The Best College Football Wide Receivers of All Time

They come in all shapes and sizes. They’re old. They’re new. They’re deep-threat playmakers and multitalented threats who make impacts in a number of different ways. Standout college football receivers come in many different packages and have a multitude of styles. Quantifying them can be difficult, but we’re going to try.

Here’s a look at the top 5 college football receivers of all time. They were ranked by examining their statistical output, their potential place in the NCAA record books as well as their overall skills, since some of the best wideouts played only two or three seasons of FBS football, and others never played a down at college football’s highest level.

It’s not an easy list to make, and you might disagree with the choices, but when you’re as talented as these guys are, there are no true wrong answers.

5. Michigan WR Desmond Howard

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Only two receivers have ever won the Heisman Trophy. And no one has done so since 1991, a span of 26 yards. That says volumes about the season that Michigan’s Desmond Howard enjoyed. Howard put together an excellent all-around campaign, making 62 catches for 985 yards and 19 touchdowns. He added two rushing scores and 180 yards on the ground and also had a kick return and punt return score, averaging 27.5 yards per kick return.

Howard is one of the most versatile players in college football history and has earned his place in college football history. In three seasons, he had 134 catches for 2,146 yards and 37 all-purpose touchdowns.

4. Western Michigan WR Corey Davis

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New Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck “rowed the boat” from Western Michigan to Minneapolis following WMU’s 14-1 2016 season that included a MAC title and Cotton Bowl bid. Fleck should give a hearty thank-you to Bronco receiver Corey Davis.

Davis is one of the most prolific receivers in college football history. He finished his career with 5,278 receiving yards, tops in FBS history. He had three consecutive seasons of at least 1,400 receiving yards, 78 receptions and 12 touchdowns. Last fall, Davis put together 97 catches for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns.

“He is selfless,” Fleck told Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press. “This kid is unbelievable. He’s the hardest- working wide receiver, besides Vincent Jackson, that I’ve ever been around.”

His 52 career touchdowns are No. 2 in FBS history, and his 331 receptions are No. 4 in FBS history. Davis stands 6’3”, 215 pounds and has excellent hands and speed. The NFL team that snags him in late April will add a highly reliable piece to its offense for years to come.

3. Mississippi Valley State WR Jerry Rice

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Jerry Rice is proof that players don’t have to attend large schools to excel. In the early 1980s, the Mississippi native escaped the grasp of larger in-state schools and wound up at Division I-AA Mississippi Valley State. He grabbed NFL scouts’ attention with a stellar career.

Rice wound up with 301 career catches for 4,693 yards and 50 touchdowns. He set I-AA single-season records as a junior and senior. In 1983, he made 102 catches for 1,450 yards, and a year later, he smashed his own numbers with 112 catches and 1,845 yards, as well as 27 touchdowns which was, at the time, an NCAA all-divisions record. That season, Rice had two games with five touchdowns.

The Delta Devils’ level of competition was questionable, but Rice’s talent isn’t. He was a first-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers and went on to become one of the greatest receivers in NFL history and a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2010.

2. Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson

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Calvin Johnson recently completed a surefire NFL Hall of Fame career with the Detroit Lions. But before he wowed fans at the pro level, Megatron was a huge problem for ACC cornerbacks at Georgia Tech. Johnson stands 6’5”, 235 pounds, and combines his impressive frame with freakish leaping ability and speed.

He had three excellent seasons with the Yellow Jackets, piling up 178 receptions for 2,927 receiving yards and 28 touchdowns, earning consecutive All-America honors in 2005 and 2006. Johnson was the ACC Player of the Year in 2006 and also won the Biletnikoff Award as the game’s top receiver. He left more than one opposing defensive backs as a rambling wreck on his way to the end zone. Players with Megatron’s ability and production are rare in the college game.

1. Marshall WR Randy Moss

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Randy Moss took a winding road to Marshall, but once he arrived in Huntington, W.Va., he put a mark on the Thundering Herd’s program that can’t be denied. Disciplinary issues at Notre Dame and Florida State led Moss to Marshall and forced him into a redshirt freshman season.

He played only one season of FBS competition, but he will never be forgotten. Marshall was transitioning from then-Division I-AA to I-A when he arrived, and played a I-AA schedule in his freshman season. Moss dominated I-AA, catching 78 passes for 1,709 yards and 28 touchdowns.

The Herd moved up to college football’s highest level in 1997, and the 6’4”, 210-pounder was just as uncoverable. He had 96 catches for 1,820 yards and 26 touchdowns before heading to the NFL draft. Moss scored 54 receiving touchdowns in his brief Marshall career, reaching the end zone in every game he played. He won the Biletnikoff Award, given to the game’s top receiver, and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Moss’ college career was short but spectacular.

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