The problem with making an Alabama football all-time greatest ‘insert position here’ list is historical perspective.
It’s easy to pick from a swath of players from the modern era – we've seen them play every game thanks to technology. When was the last time you didn’t have the option to watch the Crimson Tide in some type of capacity? You aren’t restricted by geography either. Nowadays you can watch Alabama on a computer tablet in Australia.
It’s also tough to pick the best because of time. The game has changed so much – for the better, of course. But picking the best receivers to ever play in Crimson and White is pretty challenging. Some of the all-time greats to ever suit up at Alabama will get omitted.
Hoyt ‘Wu’ Winslett (1924-26) was as good as they come, according to past sports writers. Dennis Homan (1965-67) was a special talent, as was David Bailey (69-71). But they didn’t play in an era where quarterbacks passed for 300-plus yards a game with 30 attempts. Plus, a national audience didn’t get to see them play every week.
However, there are five receivers who did cement their legacy while at Alabama, and you didn’t need to see all of them play to know it. Although, these five are definitely worth seeing.
5. David Palmer
Forget receiver, ‘The Deuce’ was one of the most exciting Crimson Tide players of all time. Palmer (1991-93) was used in the backfield, returned kicks, caught passes, and even completed a few.
He was dynamite to watch and if we wanted to make a top-10 list of all-time greatest Alabama catches, Palmer would be on it multiple times.
Palmer was the one player on the Crimson Tide that opponents had to plan for – and that usually didn’t work out too well. On offense, Palmer was as a dual-threat at receiver and in the backfield – mostly on quarterback keepers.
His final season at Alabama was his best with 61 receptions for 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns. He was third in the Heisman Trophy voting and was an All-American in 1993.
4. Julio Jones
With the exception of David Palmer, there hasn’t been an Alabama player fans were more excited to see in action than Jones.
From the moment he stepped on campus Jones was the center of attention from fans and defensive backs. He was a game-changer, making big play after big play.
He started every game he played from 2008-2010 and finished with 2,653 yards on 179 receptions with 15 touchdowns – his biggest one a 73-yarder against LSU in 2009 to clinch the SEC West title and help the Crimson Tide remain undefeated.
He won’t be forgotten by Tennessee. Jones blistered the Vols for 221 receiving yards in 2010 in a 41-10 win. He finished that season with 1,133 yards and was the No. 6 overall pick by the Atlanta Falcons a few months later in the NFL Draft.
3. Amari Cooper
A few short years ago, ‘Coop’ would have been No. 1 on this list. He left after three seasons and still was the Crimson Tide’s all-time leader in receiving yards (3,463), receptions (228), and touchdowns (31).
He made an immediate impact his freshman season with 59 catches for 1,000 yards, and led the Crimson Tide in the national title game with Notre Dame with six receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
He was easily the best receiver his last year at Alabama in 2014, tallying 1,727 yards with 16 touchdowns, leading to the Biletnikoff Award and consensus All-America honors while finishing third in the Heisman voting.
Just like with Julio Jones, Tennessee won’t forget Cooper anytime soon. He topped Jones’ 221-yard effort with 224 yards in 2014. Cooper did the same against Auburn.
Cooper was the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders.
2. Don Hutson
It’s pretty doubtful anyone is still around who saw Hutson play from 1932-34. But it must have been jaw-dropping.
Hutson was one of those players that revolutionized the game with his speed and route-running ability. The game was built around running the ball in this era, but Hutson’s abilities made Alabama re-think that philosophy, and centered the offense around Hutson. The result was an undefeated 1934 season with a national title.
He was the star end for the Crimson Tide. Alabama football diehards will know that the ‘other end’ was Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant.
In the Rose Bowl against Stanford (1935), Hutson caught six passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Not to pick on Tennessee again, but Hutson scored the game-winning touchdown against the Vols that set up that Rose Bowl berth.
Hutson continued to revolutionize the game as a pro with Green Bay with standard pass routes and fakes. He was No. 1 in receiving years in seven of the 11 years he was in the league and was elected to the Hall of Fame.
1. DeVonta Smith
Let’s not waste time listing all the awards Smith won while at Alabama. What matters is Smith is one of the most exciting players to watch because there is a great chance he’s going to do something amazing.
He didn’t disappoint in that regard in his time at Alabama, particularly his junior and senior seasons. Alabama fans were treated to Smith’s incredible grabs and slick moves on the field that led to 1,000-yard seasons.
His legacy began in the national title game against Georgia in 2018 when he caught the walk-off touchdown catch on 2nd-and-26. He capped his career with one of the greatest seasons in football history with 1,856 yards on 117 receptions and an incredible 23 touchdowns - that works out to a touchdown about every five receptions.
The 2020 Heisman winner left Alabama as the all-time leader in receptions (235), receiving yards (3,965) and receiving TDs (46). He’s also the SEC career leader in yards and touchdowns.