Greatest Wide Receivers in College Football History
The forward pass in football started in the early 1900s and has evolved ever since then. Today, few plays in the game are as exciting as seeing the ball fly through the air and land in the hands of a fast wide receiver.
In college football, that means some of the greatest plays of all time. From small schools to big schools to all the ones in between, these are the best college football wide receivers ever, ranked by most career receiving yards.
30. Rashad Greene
High school: St. Thomas Aquinas High School (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
College: Florida State
Receiving stats: 3,830 receiving yards, 270 receptions, 30 TD
NFL career: Jacksonville Jaguars (2015-18)
Bottom line: Rashad Greene showed signs of greatness early at Florida State. He was named MVP of the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl at the end of his freshman year and caught 95 passes for 1,337 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first two seasons.
Greene blew up as a junior. He led the Seminoles with 76 receptions and 1,128 receiving yards and had nine receptions for 147 yards in the BCS championship game win over Auburn.
After catching 99 passes for 1,365 yards as a senior, he was drafted in the fifth round (139th overall) of the 2015 NFL draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He played 25 games in the NFL over four seasons and caught 30 passes.
*Only Division I FBS players were considered for these rankings, and all statistics are from Sports Reference.
29. Roy Williams
High school: Permian High School (Odessa, Texas)
Receiving stats: 3,866 receiving yards, 241 receptions, 39 TD
NFL career: Detroit Lions (2004-08), Dallas Cowboys (2008-10), Chicago Bears (2011)
Bottom line: Perhaps the most legendary wide receiver in University of Texas history, Roy Williams earned the nickname "The Legend." He left school with career records for receiving yards, receptions and receiving touchdowns.
Williams wasn't the first great wide receiver in his family either. His older brother, Lloyd Hill, left Texas Tech as the school's career receptions leader and led the NCAA in receptions in 1992.
Another fun fact? Williams is arguably the greatest player to ever come out of Odessa Permian High — the school made famous in the non-fiction book "Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, A Dream," by Buzz Bissinger.
28. Josh Davis
High school: York Comprehensive High School (York, South Carolina)
Receiving stats: 3,889 receiving yards, 306 receptions, 25 TD
NFL career: Miami Dolphins (2005), New Orleans Saints (2005-06), Minnesota Vikings (2006), Carolina Panthers (2007)
Bottom line: Josh Davis was a high school track and football star at York Comprehensive High in South Carolina before heading to Marshall University. There, he continued the long history of great wide receivers and followed in the footsteps of Randy Moss before him.
Davis set the NCAA freshman record for single-season receptions and finished his career No. 2 on the NCAA career receptions list with 306. Then, he played three seasons in the NFL.
27. Jason Rivers
High school: Saint Louis School (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Receiving stats: 3,919 receiving yards, 292 receptions, 35 TD
NFL career: None
Bottom line: Honolulu native Jason Rivers showed up at the University of Hawaii at the exact right time — right when quarterback Colt Brennan transferred from the University of Colorado.
Rivers was one of Brennan's favorite targets throughout his career and is still in the top three for Hawaii in career receiving yards, receptions and touchdowns.
Rivers went undrafted and spent one season on the Tennessee Titans practice squad in 2008.
26. Mike Hass
High school: Jesuit High School (Beaverton, Oregon)
College: Oregon State
Receiving stats: 3,924 receiving yards, 220 receptions, 20 TD
NFL career: Chicago Bears (2006-08), Seattle Seahawks (2009)
Bottom line: Mike Hass went from a lightly regarded walk-on from Portland's Jesuit High to putting his name alongside the greatest wide receivers in Oregon State history, alongside players like Chad Ochocinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
What's truly amazing about Hass being on this list is he didn't even catch a pass as a freshman in 2002. He played exclusively on special teams, then reeled off three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, before playing four seasons in the NFL.
25. Derek Hagan
High school: Palmdale High School (Palmdale, California)
College: Arizona State
Receiving stats: 3,939 receiving yards, 258 receptions, 27 TD
NFL career: Miami Dolphins (2006-08), New York Giants (2008-10), Oakland Raiders (2011, 2012), Buffalo Bills (2011), Tennessee Titans (2014)
Bottom line: Derek Hagan played high school football at Palmdale High in Palmdale, California, with another future NFL player, safety Tyrone Culver, before setting records at Arizona State.
Hagan had over 1,000 receiving yards in each of his last three seasons with the Sun Devils and was a three-time All-American. But his draft stock fell precipitously following a poor performance at the Senior Bowl.
Hagan ended up a third-round pick in 2006 and played nine seasons in the NFL for six teams.
24. James Proche
High school: DeSoto High School (DeSoto, Texas)
Receiving stats: 3,949 receiving yards, 301 receptions, 39 TD
NFL career: Baltimore Ravens (2020-present)
Bottom line: Dallas native James Proche stayed home for college and became the greatest wide receiver in SMU history.
Proche increased his receiving yards all four seasons in college, capped by leading the nation with 112 receptions and 1,255 receiving yards as a senior in 2019, the second of back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
Proche was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round in 2020.
23. DeVonta Smith
High school: Amite High School (Amite City, Louisiana)
Receiving stats: 3,965 receiving yards, 235 receptions, 46 TD
NFL career: Philadelphia Eagles (2021-present)
Bottom line: However you want to determine the greatest college football wide receivers of all time — by stats, subjectively or any other way — DeVonta Smith is going to make the cut.
In 2020, Smith became the first wide receiver since Tim Brown in 1987 to win the Heisman Trophy, but no catch in his career would ever be bigger than his only reception in the 2017 CFP national championship game — a 41-yard touchdown to beat Georgia in overtime.
He was taken No. 10 overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2021 NFL draft.
22. Troy Walters
High school: A&M Consolidated High School (College Station, Texas)
Receiving stats: 3,986 receiving yards, 244 receptions, 26 TD (no bowl statistics)
NFL career: Minnesota Vikings (2000-01), Indianapolis Colts (2002-05), Arizona Cardinals (2006), Detroit Lions (2007)
Bottom line: One of just a handful of players from an "older" era to make the list, Troy Walters was a dynamo at Stanford.
He capped things off as a senior in 1999 by leading the Cardinal to the Rose Bowl, winning the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top wide receiver and being named a consensus All-American.
Despite being only 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, Walters played eight seasons in the NFL, where he finished his career with almost 5,000 all-purpose yards as a wide receiver/return specialist.
21. Kendall Wright
High school: Pittsburg High School (Pittsburg, Texas)
Receiving stats: 4,004 receiving yards, 302 receptions, 32 TD
NFL career: Tennessee Titans (2012-16), Chicago Bears (2017), Arizona Cardinals (2018)
Bottom line: Kendall Wright wasn't especially big or especially fast, but what he did have at his disposal was one of the greatest offensive minds of all time in former Baylor head coach Art Briles.
Wright also had the luck of playing his senior season with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III and becoming his favorite target.
As a senior in 2011, Wright put up video game numbers with 108 catches for 1,663 receiving yards.
20. Darius Watts
High school: Banneker High School (College Park, Georgia)
Receiving stats: 4,031 receiving yards, 272 receptions, 47 TD
NFL career: Denver Broncos (2004-05), New York Giants (2006)
Bottom line: Darius Watts played three seasons alongside Josh Davis in Marshall's great wide receiver corps, and both players ended up among the NCAA career leaders in receiving yardage.
One thing Watts did better than almost anyone who ever played college football was collect touchdown receptions, and he finished his career No. 2 in NCAA history with 47 receiving touchdowns.
Watts played three seasons in the NFL and one season in the Arena Football League, where he won a championship with the Philadelphia Soul in 2008.
19. Jarett Dillard
High school: Houston High School (San Antonio, Texas)
Receiving stats: 4,138 receiving yards, 292 receptions, 60 TD
NFL career: Jacksonville Jaguars (2009-11)
Bottom line: We aren't saying Jarett Dillard's NCAA record of 60 receiving touchdowns won't ever be broken. We just think it's going to be a really, really long time before it is.
Dillard and quarterback Chase Clement connected 51 times for touchdowns. That is tied for the NCAA record for most touchdown passes between a quarterback-wide receiver duo with Western Michigan's Zach Terrell and Corey Davis.
Following three seasons in the NFL, Dillard went to law school and works as a lawyer in Texas.
18. Trent Taylor
High school: Evangel Christian Academy (Shreveport, Louisiana)
College: Louisiana Tech
Receiving stats: 4,179 receiving yards, 327 receptions, 32 TD
NFL career: San Francisco 49ers (2017-20), Cincinnati Bengals (2021-present)
Bottom line: Before racking up more receiving yards than almost any player in college football history, Trent Taylor was a star at powerhouse Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport, Louisiana. He finished his high school career with 106 receptions for 1,650 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Taylor is just 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, but he increased his receiving yards steadily over his first three seasons. Then, he blew the top off as a senior in 2016, with 136 receptions for 1,803 yards.
Taylor played four seasons for the San Francisco 49ers and was signed to the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad in 2021.
17. Jordan White
High school: North Ridgeville High School (North Ridgeville, Ohio)
College: Western Michigan
Receiving stats: 4,187 receiving yards, 306 receptions, 32 TD
NFL career: New York Jets (2012)
Bottom line: Jordan White isn't the only Western Michigan wide receiver to make this list (spoiler alert), but he's the poster child for what can be done when the NCAA grants a player their sixth year of eligibility.
After White was granted an extra season in 2011 — he redshirted in 2006 and missed all of 2008 with injury — he made the most of it by leading the NCAA with 140 receptions for 1,911 receiving yards.
16. Taywan Taylor
High school: Pleasure Ridge Park High School (Louisville, Kentucky)
College: Western Kentucky
Receiving stats: 4,234 receiving yards, 253 receptions, 41 TD
NFL career: Tennessee Titans (2017-18), Cleveland Browns (2019-20)
Bottom line: Taywan Taylor was a two-time first-team All-Conference USA selection for Western Kentucky and had over 1,400 receiving yards each of his last two seasons, both setting and breaking his own school records each time.
Taylor, at 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, showed out at the NFL combine and worked his way from being projected as a late-round pick or undrafted free agent to being selected by the Tennessee Titans in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft.
15. Geoff Noisy
High school: Hart High School (Newhall, California)
Receiving stats: 4,249 receiving yards, 295 receptions, 21 TD (no bowl statistics)
NFL career: None
Bottom line: Geoff Noisy was a three-time All-Big West Conference selection and ended his career with the Division I career receptions record. Twenty-three years later, he's still in the top 10 for receptions.
Noisy likely would have broken Jerry Rice's all-time, all-division mark of 301 receptions had he not been slowed by a hamstring injury over his final three games. Noisy's career overlapped by three seasons with another Nevada receiving legend, Trevor Insley.
14. Terance Mathis
High school: Redan High School (Redan, Georgia)
College: New Mexico
Receiving stats: 4,254 receiving yards, 263 receptions, 36 TD (no bowl statistics)
NFL career: New York Jets (1990-93), Atlanta Falcons (1994-2001), Pittsburgh Steelers (2002)
Bottom line: No player has stayed on this list longer than the University of New Mexico's Terance Mathis, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound dynamo who became the first consensus All-American in New Mexico history in 1989.
Mathis didn't just put New Mexico on his back by catching passes. He also racked up over 2,000 extra all-purpose yards on kick returns and punt returns.
Mathis was picked by the New York Jets in the sixth round of the 1990 NFL draft and played 13 seasons in the NFL, where he was an All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection in 1994.
13. Zay Jones
High school: Stephen F. Austin High School (Austin, Texas)
College: East Carolina
Receiving stats: 4,279 receiving yards, 399 receptions, 23 TD
NFL career: Buffalo Bills (2017-19), Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders (2019-21), Jacksonville Jaguars (2021-present)
Bottom line: Zay Jones grew up with the mindset he was going to be great at football. His father, Robert Jones, was an NFL linebacker for 10 seasons, and his uncle, Jeff Blake, was an NFL quarterback for 14 seasons.
Jones saved the best for last during his college career at East Carolina, when he set the NCAA single-season receptions record with 158 catches in 2016 and broke former ECU teammate Justin Hardy's NCAA career receptions record.
11. Aaron Turner (Tie)
Receiving stats: 4,345 receiving yards, 266 receptions, 43 TD (no bowl statistics)
NFL career: None
Bottom line: The only player on this list who played college football for a team that no longer exists is Aaron Turner, who led the NCAA in receiving yards in 1991 with 1,604 yards. That was just four years before the University of Pacific shuttered its program.
Turner led the Big West Conference in receiving yards for three consecutive seasons from 1990 to 1992. He had over 1,000 receiving yards each of those seasons and just 306 receiving yards as a freshman.
11. Greg Salas (Tie)
High school: Chino High School (Chino, California)
Receiving stats: 4,345 receiving yards, 285 receptions, 26 TD
NFL career: St. Louis Rams (2011), New England Patriots (2012), Philadelphia Eagles (2012-13), New York Jets (2013-14), Buffalo Bills (2015-16)
Bottom line: Greg Salas came from Chino, California, to the beautiful shores of Honolulu to rewrite the record books at the University of Hawaii, where he helped lead the program to WAC championships in 2007 and 2010.
When Salas switched to the slot receiver position in 2009, he finished third in the nation with 1,590 receiving yards. He led the nation with 1,889 receiving yards as a senior in 2010 and was named MVP of the Hawaii Bowl.
10. Troy Edwards
High school: Huntington High School (Shreveport, Louisiana)
College: Louisiana Tech
Receiving stats: 4,352 receiving yards, 280 receptions, 56 TD (no bowl statistics)
NFL career: Pittsburgh Steelers (1999-2001), St. Louis Rams (2002), Jacksonville Jaguars (2003-04), Detroit Lions (2005)
Bottom line: Few players can point to a jumping-off point in their careers like Louisiana Tech wide receiver Troy Edwards. He flipped the nation on its head in the 1998 season opener at the University of Nebraska, when he lit up the defending national champion Cornhuskers for 405 receiving yards on 21 receptions.
Edwards set the Division I single-season record with 27 touchdown receptions in 1998, and his career touchdown receptions record stood for over a decade until it was broken by Rice's Jarret Dillard.
Edwards won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's best wide receiver in 1998, was selected No. 13 overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1999 NFL draft and played seven seasons in the NFL.
9. Ryan Yarborough
High school: Rich East High School (Park Forest, Illinois)
Receiving stats: 4,374 receiving yards, 229 receptions, 42 TD
NFL career: New York Jets (1994-95), Green Bay Packers (1996-97), Baltimore Ravens (1997-98)
Bottom line: Ryan Yarborough was a highlight waiting to happen for the University of Wyoming in the early 1990s, and his record of 27 games with a touchdown reception stood for over 20 years until it was broken by Rice's Jarret Dillard.
Yarborough was a two-time All-American at Wyoming and a second-round draft pick by the New York Jets in 1994. He played five seasons in the NFL but only had career totals of 44 receptions for 494 yards and three touchdowns.
8. Rashaun Woods
High school: Millwood High School (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
College: Oklahoma State
Receiving stats: 4,414 receiving yards, 293 receptions, 42 TD
NFL career: San Francisco 49ers (2004-05)
Bottom line: Rashaun Woods is one link in the tradition of great wide receivers at Oklahoma State, where the Oklahoma City native came from nearby Millwood High to become a two-time All-American for the Cowboys.
Woods still holds the NCAA record for most touchdown receptions in a game when he caught seven touchdown passes (all from Josh Fields) against SMU in 2003.
He was also the first of three siblings to play for Oklahoma State, with brothers Donovan and D'Juan following in his footsteps.
7. James Washington
High school: Stamford High School (Stamford, Texas)
College: Oklahoma State
Receiving stats: 4,472 receiving yards, 226 receptions, 39 TD
NFL career: Pittsburgh Steelers (2018-21), Dallas Cowboys (2022), New York Giants (2022), New Orleans Saints (2023-present)
Bottom line: James Washington went from being a four-sport star in football, tennis, basketball and track to a three-time All-Big 12 pick at Oklahoma State with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to cap off his career.
Washington's best season was his final one, when he had 74 receptions for 1,549 receiving yards. He was named an All-American and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top wide receiver.
Washington was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft and had a career-high 735 receiving yards in 2019.
6. Patrick Edwards
High school: Hearne High School (Hearne, Texas)
Receiving stats: 4,507 receiving yards, 291 receptions, 43 TD
NFL career: Detroit Lions (2012-14)
Bottom line: One of the smaller college football players at just 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, Patrick Edwards entered the University of Houston as a walk-on before going on to become the greatest wide receiver in school history.
Edwards' career almost never got to take off. He suffered a compound fracture to his leg in 2008 when officials at Marshall University left a motorized cart outside of a boundary, and Edwards ran into it.
He bounced back and became the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year in 2011 and played three seasons in the NFL for the Detroit Lions.
5. Marcus Harris
High school: Brooklyn Center High School (Brooklyn Center, Minnesota)
Receiving stats: 4,518 receiving yards, 259 receptions, 38 TD (no bowl statistics)
NFL career: None
Bottom line: Marcus Harris is one of two wide receivers from the 1990s to make the NCAA top 10 career receiving yards list alongside former teammate Ryan Yarborough, although it was Harris who won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top wide receiver in 1996.
In that Biletnikoff Award season, Harris had 109 receptions for 1,650 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. He was drafted by the New York Jets in the seventh round, but that's where his career ended.
To this day, he's the only Biletnikoff winner never to play in an NFL game.
4. Justin Hardy
High school: West Craven High School (Vanceboro, North Carolina)
College: East Carolina
Receiving stats: 4,541 receiving yards, 387 receptions, 36 TD
NFL career: Atlanta Falcons (2015-19)
Bottom line: East Carolina put two receivers on the NCAA's top 15 of all time in receiving yards with Justin Hardy and Zay Jones. They were teammates for two seasons, and Jones eventually broke Hardy's NCAA career receptions record.
Hardy is one of several players on this list who began his career as a walk-on. But he turned himself into an NFL draft pick and played five seasons for the Atlanta Falcons after they selected him in the fourth round in 2015.
3. Ryan Broyles
High school: Norman High School (Norman, Oklahoma)
Receiving stats: 4,586 receiving yards, 349 receptions, 45 TD
NFL career: Detroit Lions (2012-14)
Bottom line: One of the smaller players on this list at just 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Ryan Broyles was a two-time consensus All-American at the University of Oklahoma and set the FBS career receptions record as a senior in 2011.
Broyles missed the final four games of his senior season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament. Had Broyles kept going or stayed a little ahead of the pace he was on in 2011 for the final four games (128.5 receiving yards per game), there's a possibility he would have had a shot at the NCAA receiving yards record.
2. Trevor Insley
High school: San Clemente High School (San Clemente, California)
Receiving stats: 5,005 receiving yards, 298 receptions, 35 TD
NFL career: Indianapolis Colts (2001)
Bottom line: Trevor Insley's NCAA receiving yardage record stood for almost 20 years until it was broken by Western Michigan's Corey Davis in 2016. Insley still has the record for most games with at least 200 yards receiving with six.
Insley also remains No. 3 on the NCAA career receptions list and caught his only NFL touchdown pass from Peyton Manning in 2001.
He played one season in the Canadian Football League before becoming a professional motocross racer, where he was part of the team that won the Baja 1000 in 2011.
1. Corey Davis
High school: Warrenville South High School (Wheaton, Illinois)
College: Western Michigan
Receiving stats: 5,278 receiving yards, 332 receptions, 32 TD
NFL career: Tennessee Titans (2017-20), New York Jets (2021-present)
Bottom line: Academic struggles in high school limited Division I opportunities for Corey Davis, but when he finally qualified, Western Michigan was still there waiting for him as his lone scholarship offer.
Under the tutelage of head coach P.J. Fleck — a former wide receiver himself and now the head coach at Minnesota — Davis had 941 receiving yards as a freshman. He then reeled off three consecutive 1,000-plus yard seasons, capped by 97 receptions for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior.
Davis became the highest drafted player out of Western Michigan in 2017, when the Tennessee Titans selected him No. 5 overall.