Top Five Greatest Wide Receivers In New England Patriots History

Who is the greatest wide receiver in Patriots history?


Oct 31, 2022

The history of the New England Patriots is made up of all-time talent.

Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback who ever lived. Rob Gronkowski had the most dominant stretch the NFL has ever seen out of a tight end. Sports Illustrated proclaimed John Hannah the “Greatest Offensive Lineman of All Time” halfway through his playing career. But one position in which the Patriots have been truly unique is wide receiver.

Take a look at any leaderboard from any season and the top-tier of wide receivers are usually cut from the same cloth. Big, vertical threats who make plays down the field. There have been a few of those guys in New England, but the true greats have been different. This list will be unlike similar ones from different teams, because slot receivers often occupied the biggest role in the Patriots offense over their two-decade-long run to kickoff the 21st century. Those players, along with a couple playmakers from the outside, are what being a Patriots wide receiver is all about.

Here are the absolute best.

5. Randy Moss (2007-2010)
Randy Moss’ introductory season in New England was good enough to have him make this list, as the NFL’s greatest deep threat ever put forth the greatest season ever by a wide receiver in his first year in a Patriots uniform.

The Hall of Fame wideout had 98 catches, 1,493 yards and an NFL-record 23 touchdown receptions in 2007, forming the best single-season quarterback-wide receiver duo the NFL has ever seen. He would go on to finish with 271 catches for 4,045 yards and 51 touchdowns across 56 regular and postseason games in New England. The only thing keeping him back from a higher place is the lack of team success he had with the Patriots. After going 16-0 in the regular season in 2007, New England lost the Super Bowl, then missed the playoffs following Brady’s injury in 2008, while losing in the wild-card round in 2009. Four games into 2010, he was shipped off to Minnesota.

4. Wes Welker (2007-2012)
Wes Welker may not be the best receiver in Patriots history, but he was certainly the most consistent.

Arriving to New England as a seldom-used wideout who made his name on special teams, Welker exploded alongside Moss and Brady in 2007 to the tune of 112 catches for 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns. Over the next five seasons he would surpass the 100-catch mark four more times, make five Pro-Bowls and earn two All-Pro selections. During his six-year Patriots tenure, no one in the NFL had more catches or yards than the 5-foot-9 wide receiver.

In an era of Patriots football that saw Bill Belichick break down and rebuild his roster, Welker was New England’s best player not named Brady. He even imparted some wisdom on another entry on this list.

3. Troy Brown (1993-2007)
Speaking of great slot receivers, let’s throw it back to the original.

You could say roughly 1,000,000 things about Brown’s career in New England that earn him a spot on the list. He arrived as a special teamer who was cut before ever taking a snap. He then molded himself into a solid wide receiver, before becoming the blueprint in the slot for so many throughout Belichick’s tenure. He was a Pro-Bowl wideout and return man, he authored some of the great forgotten plays in Patriots history and, most importantly, was reliable.

If the Patriots needed a big play on special teams, Brown was there. If they needed someone to fill in at defensive back in a season where they were decimated by injuries, Brown was there. When they desperately needed help coaching up wide receivers, Brown wasn’t there, but he returned. All in all, the three-time Super Bowl champion was a renaissance man, finishing his 15-year career with 557 catches for 6,366 yards and 31 touchdowns at wide receiver, 4,487 yards and three touchdowns as a returner and three interceptions as an emergency cornerback.

2. Stanley Morgan (1977-1989)
The first 40 years of Patriots history is often forgotten. But, before Belichick came around in 2000, there was actually a team in New England that had some halfway decent football players.

Stanley Morgan was among the best.

Morgan revolutionized what it meant to be a weapon in the Patriots offense, becoming New England’s first true big-play threat. Taking a look at his year-by-year numbers is confusing at first, as he only eclipsed the 50-catch mark twice in his 13 seasons as a Patriot, but the four-time Pro-Bowler put up over 1,000 yards three times and averages 22.5 yards per reception in his first six seasons. Without Morgan, the Patriots don’t make their first Super Bowl in 1985 and things could look a lot different for the boys in Foxboro. The Patriots Hall of Famer still leads the franchise with 10,352 career receiving yards.

1. Julian Edelman (2009-2020)
This was a no brainer for one reason. No wide receiver has contributed to the Patriots’ success more than Julian Edelman.

The king of big moments, Edelman caught the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLIX, saved the Patriots’ comeback attempt with an insane catch in Super Bowl LI and dominated the Los Angeles Rams to take home Super Bowl LIII MVP. Those three moments are some of the greatest in franchise history, and they came off the back of a former college QB who clawed his way onto New England’s roster through special teams, developed a rapport with Brady and showed off a mentality that few have possessed before or after his playing days.

When the three-time champion’s career came to an untimely end in 2020, no one but Jerry Rice had more postseason career receiving yards and no one but Welker had more receptions as a Patriot. He was undoubtedly the most clutch, most passionate and best wide receiver in Patriots history.

Honorable Mention: Irving Fryar (1984-1992), Deion Branch (2002-2005; 2010-2012), Vincent Brisby (1993-1999), Danny Amendola (2013-2017)

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
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