Underrated Wideouts of the Last 25 Years
McCardell got off to a bumpy start in the NFL, but he became a statistical machine once he arrived in Jacksonville in his fifth season. While typically serving as the No. 2 receiver, McCardell has had Hall of Fame-type success with the Jaguars, Buccaneers and Chargers but has never gotten the attention he warrants as a top wideout.
Brown will be remembered as one of the many cogs in the Patriots' championship machine, but people forget he had a prolific stretch as a receiver from 2000 to '02, including a 101-catch season in '01. Brown has always been a very solid possession receiver and deserves credit for doing whatever was needed to help New England win.
Except for a brief stint early in his career with the Cardinals, Proehl has never been a No. 1 guy, and usually wasn't even a No. 2 guy. But he came up with plenty of huge catches in his 16-year career, including clutch Super Bowl touchdowns for both the Rams and the Panthers. Proehl's 666 receptions rank 27th on the all-time list.
An undrafted free agent, Smith has had eight 1,000-yard receiving seasons for the Broncos and gotten little fanfare for his accomplishments. He isn't flashy and doesn't get as much credit as he deserves, but every year he's been there as the go-to guy in Denver.
He is in the top 10 of virtually every receiving category and was a key figure in the Bills' four trips to the Super Bowl. But he appears to be fighting an uphill battle to make it into the Hall of Fame.
In his second season (1995) Bruce caught 119 balls for 1,791 yards and reached the height of his fame. Overshadowed by other stars in the Rams' offense, such as Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt, Bruce has remained a dangerous weapon for the Rams for more than a decade.
Ellard consistently put up big numbers for the Rams and the Redskins but wasn't recognized as an elite receiver. He ranks fifth all-time in receiving yards (13,777) yet earned only three trips to the Pro Bowl during his 17-year career.
Thanks to his quiet demeanor, Monk never got the kind of attention he deserved. The Redskins great retired in 1994 with an NFL-record 940 catches (Jerry Rice topped that mark in '95). Monk also held the single-season receptions mark (106) and the consecutive-games-with-a-catch record (183) before being passed by Rice and others. Most important, Monk helped Washington win three Super Bowls.
While the national spotlight often was on Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, Smith, who announced his retirement on May 11, quietly racked up big numbers for the Jaguars every year. Since 1996, Smith has had more catches and yards receiving than everyone except Marvin Harrison. Smith ended his career ranked seventh in NFL history with 862 receptions and 11th in receiving yards.
Only Jerry Rice has more career receiving yards than Brown's 14,934, and only Rice and Cris Carter have more receptions than Brown's 1,094. If Brown makes it to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, he'll lose the "underrated" moniker, but when he retired in 2005 there didn't seem to be much certainty among sportswriters that the Raiders' all-time leading receiver would be enshrined in Canton.