As sports fans, we all have our favorite players. The ones who helped us to fall in love with the game. A lot of times the debate is “who is the Mount Rushmore of blank”. It’s easy to talk about the players of old who helped mold the game. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, Walter Payton and Jim Brown, but honestly, if you were born in the mid to late 90s, you just don’t understand their greatness as much as those who watched it.
As is with most things, you won’t change the opinion of people set in their ways, sports fans included. So, let’s make our own Millenial Mount Rushmore shall we? The only way to make this list is not only the performance of your game, but how the story of football will be told after you leave. Here are your best Wide Receivers of the 2000s.
Millennial Mountain: Wide Receiver Mount Rushmore
Antonio Brown, 2010-2021 (Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
The unfortunate part of Antonio Brown’s legacy is that he likely will be remembered more for his off-the-field nonsense than how truly dominant he was on the field.
For those that don’t remember, you’re in for a treat. Brown had a run from 2013-2018 where he had 1,270+ yards receiving in each season while also having 10+ touchdowns in all but one of those years. What is also impressive is his five career kickoff returns, which is currently fifth all time.
He was a key part in the Tampa Bay Super Bowl that fellow Millenial Mountain player Tom Brady helped put together. In fact, in that Super Bowl, Brown caught a touchdown. So, while it is easy to look down on Brown the person — and one wouldn’t blame you — let’s not forget that he was easily one of the best players of the 2000s.
Terrell Owens, 1996-2010 (San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals)
You may be noticing a trend here that sometimes the most gifted of receivers comes with a sprinkle of drama. While Terrell Owens‘ wasn’t criminal in nature, it was distracting. Whether he was arguing with quarterback Donovan McNabb, or doing push-ups for the media in his driveway, there always seemed to be something going on.
Again, we cannot look at this and be biased. We must look at the stats, and boy oh boy were Owens’ stats good. Some of the mind-boggling records that Owens holds include being the only player with a 150-yard receivding game with five teams, oldest player ever to accumulate 200 yards from scrimmage in a game (36), and 11 consecutive seasons with at least six touchdown catches.
It’s more than just the outright records though. He had three season where he averaged a touchdown per game (2001, 2004, and 2007), as well as being third all-time in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. What makes him stand out was that it didn’t seem to matter who the quarterback was. Whether it was Jeff Garcia, Carson Palmer, or Tony Romo (whom he cried defending), one thing was certain. Terrell Owens was getting the ball and there was nothing teams could do to stop him.
Get your popcorn ready when you watch the highlights!
Calvin Johnson, 2007-2015 (Detroit Lions)
Arguably the greatest physical specimen of his position, Calvin Johnson was a unique combination of size and speed. Standing at 6’4″, 239 LBs, Johnson ran a 4.35 second 40-yard dash and was just the second player ever to run a 40 that fast at that height.
With measurables like that, the stats surely will follow, and boy did they! Johnson had a nine-year career and had seven 1,000+ yard seasons. In one of those two he failed to eclipse 1,000, he had 987. In 2012, he had one of the best years ever recorded by a receiver. He had 122 receptions for 1,964 yards (an NFL record) and five touchdowns.
Johnson finished his career with 11,619 yards and 84 touchdowns. He was a three-time first team all-pro and he holds nine NFL records including the most receiving yards in a game in regulation (329) and most consecutive games with 10+ receptions (four). He doesn’t have the team accolades and retired earlier than most people hoped he would, but there’s no doubt that peak Calvin Johnson could be stacked up against any NFL wide receiver and have a good case.
READ MORE: Millennial Mountain of Running Backs
Randy Moss, 1998-2012 (Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers)
Lastly, we have the second-best receiver of all time who was no stranger to the bright lights and controversial moments. Early Randy Moss was considered an immense talent that had off-the-field concerns that were always in the back of the minds of his coaches.
There was no doubt, however, that when Moss was on the field, he was the best player on either team. In his rookie year, Moss won Rookie of the Year honors with a record-breaking 17 touchdowns and 1,300+ yards.
Moss steadily progressed as a talented receiver in Minnesota, leading the NFL in touchdowns three times in his seven years, but after some injuries and not-so-good celebration antics that nearly caused Joe Buck to have a coronary on national television, Moss was eventually traded to the Raiders where he put up very pedestrian stats. He was then acquired by the Patriots for a fourth round pick.
This was a move that most NFL fans remember as the turning point in his great career. In his first three years with the Patriots, he had 3,765 yards and 47 touchdowns, including an NFL record 23 receiving touchdown year! Randy Moss has a litany of records and accomplishments that may never be replicated. For this and many more reasons too long to document in this article, he is our #1 receiver of the 2000s.
Main Image: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY