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10 best receiving duos in NFL history

As part of our NFL 2013 kickoff section examining the role of wide receivers, Christopher L. Gasper ranks his top 10 wide receiving duos in NFL history:

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1: John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Steelers (1983-92)

  • Both Hall of Famers were drafted in 1974 and spent their entire careers in Pittsburgh, helping the Steelers win four Super Bowl titles. They combined to make seven Pro Bowls and both made first-team All-Pro (Swann in 1978 and Stallworth in 1979).


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2: Mark Duper, Mark Clayton, Dolphins (1983-92)

  • They performed in lockstep as Dan Marino’s favorite targets. They were so consistent, neither finished with fewer than 32 receptions in a season during their time as teammates. Together they put up nine 1,000-yard seasons (Clayton five, Duper four).

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3: Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Colts (2001-08)

  • Harrison was 29 when Wayne was drafted. He then had three of his best seasons with Wayne across the field, including an NFL-record 143 catches in 2002. Both are among the top 10 for receptions in the decade of the 2000s (Harrison fifth, Wayne ninth).

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4: Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Rams (1999-2007)

  • Bruce was great before the “Greatest Show on Turf” arrived in St. Louis, and Holt was a rookie when Kurt Warner took over at QB. During their nine seasons together Holt averaged an amazing 89 catches and 1,318 yards per year, with Bruce at 70 and 1,050.

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5: Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, Raiders (1972-78)

  • Biletnikoff, a symbol of the pass-happy AFL, was still at his peak when Branch began his streak of three first-team All-Pro honors in 1974. Oakland made the playoffs in all but one year Biletnikoff and Branch were teammates and never ranked lower than 11th in passing.

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

6: Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Patriots (2007-10)

  • Conjointly arriving for the 16-0 season, they formed the best inside-outside combo in the league for three straight years. Welker averaged more catches than Moss in that stretch with 115, but Moss had the advantage in yards (1,255) and touchdowns per season (15).

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7: Jerry Rice, John Taylor, 49ers (1987-95)

  • Rice’s brilliance was unmatched of course, but Taylor was a terrific complement once he evolved from strictly a special teams role. Together they won three Super Bowls and both exceeded 1,000 yards in 1989 and 1991. Taylor joined Rice in the Pro Bowl in 1988 and 1989.

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8: Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Vikings (1998-2001)

  • Carter was the strong veteran leader Moss needed when he burst on the NFL scene. There was no stopping them both. Carter, in his mid-30s, and Moss were Pro Bowl teammates from 1998-2000. As Vikings teammates, Moss averaged 13 touchdown catches per year, Carter 10.

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9: Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (2004-09)

  • Arizona had a plan when it drafted Fitzgerald third overall in 2004: pair him with the Cardinals’ other young wideout and take to the air. Over their six years spent jointly in the desert Boldin and Fitzgerald each went over 1,000 yards four times and made seven Pro Bowls.

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10: Don Maynard, George Sauer, Jets (1965-70)

  • Maynard, already established, reached the elite level in 1965 thanks to two rookies, Sauer and ace quarterback Joe Namath. That’s when the Jets really took off in the AFL. Both ranked among the top 10 in catches and receiving yards each season from 1966-69.

  • Honorable mention:

  • Dante Lavelli, Mac Speedie, Browns, 1946-52

  • Elroy Hirsch, Tom Fears, Rams, 1949-56

  • Boyd Dowler, Max McGee, Packers, 1957-67

  • Tony Hill, Drew Pearson, Cowboys, 1977-83

  • Art Monk, Gary Clark, Redskins, 1985-92

  • Henry Ellard, Flipper Anderson, Rams, 1988-93

  • Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell, Jaguars, 1996-2001

  • Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Giants, 1997-2004

  • Steve Smith, Muhsin Muhammad, Panthers, 2001-09

  • Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Packers, 2006-12

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