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Most will say Jerry Rice is the greatest wide receiver of all-time. At times, other players have appeared like they have a chance to break some of his greatest career accomplishments, but so far none have come close.
As the career leader in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown catches, will anyone ever break Jerry Rice’s receiving records?
Jerry Rice is the NFL’s career receptions leader with 1,549
As it stands, Larry Fitzgerald has the most receptions among active leaders. At No. 2, Fitz is just 117 receptions away from tying Rice for the lead. The issue here is that Fitzgerald has yet to sign anywhere and caught just 54 passes a season ago. If he lands somewhere, he would have to haul in 59 catches for another two seasons to catch Rice.
Fitz turns 38 before the season begins, but he has only missed a total of nine games in his 263-game career. Only he knows how he feels. But at this point, it seems unlikely Fitz will hang on long enough just to eclipse Rice’s receptions record. Back in 2015, even Fitz admitted he doesn’t think Rice’s receptions record is attainable.
Among the next five active leaders on NFL teams, Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins appear to have the best chances. Julio will be 32 this season and needs to catch 701 more passes to tie Rice. In other words, unless he can catch 100-plus passes for the next seven years, it’s not going to happen for him.
For example, to tie Rice, Julio Jones would need:
- 100 catches for the next seven seasons
- 88 catches for the next eight seasons
On the other hand, Hopkins is just 29 and needs 802 more receptions to tie Rice. With just over 100 catches for eight years or 80 for the next 10 seasons, Hopkins could catch up to Rice’s receptions record. At his current pace of 93 receptions per season, Hopkins would need to maintain his pace for the next nine seasons to shatter Rice’s record.
To tie Rice, DeAndre Hopkins would need:
- 100 catches for the next eight seasons
- 89 catches for the next nine seasons
NFL’s career reception leaders
|1. Jerry Rice||1,549|
|2. Larry Fitzgerald||1,432|
|3. Tony Gonzalez||1,325|
|4. Tony Witten||1,228|
|5. Marvin Harrison||1,102|
|6. Cris Carter||1,101|
|7. Tim Brown||1,094|
|8. Terrell Owens||1,078|
|9. Anquan Boldin||1,076|
|10. Reggie Wayne||1,070|
|23. Antonio Brown||886|
|29. Julio Jones||848|
|42. DeAndre Hopkins||747|
|51. Jimmy Graham||699|
|53. Golden Tate||695|
|59. Emmanuel Sanders||662|
Jerry Rice’s 22,895 career receiving yards are No. 1 all-time
While today we marvel at Tom Brady having designs to play until he’s 45, Jerry Rice was still putting up 1,200-yard seasons when he was 40. The next oldest to have a 1,000-yard season as a wide receiver? Jerry Rice, when he was 39. Other than himself, Joey Galloway, Jimmy Smith, and Rice again all did it in their age-36 seasons. Rice was just built differently.
Oldest wide receivers to gain 1,000 receiving yards or more in a season
- Jerry Rice – Age 40 – 1,211 receiving yards
- Jerry Rice – Age 39 – 1,139 receiving yards
- Jerry Rice – Age 36 – 1,157 receiving yards
- Jimmy Smith – Age 36 – 1,023 receiving yards
- Joey Galloway – Age 36 – 1,014 receiving yards
While Larry Fitzgerald has a slight chance to reach the all-time receptions record if he chooses to play another two seasons, Fitz is nowhere close to Rice’s yardage record despite being No. 2 on the all-time list.
Again we turn to Julio Jones as the next closest leader, but even he is nearly 10,000 yards away. He may catch up to Fitz someday, but that’s it.
DeAndre Hopkins, 29, would need 12,886 more yards to tie Rice, 11 more seasons at his current pace of 1,251 per season to break the record.
To tie Rice, Hopkins would need:
- 1,432 yards for the next nine seasons
- 1,289 yards for the next 10 seasons
We mentioned that no receiver other than Rice has topped 1,000 yards past the age of 36. For Hopkins to pass Rice, he’d have to average well north of 1,100 for the next 10 years, at which point he would be 39. Basically, Hopkins faces very long odds.
NFL’s career receiving yards leaders: Jerry Rice stands above the rest
|1. Jerry Rice||22,985|
|2. Larry Fitzgerald||17,492|
|3. Terrell Owens||15,934|
|4. Randy Moss||15,292|
|5. Isaac Bruce||15,208|
|6. Tony Gonzalez||15,127|
|7. Tim Brown||14,934|
|8. Steve Smith||14,731|
|9. Marvin Harrison||14,580|
|10. Reggie Wayne||14,345|
|20. Julio Jones||12,896|
|31. Antonio Brown||11,746|
|41. DeSean Jackson||10,656|
|49. DeAndre Hopkins||10,009|
|56. A.J. Green||9,430|
197 career touchdown catches by Jerry Rice leads all other wide receivers
Of the top-five active touchdown catch leaders on a team, nobody comes even close to reaching Jerry Rice’s 197 career touchdown receptions. While teams are passing more now than ever before, the GOAT’s records still seem unreachable.
NFL’s career touchdown receptions leaders
|1. Jerry Rice||197|
|2. Randy Moss||156|
|3. Terrell Owens||153|
|4. Cris Carter||130|
|5. Marvin Harrison||128|
|6. Larry Fitzgerald||121|
|7. Antonio Gates||116|
|8. Tony Gonzalez||111|
|9. Tim Brown||100|
|9. Steve Largent||100|
|15. Rob Gronkowski||86|
|25. Jimmy Graham||82|
|30. Antonio Brown||79|
|36. Dez Bryant||75|
|58. A.J. Green||65|
|77. Davante Adams||62|
It will be a long time before anyone threatens Jerry Rice’s receiving records
For rookies entering the NFL today, now that they are playing 17-game seasons, breaking some records may be slightly easier to achieve if they can play long enough. A receiver would have to average:
- 103 catches per season
- 1,526 receiving yards per season
- 13 touchdown catches per season
- For the next 15 years
Looking at those numbers for an individual year may seem achievable. Receivers do that all the time in the modern era. However, to top Jerry Rice’s records, a receiver would have to average these stats or better over a 15-year span.
Most athletes enter the NFL somewhere between ages 21-24. As you saw earlier, only three receivers have ever topped 1,000 receiving yards at the age of 36 or older. Add 15 years to a 22-year-old receiver and they are already 37. How in the world did Jerry Rice do what he did?
When you consider injuries, poor quarterback play, or just the body breaking down, what Rice did in his career is incredible. For any one receiver to top these three records Rice holds right now seems impossible.
Maybe now that players have an extra game per season, some will get closer. But as it stands, it doesn’t seem like any player is currently on the path to breaking Rice’s records and for that reason, Rice remains the GOAT.