Best Wide Receivers in Arizona Cardinals History

The Cardinals have had plenty of explosive offensive players in its 100-year history, and this article will count down the franchise’s 10 best wide receivers of all time.

Arizona receivers Michael Floyd (15) and Larry Fitzgerald (11) celebrate after Floyd scored against Washington in 2016. Both are among the 13 players in Cardinals history to catch more than 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

The Top 10 Cardinals Wide Receivers of All Time

When it comes to wide receivers, the Cardinals know how to pick them. The team has had at least one bona fide receiver in its lineup for almost every season since the 1960s, and it has watched one of its players rack up at least 900 receiving yards in a season 52 times. Thirteen players have taken that a step further by gaining 1,000 yards in a season. With that history, several players are in the mix when considering the best wide receivers in franchise history.

Wide receiver legends have come in a steady stream for the Cardinals. The 1970s were a little sparse in terms of production, but several memorable receivers still took the field, and the ’80s brought about the greatest receiver the franchise had seen. Then, starting in the late 1990s, the position solidified, and more legends were born. Multiple Arizona receivers have caught more than 1,000 yards in the same season five times since 1997—including three players who achieved the feat during the 2008 season. Since that year, which saw Arizona’s offense propel the team to Super Bowl XLIII, production from the position had stayed strong, and the future remains bright.

Selection Criteria

  • Legacy Honors (Hall of Fame, Ring of Honor, retired number, etc.)
  • Single-Season Honors (MVP, All-Pro, Pro Bowl, etc.)
  • On-Field Success (league leader, playoff appearances, records, etc.)
  • Longevity (years with the Cardinals, percentage of career with the Cardinals, etc.)

Only games played with the Cardinals are factored into this list, so while Gary Clark would be a great player to include on a list about Washington, his two seasons of strong production with the Cardinals won’t place him in the top 10 here. Additionally, only wide receivers are included, so neither great tight end Jackie Smith nor pass-catching fullback Larry Centers will be listed here.

Following this list are a handful of honorable mentions as well as statistics from every 1,000-yard receiving season in team history.

10. David Boston

  • Years With the Cardinals: 1999–2002
  • Pro Bowl: 2001
  • All-Pro: 2001

David Boston was a brash rookie out of Ohio State who was in and out of the starting lineup during the 1999 season. But once he focused more on football instead of showboating, he became a superstar for the Cardinals. Boston was the No. 8 pick in the 1999 NFL Draft and had the expected growing pains of a rookie. Every now and again, however, he showed flashes of brilliance that justified his draft position.

In his fifth game of his rookie season, Boston caught eight passes for 101 yards and his first career touchdown in a win over the Giants. He doubled his career reception total and nearly tripled his career yardage total with that effort, but he wouldn’t cross the 100-yard threshold again the rest of the season. After being moved into a feature role his sophomore season, he caught a pair of touchdowns in the season opener, then added a 184-yard performance later in the season. He was targeted at least six times in all but two games, setting up the stage for a breakout season in 2001.

While racking up nine games with more than 100 receiving yards, Boston was a one-man offensive show in Arizona, and he used 58 yards in the last game of the season to become the franchise’s new all-time leader for single-season receiving yardage. That record of 1,598 yards still stands, and his breakout was attributed to improved technique and focus on the game, as well as reshaping his body to build strength without sacrificing speed.

Boston was unable to follow up on his 2001 success, as he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 9 in 2002. Due to a DUI arrest and a failed drug test, the Cardinals declined to re-sign him as a free agent in 2003. He bolted to the Chargers for a big contract instead, leaving Arizona with 241 catches for 3,739 yards and 18 touchdowns.

David Boston: Cardinals Stats

Raiders assistant coach Rob Moore watches his team play against the Cardinals during a 2016 preseason game. Moore is among the most significant receivers in Cardinals history.

9. Rob Moore

  • Years With the Cardinals: 1995–99
  • Playoff Appearances: 1998
  • Pro Bowl: 1997
  • All-Pro: 1997

The Cardinals put up a small bounty to acquire Rob Moore from the Jets, netting the veteran receiver in exchange for their first-round draft pick and running back Ronald Moore. The franchise rewarded Rob Moore with the richest contract in team history, and he rewarded their confidence with five productive years.

Following the 1994 season, the Cardinals were in desperate need of receivers after parting ways with three of them, and Moore provided both a consistent big-play threat alongside second-round draft pick Frank Sanders. Together, Moore and Sanders provided a steady tandem that helped push the Cardinals into the 1998 playoffs—and between two postseason games, Moore was targeted 26 times and gained 132 yards on 11 receptions.

Altogether, in his five seasons, Moore caught 322 passes for 5,110 yards and 27 touchdowns. That included a monster season in 1997, which saw him lead the league with a then-franchise record 1,584 yards, 176 yards ahead of runner-up Tim Brown. He was just 16 yards shy of becoming the 21st player to average 100 yards per game in a season.

Rob Moore: Cardinals Stats

8. Bobby Joe Conrad

  • Years With the Cardinals: 1958–68
  • Pro Bowl: 1964
  • All-Pro: 1963

Bobby Joe Conrad didn’t start his career as a wide receiver, but by the time he was permanently placed at the position in 1962, he was ready to prove that he belonged. Formerly a two-way player at Texas A&M, Conrad was drafted by the Giants as a defensive back in 1958 but was traded to the Cardinals a few months later. There he spent one season on defense, then was used primarily in the rushing attack for the next two years.

The Cardinals moved Conrad to flanker in 1962, and the experience he gained set up his two finest receiving seasons. He never crossed the 1,000-yard threshold, but he was consistently in the box score every game the next two seasons, catching at least two passes in all 28 games. In 1963, he led the league with 73 catches, setting a franchise record that would stand for two decades.

Conrad started every game for the next five seasons, and from 1961 to ’68 he caught a pass in 101 straight games. After that streak ended, he played a final season in a reserve role close to his home in Texas with the Cowboys. He ended his career with the Cardinals after catching 418 passes for 5,828 yards and 38 touchdowns.

Bobby Joe Conrad: Cardinals Stats

7. Frank Sanders

  • Years With the Cardinals: 1995–2002
  • Playoff Appearances: 1998

Frank Sanders had very little time to adjust to the NFL. As a second-round draft selection of the Cardinals in 1995, Sanders was immediately thrown into a major role as the team rebuilt its receiving corps. He caught at least one pass in the first 15 games of his career, and he showed big-play potential by averaging nearly 17 yards per catch. His best rookie game came in Week 6, when he came away with 108 yards and his only two touchdowns of the season in a loss to the Giants.

Sanders rarely posted gaudy statistical numbers, instead helping spread the field and draw defenders away from superstars like Rob Moore and David Boston. But Sanders always made sure to play his part, too. From 1996 to 2001, he played every game and failed to catch a pass in only three of them. His best individual games both came in losses for Arizona. During Week 12 of 1997, Sanders hauled in nine passes for 188 yards in a 19–10 loss to the Giants; and in Week 11 of 1998, he caught 11 passes for 190 yards in a 35–28 loss to the Cowboys.

Sanders left for the Ravens after the 2002 season. While with the Cardinals, he caught 493 passes for 6,579 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Frank Sanders: Cardinals Stats

6. Pat Tilley

  • Years With the Cardinals: 1976–86
  • Pro Bowl: 1980

Pat Tilley was just 5’10” and 178 pounds when he was selected by the Cardinals in the fourth round of the 1976 NFL Draft. A product of Louisiana Tech, he didn’t play too often as a receiver in his first two seasons, but then he became a mainstay for the team’s offense. He missed just three games from 1978 to ’85, and he amassed at least 690 yards each of those seasons except the strike-shortened ’82 campaign.

Going into the 1986 season, Tilley was just 15 receptions shy of breaking the franchise record, but he’d play just one game. In the season opener, he snared three passes for 51 yards on a pulled hamstring—but later in the week he was placed on injured reserve due to a severe back injury. He would never return, but he will also never be forgotten by Cardinals fans after catching 468 passes for 7,005 yards and 37 touchdowns.

Pat Tilley: Cardinals Stats

5. Sonny Randle

  • Years With the Cardinals: 1959–66
  • Pro Bowl: 1960–62, 1965
  • All-Pro: 1960

Sonny Randle was one of two rookie receivers tasked with trying to help rebuild the Cardinals’ offensive attack in 1959. In spite of his speed, Randle struggled to establish himself in his first season—playing five games and scoring just once. That would all change in his sophomore season, in which he led the league in touchdowns and finished sixth in receptions. In four games that season, including the season opener, he caught three touchdown passes.

Throughout his career, Randle typically started the season strong, catching seven career touchdowns in Week 1. He also grabbed two touchdowns in his first game of the 1961 season, but those came in Week 2. In 1962, Randle had the best individual game of his career, when he hauled in a since-tied franchise record 16 passes in a single game for 256 yards and a touchdown. That helped push him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season, a feat he would repeat in 1963.

During the following season, Randle was on pace for more than 1,000 yards again, but he suffered an injury midseason. He left the Cardinals after the 1966 season with a career total 328 receptions for 5,438 yards and 60 touchdowns. He held the franchise record for career receiving touchdowns until 1989 and still holds the single-season record.

Sonny Randle: Cardinals Stats

4. Anquan Boldin

  • Years With the Cardinals: 2003–09
  • Playoff Appearances: 2008–09
  • Pro Bowl: 2003, ’06, ’08
  • Major Awards: Offensive Rookie of the Year (2003)

Anquan Boldin had one of the best-ever starts to an NFL career after being taken as a second-round draft pick in 2003. He had 217 receiving yards in his first game, and he had an additional four more games of at least 100 yards on his way to winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Boldin was honored after the season a second time when he was the only rookie selected to the Pro Bowl. Two years later, he averaged more than 100 yards per game, despite missing two games with an injury.

As a part of a prolific offense that featured quarterback Kurt Warner and fellow receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Boldin continued to produce numbers that have him in contention for election into the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2022. Along the way, he became the fastest player to reach 200, 300, 400 and 500 career receptions. His efforts helped the Cardinals appear in Super Bowl XLIII, and he caught a 71-yard touchdown during the 2008 postseason.

In Boldin’s time with the Cardinals, he caught 586 passes for 7,520 yards and 44 touchdowns. He maintains league records with 217 yards in his first game and 101 receptions in his first season. Going into 2020, he held team records with his 100.1 yards per game average from 2005, as well as his 6.2 receptions per game from his seven years with the team.

Anquan Boldin: Cardinals Stats

3. Mel Gray

  • Years With the Cardinals: 1971–82
  • Playoff Appearances: 1974–75
  • Pro Bowl: 1974–77
  • All-Pro: 1975

Mel Gray was a two-sport standout at Missouri, and he stayed near school when the Cardinals selected him in the sixth round of the 1971 NFL Draft. The speed that made him a track star proved to be an asset for the Cardinals, and they used him to lengthen the field throughout his 12-year career. In all but three of his seasons, he caught a pass of at least 69 yards and went for an 80-yard touchdown three times. Twenty of his 46 career touchdown passes were for at least 50 yards, and nine of his first 10 scores went for at least 40 yards.

Gray never caught 1,000 yards in a season, but his consistent big-play ability and sure hands made him a reliable asset for the franchise. His 18.9 yards per reception are the most among Cardinals players with at least 150 catches, and his four fumbles are the fewest in team history among receivers to play 100 or more games.

In his final season, Gray was on pace to break the NFL record for consecutive games with a reception, but he had to settle for a streak of 121 such games, with just four catches in five games in his final season. During his long Cardinals career, Gray was on the receiving end of 351 passes for 6,644 yards.

Mel Gray: Cardinals Stats

2. Roy Green

  • Years With the Cardinals: 1979–90
  • Pro Bowl: 1983–84
  • All-Pro: 1983–84
  • Legacy Honors: Cardinals Ring of Honor

Roy “Jet Stream” Green didn’t come into the NFL in 1979 with high expectations as a fourth-round pick out of Henderson State in Arkansas. He didn’t come with expectations to be a wide receiver, either. It wasn’t until his third season in the league that he made the part-time switch after coaches observed him playing catch in practice. The year was 1981 and the Cardinals needed receivers—so they turned to Green, who was one of their defensive backs and a kick returner.

Green accepted the challenge, and he became one of the league’s best. He averaged 21.5 yards per catch that season—including a 60-yard scamper on his first reception of the season. In his second game as a receiver, he caught a touchdown and intercepted a pass on defense, becoming the first player to do so since 1966.

During the following season, Green became a full-time receiver, and he had 170 yards in one game of the strike-shortened 1982 season. With a full slate of games in 1983, Green eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the first time while leading the league with 14 touchdowns—four of which came in a win over Seattle. His final tally of 1,227 yards set a new single-season franchise record.

His 1984 campaign was even better. He smashed his newly minted record with a league-best 1,555 receiving yards on the strength of five games, where he finished with 160 yards or more. Included was a three-game stretch that saw him make 20 catches for 518 yards, as well as a blistering finale of eight catches, for a career-high 196 yards. Injuries would slow him the next several seasons, however, and while he would lead the team in receiving yardage one more time (with 1,097 in 1988), he only gained 100-plus yards in a game nine times between 1985 and ’90.

The Cardinals looked to make their roster younger for the 1991 season, and they traded Green to the Browns. Green left the Cardinals holding franchise records for receptions (522), receiving yards (8,496) and touchdowns (66), and he was memorialized in the franchise’s Ring of Honor in 2016.

Roy Green: Cardinals Stats

Larry Fitzgerald is the best wide receiver in Cardinals history. Still active, he already owns the majority of the franchise’s receiving records.

1. Larry Fitzgerald

  • Years With the Cardinals: 2004–present
  • Playoff Appearances: 2008–09, 2014–15
  • Pro Bowl: 2005, 2007–13, 2015–17
  • All-Pro: 2008
  • Major Awards: Pro Bowl MVP, 2008
  • Legacy Honors: NFL 100 All-Time Team

There is no argument that the greatest wide receiver in Cardinals history is Larry Fitzgerald. A model of consistency throughout his entire career, Fitzgerald has been the face of the Cardinals since 2004, missing just six games in that span. With nearly double the yardage and touchdowns of any other player in franchise history, he has established himself as a legend and holds most every receiving mark in the Cardinals’ record book. He will undoubtedly become the first receiver in team history to be a first-ballot electee to the Hall of Fame (assuming Anquan Boldin doesn’t beat him to it).

Fitzgerald was a first-round draft selection out of the University of Pittsburgh and was picked up by Arizona to carry on the tradition of standout receivers. The Cardinals couldn’t have known at the time that they had selected the player who would become one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history. He’s twice led the league in receptions (2005 and ’16) and touchdown catches (2008–09). From the middle of 2004 through the ’19 season, he caught a pass in 243 straight games in which he played.

In both the 2005 and ’08 seasons, he had seven games with more than 100 receiving yards. Sandwiched between those years were two of his best individual games—an 11-catch, 172-yard effort in 2006, and an 11-catch, 171-yard effort in ’07. He set a career high with three touchdowns in a 2015 matchup against the Bears. All told, he has 49 games with at least 100 receiving yards, and he has scored at least twice in a game 19 times.

Among Fitzgerald’s franchise records are 1,378 catches for 17,083 yards and 120 touchdowns (current through the 2019 season). He also has 10 postseason touchdown catches and appeared in Super Bowl XLIII, a game in which he caught a pair of touchdowns. All-time among NFL receivers, Fitzgerald is second in career receptions and receiving yardage, and he is sixth in career receiving touchdowns. He was the youngest player to reach 700, 800, 900 and 1,000 receptions for his career. He has also been active off the field, donating time and money to numerous causes over the course of his career.

Larry Fitzgerald: Cardinals Stats

Honorable Mentions

With so many standout wide receivers in Cardinals history, listed below are several players who also left an indelible mark on team history but didn’t quite make the top 10.

J.T. Smith

J.T. Smith had two 1,000-yard receiving seasons for the Cardinals, and he nearly had a third. He led the league with 91 catches for 1,117 yards in 1987. That season was a solid follow-up to his 1986 campaign, which saw him snare 80 passes for 1,014 yards. He finished with 986 yards in 1988. From 1985 to ’90, he caught 377 passes for the team, racking up 4,701 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Ricky Proehl

Ricky Proehl made his mark right away after getting selected by the Cardinals in the third round of the 1990 NFL Draft. He set the team’s rookie record with 56 catches (since beaten by Anquan Boldin) for 802 yards. Prohel was very consistent, closing each of his four seasons with the Cardinals between 651 and 877 receiving yards. His career totals with the team were 287 receptions for 3,840 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Michael Floyd

Michael Floyd was a first-round draft pick of the Cardinals in 2012, and he went to work right away, catching his first career pass for a touchdown. He would gain 1,041 yards his sophomore season, including 193 yards in a game against Jacksonville. Floyd followed this with back-to-back seasons where he finished over 800 yards. He was released during the 2016 season after a DUI arrest. During his time with the Cardinals, he caught 242 passes for 3,739 yards and 23 touchdowns.

John Gilliam

John Gilliam only played three seasons with the Cardinals, but he made those years count. In 1969, he caught 52 passes for 997 yards and nine touchdowns; in 1970, he hauled in 45 passes for 952 yards and five touchdowns; and in 1971, he pulled down 42 passes for 837 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 20 yards per reception during his tenure.

Cardinals wide receiver John Brown (12) is lifted by tight end Jermaine Gresham (84) as he celebrates a third-quarter touchdown with Larry Fitzgerald (11) against the Giants.

Cardinals Wide Receiver History

The following is a look at the franchise receiving records and individual statistics for every 1,000-yard receiving season in the history of the Cardinals, from their beginnings in Chicago through their move to St. Louis and finally to the present day in Arizona.

Cardinals Receiving Records

Below are prominent records among wide receivers that are contained in the Cardinals franchise record book.

  • Career Yards: 17,083, Larry Fitzgerald (2004–present)
  • Single-Season Yards: 1,598, David Boston (2001)
  • Single-Game Yards: 256, Sonny Randle (Nov. 4, 1962)
  • Career Receiving Touchdowns: 120, Fitzgerald (2004–present)
  • Single-Season Receiving Touchdowns: 15, Randle (1960)
  • Single-Game Receiving Touchdowns: 5, Bob Shaw (Oct. 2, 1950)*
  • Career Receptions: Fitzgerald, 1,378 (2004–present)
  • Single-Season Receptions: Fitzgerald, 109 (2015 and ’17)
  • Single-Game Receptions: Randle, 16 (Nov. 4, 1962)

*Tied for the NFL record

Cardinals Receivers With 1,000-Yard Seasons


Read More

Did you miss our previous article…

Click to comment

Most Popular

To Top