Citing the 30-year period of 1982-2012, FOX Sports South breaks down the NFL's 25 best receivers (with ties) heading into their respective third seasons -- a highly subjective countdown that leans slightly toward the latter years, given the proliferation of up-tempo passing attacks over the last decade or so. That aside, there's still no denying the prodigious numbers set by stars from the 1980s and 1990s, like Sterling Sharpe and the amazing Jerry Rice. Honorable Mentions: Anquan Boldin, Greg Jennings, Rod Gardner, Koren Robinson, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Braylon Edwards, Kendall Wright, Terry Glenn, David Boston, Wayne Chrebet, Michael Irvin, Santonio Holmes and all-everything jitterbug Eric Metcalf. (Photos: Assorted Images ... Bob Donnan/Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)
Willie Gault, Bears (1983-84)
RANKING: 25 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 74 catches, 1,423 yards, 14 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) Let's open this new-school countdown with a pair of old-school picks from the early 1980s. 2) Gault (left) was a very good football player ... who just happened to have world-class speed. 3) For Games 3-5 of his rookie season, Gault cumulatively collected 12 catches, 331 yards and -- count 'em -- six touchdowns! 4)The Bears, led by coach Mike Ditka (right) were primarily a running team in Gault's first season, with Hall of Famer Walter Payton accounting for 2,028 total yards (1,421 rushing) and eight TDs. 5) Gault racked up high-quality numbers for that two-year period, without the benefit of seven-plus catches in a single game. (Photo: Assorted Images)
Mike Quick, Eagles (1982-83)
RANKING: 25A ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 79 Catches, 1,565 Yards, 14 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) Check out Quick's scintillating numbers from his second season (1983) -- 68 catches, 1,409 yards and 13 TDs. That's in the Jerry Rice class of Year 2 dynamos. 2) From a fantasy perspective, Quick crossed the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 95 yards and/or one touchdown a staggering 14 times in 1983. His quarterback at the time: Ron Jaworski (left). 3) Unfortunately for Quick (right), the '83 campaign would serve as his high-water mark in the pros. (Photo Credits: AP)
Roy Williams, Lions (2004-05)
RANKING: 24 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 99 Catches, 1,504 Yards, 16 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) Williams (left) was a valuable commodity for the luckless Lions back in 2004 and '05, tallying at least 45 receptions, 680 yards and eight touchdowns each season. (His Year 3 stats jumped to 82 receptions/1,310 yards.) 2) In his first two seasons, and with Joey Harrington (right) at quarterback, old Roy collected four outings of multiple TDs, with a knack for taking over certain games. In the end, though, consistency (or lack thereof) hindered his chances of cracking the top 20. (Photos: Assorted Images)
Lee Evans, Bills (2004-05)
RANKING: 24A ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 96 Catches, 1,586 Yards, 16 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) Of the 26 receivers listed here, Evans has the most outings of two catches or less in his inaugural seasons (14). Think about that for a second. 2) On the plus side, Evans was a magnet for the end zone, scoring seven times in a five-week stretch in 2004 ... and then racking up three touchdowns against the Dolphins in '05 -- off only five receptions. (Photo: Associated Press)
Dez Bryant, Cowboys (2010-11)
RANKING: 23 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 104 Catches, 1,489 Yards, 17 Total TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) As a part-time kick returner in 2010, Bryant took two kickoffs to the house for touchdowns. 2) Bryant was a rock-steady performer in the first two seasons, only breaking the century mark once and never tallying double-digit receptions in that span. 3) Bryant collected multiple TDs twice during that span. 4) Dez netted at least one TD in back-to-back outings six different tiimes.
Eddie Brown, Bengals (1985-86)
RANKING: 22 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 111 Catches, 1,906 Yards, 12 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) Brown (right) posted remarkably consistent numbers for the first two seasons, averaging 56 receptions, 953 yards and six TDs. 2) The downside to that: In that span, Brown tallied only three 100-yard outings and zero games of double-digit catches. 3) In his seven-year career, Brown never caught more than 59 balls in a season ... and yet, he finished with 41 touchdowns. 4) Obviously, QB Boomer Esiason (left) would have enjoyed throwing to Jerry Rice (bypassed by the Bengals in the '85 draft), but Brown was an ideal Plan B during that time. (Photos: Assorted Images)
Anthony Miller, Chargers (1988-89)
RANKING: 21 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 111 catches, 1,778 yards, 13 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) For his career, the highly underrated Miller racked up five 1,000-yard campaigns and two seasons of double-digit touchdowns (1989 with San Diego; 1995 with Denver). 2) Charting his first two years, Miller notched multiple touchdowns four different times -- thrice in Year 2. 3) Speaking of which, Miller closed his second season with a December streak of three straight games with a TD. 4) Miller racked up rock-solid numbers during a two-year span that didn't include a single game of 10 or more catches. (Photos: Assorted Images)
Al Toon, Jets (1985-86)
RANKING: 20 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 131 Catches, 1,838 Yards, 11 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) History dictates the Jets (Toon) and Bengals (Eddie Brown) missed the boat at receiver in 1985 -- bypassing Jerry Rice (20th overall in Round 1) on their respective draft boards. But Toon and Brown were highly respectable assets in their time. Just not when compared to Rice, perhaps the greatest player in NFL history. 2) In 1986, Toon started a streak of three consecutive Pro Bowls by registering 85 catches, 1,176 yards and eight TDs. For that year, Toon caught passes from Jets quarterback Ken O'Brien -- another underrated asset during that era. Just not when compared to Dan Marino ... who was taken three spots after O'Brien in the 1983 draft. (Photos: Assorted Images)
Keyshawn Johnson, Jets (1996-97)
RANKING: 19 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 133 catches, 1,807 yards, 13 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) Remember the whole Keyshawn vs. Wayne Chrebet thing in the mid-1990s, when Jets fans were apparently divided on which receiver to support more? Well, from a pure numbers standpoint, Johnson outdistanced Chrebet (left --150 catches, 1,635 yards, seven TDs) in two of three main categories during that span. 2) As a high-profile rookie in '96, Johnson tallied touchdowns in back-to-back games three times. 3)One last thing: Johnson (right) notched 75 yards or more in his first five playoff games (Jets, Bucs). He was a gamer, no doubt. (Photos: Assorted Images)
DeSean Jackson/Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
RANKING: 18 ... TWO-YEAR STATS -- JACKSON: 124 Catches, 2,068 Yards, 13 Total TDs (2008-09) ... MACLIN: 126 Catches, 1,737 Yards, 14 TDs (2009-10) ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) It makes sense to let Jackson (left -- now with the Redskins) and Maclin share the spotlight once last time in Eagles garb. 2) Maclin (right) has been a consistent source of production for the Eagles, averaging 65 catches, 866 yards and 6.5 TDs during his career. However, the kid's best season came in Year 2 -- 70 receptions, 964 yards, 10 TDs. 3) Jackson launched his career in a highly productive manner, averaging six catches and 108 yards in his first two pro games. He would have had a TD against the Cowboys (Week 2) ... if the colorful Jackson hadn't dropped the easy score before crossing the goal line. (Photos: Bruce Kluckhohn/Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
Marvin Harrison, Colts (1996-97)
RANKING: 17 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 137 Catches, 1,702 Yards, 14 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) Harrison, a likely Hall of Famer someday, didn't have all-world tallies his first two seasons, falling short of 75 catches and 900 yards each time. Of course, he didn't have Peyton Manning (left) throwing his way, either. (That gift from the football gods came in Year 3.) 2) Of his final seven games as a rookie, Harrison (right) accounted for eight touchdowns ... and two 100-yard outings. (Photos: Assorted Images)
T.Y. Hilton, Colts (2012-13)
RANKING: 16 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 132 catches, 1,944 yards, 12 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) Hilton enjoyed 10 100-yard outings in his first two regular seasons. 2) In fact, he is the only receiver in this countdown to booken a pair of 100-yard games with a zero-catch effort (2012). 3) Like Julio Jones (his due comes later), Hilton waited until the playoffs to paint his two-year maintenance, rolling for 13 catches, 224 yards and two TDs in the Colts' hellacious comeback win over the Chiefs (down 28 in the second half) in the wild-card round. 4) In his brief career (including the postseason), Hilton already has four outings of multiple touchdowns.
Andre Johnson, Texans (2003-04)
RANKING: 15 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 145 Catches, 2,018 Yards, 10 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) Remember how Lions GM Matt Millen was ridiculed for continually taking wide receivers in the first round? Well, if he had selected Johnson over Charles Rogers at No. 2 overall in 2003 ... the jokes would have never materialized. 2) In 2004, A-Johnson collected the first of six 1,000-yard campaigns with Houston, rolling for 79 catches, 1,142 yards and six TDs. 3) For Weeks 4 and 5 of that season, Johnson crushed the Raiders and Vikings for 18 receptions, 285 yards and three touchdowns. It was his unofficial breakout party as an annual All-Pro.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs (2007-08)
RANKING: 14 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 156 catches, 2,017 yards, 12 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) It's quite possible that Bowe had the worst stable of quarterbacks for this countdown, milking 2,017 yards and 12 scores out of the likes of Damon Huard, Brodie Croyle and Tyler Thigpen. Yikes! 2) Bowe had a relatively slow start as a rookie, only eclipsing the 75-yard mark four times. But he made up for it by immediately becoming a reliable red-zone threat. 3) For Year 2, Bowe (seven TDs) experienced noticeable upticks in catches and yards ... but the story of his two-year journey was more about consistency than flash and dash. Unlike the next guy on the list.
Andre Rison, Colts/Falcons (1989-90)
RANKING: 13 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 134 catches, 2,028 yards, 14 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) Rison is the only player in the countdown to play for two teams in his first two NFL seasons. 2) After the trade to Atlanta, Rison broke out for the first of five 1,000-yard campaigns, while also posting the first of five consecutive double-digit-TD seasons. 3) In 1990 (first year with Falcons), Rison notched multiple touchdowns in three straight games -- all against fellow NFC West clubs (Saints, 49ers, Rams).
Mike Wallace, Steelers (2009-10)
RANKING: 12 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 99 catches, 2,013 yards, 16 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) Wallace didn't exactly set NFL world on fire as a rookie, pulling down 39 balls for 756 yards and six TDs. On the bright side, he led the league in yards per reception -- at 19.4 per catch. 2) With Pittsburgh, Wallace was known for scoring in bunches. On five separate occasions, he tallied at least three touchdowns in a four-game span. 3) Here's a reason to denounce Wallace's elite-level ranking: Of those first two seasons, he caught four or less balls 25 times. Ugh.
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Torry Holt, Rams (1999-2000)
RANKING: 11 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 134 Catches, 2,423 Yards, 12 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) Holt (right) walked into a perfect storm of statistical goodness in 1999, coinciding with the incredible ascension of Kurt Warner (left) as the Rams' starting quarterback. (Having Marshall Faulk at running back and reciever Isaace Bruce didn't suck, either.) 2) In 2000, Holt notched an NFL-high 1,635 receiving yards -- the first of eight consecutive seasons of 80-plus catches and 1,100-plus yards receiving. 3) A comparatively modest rookie season (52 catches/788 yards/6 TDs) keeps Holt out of the top 10. (Photos: Assorted Images)
Sterling Sharpe, Packers (1988-89)
RANKING: 10 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 145 Catches, 2,214 Yards, 13 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) It's fair to wonder, How did Sharpe (55 catches/791 yards in 1988) score only one touchdown as a rookie? 2) In terms of catches (90) and yards (1,423), Sharpe nearly doubled his production in Year 2. Regarding touchdowns ... he rolled for 12 scores the following season. 3) Potential Hall of Famer Tim Brown, who was drafted one spot ahead of Sharpe, only tallied 44 catches, 733 yards and five TDs in his opening two seasons. (Photos: Assorted Images)
Isaac Bruce, Rams (1994-95)
RANKING: 9 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 140 catches, 2,053 yards, 16 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) The vast majority of Bruce's numbers came in Year 2, when he racked up 119 receptions, 1,781 yards and 13 TDs for the Rams -- with Chris Miller and Mark Rypien as his passers. 2) In fact, it took Bruce 13 total outings (spilling into 1995) to collect more than five receptions ... or even come close to sniffing 100 yards. 3) It's worth noting that Bruce (left) caught 312 balls for 4,663 yards and 29 TDs in his first five years -- before QB Kurt Warner and offensive coordinator Mike Martz (right) headlined the Greatest Show On Turf in 1999, the Rams' Lombardi Trophy-winning campaign. (Photos: Assorted Images)
Calvin Johnson, Lions (2007-08)
RANKING: 9A ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 136 Catches, 2,087 Yards, 16 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) Calvin's rookie numbers were too modest to claim a spot in the top five. However, his Year 2 stats (78 catches, 1,331 yards, league-high 12 TDs) were more reflective of the dynamo who may already be a lock for the Hall of Fame. 2) In his first two seasons, Johnson tallied at least one TD in consecutive games eight different times.
Louis Lipps, Steelers (1984-85)
RANKING: 8 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 104 Catches, 1,994 Yards, 26 Total TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) Lipps was a very good pro for nine NFL seasons. But his best work inarguably came in the first two years, racking up 21 receiving touchdowns (plus two rushing TDs and three more on kick/punt returns) and averaging a staggering 19 yards per catch both times. 2) In that two-year span, Lipps tallied TDs in back-to-back outings 10 different times. 3) Here's something history should also remember: Lipps' absurd early success didn't involve Hall of Fame quarterbacks Terry Bradshaw (left -- retired after the 1983 season) or Dan Marino (right) -- who the Steelers infamously passed on during the 1983 NFL Draft (opting for defensive lineman Gabe Rivera instead). (Photo: Assorted Images)
Julio Jones, Falcons (2011-12)
RANKING: 7 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 133 Catches, 2,157 Yards, 18 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) If Jones hadn't missed three games as a rookie, he might have garnered a top-three ranking here. 2) Mixing the regular seasons of 2011 and '12, Jones had an impressive streak of five straight games of at least one TD (eight total). 3) Jones enjoyed five outings of multiple TDs in his first two campaigns (regular season). 4) On a per-outing basis (29 games total), Jones averaged 4.6 catches, 74.4 yards and 0.62 TDs. 5) Jones' best game of his first two years: 11 catches, 182 yards and two TDs in the 2012 NFC title game (January 2013 vs. San Fran).
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Josh Gordon, Browns (2012-13)
RANKING: 6 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 137 catches, 2,451 yards, 14 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) In his second season, Gordon captured the NFL receiving title (1,646 yards). He also set the NFL two-game record for receiving yards -- racking up 24 catches, 498 yards and three TDs against the Steelers and Jaguars last year. 2) In 2013, Gordon scored at least one touchdown in five consecutive outings (six total), a hot streak that included four games of 125 or more yards. 3) Gordon is cut in the freakishly big and athletic mode of Calvin Johnson. Unfortunately, his personal demons could hinder his 2014 output (possible year-long drug suspension) and burgeoning career, at large.
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Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (2004-05)
RANKING: 5 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 161 Catches, 2,189 Yards, 18 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) We're probably splitting hairs amongst Fitzgerald, Jerry Rice and A.J. Green. All three wideouts are worthy candidates for the top spot. 2) When healthy, Fitzgerald is a rock-steady lock for 90-plus receptions, 1,300 yards and 8-9 touchdowns per season. 3) In Year 2, Fitzgerald notched 13 catches, 155 yards and one touchdown in a Week 1 breakout against the Giants. 4) Later on that season, Fitzgerald amazingly posted three separate streaks of back-to-back-to-back touchdowns.
Jerry Rice, 49ers (1985-86)
RANKING: 4 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 135 Catches, 2,497 Yards, 18 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) In Year 2 (1985), Rice took NFL honors in receiving yards (1,570), receiving touchdowns (15) and receiving yards per game (98.1). 2) That season, Rice had one three-game stretch of 16 catches, 392 yards, seven touchdowns ... and another three-game sequence of 20 receptions, 404 yards and four TDs. 3) For my money, Rice -- who owns just about every relevant receiving record -- is the greatest player in NFL history; but that's not enough to finish No. 1 or No. 2 here. (Photo: Assorted Images)
A.J. Green, Bengals (2011-12)
RANKING: 3 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 162 Catches, 2,407 Yards, 18 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) Green gets the slight nod over Jerry Rice for one simple reason: He had a bigger advantage in receptions (162-135) than Rice had for receiving yards (2,497-2,407). 2) In 2012, Green enjoyed a nine-game streak of at least one receiving TD (10 total scores). 3) The remarkably consistent Green has reached the Pro Bowl and postseason in every pro campaign. 4) Green tallied nine outings of 100 yards or more in the first two seasons. 5) Green, Rice and Fitzgerald each finished with 18 touchdowns in their first two years.
Marques Colston, Saints (2006-07)
RANKING: 2 ... TWO-YEAR STATS: 168 Catches, 2,240 Yards, 19 TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST: 1) The Saints scored big with the 2006 additions of Reggie Bush (Round 1 pick -- 1,307 total yards, 8 TDs as a rookie), Colston (an absolute gem from Round 7) and free-agent QB Drew Brees, who was nixed by Nick Saban and the Dolphins (shoulder concerns) before coming to the Bayou. As such, the Saints forged one of the greatest turnarounds in NFL history, rebounding from the Hurricane Katrina tragedy to rally for an NFC South title and a berth in the NFC championship. 2) For this countdown, Colston is one of only three wiideouts to tally 19 or more touchdowns in their first two NFL seasons. 3)How's this for obscurity: Yahoo.com actually had Colston (70 receptions, 1,038 yards, nine TDs as a rookie) listed as a tight end in its fantasy game for 2006.
Randy Moss, Vikings (1998-99)
RANKING: 1 ... TWO-YEAR LAUNCH STATS: 149 catches, 2,726 Yards, 29 Total TDs ... POINTS OF INTEREST ... 1) This is the easiest call of the enitre countdown, so much that Moss's rookie numbers alone (69 catches, 1,313 yards, 17 TDs) might have vaulted him into the top 10. 2) For good measure, Moss (28 receiving TDs from 1998-99) tacked on a punt-return score in Year 2. 3) In his rookie campaign, Moss closed things out with a streak of seven games with at least one TD (11 total). 4) Of his four playoff games during that two-year period, Moss scored at least once each time (five total). 5) Moss, the NFL single-season record-holder for receiving TDs (23 in 2007), tallied 1,200 yards or more in his first six seasons. (Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY Sports ... Assorted Images)