NFL White Receivers – a Dying Breed?

They are somewhat of a dying breed, an extinct species that are often overlooked when it comes to occupying the position of wide receiver in today's NFL.  There was a comment made in one of the front page posts that got me thinking.  So I decided to take a look at what has been and what is currently the situation in the NFL when it comes to “other” than black receivers.


Now before anyone gets their nose bent outta shape, I want to make it perfectly clear that this IS NOT about racism.  I have had a belly full of experience in that department.  Nor am I trying to stir controversy, hate or discontent.  Please… if that’s gonna be your take in the comments, I ask with all the respect I can give, refrain from doing so.


Please look at it from a study point of view and you may find it interesting.

The white wide receiver seems to be as difficult to find as Sasquatch.  And just like a sighting of one, the white receiver gets peaked attention.  There are even some Hall of Famers, like Steve Largent, Raymond Berry, and Fred Biletnikoff, but strange how few there really is.


So who was the last high impact white wide receiver in the NFL?  Wes Welker is certainly well known, but his career is leveling off, IMO.  How about Ed McCaffrey?  Wonder of wonders, Ricky Proehl, who played a combined 17 seasons in the NFL?  Or Wayne Chrebet who enjoyed several years with the (cough) Jets?  


Fewer and fewer white players are given a chance to become wide receivers in the NFL today.  This is in stark contrast to the NFL of the ’70's and ’80's where a number of receivers where not only white, but perennial pro-bowl players.  Let's take a look at the top 10 white wide receivers from 1980 to 2010.


#10) Joe Jurevicius: Giants, Buccaneers, Seahawks, Browns


·         Played from 1998 to 2007

·         Drafted in the 2nd round of the ‘98 draft by the New York Giants

·         Career: 133 games, 323 receptions, 4,119 yards, 12.8 yards/catch, in the end zone 29 times.


Jurevicius is a tall receiver (6’ 5”) with good hands, not especially fast, but has found ways to get open.  His best season was in ’05 with Seattle when he caught 55 for 694 yards and 10 touchdowns.

#9) Bill Schroeder: Packers, Lions, Buccaneers


·         Played from 1997 to 2004

·         Drafted in the 6th round of the ‘94 draft by the Packers

·         Career: 111 games, 304 receptions, 4,583 yards, 15.1 yards/catch, in the end zone 28 times.


Again, Schroeder was not especially fast but had good size (6’ 3”) and good hands.  Schroeder had 3 consecutive seasons with over 900 yards receiving with a personal best of 74 receptions, 1,051 yards and 5 touchdowns coming in ‘99.  He retired a Packer in ’08 after signing a one-day contract.  He had a solid 15.1 yards per catch average and was a solid option for (wrangler jeans boy) Favre in Green Bay.

#8) Pat Tilley with the Cardinals AND Steve Watson of the Broncos

Pat Tilley: St. Louis Cardinals


·         1 Time Pro-Bowler

·         Played from 1976 to 1986

·         Drafted in the 4th round of the ‘76 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals

·         Career: 147 games, 468 receptions, 7,005 yards, 15 yards/catch, 37 touchdowns.


First of the Pro-Bowlers, Pat Tilley played on a number of middling teams the Cardinals put together in his career.   Considering that the NFL played 14 games for a number of years, his 4 straight seasons of 900 + yards receiving is quite an accomplishment.  He makes this list for this and pro-bowl season in ‘80 when he caught 68 balls for 966 yards, and 6 touchdowns.  He followed that up with an equally good ’81 season when he had 1,040 yards receiving - a career best.

Steve Watson: Broncos


·         1 Time Pro-Bowler

·         Un-drafted free agent from Temple University

·         Played from 1979 to 1987

·         Career: 125 games, 353 receptions, 6,112 yards, 17.3 yards/catch, 36 touchdowns.


An undrafted free agent, Steve rejoined the Broncos as a defensive assistant in 2000. Since 2003 he has been a wide receivers coach.  Watson had 3 seasons of over 1000 yards.  His pro-bowl year was 1981 when he caught 60 balls for 1,244 yards, 13 touchdowns and an incredible 20.7 yard per catch average.  Unbelievably, he only made the pro-bowl once despite having two fantastic seasons in ’83 with 59 catches for 1,133 yards, and ’84 with 69 catches for 1,170 yards.  In both seasons, Watson averaged more than 17 yards per catch.  Watson is clearly one of the most underrated wide receivers in the 80's.


#7) Wes Welker: Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Patriots


·         2 Time Pro-Bowl Selection

·         2 Time All-Pro

·         2 Time NFL Reception Leader

·         Played from 2004 - 2009

·         Un-drafted free agent from Texas Tech

·         Career: 30 games, 442 receptions, 4,809 yards, 10.9 yards/catch, 16 touchdowns.


A small football player, standing only 5’ 9” and 185 lbs, Welker is more of a slot receiver.  Only one player in NFL history, Gale Sayers, had more all-purpose yards in his first three NFL seasons than Welker did with the (wait for it) Miami Dolphins; Welker holds the Dolphins' all-time records for total kickoff returns, kickoff return yardage, and total punt returns.  He is fast becoming one of the greatest slot receivers in the history of the NFL and has averaged an unbelievable 115 receptions, 1229 yards and 5 touchdowns in 3 years since joining the Patriots in 2007.  A shifty, fast, and sure handed receiver, nobody works the middle of the field better than Wes Welker who has quickly become a favorite outlet receiver of quarterback Tom (give me the flag) Brady.  Welker, IMO, has somewhat leveled in his career. Some say he has a chance to be like Steve Largent.  I am not one of them.

#6) Wayne Chrebet: (cough) Jets


·         Played from 1995 to 2005

·         Un-drafted free agent from Hofstra

·         Career: 152 games, 580 receptions, 7,365 yards, 12.7 yards/catch, 41 touchdowns.


Another undrafted free agent, Chrebet was originally cut by the CFL's Baltimore Stallions; he played 11 seasons as a wide receiver for the Jets from ‘95 to 2005.  A diminutive receiver standing 5’ 10”, with fabulous hands and solid route running, his best season came in ’98 when he caught 75 balls for 1,083 yards and 8 touchdowns.  Chrebet never made a pro-bowl.

#5) Ricky Proehl: Cardinals, Seahawks, Bears, Rams, Panthers, Colts


·         2 Time Super Bowl Champion

·         Played from 1990 to 2006

·         Drafted in the 3rd round of the ‘90 draft by the Cardinals

·         Career: 244 games, 669 receptions, 8,878 yards, 13.3 yards/catch, 54 touchdowns.


“The Ironman” played 17 seasons in the NFL and was one of the most consistent wide receivers throughout the ’90's and 2000's.  Ricky averaged more than more than 50 receptions in 7 seasons, and had a personal best season in 1993 with 65 catches for 877 yards and 7 touchdowns.  He played prominent roles in helping the Rams reach the ’99 Super Bowl, catching 6 balls for 100 yards against the Bucs in the NFC Championship game.  Twice, Proehl caught passes in Super Bowls to tie games within the last two minutes of regulation.  His career receptions in 3 Super Bowls are 8 catches for 153 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He was the “go to” receiver when teams needed him most, and everyone on the defense knew it.  Proehl never made a pro-bowl and never attained a 1,000 yard season.


#4) Ed McCaffrey: Giants, 49ers, Broncos


·         3 Time Super Bowl Champion

·         1 Time Pro-Bowler

·         Played from 1990 to 2006

·         Drafted in the 3rd round of the ‘91 draft by the New York Giants

·         Career: 185 games, 565 receptions, 7,422 yards, 13.1 yards/catch, 55 touchdowns.


I believe Ed McCaffrey was best known as the Broncos’ receiver.  He was a tall and lanky wide receiver standing 6’ 5” and 215 lbs.  McCaffrey combined with Rod Smith to form one of the more dynamic wide receiver combos in the NFL during the late 90's.  With Denver he achieved three consecutive seasons of 1000 yards or more receiving.  His best season, and one where he surprisingly did not make the Pro-Bowl, was in 2000 when he caught 101 balls for 1,317 yards and 9 touchdowns.  That season, he and Rod Smith combined for over 100 receptions each.

#3) Dwight Clark: 49ers


·         2 Time Super Bowl Champion

·         2 Time Pro-Bowler

·         1 Time All-Pro

·         Played from 1979 to 1987

·         Drafted in the 10th round of the 1979 draft by the San Francisco 49ers

·         Career: 134 games, 506 receptions, 6,750 yards, 13.3 yards/catch, 48 touchdowns.


Responsible for "The Catch".   Dwight Clark caught that infamous pass from Joe Montana in the ‘82 NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys which sent the 49ers to their first Super Bowl Championship.  That play is perhaps one of the greatest plays in NFL history and is a constant highlight reel play.

#2) Cris Collinsworth: Bengals


·         3 Time Pro-Bowler

·         Played from 1981 to 1988

·         Drafted in the 2nd round of the 1981 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals

·         Career: 90 games, 417 receptions, 6,698 yards, 16.1 yards/catch, 36 touchdowns.


Cris was the 80's version of Ed McCaffrey.  An incredibly tall receiver at 6’ 5”, lanky, fast, ran good routes, a solid deep threat, and a favorite target of Ken Anderson.  Collinsworth had 4 seasons with over 1000 yards and a phenomenal year in ’86 with 62 catches for 1,024 yards and career best 10 touchdowns.  His days were cut short because of knee problems, but a great wide receiver of the 80's and often took advantage of smaller corners because of his size and speed.  He’s now an idiot sports pundit.


#1) Steve Largent: Seahawks


·         7 Time Pro-Bowler

·         1 Time All-Pro

·         Member of Hall of Fame

·         Played from 1976 to 1989

·         Drafted in the 4th round of the 1976 draft by the Houston Oilers

·         Career: 197 games, 819 receptions, 13,089 yards, 16 yards/catch, 100 touchdowns.


Largent spent thirteen years with the Seahawks, and, while not particularly fast, was extremely sure-handed.  The Oilers traded Largent to the then expansion Seattle Seahawks in ’76.  Largent was THE primary receiver in Seattle.  His illustrious career started by catching balls from quarterback Jim Zorn, and eventually ended with Dave Krieg.  Largent also provided one of the most jaw-shattering hits in NFL history. In a game during the ‘88 season, Denver Broncos Safety Mike Harden intercepted a ball thrown by Seahawks Quarterback Dave Krieg. While returning the interception, Harden took a blindside hit from Largent. Largent later said in an interview that the hit was retaliation in part for an illegal hit that Harden gave him in another game earlier in the season which knocked out two of his teeth.

I leave you with Steve’s highlights… the first is the great hit, and the second is a career bio…

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

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