, including 6 First-team nods, he consistently was among the league’s brightest stars.

Tony only had 4 seasons with more than 1000 receiving yards and 3 campaigns with double-digit touchdown totals. Gonzalez made it on this list by being extremely durable and productive into the later stages of his career. Playing 270 of a possible 272 games in his career is a feat on its own.

He caught at least one pass in 265 consecutive games, with most of his excluded games coming in his rookie season where he wasn’t targeted enough.

7. Tim Brown

  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Teams: L.A./Oakland Raiders (1988–2003), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2004)
  • Stats: 1,094 receptions, 14,934 receiving yards, 13.7 yards per catch

Unless you’re a hardcore Raiders fan, Timothy Donell Brown’s name might go over your head. Born on July 22, 1966, Brown’s remarkable journey to football greatness started at the University of Notre Dame, where he became the first wide receiver to win the prestigious Heisman Trophy. 

The NFL was ready, and Brown answered the call in 1988 when the Los Angeles Raiders selected him in the first round with the sixth overall pick of the NFL Draft. In his debut season, he wasted no time making an impact, leading the league in kickoff returns, return yards, and yards per return average. 

While it took 5 seasons for Brown to become a regular starter who received enough touches, his incredible stretch from 1993 to 2001 more than made up for it. In that span, he achieved 9 consecutive seasons with more than 1000 receiving yards.

Not only is this a feat reserved only for the NFL all time receiving leaders, but it also showcased his work ethic and consistency. In the NFL, the best ability is availability and this guy holds the NFL record for most consecutive starts by a wide receiver with 176.

This remarkable consistency catapulted him into the upper echelons of NFL wide receivers, and Brown’s excellence was recognized with 9 Pro Bowl selections. 

Despite never making or winning an NFL Super Bowl, Brown helped the Raiders reach the playoffs 6 times before they became one of the worst NFL teams in the new millennium. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

8. Steve Smith Sr.

  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Teams: Carolina Panthers (2001–2013), Baltimore Ravens (2014–2016)
  • Stats: 1,031 receptions, 14,731 receiving yards, 14.3 yards per catch

Steve Smith Sr. was that guy. If you were between him and the end zone, you were in for a rough time. Everybody wants to clown wideouts and skilled position players that they’re soft. But Steve Smith was a headhunter with a linebacker mentality playing offense.

Drafted at the No. 74 overall slot in the third round of the 2001 NFL Draft, Stevonne Latrall Smith Sr. defied expectations from the get-go. Standing at 5 feet 9 inches, he wasn’t the prototypical wide receiver. His rookie season saw him in a limited playing role, but that didn’t deter him from carving out a role and creating history for 16 seasons.

For 13 seasons, Smith became synonymous with the Carolina Panthers franchise. During that time he became the Panthers’ all-time leader in total touchdowns (67), receptions (836), and receiving yards (12,197).

Despite never making the Super Bowl, Smith’s journey was adorned with accolades, cementing his status as one of the NFL’s premier wide receivers. He garnered 5 Pro Bowl selections and 3 All-Pro nods during his career.

Statistically, he reached his peak in 2005 when he led the league in catches, receiving yards, and touchdowns. And it’s not like he fell off after earning the triple crown of receiving. He would go on to register another 6 of his 8 total seasons with more than 1000 receiving yards, after 2005.

In 2011, Smith joined the elite ranks of players with 10,000 receiving yards, etching his name among the NFL greats. He didn’t become one of the oldest NFL players to ever play at his position, but he was very effective deep into his career.

9. Marvin Harrison

  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Teams: Indianapolis Colts (1996–2008)
  • Stats: 1,102 receptions, 14,580 receiving yards, 13.2 yards per catch

At number 9 and number 10, we have 2 wide receivers who made a heck of a career for themselves catching passes from Payton Manning. While their hands made Manning one of the highest paid NFL players of all time, you don’t become an NFL all time receiving leader by luck.

Marvin Darnell Harrison Sr had an illustrious 13-season career with the Indianapolis Colts in the National Football League (NFL). Born on August 25, 1972, Harrison emerged as one of the greatest wide receivers in the history of the sport thanks to his seamless partnership with quarterback Peyton Manning.

The Indianapolis Colts recognized his talent, selecting him 19th in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft. After 8 TDs and 800+ receiving yards in his rookie season,  the arrival of Peyton Manning in the 1998 NFL Draft was a godsend. 

Manning became the franchise quarterback and formed one of the most prolific and productive quarterback-wide receiver duos in NFL history with Harrison. It took a while for the pairing to click, but once Manning started trusting Harrison, it was over for the league.

Harrison had 8 straight seasons with 1000 or more receiving yards. He led the league in receiving yards and receptions twice during that span. With a career-high of 1.722 receiving yards in 2002, Marvin was an established contributor.

These Colts teams were quite underwhelming in the postseason, but they finally managed to win a Super Bowl in 2006. Marvin Harrison retired 2 seasons later as an 8 time Pro Bowler with 3 First Team All Pro selections and another 5 for the second team.

10. Reggie Wayne

  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Teams: Indianapolis Colts (2001–2014)
  • Stats: 1,070 receptions, 14,345 receiving yards, 13.5 yards per catch

Now we know how Payton managed to put such ludacris passing numbers in his time with the Indianapolis Colts. Imagine having two of the top 10 NFL all time receiving leaders as your 2 main options.

It’s a relationship that goes both ways, achieving this while both of them shared snaps and targets really speaks volumes of the players.

Reginald Wayne was the other wideout who carved a path in the National Football League (NFL) during his 14-season tenure as a wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts alongside Manning. Born on November 17, 1978, Wayne was selected as the 30th overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft from the University of Miami.

After learning behind Colts’ superstar Marvin Harrison, who served as Peyton Manning’s primary target, for 3 years Wayne’s breakout came in the 2004 season. He caught 77 passes for 1,210 yards and 12 touchdowns, showing everyone he belonged.

Following his breakout season, Wayne demonstrated impressive consistency by surpassing the 1,000-yard mark in eight of the next nine seasons. This impressive feat not only solidified his status as a top-tier wide receiver but also earned him 6 Pro Bowl honors. Wayne played a pivotal role in guiding the Colts to two Super Bowl appearances, including their victory in Super Bowl XLI.

Reggie Wayne ranks second only to Marvin Harrison in major receiving categories such as receptions, receiving yards, targets, and receiving touchdowns. He’s even the longest-tenured Colts player with 209 games played, surpassing even Payton Manning.

With 3 All Pro nods, over a thousand receptions, and over 14.000 receiving yards, Reggie Wayne rightfully sits among the NFL all time receiving leaders.

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