Previously, I ranked the Michigan quarterbacks (LINK) and running backs (LINK) from the beginning of the Lloyd Carr era onward. That corresponds with the time that I have paid close attention to Michigan football.
Now we will take a look at the receivers. Because I don’t have an endless amount of time, I have to trim this down to guys who started at least twelve games in a Michigan uniform, which represents roughly one full season as a starter. The lone exception here is Devin Gardner, who started a bunch of games, but mostly at quarterback.
Hit the jump for the list.
1. David Terrell
Career starts: 21 from 1999-2001
Career statistics: 152 catches for 2,317 yards (15.2 yards/catch) and 23 touchdowns
Best game: In the famous comeback win over Alabama in the Orange Bowl, Terrell was Tom Brady’s favorite target, making 10 catches for 150 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Why the ranking? I might take some flak for this, but for my money, Terrell is the guy I would want on the field the most for Michigan. Things didn’t go his way in the NFL, but he had size, speed, instincts, and ball skills, and he showed up when the pressure was on. It’s neck-and-neck between him and Edwards, but I give the edge to Terrell, whose numbers would have been on par with Edwards’s if Terrell didn’t leave one year early for the NFL draft (#8 overall to the Bears in 2001).
2. Braylon Edwards
Career starts: 33 from 2001-2004
Career statistics: 252 catches for 3,541 yards (14.1 yards/catch) and 39 touchdowns
Best game: Edwards had probably the most famous day in history for a Michigan receiver when he made 11 catches for 189 yards and 3 touchdowns in an overtime win against Michigan State in 2004.
Why the ranking? If there’s a receiving category at Michigan, Edwards is probably at or near the top of it. Both he and Terrell are almost tied here at the top, because they could each take over a game. I’m dinging Edwards slightly for the frustrating drops early in his career, but those were mostly gone by the time he was a senior. He became the #3 overall pick in 2005 and made 40 touchdown catches during his pro career.
3. Amani Toomer
Career starts: 15 from 1992-1995
Career statistics: 143 catches for 2,657 yards (18.6 yards/catch) and 18 touchdowns
Best game: In 1995 against Minnesota, Toomer caught 5 passes for 177 yards (35.4 yards/catch) and 2 touchdowns, including a 75-yarder. Even when he wasn’t catching 75-yard touchdowns, he was averaging over 25 yards/catch.
Why the ranking? Perhaps is Toomer is underrated by Michigan fans despite a long and successful NFL career, and maybe it has something to do with his icy relationship with Lloyd Carr. Whatever the reason, Toomer averaged an excellent 18.6 yards per catch for his career and was actually the all-time leader at Michigan for receiving yards in a single season at one point (1,096 as a junior in 1994). He was a 2nd round pick in 1996 and would go on to make 668 catches and score 54 receiving touchdowns in the league.
4. Jeremy Gallon
Career starts: 24 from 2009-2013
Career statistics: 173 catches for 2,704 yards (15.6 yards/catch) and 17 touchdowns
Best game: Against Indiana in 2013, scored 2 touchdowns and set school records for receptions (14) and receiving yards (369).
Why the ranking? Boosted largely by a great senior year, Gallon finds himself here on this list. He led the team in receiving during both the 2012 and 2013 seasons, but he caught 89 balls as a senior and now stands #3 on the career receiving yardage list.
5. Mario Manningham
Career starts: 23 from 2005-2007
Career statistics: 137 catches for 2,310 yards (16.9 yards/catch) and 27 touchdowns
Best game: Manningham made Notre Dame looks silly in 2006 when he made 4 catches for 137 yards and 3 touchdowns, including a 69-yard double-move gem.
Why the ranking? Manningham was one of the smoothest competitors at receiver and made some people look uncoordinated with his acceleration and change of direction. He played at a time when Michigan was more pro-style oriented, but he’s one guy who would have excelled in the spread offense that became more of Michigan’s style in the Rich Rodriguez era onward.
6. Tai Streets
Career starts: 37 from 1995-1998
Career statistics: 131 catches for 2,016 yards (15.4 yards/catch) and 17 touchdowns
Best game: Michigan fans probably remember him most for his 4-catch, 127-yard, 2-touchdown performance against Washington State in the Rose Bowl, but he caught 6 passes for a career-high 192 yards and 1 touchdown in 1998 against Minnesota.
Why the ranking? I personally forget about Streets at times, and that’s probably partly due to the players around him. In retrospect, quarterback Brian Griese and the running backs did not give Streets a ton of room to create, and his overall numbers were nothing special. I think Streets would have been more of a standout in a different era. He went on to become a 6th round pick in 1999.
7. Donovan Peoples-Jones
Career starts: 26 from 2017-2019
Career statistics: 103 catches for 1,327 yards (12.9 yards/catch) and 14 touchdowns
Best game: Amazingly, the 5-star recruit never topped the 90 yards he put up against SMU in 2018. He did score 3 touchdowns out of 4 catches in that game, though, which is pretty good.
Why the ranking? Part of the blame for Peoples-Jones’s lack of production has to fall on Jim Harbaugh and Co., who generally do not help receivers achieve greatness, but some of that blame falls on Peoples-Jones, too. He was not a great route runner and suffered from some lapses in concentration. He was more talented than what his stats show.
8. Marquise Walker
Career starts: 19 from 1998-2001
Career statistics: 176 catches for 2,269 yards (12.9 yards/catch) and 17 touchdowns
Best game: Walker gave his best effort to attempt to beat Ohio State in 2001, though it ended in a 26-20 loss. But he set career highs with 15 catches for 160 yards and tied his best mark with 2 touchdowns.
Why the ranking? Walker played at the same time as David Terrell, and he inherited the expectations but without the overall athleticism. Walker was a tremendous jump ball guy who did not have a lot of explosiveness at 6’3″ and 213 lbs. He made one of the greatest catches in Michigan history:
9. Jason Avant
Career starts: 27 from 2002-2005
Career statistics: 169 catches for 2,247 yards (13.3 yards/catch) and 13 touchdowns
Best game: Avant made 7 catches for 175 yards (25.0 yards/catch) against Iowa in 2003 and somehow avoided scoring a touchdown.
Why the ranking? Avant was an excellent complementary receiver who didn’t quite have the talent to be a team’s number one. He was a possession guy with probably the best, most consistent hands of any Michigan receiver during this time span. He became a 4th round pick of the Eagles in 2006 and went on to make 346 catches in the NFL.
10. Mercury Hayes
Career starts: 25 from 1992-1995
Career statistics: 124 catches for 2,2144 yards (17.3 yards/catch) and 12 touchdowns
Best game: Statistically, Hayes’s best game was also the game he helped win at the last minute, 18-17 over Virginia in 1995. Hayes caught 7 passes for 179 yards (25.6 yards/catch) and 2 touchdowns.
Why the ranking? Hayes was a fun receiver to watch, but he played at a time when the ball wasn’t thrown all over the place. He wasn’t quite the dominant physical performer as some of the other guys near the top of this list, but he was good after the catch. If he were playing the modern game, he might be a running back instead of a receiver.
11. Junior Hemingway
Career starts: 30 from 2007-2011
Career statistics: 88 catches for 1,638 yards (18.6 yards/catch) and 11 touchdowns
Best game: People remember the late heroics from other players in the 2011 “Under the Lights” game against Notre Dame, but Hemingway made 3 catches for 165 yards and 1 touchdown in that one.
Why the ranking? Hemingway was not the fastest player, but he did some great things with his ability to run after the catch and outjump people by being physical.
12. Jehu Chesson
Career starts: 24 from 2013-2016
Career statistics: 114 catches for 1,639 yards (14.4 yards/catch) and 12 touchdowns
Best game: Against Indiana in 2015, Chesson caught 10 passes for 207 yards and 4 touchdowns, the last of which is a school record.
Why the ranking? Chesson had excellent long speed and excelled at running jet sweeps, but he really only had one half of a good season at receiving. He was similar to Steve Breaston in some ways, though probably with a little better ball skills.
13. Marcus Knight
Career starts: 22 from 1996-1999
Career statistics: 88 catches for 1,508 yards (17.1 yards/catch) and 8 touchdowns
Best game: Knight caught 5 passes for 136 yards and 1 touchdown against Illinois in 1999.
Why the ranking? Knight gets lost in the shuffle of Michigan receivers a little bit since he played around the same time as David Terrell, Marquise Walker, and others. At 6’1″ and 180 pounds, he wasn’t the biggest guy and wasn’t a ridiculous athlete, but he was a key target for Tom Brady and Drew Henson, posting three straight games of 125+ yards as a senior. He went undrafted but stayed on the fringes of the NFL for four years.
14. Steve Breaston
Career starts: 24 from 2003-2006
Career statistics: 156 catches for 1,696 yards (10.9 yards/catch) and 10 touchdowns
Best game: As a senior in 2006, Breaston not only caught 3 passes for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns, but he also returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown.
Why the ranking? Breaston was part of a dynamic trio of receivers during the Edwards-Avant-Breaston years, and because of his big-play ability, he probably gets more recognition than his numbers deserve. Michigan threw him a lot of short passes at a time when they really didn’t understand how to turn those into big plays, and he also did not track the deep ball well.
15. Devin Gardner
Career starts: 31 from 2010-2014 (4 at WR, 27 at QB
Career statistics: 18 catches for 286 yards (15.9 yards/catch) and 4 touchdowns
Best game: Gardner made 5 catches for 63 yards and 1 touchdown against Air Force in 2012.
Why the ranking? I did the same thing for Denard Robinson at running back since he was mostly a quarterback but started a little at running back. So here’s Devin Gardner at receiver, even though he only started four games there while the older Robinson was behind center. Gardner had a great build for a receiver at 6’4″ and about 215 pounds, and he ran a 4.62 at the NFL Combine. If he concentrated on the receiver position, he probably would have been pretty dang good. His route running was naturally a little sloppy since he was a quarterback throughout high school, but the natural ball skills and athleticism were there.
16. Roy Roundtree
Career starts: 42 from 2008-2012
Career statistics: 154 catches for 2,304 yards (15.0 yards/catch) and 15 touchdowns
Best game: In a back-and-forth shootout against Illinois in 2010, Roundtree caught 9 passes for what was then a school-record 246 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Why the ranking? Roundtree was skinny and not particularly athletic, so it’s probably not a coincidence that the crafty route-runner who performed well in the clutch has moved on to a coaching career. He benefited from the running threat of Denard Robinson, but he also made some key catches all on his own, such as a late leaping effort against Northwestern.
17. Adrian Arrington
Career starts: 17 from 2004-2007
Career statistics: 109 catches for 1,438 yards (13.2 yards/catch) and 16 touchdowns
Best game: Arrington saved his best for last when he went off in the Gator Bowl against Florida. He caught 9 passes for 153 yards (17 yards/catch) and 2 touchdowns.
Why the ranking? Arrington was never the #1 on his own team, which was both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, he had other good receivers drawing attention, which opened things up for him at times. On the other hand, he never got the targets to really see if he could be a true #1 guy. He was a good player, not a great one.
18. Devin Funchess
Career starts: 13 from 2012-2014
Career statistics: 126 catches for 1,715 yards (13.6 yards/catch) and 15 touchdowns
Best game: Funchess caught 7 passes for 151 yards (21.6 yards/catch) and 1 touchdowns against Minnesota in 2013.
Why the ranking? Funchess began his career as a tight end and transitioned full-time to receiver part-way through his sophomore year, when it became pretty obvious that blocking wouldn’t be his thing. Blocking also wasn’t his thing when he had a chance to just push around 5’11”, 190 lb. guys, despite being 6’5″ and 230 pounds. He made some good plays in his career, but during his lone year at wideout, he averaged a pretty meager 11.8 yards per catch on 62 receptions. Funchess should be ranked higher based on talent, but I’m invoking the “no block, no rock” rule.
19. Amara Darboh
Career starts: 28 from 2013-2016
Career statistics: 151 catches for 2,062 yards (13.7 yards/catch) and 14 touchdowns
Best game: Against the evil Michigan State Spartans in 2016, Darboh made 8 catches for 165 yards.
Why the ranking? If we’re talking about starting receivers at Michigan, Darboh was pretty pedestrian. He had a catch for the ages against BYU, but other than that, his performances were pretty ho-hum. He did manage to get drafted on the heels of a surprisingly fast 40 time at the Combine, but he has done very little in the NFL to convince me that I was just missing something.
20. Martavious Odoms
Career starts: 30 from 2008-2011
Career statistics: 94 catches for 1,087 yards (11.6 yards/catch) and 5 touchdowns
Best game: Odoms topped the 100-yard mark just once in his career, and that came during his freshman year against Illinois. He caught 7 passes for 129 yards.
Why the ranking? I don’t know that this has happened to anyone else in Michigan history, but Odoms’s decline in production is somewhat staggering. He led the team with 49 catches as a freshman and then went to 22, 16, and then 7 receptions in the next three years. It was odd, too, because Odoms was willing to do the dirty work. Brady Hoke took over in 2011 and preferred bigger receivers, so it’s not surprising there was a dip there; the more surprising change is that he became less and less emphasized under Rich Rodriguez, the guy who recruited him to Ann Arbor when he took over in 2008.
21. Ronald Bellamy
Career starts: 24 from 1999-2002
Career statistics: 67 catches for 888 yards (13.3 yards/catch) and 9 touchdowns
Best game: Bellamy pulled out his best performance against Michigan State, when he caught 5 passes for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2002.
Why the ranking? Bellamy played second fiddle to some good receivers. He was an adequate complementary player, but he never did much that stood out. His production was the second lowest on this list, though he was probably better than his numbers suggested. He spent some time in the NFL with the Dolphins, Ravens, and Lions.
22. Darryl Stonum
Career starts: 25 from 2008-2010
Career statistics: 76 catches for 1,008 yards (13.3 yards/catch) and 6 touchdowns
Best game: Stonum made 3 catches for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 2010 blowout over UMass.
Why the ranking? Stonum is the only guy on this list not to finish his career at Michigan, as some legal troubles led to his removal from the team and an eventual transfer to Baylor. He had some tantalizing long speed, including a kickoff return for a TD against Notre Dame, but he was a speed guy with questionable tracking and catching skills.
23. Greg Mathews
Career starts: 27 from 2006-2009
Career statistics: 110 catches for 1,195 yards (10.9 yards/catch) and 6 touchdowns
Best game: Mathews caught 5 passes for 68 yards and 1 game-winning touchdown in the 2009 Notre Dame game.
Why the ranking? Mathews came into college with a good amount of hype as a top-100 prospect, but he was one of the slower receivers in this bunch. Known for good hands and not much else, he was purely a possession guy.
24. Russell Shaw
Career starts: 21 from 1996-1997
Career statistics: 58 catches for 668 yards (11.6 yards/catch) and 6 touchdowns
Best game: Shaw made 6 catches for 84 yards and 1 touchdown in 1996 against Alabama.
Why the ranking? A rare JUCO transfer for Michigan, Shaw played at El Camino Community College before spending his final two college seasons at Michigan. Shaw was pretty unremarkable, though he started on the 1997 national championship team opposite Tai Streets.
Other players to start at least one game:
Zion Babb (1)
Calvin Bell (4)
Tarik Black (9)
Tyrece Butler (5)
Freddy Canteen (3)
Toney Clemons (2)
Kekoa Crawford (4)
Bo Dever (1)
Drew Dileo (6)
Doug Dutch (1)
Jermaine Gonzalez (1)
Kelvin Grady (3)
Drake Harris (2)
Jeremy Jackson (4)
DiAllo Johnson (2)
Oliver Martin (1)
Eddie McDoom (2)
Dennis Norfleet (4)
Grant Perry (5)
Joe Reynolds (2)
Terrence Robinson (1)
James Rogers (2)
LaTerryal Savoy (1)
Nate Schoenle (1)
Carl Tabb (6)
Maurice Ways (2)
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