The Rams have rolled out several legendary wide receivers over the course of the franchise’s history. In this article, I count down the Rams’ top five wide receivers of all time.
Who Are the Greatest Wide Receivers in Rams History?
The Rams have had numerous superstar wide receivers over the years, but there are five who stand out above the rest. With 36 individual 1,000-yard seasons in franchise history, the Rams’ top receivers cover some of the finest years the team has seen. Selecting the greatest receiver in franchise history was an especially daunting task, as a pair of players from the same era were both strong contenders for the No. 1 selection.
Three wide receivers who played primarily for the Rams have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and two more players who are prominent in franchise history have the potential to be inducted soon. Those players comprise the top five on this list, but trying to rank them was quite the challenge. So who did I determine is the greatest wide receiver in the history of the Rams? Read on to find out!
- Legacy Honors (Hall of Fame, 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 Rams, percentage of career with the Rams, etc.)
Only games played with the Rams are factored into this list, so while legendary slot receiver Wes Welker would be a great player to include on a list about the Patriots, his 102 yards over eight games with the Rams won’t make the cut here. For the purposes of this article, players established as tight ends will be excluded, but those who played as an end in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s were given consideration. Let’s count down the top five receivers in Rams history! Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on these selections.
5. Henry Ellard
- Years With the Rams: 1983–93
- Playoff Appearances: 1983–86, ’88, ’89
- All-Pro: 1984, ’88
- Pro Bowl: 1984, ’88, ’89
Henry Ellard had a record-setting year as a senior at Fresno State, which propelled him to the Rams as a second-round pick in the 1983 NFL Draft. The Rams walked away from the first two rounds of that draft with a pair of players who were vital to the team’s success over the rest of the decade—the other being Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson. That duo would lead the Rams into the postseason as rookies, and Ellard would ultimately make six playoff appearances for Los Angeles on his way to setting numerous team records.
The Rams were confident that Ellard had good enough hands to contribute as a receiver right away, and he did just that with 91 yards on three catches in his professional debut. He contributed mostly as a punt returner in his early years, however, and he ran back four touchdowns over the first three seasons of his career. His first Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections were as a punt returner in 1984 after he led the league with two touchdowns and a long return of 83 yards.
Ellard broke out as a receiver in 1988, when he led the league with a career-high 1,414 yards in what was the first of four straight seasons with at least 1,000 yards. Twice that season, he eclipsed 160 yards in a game, but his finest performance in a Rams uniform came in Week 2 of the 1989 season. In a win over the Colts, Ellard had career-bests when he hauled in 12 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns. His best playoff showing came in January of 1990, when he caught eight passes for 125 yards against the Giants in a second-round victory.
After leaving the Rams, Ellard had several more successful seasons with Washington. In 11 seasons with Los Angeles, Ellard had 593 catches for 9,761 yards and 48 touchdowns. He is ranked 15th in NFL history with 13,777 yards, but he is not in the Hall of Fame, though he was nominated in 2019.
Henry Ellard’s Statistics With the Rams
4. Tom Fears
- Years With the Rams: 1948–56
- Playoff Appearances: 1949–52, ’55
- All-Pro: 1950
- Pro Bowl: 1950
- Major Awards: Hall of Fame (1970), NFL 1950s All-Decade Team
Tom Fears was such a good receiver during his career with the Rams that it’s surprising that he was a converted defensive back. Fears was drafted out of Santa Clara University in the 11th round of the 1945 NFL Draft and became one of the all-time draft steals by turning into a Hall of Fame receiver. He didn’t join the Rams until 1948, instead opting to play at UCLA in 1946 and ’47.
But when Fears joined the NFL, he made an immediate contribution by leading the league with 51 receptions as a rookie, and it only got better from there. The next season, in 1949, Fears set a new NFL standard with 77 catches and led the league with nine touchdowns. In 1950, Fears broke his own receptions mark (setting a new NFL record) when he hauled in 84 passes—including a career-best, 18-catch, 189-yard game against the Packers. Fears had more than 1,000 receiving yards in each of those two seasons, and he helped the Rams to the NFL championship game both years.
Perhaps the finest moment of his career came in 1951 when he caught a 73-yard touchdown pass to break a 17–17 tie against the Browns in the NFL Championship game. That would prove to be the game-winning score in the franchise’s first NFL title since their move to Los Angeles in 1946. Eventually, injuries began to take their toll on Fears, who retired in the middle of the 1956 season and only played one full campaign from ’53 to ’56.
Over the course of his nine-year career with the Rams, Fears caught 400 passes for 5,397 yards and 38 touchdowns. Following retirement, he remained with Los Angeles as an assistant coach, and he was involved with football in some capacity until the mid-1970s. In 1970, he became the first player of Mexican descent to make the Hall of Fame.
Tom Fears’ Statistics With the Rams
3. Elroy (Crazy Legs) Hirsch
- Years With the Rams: 1949–57
- Playoff Appearances: 1949–52, ’55
- All-Pro: 1951, ’53
- Pro Bowl: 1951–53
- Major Awards: Hall of Fame (1968), NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, NFL 100 All-Time Team (2019)
Elroy (Crazy Legs) Hirsch was originally drafted by the Rams in 1945, but he ended up playing for the Rockets of the rival AAFC from ’46 to ’48. After his AAFC contract expired, Hirsch signed with the Rams, who had by then relocated from Cleveland to Los Angeles. Hirsch proved to be a versatile player for the Rams, but it wasn’t until 1951 that he really showed the scope of his capabilities.
Hirsch set since-broken NFL records with 1,495 yards and 17 touchdowns that season, leading the Rams to their first league championship victory since moving to Los Angeles. He was a major threat that season, hauling in a 91-yard touchdown pass and averaging better than 50 yards on each of his touchdowns. In the season opener, he caught nine passes for 173 yards and four touchdowns. This set the stage for an outstanding campaign that saw him post at least 100 yards in nine of 12 regular-season games. He caught 66 yards in the NFL championship game.
Hirsch led the NFL in yards per reception in 1952, gaining 23.6 yards per catch. In 1953, Hirsch again showed he could stretch the field despite an unusual running style that gave him the nickname “Crazy Legs.” During a win over the Packers, he caught nine passes for a career-high 196 yards, giving him a single game with at least 190 receiving yards for a third straight season. After retiring in 1957 with 343 receptions for 6,299 yards and 53 touchdowns, Hirsch became the Rams’ general manager in 1960. In that role, he was responsible for drafting multiple Hall of Famers and remained in the front office until 1969.
Elroy (Crazy Legs) Hirsch’s Statistics With the Rams
2. Torry Holt
- Years With the Rams: 1999–2008
- Playoff Appearances: 1999–2001, ’03, ’04
- All-Pro: 2003
- Pro Bowl: 2000–01, 2003–07
- Major Awards: NFL All-Rookie Team (1999)
As the sixth pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, Torry Holt produced right from the start, giving the Rams a tremendous return on their investment. His efforts as a rookie helped the team win Super Bowl XXXIV, and he continued on to become one of the league’s premier receivers throughout the next decade. As time went on, however, the Rams lost several superstars and fell toward the bottom of the league standings, and Holt eventually requested his release.
After a standout season as a rookie, he would gain at least 1,300 yards in each of the next six seasons to set a since-broken NFL record. Holt led the league in receiving in 2000 and ’03, the two seasons he eclipsed 1,600 yards. His 117 catches and 1,696 yards from ’03 are the second-best marks in franchise history. Holt holds six of the top eight single-season reception totals in team history, as well as six of the top 12 single-season receiving yardage totals. He also hit 10,000 receiving yards in just 116 games (12 games shy of the NFL record). Holt failed to catch a pass in only one game of his Rams career during Week 5 of his rookie season.
The best individual showing of Holt’s career came against the Colts in the 15th game of the 2001 season, when he hauled in seven passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 200 yards in a 2003 loss to the 49ers. Holt had at least 10 receptions in a game 11 times and gained 100 yards in all but one of them. In 46 games with the Rams, Holt racked up at least 100 yards in a game, and he scored at least twice in 10 games. His career-high of three touchdowns came against the Seahawks in 2006. In 10 postseason games, Holt had 47 receptions for 630 yards and four touchdowns—including the first score in the second half of Super Bowl XXXIV.
Holt sits second in franchise history with 869 career receptions for 12,660 yards and 74 touchdowns. He advanced to the semifinals of voting by the Hall of Fame’s Modern Era Committee in 2019. In NFL history, he is 16th in career receiving yardage, 21st in receptions and tied for 37th in receiving touchdowns.
Torry Holt’s Statistics With the Rams
1. Isaac Bruce
- Years With the Rams: 1994–2007
- Playoff Appearances: 1999–2001, ’03, ’04
- Pro Bowl: 1996, 1999–2001
- Major Awards: Hall of Fame (2020), Rams No. 80 retired
When Isaac Bruce came to the Rams as a second-round draft pick in 1994, it began a long marriage between the two that resulted in the greatest wide receiver in franchise history. Bruce opened his career with a 34-yard touchdown reception and didn’t quit until he owned nearly every major receiving record in team history. Fiercely competitive but also stoic, Bruce was a reliable target who racked up at least 1,000 yards in a season eight times in 14 seasons with the Rams. But more importantly, he served as the team’s emotional and on-field leader for much of his career. His efforts were cemented in NFL history on Aug. 8, 2020, when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Bruce’s second season in the league was his best. It came after the Rams moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis, and Bruce treated the new fans to a 119-catch, 1,781-yard, 13-touchdown season that helped establish him as one of the best receivers in the NFL. All but his touchdown tally remain franchise records. He led the league in receiving yardage in 1996 but was then slowed by injuries in ’97 and ’98. Bruce had a game with at least 200 yards each season from 1995 to ’97, with 233 yards against the Falcons in ’97, 229 yards against the Ravens in ’96 and 210 yards against the Dolphins in ’95. The Rams, however, were losers in each of those matchups.
From 1999 to 2001, Bruce was one of the catalysts for “The Greatest Show on Turf” teams that advanced to a pair of Super Bowls. He didn’t miss a start in that stretch and accumulated 3,742 yards and 27 touchdowns. Bruce was on the receiving end of the go-ahead, 73-yard touchdown in Super Bowl XXXIV against the Titans. That helped give him a team-high 317 yards in the 1999 postseason. In 2000, he and teammate Torry Holt each caught more than 1,400 yards to become just the second set of teammates to do so. In 2001, he earned a third straight Pro Bowl selection by helping the Rams return to the Super Bowl (which they would lose to the Patriots).
Bruce played six more seasons for the Rams, posting at least 500 yards in each of them. After the 2007 season, Bruce was released due to a contract issue. During his tenure with the team, Bruce caught 942 passes for 14,109 yards and 84 touchdowns, which all stand as franchise records.
After leaving the Rams, he spent two years with the 49ers and caught his 1,000th career reception against his former team in 2008. He was traded back to St. Louis in June 2010 as a formality that allowed him to retire as a member of the Rams, who then retired his jersey (No. 80) during the 2010 season. At the time of his retirement, Bruce ranked third in NFL history in career receiving yardage (now fifth), seventh in receptions (now 13th), and seventh in receiving touchdowns (now 12th).
Isaac Bruce’s Statistics With the Rams
With several standout wide receivers in the history of the Rams, I’ve decided to include a handful of players who also left an indelible mark on team history but didn’t quite make the top five.
Jack Snow (1965–75)
As a rookie, Jack Snow broke into the starting lineup for the Rams, and in the next nine years, he only missed one start. In 1967, he led the NFL with an average of 26.3 yards per reception, and his 859 yards in 1970 marked his career-high. Snow’s best game came in 1967, when he caught three passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns of 53 yards and 80 yards in a 24–24 tie against the Baltimore Colts. He later had three touchdowns in a 1969 win over the Saints. In an 11-year career, Snow caught 340 passes for 6,012 yards and 45 touchdowns.
Flipper Anderson (1988–94)
Flipper Anderson is best known for holding the NFL’s all-time record for single-game receiving yardage. On Nov. 26, 1989, Anderson hauled in 15 catches for an astounding 336 yards and a touchdown in a 20–17 victory against the Saints. But Anderson was far from a one-game wonder. He led the league in yards per reception in 1989 and ’90 while piling up over 1,000 yards in both seasons. Anderson also caught the game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Giants in a 1989 postseason matchup. During seven seasons with the Rams, Anderson caught 259 passes for 5,246 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Jim Benton (1938–47)
Another Rams receiver known primarily for a single game is James (Jim) Benton, who caught 10 passes for a then-NFL record 303 yards against the Lions on Thanksgiving in 1945. That performance helped push Benton to the only 1,000-yard season of his career and the first of two straight seasons in which he led the NFL in receiving yardage. Benton made the 1939 Pro Bowl, was a two-time first-team All-Pro selection (’45 and ’46) and was named to the NFL 1940s All-Decade Team. In eight seasons with the Rams, Benton hauled in 275 passes for 4,566 yards and 42 touchdowns.
Cooper Kupp (2017–present)
Emerging as one of the best young receivers in the NFL, Cooper Kupp is one of the driving forces behind the resurgence of the Rams. As a rookie in 2017, Kupp was a vital cog in the offense and caught 869 yards. He was on his way to bettering that mark in 2018 before a torn ACL ended his season after eight games, while his teammates went all the way to the Super Bowl. In 2019, he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for the first time (1,161 yards on 94 catches). Thus far in his career, Kupp has caught 196 passes for 2,596 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Los Angeles Rams Wide Receiver History
It’s been said that to determine the greatest receiver in Rams history, you could flip a coin with Isaac Bruce on one side and Torry Holt on the other and not be wrong. Both players were special talents who should be in the Hall of Fame, and together, they created one of the most dynamic duos in modern NFL history. In general, the consensus is that Holt was the more talented player, but Bruce had the better career.
Bruce was also instrumental in helping the Rams go from a 4–12 team his rookie year to Super Bowl champions five seasons later. Between this and his statistics, Bruce has garnered more post-career attention than Holt. Bruce’s jersey number was retired by the franchise, and after four times as a finalist in Hall of Fame voting, he was finally elected with the Class of 2020.
Holt, meanwhile, did more in less time statistically but stepped right onto a team that was already loaded with talent. He has yet to be formally honored by the franchise with a retired number, but he did reach the semifinals in voting by the Hall of Fame’s Modern Era Committee in 2019.
The debate about who is better will certainly rage on for years, but in the meantime, let’s look at some other receivers who should be remembered. The following is a list of franchise receiving records and individual statistics for every 1,000-yard receiving season in the Rams history.
Rams Receiving Records
- Career Yards: 14,109, Isaac Bruce (1994–2007)
- Single-Season Yards: 1,781, Isaac Bruce (1995)
- Single-Game Yards: 336, Flipper Anderson (1989)*
- Career Touchdowns: 84, Isaac Bruce (1994–2007)
- Single-Season Touchdowns: 17, Elroy Hirsch (1951)
- Single-Game Touchdowns: 4, Isaac Bruce (1999), Roy Green (’83), Harold Jackson (’73), Dave Williams (’69), Elroy Hirsch (’51)
- Career Receptions: 942, Isaac Bruce (1994–2007)
- Single-Season Receptions: 119, Isaac Bruce (’95)
- Single-Game Receptions: 18, Tom Fears (December 3, 1950)
Rams Receivers With 1,000 Yards in a Season