The 20 best wide receivers in the history of the Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have had some legendary pass-catchers
Indianapolis Colts v Green Bay Packers
Indianapolis Colts v Green Bay Packers / Stephen Dunn/GettyImages

While the host city and big names have often come and gone, one of the constants in the history of the Indianapolis Colts is the fact that strong wide receiver play has been a hallmark of their most successful teams.

Even in eras when the passing game was not as developed or when the Colts had poor quarterback play, the team has always had a thing for finding pass catchers. Some of them have even managed to make it to the Hall of Fame, furthering Indy's reputation as a gold-star franchise.

Even among a group of other sensational players, these 20 stand out as the best to ever put that iconic blue horseshoe on the side of their helmet. Will any of the players Indy currently has under contract move up the list in the next few years?

Criteria for selection

These wide receivers were chosen based on a combination of:

  • Statistical Achievements
  • Impact on Success
  • Longevity
  • Memorable Moments

The top 20 wide receivers in Indianapolis Colts history

20. Austin Collie

Collie has become infamous for suffering multiple crunching hits and concussions that ended his career prematurely. While the league's most popular crash dummy may have been on the wrong end of some big blows, he was also a trusted target for Peyton Manning.

In his first two seasons in the league, the BYU product caught 15 touchdown passes in just 25 games while averaging around 53 yards per contest. While the injuries eventually took their toll, Collie makes it onto this list, and he would have made it onto a separate hypothetical list of best Colts Day 3 draft picks ever.

19. Jerome Pathon

Before Pathon put up the best numbers of his career with the Saints, he was one of a young Manning's more frequent targets. His best season came in 2000, when he caught 50 passes for 646 yards and three touchdowns on a Colts team that made it to the playoffs.

Pathon, one of only four NFL players born in South Africa, may not have lived up to all of the hype when Indianapolis took him No. 32 overall the same year Manning was taken, but he may have had better numbers with a more experienced No. 18 under center. A solid player, but not particularly show-stopping.

18. Ray Perkins

Fans may remember Perkins as a coach above all else, though his 42-75 record in charge of the pre-Bill Parcells Giants and late 80s Buccaneers isn't too impressive. Before that, he was a receiver in Baltimore, teaming with Eddie Hinton as a member of that 1970 championship team.

Perkins tallied 1,538 yards and 11 touchdowns in his career, often serving as a vertical threat that averaged 16.5 yards per catch. While the 6-3 Perkins may have been better utilized in a different era, he found his calling with a whistle around his neck and stayed connected to football for a very long time.

17. Eddie Hinton

Hinton didn't even hit 2,000 career receiving yards, but one could make the case he was the No. 1 wide receiver on a Don McCafferty-coached Colts team that won Super Bowl V. Hinton and Roy Jefferson were impact players on that team,

However, a short four-year stint in Baltimore made it tough for Hinton to climb up this list. After failing to catch on in Houston and New England (just 13 catches between the two stops), Hinton found himself out of football. Hinton has the unique distinction of catching the final touchdown pass of Johnny Unitas' career.

16. Jessie Hester

A former Raiders pick, Hester's main job with the Colts was to help turn Jeff George into a franchise quarterback. While he was unsuccessful in that task, Hester was a very productive player who was on the receiving end of more than a few deep bombs from George's rocket arm.

In four years with the Colts, the ultra-consistent Hester piled up between 750 and 920 yards receiving in every single season. While the 10-year journeyman bounced around between four teams, the best part of his career was in Indianapolis. He had 1,000-yard talent, but instability ultimately made it tough to reach his full potential.

15. Ray Butler

Butler was one of the few competent players from Frank Kush's nauseating teams that marked the end of the franchise's time in Baltimore. The ill-fated Art Schlichter-Mike Pagel quarterback competition is tough for any receiver to go through, but Butler still managed to find the end zone with regularity.

The former USC star was able to tally just under 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns in his time with the Colts, becoming a valuable asset in the waning years of Bert Jones' career. While his numbers declined around the time Baltimore moved to Indianapolis, his success with the Seahawks after being let go showed the Colts made a mistake letting him go.

14. Matt Bouza

If you're a receiver who can have success with the combination of Jack Trudeau and Gary Hogeboom throwing you the football, that says something. Bouza was a Colt for eight seasons in the 1980s. While his production slowed down after Ron Meyer started giving Eric Dickerson the ball 25 times a game in a run-heavy scheme, Bouza's reliable playmaking made him a top passing game option.

Bouza topped 3,000 yards and 17 touchdowns with Indianapolis, going from an undrafted free agent to a semi-regular presence on the first teams in Indy that managed to have some success. It's a shame his best years were spent under Mike McCormack and Frank Kush, as they had no idea how to make the Colts a winner.

13. Brandon Stokley

After a semi-productive stint with the Ravens, Stokley was signed to be the No. 3 receiver behidn two emerging stars in Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Stokley's four seasons were marred by injury, but his 2004 campaign was one for the ages.

At a time when the role of slot receiver was not as important or defined as it is today, Stokley exploded with 68 catches, 1,077 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Even as his body started to fail him, Stokley continued to get jobs for almost a decade due to how elusive and reliable he was with the Colts.

To this day, the 2004 Colts are the only team to have three difference receivers top 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.

12. Pierre Garcon

A sixth-round pick from Division III Mount Union in Ohio, Garcon even catching a pass in the NFL was considered beating the odds. Becoming a consistent No. 2 target for Manning and others was even more improbable, but Garcon managed to do just that.

Garcon racked up 2,496 yards and 16 touchdowns between 2009 and 2011, as his physical presence over the middle and smooth style made him a success in Indy. Unfortunately, he ended up in Washington in the 2012 season, leading the league in catches just one year later.

The Colts missed out on the best of Garcon, but they still milked a very successful career out of him.

11. Sean Dawkins

A former first-round pick in 1993, Dawkins spent time with the Seahawks, Saints, and Jaguars in his nine-year career. His best five years, however, came with the Colts, where he had four straight seasons of at least 700 receiving yards. While the Colts did pass on Michael Strahan to pick him, Dawkins was a quality wide receiver at his peak.

A 6-4 deep threat with long arms, only two 1993 draftees had more receiving yards in their careers than Dawkins. Sadly, the Colts dynamo tragically passed away in 2023 at just 52 years old due to cardiac arrest. His career with Indianapolis is still looked upon fondly by many.

10. Glenn Doughty

The man they called "Shake and Bake" was one of the great running backs in Michigan history before Baltimore converted him to wide receiver in 1972. While the Colts of the 1970s were all about the play of quarterback Bert Jones, Doughty was on the receiving end of many a Jones laser.

Doughty would end his career with 3,547 yards and 24 touchdowns, all of which came with the Colts. A renaissance man who recorded two albums in a band comprising of Colts teammates, Doughty is still in the top 100 all-time in yards per catch with 16.2.

9. Willie Richardson

Richardson became a legend at Jackson State, having a parade thrown in his name and being honored by the city with "Willie Richardson Day" in the segregated South in 1963. Richardson's historic Tigers career gave him the foundation for a strong professional tenure in Baltimore.

A two-time Pro Bowl player, Richardson was the top wide receiver on Don Shula's late 60s Colts teams. With just under 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns to his name as a Colt on a team that wanted to throw the ball as little as possible, Richardson's playmaking helped set him apart in his era.

8. Michael Pittman Jr.

The son of the Buccaneers running back, Pittman was an ultra-physical bulldozer at USC. The Colts picked him high in the second round in 2020, and they would not regret this selection one bit.

In the last three seasons, Pittman has recorded 88, 99, and 109 catches, topping 1,000 yards twice. Among pure wide receivers in Colts history, Pittman is already seventh on the all-time list. He has already become the favorite target of Anthony Richardson in his limited action.

If Richardson is as good as everyone thinks he can be, expect Pittman to fly up this list as the gaudy numbers continue to roll in. His consistency has already been a hallmark of his young career.

7. Roger Carr

Carr was one of the most effective deep threats of the 1970s. While he only topped 650 receiving yards twice in his eight seasons with the Colts, what he did in 1976 will go down in history as one of the most unique and effective seasons a receiver has ever had.

Carr caught just 43 passes for an astounding 1,112 yards, giving him a mind-boggling 25.9 yards per catch average while finding paydirt times. Carr's career may have been hurt by Bert Jones' injuries more than any other player, as he and No. 7 had a very special connection down the field.

6. Jimmy Orr

Everything Carr did, Orr did first, and better. Orr's rookie year with the Steelers saw him pile up a laughable 27.6 yards per catch. Orr would lead the league in yards per catch three times and finish at 19.8 for his career. Johnny Unitas loved hitting Orr deep down the field.

No. 28 played in Baltimore for 10 seasons, amassing 5,859 yards and 50 touchdowns in that span. Combining his time with Pittsburgh into the mix, Orr was a Pro Bowler twice and an All-Pro three times. The scary part is he wasn't even the No. 1 passing option for those Unitas-led teams.

Orr is one of those players who could have played in an era due to his speed and downfield playmaking.

5. TY Hilton

The Andrew Luck era was defined by No. 12 and No. 13 linking up on yet another big passing play. A former third round pick from Florida International, Hilton went from a speedy role player to a prove No. 1 receiver who led the NFL with 1,448 yards receiving in 2016.

Hilton would top 1,000 yards five times in six years, making a Pro Bowl four times in a row during that span. Only three players in Colts history have more touchdown catches than Hilton. Two of them are in the Hall of Fame, and one of them should be.

T.Y.'s career may be coming to a close soon, which is a shame given how dominant he was at his peak.

4. Reggie Wayne

The fact Wayne is not in the Hall of Fame is borderline unbecoming of the institution. While he did play with Peyton Manning and alongside Marvin Harrison, Wayne's final career tallies blow the doors off all but a very select few that earn enshrinement into Canton.

Wayne was a 1,000-yard receiver eight times, a Pro Bowl player six times, and an All-Pro three times. The Miami star was ultra-consistent for 13 seasons, having success as one of Manning's favorite targets and copying his success when Andrew Luck came to town.

Wayne will eventually make the Hall of Fame, but that doesn't make his delay any less inexcusable.

3. Lenny Moore

Isn't Moore a halfback? Well, he played both, which is good enough to be included on this list. Moore remains the only player in NFL history with 40 rushing and receiving touchdowns, and it took until last year for Christian McCaffrey to equal his record for consecutive games with a touchdown.

Moore's receiving exploits helped him earn seven Pro Bowl nods and five First-Team All-Pro selections in his career. From 1957 to 1961, when Moore was used as a traditional flanker more than in his late years, his 17-game average had him on pace to tally 64 catches, 1,152 yards, and 10 touchdowns. And that was alongside 705 rushing yards per season!

There have been great do-it-all receivers after Moore, but no one did it quite like him.

2. Raymond Berry

Berry was the premier receiver of his time and one of the first great wideouts in league history. While a slow player who lacked great athletic ability, Berry was able to become a star thanks to meticulous route-running and arguably the best set of hands in NFL history.

In a four-season stretch between 1957 and 1960, Berry led the NFL in catches and yards three times and touchdowns twice. Berry's 17-game averages come out to 70 catches, 1,024 yards, and eight touchdowns despite playing his career in run-heavy eras. At his peak, Berry was the best in the game at his position.

Berry was a Pro Bowler six times and was named to five All-Pro teams before becoming an exceptional coach who took the Patriots to the Super Bowl.

1. Marvin Harrison

Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in Colts history, and Harrison is the best wide receiver the franchise ever had. Somehow, despite his accolades and Hall of Fame induction, Harrison may still be viewed as a bit underrated by some.

Harrison was an All-Pro in eight straight years between 1999 and 2006. In that span, he averaged over 100 catches, 1,400 yards, and just under 13 touchdowns per campaign. He set the record for catches in a season with 143 and twice led the league in receiving yards.

Harrison has a case for the title of best wide receiver since the new millenium began. Of his son is half the player he was, the Cardinals will be feeling great about themselves.