fbpx

Will anyone ever break Jerry Rice’s NFL receiving records?

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?

Will Aaron Rodgers end his career in Green Bay?

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

OR

  • 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.

Jan 3, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) reacts in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. The Rams defeated the Cardinals 18-7. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

To tie Rice, DeAndre Hopkins would need:

  • 100 catches for the next eight seasons

OR

  • 89 catches for the next nine seasons

NFL’s career reception leaders

1. Jerry Rice1,549
2. Larry Fitzgerald1,432
3. Tony Gonzalez1,325
4. Tony Witten1,228
5. Marvin Harrison1,102
6. Cris Carter1,101
7. Tim Brown1,094
8. Terrell Owens1,078
9. Anquan Boldin1,076
10. Reggie Wayne1,070
23. Antonio Brown886
29. Julio Jones848
42. DeAndre Hopkins747
51. Jimmy Graham699
53. Golden Tate695
59. Emmanuel Sanders662
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Jerry Rice’s 22,895 career receiving yards are No. 1 all-time

jerry rice, all-time nfl receiving leader
USA TODAY Sports

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

OR

  • 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 Rice22,985
2. Larry Fitzgerald17,492
3. Terrell Owens15,934
4. Randy Moss15,292
5. Isaac Bruce15,208
6. Tony Gonzalez15,127
7. Tim Brown14,934
8. Steve Smith14,731
9. Marvin Harrison14,580
10. Reggie Wayne14,345
20. Julio Jones12,896
31. Antonio Brown11,746
41. DeSean Jackson10,656
49. DeAndre Hopkins10,009
56. A.J. Green 9,430
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

197 career touchdown catches by Jerry Rice leads all other wide receivers

could larry fitzgerald or deandre hopkins break jerry rice's records?
Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

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 Rice197
2. Randy Moss156
3. Terrell Owens153
4. Cris Carter130
5. Marvin Harrison128
6. Larry Fitzgerald121
7. Antonio Gates116
8. Tony Gonzalez111
9. Tim Brown100
9. Steve Largent100
15. Rob Gronkowski86
25. Jimmy Graham82
30. Antonio Brown79
36. Dez Bryant75
58. A.J. Green65
77. Davante Adams62
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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.

WATCH: Sportsnaut’s Carolyn Manno on the latest NFL rumors