There’s no question Julio Jones is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL today, but he continues to make the case that he’s one of the best players to ever play the position, period.
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Heading into Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, the Falcons’ All-Pro receiver needs just 13 yards to reach the 10,000-yard mark in his career. Through 102 career games, Jones has 9,987 yards, and he is coming off a 121-yard outing against the Washington Redskins. It seems likely that he will reach the 10,000-yard milestone on Sunday, his 103rd career game, which would make him the fastest player in NFL history to reach that mark - by a large margin.
If he does accomplish that feat, he will have beaten some of the greatest receivers in the league’s history to the mark. Here are the previous five players who have reached the 10,000-yard mark the fastest:
Calvin Johnson – 115 games
Johnson, or “Megatron” as he was known throughout his career, is the current record holder and crossed the 10,000-yard threshold in his 115th game. He earned the record on Thanksgiving Day in 2014 during the Detroit Lions’ 34-17 win against the Chicago Bears. In the victory, Johnson caught 11 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
"That's big, especially for a receiver," Johnson said after the game, according to ESPN’s Michael Rothstein. "To be able to do it, in the fashion that we were able to do it and with the help I have from the rest of my teammates, we all share and take part in that.”
Johnson retired from the NFL after the 2015 season with 11,619 receiving yards, which are 30th-most all-time among NFL receivers, and 83 touchdowns, which ties him for 22nd all-time.
Antonio Brown – 116 games
It took Brown one more game than Johnson to reach 10,000 yards, tying Torry Holt for the second-fewest. Brown reached that milestone in Week 1 this season, during the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-21 tie with the Cleveland Browns. In that game, Brown caught nine passes for 93 yards, ending the contest with 10,003 career yards.
“I never really thought about it,” said Brown, according to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “It’s unique. It’s exciting. I have to thank Ben a lot for that. It’s all about the chemistry, the camaraderie and the uniqueness of us being together. It’s highly unique when you get to work with one quarterback your entire time. I am fortunate I have been able to work with one of the greatest of all time.”
Torry Holt – 116 games
Prior to Johnson setting the record in 2014, it was Holt who held the record of reaching 10,000 receiving yards the fastest, accomplishing that in 2006. Holt, who was one of the best, but often overlooked, receivers of his time, broke the record with a monster game in the St. Louis Rams’ 28-30 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. In that game, Holt led all receivers with eight catches for 154 yards and three touchdowns. He broke the record on a 67-yard touchdown catch.
"I don't want to sound selfish or conceited, but I'm really, really excited about moving into the 10,000-yard club,'' Holt said after the game, according to Ashley Fox of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Holt played 11 seasons in the NFL, retiring in 2012 after signing a ceremonial one-day contract with the Rams. During his career, Holt caught 920 passes for 13,382 yard – 16th-most all-time – and 74 touchdowns – tied for 35th-most all-time.
Lance Alworth – 120 games
Long before the previous three names on this list ever set foot on an NFL field, Alworth was re-defining what a receiver could be. It took Alworth 120 games to reach the 10,000-yard mark, which was faster than any player in history to that point. Alworth, who played the majority of his career with the San Diego Chargers, surpassed 10,000 yards as a member of the Dallas Cowboys in their 52-10 win against the New York Jets on Dec. 4, 1971. In that game, Alworth caught three passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.
Alworth retired from the NFL after the 1972 season and ended his 11-year career with 542 receptions for 10,266 yards and 85 touchdowns. Alworth had seven straight 1,000-yard seasons during his career, shattering the previous record of three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978, becoming the first player to be inducted who primarily played in the AFL.
Jerry Rice – 121 games
To provide some context as to how good Alworth was, not even the great Jerry Rice could reach 10,000 receiving yards as quickly as he could. Rice reached the milestone in his 121st game, a 27-3 victory for the San Francisco 49ers against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 6, 1992. Although he didn’t break Alworth’s record at the time, Rice did set the NFL record for receiving touchdowns in the same game. In the 49ers’ win, Rice caught seven passes for 79 yards and the record-breaking touchdown.
Considered by many to be the greatest receiver in NFL history, Rice played a staggering 20 seasons in the league. When he retired after the 2004 season, Rice had caught 1,549 passes for 22,895 yards and 197 touchdowns over the course of his career, which all remain NFL records. Rice was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.