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There have been many wide receivers who, despite having solid careers, have not been enshrined in the halls of Canton. Here are the 10 best NFL wide receivers that are not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
10. Irving Fryar
- NFL Draft: 1st pick in the 1st round in the 1984 Draft
- NFL Career: 1984-2000
- Accolades: Five-time Pro Bowl selection, two-time second team All-Pro selection
As the first overall pick in 1984, Irving Fryar joined a solid receiving corps in New England with Stanley Morgan and Stephen Starrling. Fryar was also the team's primary punt returner. The following year, he helped the Patriots reach their first Super Bowl. In 1993, he was traded to Miami where he really blossomed playing with Dan Marino. In his 17 seasons, he caught 851 passes, compiled 15,594 all purpose yards, and scored 88 total touchdowns while being a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro. He also holds NFL records for catching a touchdown from 19 different passers and being the oldest player to catch four touchdowns in a game.
Why Is Irving Fryar Not in the Hall of Fame?
Fryar gets pushed aside by the Hall of Fame for a couple different reasons. He played on average to mediocre teams during his time in the league (New England, Miami, Philadelphia, and Washington), and he only played with a true All-Pro quarterback for two and a half years. He has also been involved in several off-field incidents both during and after his playing career. In 2015, he was sentenced to prison for his involvement in a mortgage scam.
9. Torry Holt
- NFL Draft: 6th pick in the 1st round of the 1999 Draft
- NFL Career: 1999-2009
- Accolades: Super Bowl champion, first team All-Pro selection, second team All-Pro selection, seven-time Pro Bowl selection
As a first-round pick in 1999, Torry Holt made an immediate impact on the offense as he helped make the Rams "The Greatest Show on Turf." He helped St. Louis win their first ever Super Bowl that same year. Beginning in 2000, he reached at least 1,300 yards every season through 2005, which is an NFL record. In 2006, he became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 receiving yards. He retired after 2009 as a seven-time Pro Bowler, two time All-Pro, a member of the 2000s All-Decade team, and a Super Bowl champion. He also led the league in receiving yards twice and led the league in receptions in 2003.
Why Is Torry Holt Not in the Hall of Fame?
Holt gets forgotten by Canton due to a couple factors. His career felt shorter compared to other stars like his teammate Isaac Bruce. The bulk of his success came in his first three seasons when the Rams were at their peak. Combine that fact with his disappointing final year with Jacksonville, and it's no wonder why other incoming receivers leapfrog over him for the gold jacket. He has been a finalist in the ballot for the past few years, so I do think he will get in eventually.
8. Gary Clark
- NFL Draft: 2nd round of the Supplemental 1984 Draft
- NFL Career: 1985-1995
- Accolades: Two-time Super Bowl champion, first team All-Pro selection, two-time second team All-Pro selection, four-time Pro Bowl selection
Gary Clark played for two years in the USFL before joining Washington as a second-round pick in the 1984 Supplemental Draft. He quickly established himself as one of the top receivers in the NFL. He followed up his superb rookie season by catching 74 passes for 1,265 yards and 7 touchdowns. This earned Clark his first Pro Bowl selection. For almost a decade, he was Washington's big play receiver next to Art Monk. Clark spent his final years with the Cardinals and Dolphins before retiring in 1995. He retired as a four-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, and two-time Super Bowl champion. He also holds Washington's record for most receiving yards in a game.
Why Is Gary Clark Not in the Hall of Fame?
Clark had the misfortune of playing alongside hall of famer Art Monk, so he was outshined a bit. Clark has also become lost in history thanks to the explosion of the passing game after his career ended. At the time of his retirement, he ranked in the top five for career receptions and receiving yards. Nowadays, he is not even in the top 30 for either stat.
7. Andre Rison
- NFL Draft: 22nd pick in the 1st round of the 1989 Draft
- NFL Career: 1989-2000
- Accolades: Super Bowl champion, first team All-Pro selection, three-time second team All-Pro selection, five-time Pro Bowl selection
As a first-round pick in 1989, Andre Rison was almost an instant star. After a great rookie season in Indianapolis, he was traded to Atlanta where he really came into his own. His sophomore season marked the first of five very productive campaigns with the Falcons. During these years, he finished near the top of most receiving categories, and he led all NFL receivers with 15 receiving touchdowns in 1993. Rison was only the fifth receiver in NFL history to score 60 touchdowns in his first six seasons, and he led the NFL in most receptions in his first four and five seasons. Rison retired in 2000 as a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro, and a Super Bowl champion.
Why Is Andre Rison Not in the Hall of Fame?
The big thing keeping Rison from a gold jacket is his attitude. He left Atlanta for a big contract, and he unleashed an embarrassing tirade at heartbroken Cleveland Browns fans who were booing the team because they were moving to Baltimore. He then posted mediocre numbers and bounced around the league before having one final good year in Kansas City. He could have ended up among the ranks of Charlie Joiner and Fred Biletnikoff. Instead, thanks to emotional outbursts and a strange and rapid decline in performance, he's the embodiment of the diva wide receiver.
6. Wes Chandler
- NFL Draft: 3rd pick in the first round of the 1978 Draft
- NFL Career: 1978-1988
- Accolades: First-team All-Pro selection, second-team All-Pro selection, five-time Pro Bowl selection
After spending his first three and a half seasons in New Orleans, Wes Chandler was traded to the Chargers in 1981 to replace star receiver John Jefferson, who was traded to the Packers after a bitter contract dispute. In his second year in San Diego, he led the NFL with 1,032 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns in the strike-shortened 1982 season. His average of 129 yards receiving per game that year is still an NFL record. After a final year with San Francisco, Chandler retired in 1988 as a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro.
Why Is Wes Chandler Not in the Hall of Fame?
The big thing keeping Chandler out of Canton is the talent he played with. He had a Hall of Fame quarterback in Dan Fouts throwing to him, and he was part of arguably the greatest receiving corps in history. With Hall of Famers Charlie Joiner and Kellen Winslow also in the offense, Chandler often gets overlooked.
5. Mark Clayton and Mark Duper
- NFL Draft: Clayton was the 223rd selection in the 8th round of the 1983 Draft. Duper was the 52nd pick in the second round of the 1982 Draft.
- NFL Career: Clayton played from 1983 to 1993. Duper played from 1982 to 1992.
- Accolades: Clayton was a three-time second team All-Pro selection and five-time Pro Bowl selection. Duper was a first team All-Pro selection, second team All-Pro selection, and three-time Pro Bowl selection.
Mark "Super" Duper was the Miami's deep threat receiver for over a decade. A track star in college, he was the perfect receiver for Dan Marino's cannon arm. In his 11 years in Miami, he was a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro. He recorded 511 receptions for 8,869 yards and 59 touchdowns.
Mark Clayton was a Marino's favorite target, and he was the team's primary return specialist. He ranks tied for 70th in league history in receiving yards and 20th in receiving touchdowns. He holds the Dolphins records for career pass receptions and touchdowns as well as receiving yards in a single season. Clayton spent one final season in Green Bay before retiring in 1993. In his 11-year career, he was a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro. He recorded 582 receptions for 8,974 yards and 87 touchdowns.
Why Are Mark Clayton and Mark Duper Not in the Hall of Fame?
The big case against the Marks Brothers was that they were only great because they played with Dan Marino. It doesn't help that they never won a Super Bowl. Both receivers have also had some legal troubles during their careers and after retiring.
4. Jimmy Smith
- NFL Draft: 36th pick in the 2nd round of the 1992 Draft
- NFL Career: 1992-2005
- Accolades: Two-time Super Bowl champion, two-time second team All-Pro selection, five-time Pro Bowl selection
Jimmy Smith ranks 26th in NFL history with 862 career receptions. He's 25th with 12,287 career receiving yards. He's tied at 55th in career receiving touchdowns with 67. He has posted nine 1,000-yard seasons, and he retired as Jacksonville's all-time leader in every major receiving category.
Why Is Jimmy Smith Not in the Hall of Fame?
So why isn't Smith mentioned in any conversation about great NFL receivers? Most likely he's the victim of playing in Jacksonville, where the media spotlight is light. Had Smith played in a bigger market and mimicked that kind of production, we'd be asking when he's going to the Hall of Fame.
Since his retirement, Smith's legacy has been tarnished due to arrests on drug charges. Nevertheless, Smith retired as a five-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro, and the NFL's reception leader in 1999.
3. Sterling Sharpe
- NFL Draft: 7th pick in the 1st round of the 1988 Draft
- NFL Career: 1988-1994
- Accolades: Three-time first team All-Pro selection, five-time Pro Bowl selection
As a first-round pick in 1988, Sterling Sharpe was an instant starter as a rookie. In 1989, he became the first Packer receiver to lead the league in receptions in over 40 years, and he broke team records for receptions and receiving yards in a season. In 1993, Sharpe became the first player to have consecutive seasons catching more than 100 passes. He is one of only seven players to lead the league in receptions, yards, and touchdowns in the same season. Sharpe's tenure at wide receiver was cut short by a neck injury during the 1994 season, and he was forced to retire. In seven seasons, he recorded 595 receptions for over 8,000 yards and 65 touchdowns. Sharpe was a five-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, two-time league receiving touchdowns leader, and three-time league receptions leader. He holds the league record for most games with at least three touchdowns.
Why Is Sterling Sharpe Not in the Hall of Fame?
If he would have had a longer career, he could have put a big dent in the NFL record book. His neck injury kept him from building a greater legacy, and it possibly cost him a shot at Canton.
2. Otis Taylor
- NFL Draft: 203rd pick in the 15th round of the 1965 Draft (Taylor would join Kansas City in the AFL Draft)
- NFL Career: 1965-1975
- Accolades: Super Bowl champion, two-time first team All-Pro, two-time Pro Bowl
Otis Taylor became the favorite target for Len Dawson on the Kansas City Chiefs. At 6'3" and 215 pounds, he possessed sure hands during his career. He served as a devastating blocker for Kansas City running backs for many long runs. In his second season, he led the AFL in yards per catch and finished second in receiving yards. In 1971, he led the AFL in receiving touchdowns and led the NFL in receiving yards. His biggest career highlight was a 46-yard touchdown in Super Bowl IV. Taylor ranks second in Chiefs history in all major receiving categories to only Tony González. He retired in 1975 as a three-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro, two-time AFL champion, and Super Bowl champion.
Why Is Otis Taylor Not in the Hall of Fame?
Why Taylor isn't in the Hall of Fame is a mystery to me. He has the stats, Pro Bowls, and championships. He has been a semifinalist in the ballot for a senior induction, so it may only be a matter of time. Give this man a gold jacket already.
1. Henry Ellard
- NFL Draft: 32nd pick in the 2nd round of the 1983 Draft
- NFL Career: 1983-1998
- Accolades: Two-time first team All-Pro selection and three-time Pro Bowl selection
Henry Ellard was famous for using his height and jumping ability to get to high passes. He was also known for his leadership and his superior skills as a route runner. After averaging less than 600 receiving yards in his first five seasons, he exploded over the next nine seasons. He posted seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons over that stretch, and he averaged 65 catches a year. After joining Washington in 1994, he had three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Ellard retired in 1998 with 814 receptions for 13,777 yards and 65 touchdowns. He ranked third all time in receptions and fourth in yards at the time of his retirement. In his 16-year career, he was a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro.
Why Is Henry Ellard Not in the Hall of Fame?
Like Clark, Ellard has been lost in history thanks to the evolution of the passing game. It also doesn't help that he never had a star quarterback throwing to him at any point in his career. Ellard believes that the Rams moving to St. Louis in 1995 led to him getting lost in the shuffle. He had no recognition since he only played with the team when they were in Los Angeles.
Questions & Answers
Question: Why isn't Cliff Branch in The Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Answer: It’s a question I ask myself all the time. Fred Biletnikoff and Dave Casper are both in Canton. Cliff Branch was easily the most dangerous of the three and was a part of all 3 of the Raiders Super Bowl victories
Question: Drew Pearson should be in the HOF. The Super Bowl champ, all decade team and so on. Is he still eligible?
Answer: Yes he still is eligible, but any longer of a wait will make him a senior nominee.
Question: Why not Stanley Morgan? 500 catches, 10,000 yards for 50 TDS for NFL record 19.4 yards per catch. Deserves a Gold Jacket.
Answer: No question he deserves it. He just a victim to the explosion of the passing game the last decade and a half. Because of this he and other receivers from that era might not get in for years.
Question: Where are Billy Howton and Art Powell?
Answer: Both are lost to history would be my guess.
Question: What about Harold Jackson? Jackson torched defenses for 15 seasons. He gained 10372 yards, hauled in 579 catches and scored 76 TD's. He helped revamped LA Rams offense and partnered with Stanley Morgan in New England for several years. Surely he deserves a mention.
Answer: He only had three, 1000 yard receiving seasons. His stats are just big because he played a long time.
Question: Can't help but notice that all of the guys on the list are black. But the Raiders got two white guys on that team (Casper and Biletnikoff) in?
Answer: Many see him as just a deep threat and in a 14 year career, he averaged about 35 catches a season.
Question: Wasn't Andre Rison the best college football wide receiver ever?
Answer: Tim Brown and Desmond Howard have Heisman Trophies so my guess is no.
Question: How likely is it it Isaac Bruce, Tory Holt, Hines Ward and Andre Johnson get into the HOF?
Answer: They’ll all get in eventually. It will just take time for Bruce and Holt.
Question: Henry Ellard retired 3rd on the ALL-Time list For yards and 3rd most with 7X 1000+ yard seasons. He was a 2x 1st team ALL-PRO and 3X pro bowl. There are many players in the Hall that had no championships. So, why isn’t Henry Ellard in the HOF?
Answer: He just played in the wrong era for receivers. Because of the explosion of the passing game in the last decade and a half, Ellard’s numbers look minuscule compared to others.
Question: Why isn't Jerry Smith, TE REDSKINS, in the HOF?
Answer: Unfortunately, his personal life has been cited for the reason he is left out. Which is absolutely ridiculous considering when you look at his stats for that time.
Question: Was Riley Odoms ever even considered for the Football Hall of Fame? Check his stats compared to Dave Casper. Do you think Cliff Branch should be in the Hall of Fame given that his numbers aren't much better than Haven Moses who is never mentioned? The HOF has some deep issues.
Answer: Apart from Super Bowl XII, Odoms played on some mediocre Broncos teams. Moses only made two Pro Bowls and his stats look very minuscule by today’s standards.
Question: Why is Herman Moore not in the Hall of Fame?
Answer: People saw the 90s Lions offense just being Barry Sanders. Also, Calvin Johnson went on to shatter his team records.
Question: What about Hines Ward? He has more receptions, yards, and touchdowns than most of these 10. Pro bowler several times and super bowl mvp.
Answer: What’s the first thing people say when they think about Hines Ward? The best “BLOCKING” wide receiver in NFL history. He’ll get in one day but since Pittsburgh has always been viewed as a running team, it will take time.
Question: What about Hines Ward and Tory Holt?
Answer: Hines Ward is best remembered as the best blocking receiver ever and Tory Holt’s prime felt too short compared to other receivers
Question: What about Stanley Morgan? Why is he not on this list?
Answer: Only three 1,000 yard receiving seasons and only two years where he had more than 50 catches. He was an amazing deep threat who a part from 1985 played on some mediocre Patriots teams.
j mic on August 18, 2020:
hendricks, branch, dalby, and ray guy played in all 3 sb's
MWGooch on July 20, 2020:
It's criminal that Drew Pearson is not in HOF, only member of 70's ALL DECADE team not in hall. He was to cowboys what Swan and Stallworth were to Steelers. He's long over do!!!
Rodney Hemman on April 19, 2019:
Henry Ellard was one of the greatest route runner in league history. To amass the yards the he did without having a great QB throwing him the ball is insain. At the time of his retirement he 4th on receiving yards all time list. If the man played today he would be pushing the 18k yards mark.
Nate on February 10, 2019:
Sterling was the best by far, he is pretty much the gale sayers of wide receivers...Mr. Sharpe should be in..
Mistachill on October 27, 2018:
Clif Branch is by far the most deserving receiver not in the hall. In almost every big moment Raider highlight Clif Branch is in it somewhere. Remember the famous Marcus Allen super bowl run? Who was the receiver who came up from behind to help spring Allen for the last 25-30 yards of that run and ensure the TD? Clif Branch!
I'm also glad somewhere is acknowledging Gary Clark because I've felt that way for a while. I think he's MORE deserving than Monk. Monk move the chains, but Clark was the guy making the big plays.
David w Clark on August 31, 2018:
I think Otis Taylor deserve to be in the hall of fame because of what he did in the afl
Raider1156 on August 17, 2018:
Branch did what he was paid too do, and he did it to perfection! Most feared deep treat in the league of his time. Didn't have to catch a lot of passes when you got Fred Biletnikoff (who's a hof) on the other end, and Dave Casper(also a hof) at tight end. Lynn Swan is in, and other than winning one more SB than Branch; Branch had better career numbers than Swan and Biletnikoff! And Bob Hayes an hof mer.
Gary Ballas on March 11, 2018:
Another consideration could be the legally blind in 1 eye, world class sprinter of the Jets, Wesley Walker.
He had a 12 yr career, and some great numbers in the late 70s to mid 80s
Gary Ballas on March 11, 2018:
These were all great wide receivers, many of their numbers are better than HOF inductees. They all deserve to be in the HOF, they all had careers deserving of induction.
The great Stanley Morgan of New England deserves inducted as well. Roy "Jetstream" Green, deserves consideration.
Ray73 on February 13, 2018:
i say all of them belong in the hall of fame ..........
kman kiser on February 10, 2018:
Henry Ellard's over 13,000 receiving yards should be enough to get him the hall. That he is not in is a joke and insult to both Rams and Redskins fans.
Noel on November 23, 2017:
Please Stanley Morgan "the Steamer" should be in
Jody on October 13, 2017:
Shannon Sharpe is already in the Hall of Fame but Sterling should definitely be in
Clyde Z on September 18, 2017:
Shannon Sharpe is or should be a no brainer
david rentie on September 13, 2017:
All of the guys above had to fight their way down the field, until the ball was in the air. Don't think guys today would last one series with yesterdays game.
Kevin Goodwin on August 14, 2015:
Shannon Sharpe should be in the Hall of Fame no doubt.
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on May 16, 2015:
Due to recent passing trends, there is a logjam of receivers deserving of the Hall that haven't got in.