The 20 best wide receivers in the history of Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta has been home to some of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history.
Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons
Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons / Elsa/GettyImages

Outside of quarterback, wide receiver is the most glamorous position on the football field. They are the chain-movers and touchdown-scorers, two things fans want to see when they turn on the television on a Sunday afternoon.

Importance is also associated with the position, especially in recent times. Teams need a good receiver to rely on during critical downs and moments.

When it comes to the Atlanta Falcons, they have been blessed with some all-time great pass-catchers. Recently, the Falcons had overlapping all-time greats, and that just scratches the surface of the history books. They have had countless machines when it comes to yards and touchdowns—two important stats in these rankings.

Criteria for selection

Looking at the wide receiver position, what are the three things you think about first? Receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns, and those three statistics will be the biggest factors in this ranking.

Past that, you have to consider explosive plays, first downs, yards per reception, and fumbles. Everyone wants to see explosive plays that move the chains. As for fumbles, they represent the biggest mistake a wide receiver can make.

Lastly, those who were important pieces on winning teams were given a boost.

The top 20 wide receivers in Atlanta Falcons history

20. Russell Gage

This might be a name you weren't expecting to see, but his career stats with the Falcons show a deserving wide receiver.

As a sixth-round pick, not much was expected from the developing former LSU Tiger. However, his role expanded every year as his talented teammates moved out. It all culminated in his best two seasons during his last two years with the team that drafted him.

Russell Gage found himself as Matt Ryan's top wide receiver in both of their final years with the franchise. He totaled 193 catches for 2,065 yards and nine touchdowns over four seasons.

19. Billy "Whiteshoes" Johnson

Known as a threat on special teams, Billy "Whiteshoes" Johnson had an underrated career as an offensive receiving threat. The 14-year veteran had his best offensive seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.

Johnson ran routes routinely during half of his seasons in Atlanta. He hauled in 166 passes for 2,062 yards and 12 touchdowns.

18. Mike Pritchard

Used as a touchdown scorer, Mike Pritchard was an excellent receiver during his short time in Atlanta.

Having to compete with Andre Rison, the 13th pick in the 1991 NFL Draft was used as a great complement. He broke 600 yards each season, including an 827-yard effort in 1992.

Overall, Pritchard was a huge part of some deadly passing attacks as he hauled in 218 passes for 2,187 yards and 14 touchdowns in three years

17. Floyd Dixon

Floyd Dixon, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound sixth-round pick, was simply consistent.

He never put up big numbers, but he consistently gained yards and scored touchdowns over six seasons. His career with the Falcons culminated in 181 receptions for 2,487 yards and 16 touchdowns.

16. Ken Burrow

The Atlanta Falcons brought in Ken Burrow during the second round of the 1971 NFL Draft. While he was never a 1,000-yard receiver, he managed to cross the goal line routinely. In his first season, Burrow caught 93 passes, 18 of which went for touchdowns.

Over five seasons, he totaled 152 catches for 2,668 yards and 21 scores.

15. Alfred Jackson

With fairly similar stats to Ken Burrow, Alfred Jackson had more service time in the NFL, playing seven seasons—all with the Falcons. The smaller-statured wide receiver played in 88 games, bringing in 187 passes for 3,001 yards and 21 touchdowns.

14. Mohamed Sanu

The name we all know and love. Mohamed Sanu was a key player for the historic 2016 Falcons offense. While he certainly wasn't the top receiver on the team, he was a perfect complement. Sanu had a knack for getting open and making strong catches.

The fan favorite played in Atlanta for three full seasons and was traded in his fourth. He brought in 313 passes for 2,507 yards and 14 touchdowns.

You also cannot forget about his arm; he was occasionally used as a trick-play passer and was historically good. Throughout his career, he went 7-for-8 with 233 yards and four touchdowns. His lone incompletion came on his seventh attempt.

He also continues to be a tremendous person off the field with his incredible charity work.

13. Harry Douglas

Harry Douglas was a good depth option for many years before breaking out when the team needed him most. After seeing Julio Jones go down with an injury in 2013, Matt Ryan and Douglas connected 85 times for 1,067 yards.

While his numbers dipped the season after, he still broke 500 yards to finish his six seasons in Atlanta with 258 catches for 3,130 yards. However, the endzone was often elusive as he only had nine total touchdowns.

12. Stacey Bailey

Spending nearly a decade with the Atlanta Falcons, Stacey Bailey had up-and-down stats. He had 881- and 1,138-yard seasons with six touchdowns in 1983 and 1984, respectively. He only broke 400 yards in one other season, but it all resulted in 206 receptions, 3,422 yards, and 18 touchdowns.

11. Bert Emanuel

Bert Emanuel's career with the Falcons only lasted four years, but they were an impactful four years. His sophomore season resulted in 1,039 yards on 74 receptions with five touchdowns, and he went on to have two seasons with over 60 catches, 900 yards, and six touchdowns.

Unfortunately, he left right before the special 1998 season but still amassed 260 catches for 3,600 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Emanuel went on to be the center of attention with one of the NFL's many revisions to the definition of a catch. Those revisions would be known as "The Bert Emanuel Rule."

10. Wallace Francis

Wallace Francis entered the league as a fifth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills out of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. His low expectations up north turned into him not registering a single stat in two years with the Bills. That lack of opportunity proved a mistake once he got to Atlanta.

Francis turned his game up from 1978 to 1980 when he caught 173 balls for 2,570 yards and 18 touchdowns in 48 games. Over his seven years with the Falcons, he had 244 receptions for 3,695 yards and 27 touchdowns. He was a big-play threat as he finished his career averaging 15.1 yards per reception.

9. Brian Finneran

While his overall stats don't reach the level of other players on this list, it felt wrong to leave Brian Finneran out of the top 10. He had a big impact during some exciting moments in the Falcons history.

Finneran spent much of his time as a massive 6-foot-5 slot receiver. Michael Vick gravitated toward throwing the ball to "Fin," and that developed into one of the best connections in the league. Unfortunately, injuries slowed his production, but it was still a marvelous career for an undrafted player who had to spend time in the European league to make it back to the NFL.

His nine years in Atlanta saw him catch 236 passes for 3,072 yards and 19 touchdowns.

8. Michael Jenkins

Every Atlanta Falcons fan has Michael Jenkins' name etched in their brain. He was the target for Matt Ryan's first professional pass, which went for a 62-yard touchdown. During that same year, he was on the receiving end of a miraculous sideline catch that left one second for Jason Elam to kick the game-winning field goal, which he made to complete a stunning comeback.

As a first-round pick, Jenkins was expected to be the new favorite weapon of the aforementioned Michael Vick. While he never had 1,000 yards in a season, he was a consistent 500-to-700-yard receiver for seven years with the Falcons.

In 103 games, Michael Jenkins had 276 receptions for 3,512 yards and 20 touchdowns.

7. Calvin Ridley

When you look past the disappointing end to Calvin Ridley's career in Atlanta, you see an extremely productive receiver who knew how to get open and get in the endzone.

Ridley's career in the NFL got out to a hot start with his 821 yards and 10 touchdowns—four of which came against the Saints, which makes any Falcons fan happy. He followed that up with 866 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019, followed by a monster 1,374-yard, nine-touchdown year in 2020.

While Ridley's final years did not end the way anyone would have wanted, he still managed to catch 248 passes for 3,342 yards and 28 touchdowns.

6. Michael Haynes

Speaking of touchdowns, Michael Haynes was also a scoring machine. The seventh-round pick got things going in his second year and never looked back. His 50-catch, 1,122-yard, and 11-touchdown campaign in 1991 was particularly incredible. That was good for an average of 22.4 yards per catch, which is ridiculously high.

To follow that up, the New Orleans native caught 48 passes for 808 yards and 10 touchdowns. The fact that he finished with 300 fewer yards despite catching just two fewer passes while still averaging over 16 yards per catch is incredible.

Over two stints with the Falcons, which sandwiched a few years with his hometown team, Michael Haynes caught 266 passes for 4,220 yards and 34 touchdowns. And to think he never made a Pro Bowl...

5. Alfred Jenkins

Playing nine seasons in the NFL, all for the Atlanta Falcons, Alfred Jenkins had many quality seasons to go with a couple of monster years.

Stunningly, Jenkins was an undrafted free agent following the 1975 draft, and teams around the NFL immediately realized they had made a massive mistake. His first season saw him do his best Michael Haynes impersonation before Haynes had reached the age of 11 by gaining 767 yards and six scores on just 38 catches. He averaged a career-high 20.2 yards per reception as an undrafted rookie.

The overlooked receiver in the '75 draft finished with 360 receptions for 6,267 yards (17.4 YPR) and 40 touchdowns.

4. Andre Rison

You cannot talk about Andre Rison without first talking about his all-time nickname of "Bad Moon." The nickname originated from great sportscaster Chris Berman, who meshed Rison's last name with the song "Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival

As good as his nickname was, he was even better on the field, especially for the Atlanta Falcons. Over five seasons, Rison broke 1,000 yards and, even more incredibly, double-digit touchdowns in four seasons. His only seasons not hitting those marks came in 1991, when he had 976 yards, and in 1994, when he had eight TDs.

His peak year came in 1993 when he had 86 receptions for 1,242 yards and a league-leading 15 touchdowns.

Overall, the Michigan-born Rison made four Pro Bowls and All-Pro teams with his 463 catches for 5,633 yards and 56 touchdowns in five seasons.

3. Terance Mathis

Starting his NFL career as a sixth-round afterthought for the New York Jets, Terance Mathis made the best decision of his career by signing with the Atlanta Falcons in 1994.

Mathis immediately made an impact with his new team by reeling in 111 passes for 1,342 yards and 11 touchdowns, which earned him Pro Bowl honors. He followed that up with another 1,000-yard season before a two-year lull and another two-year streak reaching that 1k mark. The New Mexico alum also scored double-digit touchdowns twice.

Along with running back Jamal Anderson, he helped propel the Falcons to their first Super Bowl appearance in 1998.

He finished with the third-most receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in franchise history, catching 573 passes for 7,349 yards and 57 scores.

2. Roddy White

While Roddy White's title of the best receiver in franchise history was short-lived, that shouldn't take away from how good he was.

After an underwhelming first two seasons, White blossomed into one of the most consistent pass-catchers in NFL history. He had six straight seasons (2007-12) with over 80 catches, 1,000 yards, and six touchdowns. That period saw him make four Pro Bowls and earn four first-team All-Pro honors.

Roddy's most impactful stretch came in the 2012 playoffs when he had 13 catches for 176 yards and a touchdown in two games. This included him torching Richard Sherman for a long, crucial touchdown in the Divisional Round.

He currently sits at No. 2 for just about every wide receiver stat in Falcons history. He played in 149 games and reeled in 808 passes for 10,863 yards and 63 touchdowns. You also cannot overlook the time he spent mentoring the best receiver in the history of this franchise. He always brought energy, leadership, and attitude to the football field.

1. Julio Jones

This is as easy as it gets. While everyone on this list was great, no one ever came close to touching Julio Jones—the undisputed greatest receiver in Falcons history and, arguably, the most dominant receiver in NFL history.

It is hard to find where to start when talking about someone who many view as the best player in the franchise's history. He was purely unstoppable and was every defensive coordinator's nightmare (just ask Bill Belichick).

The phenom that Thomas Dimitroff had to have during the 2011 NFL Draft quickly made his impact felt in the NFL. He totaled 174 catches for 2,737 yards and 20 touchdowns in his first 34 games. After returning from a season-ending injury in 2014, Julio's career hit new heights with five straight seasons of over 1,400 yards, and he came six yards short of making it six straight.

Julio's best season came in 2015 when he caught 136 passes for 1,871 yards and eight touchdowns. Three years later he had his second-best season with 113 receptions for 1,677 yards and eight touchdowns.

You can keep going and going with the future Pro Football Hall of Famer. He leads the franchise in every receiving stat and spent most of his career as the all-time leader in yards per game with over 100 (ultimately ruined by subpar seasons with three teams).

One thing that speaks to Jones' greatness is that you could ask many Falcons fans what their favorite moment was from his career and you could get completely different answers. Whether it be his catch over Luke Kuechly to help ruin the Panthers' undefeated season, his 300-yard game against the Panthers, his disgusting stiff arm on a long catch-and-run in the NFC Championship Game against the Packers, or his circus Super Bowl catch that should have iced the game, he produced so many memorable moments.

All in all, Julio Jones is one of the two best players in Falcons history and is an all-time great. He finished his career in Atlanta with 848 catches for 12,896 yards and 60 touchdowns.

The 20 best wide receivers in Atlanta Falcons history by receiving yards



Years w/ Falcons

Receiving yards


Julio Jones




Roddy White




Terance Mathis

1994 - 2001



Alfred Jenkins




Andre Rison




Michael Haynes

1988-1993, 1997



Wallace Francis




Bert Emanuel




Michael Jenkins




Stacey Bailey




Calvin Ridley




Harry Douglas




Brian Finneran




Alfred Jackson




Ken Burrow




Mohamed Sanu




Floyd Dixon




Mike Pritchard




Russell Gage




Billy Johnson