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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / The 5 Most Underrated Wide Receivers in NFL History

The 5 Most Underrated Wide Receivers in NFL History

Five who don't get enough credit
Publish Date: 08/02/2020
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis
Source: Bengals.com

5) Warren Wells, Oakland Raiders

While with the Raiders, and with mostly Daryle Lamonica as his quarterback, he was one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the history of the league, finishing with over 20 yards per catch in all four seasons. In 1969, he led the AFL in yards received (1,260), yards per catch (a whopping 26.8), and touchdowns (14). He also led the AFL in touchdowns in 1968 (11), as well as finishing 4th in yards received (1,137). He was an AFL All-Star in 1968 and an AFC-NFC All-Pro in 1970. Wells held the career NFL record in yards per catch (23.1) up to the date of a change in NFL guidelines, currently a minimum 200 career receptions, Wells falling short at 158. Wells’ career ended after just four years because of a myriad of legal problems. Wells was a shooting star across the NFL for a brief time, but in that brief time what he accomplished was truly amazing.

4) Harold Carmichael, Philadelphia Eagles

Carmichael ended his career with 590 receptions for 8,985 yards with 79 career touchdown catches. He currently ranks 25th all-time in career touchdown receptions, but he was 7th all-time at the time of his retirement. He retired as the Eagles’ all-time leader in pass receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, and total touchdowns (79), with all four records still standing as of early 2017. He also holds Eagles post-season records for receiving yards (465), TDs (6), yards per reception (16.0), and yards per game (66.4). He and Brent Celek are the only Eagles with 3 TDs in a single post-season (1979), and he is one of four players with 2 TDs in a single post-season game. He holds the Eagles record for most games with a touchdown for both the regular season (69) and playoffs (5, shared with Duce Staley and Brian Westbrook). At 6 foot 8 inches, he is believed to be the tallest wide receiver in the history of the NFL. He also was elected to four Pro Bowls in his NFL career, and led the league in receptions and receiving yards during the 1973 season. He finished third in receiving yards in 1978 with 1,072 and was second in receiving touchdowns in 1979 with 11. Carmichael was selected to the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team by voters of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

3) Jimmy Smith, Jacksonville Jaguars

Jimmy Smith ranks third all-time (9) for seasons with 1,000+ yards (one of which came from passes thrown by Byron Leftwich, not exactly Joe Montana), but there will never be a discussion about Jimmy Smith’s eligibility for the Hall of Fame. If he were in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Dallas, Green Bay, or some other more popular franchise, he would be in the conversation. Hines Ward made it, despite starting for one season more than Smith and having caught passes amounting for fewer yards (and THREE fewer 1,000-yard seasons). Smith was an outstanding receiver who does not get the respect he deserves.

2) Isaac Curtis, Cincinnati Bengals

Isaac Curtis made the starting lineup as a rookie and had a superb season, recording 45 receptions for 843 yards, an average of 18.7 yards per catch, and nine touchdowns. In his second season, he caught 30 passes for 630 yards (a 21.1 yard-per-catch average) and a career-best 10 touchdowns. His most productive season was his third in 1975, when he caught 44 passes for 934 yards for a league-leading and career-best 21.2 yard-per-catch average, along with scoring seven touchdowns.[4] He had another big year in 1976, with 41 receptions for 766 yards and six touchdowns, including a career-long 85-yard touchdown reception. In 1977, he was limited by injury to 20 catches in eight games but bounced back in 1978 with a career-best 47 receptions along with 737 yards and three touchdowns.

Curtis was a Pro Bowl selection four times (1973–1976) and was selected 2nd Team All-Pro for three consecutive seasons (1974–1976). Curtis helped lead the Bengals to a Super Bowl appearance in the 1981 season and had a solid performance in Super Bowl XVI, catching three passes for 42 yards. Years after his retirement, his quarterback Ken Anderson said that Isaac Curtis was “The Jerry Rice before Jerry Rice”. In his 12 NFL seasons, Curtis totaled 416 receptions for 7,101 yards and 53 touchdowns.His 17.1 yards per catch average is a Bengals record and his 7,101 receiving yards was a franchise record until broken by Chad Johnson on September 16, 2007. His 53 touchdown receptions were a Bengals record until surpassed by Carl Pickens in the late 1990s.

1) Don Hutson, Green Bay Packers

Hutson pretty much invented the modern route tree and held virtually every receiving record when he retired (in 1945). Some of his accomplishments include: 2-time league MVP, 99 career TD’s (record stood for an amazing 44 years), 18 TD’s in a season (stood for 42 years; was broken by Mark Clayton when Marino had 32 more COMPLETIONS than the 1942 Packers had ATTEMPTS), 3 time NFL champion, 1st receiver with 50+ catches in a season, 1st receiver with 1000+ yards in a season, led NFL in receptions 8 times, led NFL in receiving yards 7 times, led NFL in total scoring 5 times, still has the highest career TD’s/game for a WR, and also played kicker, where he led the NFL in FGs made and safety, where he had 8 ints in 10 games (both in 1943). Oh, and he’s a member of the Green Bay Hall of Fame and NFL Hall of Fame. Remember, back in the ’40s, rules were much different today and pass interference was very rarely called. The problem is because of the era he played in, countless NFL fans don’t even know his name.

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