Cris Carter 6'3" 202 Wide Receiver Minnesota Vikings 16 Seasons 234 Games Played 1,101 Receptions 130 Touchdowns 8 Pro Bowls 1990s All-Decade Team
Cristopher D. Carter was drafted in the fourth round of the Supplemental Draft in 1987 by the Philadelphia Eagles. He had to go into the supplemental draft because he lost his senior year of eligibility at Ohio State University after signing a contract with an agent.
While in college, Carter was the Buckeyes big-play receiver. Though he lost a year of college, he had the most receptions in Ohio State history when he left. Not only is he a member of the Buckeyes All-Century Team, but Carter is inducted into the Ohio State Varsity "O" Hall of Fame.
The 1987 season is best known as being shortened by a players strike. Carter was rarely used, catching two touchdowns off five receptions, though he did return 12 kicks. He would only return one kick the rest of his career.
Kenny Jackson, the Eagles first-round draft pick in 1984, was not working out as a starter opposite Pro Bowler Mike Quick. Carter was inserted into the starting lineup and grabbed 17 touchdowns off 84 receptions over two seasons.
The Eagles were known for their swarming defense and athletic quarterback during this time. Their head coach, Buddy Ryan, was a defensive expert, but the Eagles offense could not score in the playoffs and were bounced out in their first game in both years Carter started.
Ryan suddenly cut Carter after the 1989 season, with the reason was that all Carter did for the Eagles was "catch touchdown passes". The truth was that Carter was abusing drugs and the wide receiver credits his being cut as the wake up call that saved his life.
Minnesota claimed him off the waiver wire right away. He spent his first year in Minnesota backing up Anthony Carter (no relation) and Hassan Jones. Though the Vikings started three receivers seven times in 1991, he supplanted Jones as the starter and would hold that spot the remainder of his Vikings career.
One of Carter's strengths was his conditioning and durability. Though he missed four games because if injury in 1992, he played every other game possible for Minnesota. Except for his rookie and final seasons, those would be the only four games that he missed.
His 1993 season was the first of eight straight Pro Bowl years. He became one of the very best receivers in the NFL over this time. Carter caught a career best 122 pass in both 1994 and 1995, becoming the only player in NFL history to have that many receptions twice. He led the NFL in receptions in 1994, and his career best 17 touchdown receptions in 1995 led the league as well.
The Vikings had a revolving door at quarterback during Carter's time there. Seven different men were the primary starter in his 12 seasons with the team. Despite all the lunacy and confusion, Carter was a beacon of steady leadership and consistent production.
Carter had 86 or more receptions in seven of his eight Pro Bowl years. He had 90 or more catches five times. He also grabbed those touchdowns Ryan mentioned. Other than the 17 scores in 1995, he led the NFL with 13 touchdown catches two times. He was in double figures in touchdown receptions in five of his Pro Bowl years.
What made his production even more special, other than the ever changing quarterback, is the fact he had to share receptions with future Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss, Pro Bowl wide receivers Jake Reed and Anthony Carter, and Pro Bowl tight end Steve Jordan.
Besides his eight consecutive Pro Bowls, he was named First Team All-Pro twice. He holds the Vikings record for Pro Bowls by a wide receiver, and only Moss has been named First Team All-Pro more. Just two Vikings, Hall of Famers Alan Page and Randall McDaniel have represented Minnesota more at the Pro Bowl than Carter.
Though he caught 73 balls for six scores in 2001, the Vikings let the 36-year old receiver go. He joined the Miami Dolphins the next year, but appeared in just five games and retired. Carter hold the Vikings records of receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown catches for a career. He also holds the single-season Vikings record for receptions and is tied with Moss with touchdown receptions.
Carter has been a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame three times so far. He ranks third in NFL history with 1,101 career receptions, fourth in career receiving touchdowns with 130, and eighth in career receiving yards, and total career touchdowns.
He was blessed with long arms and a lot of strength, making it very hard to cover him in a five-yard chuck. The two modern receivers he is jockeying for induction into Canton is Tim Brown and Andre Reed.
Brown had seven less receptions, but 1,035 more receiving yards. He went to one more Pro Bowl, but was never named First Team All-Pro and had 26 less touchdowns. What might get him in ahead of Carter is the fact he was an incredible return specialist.
Reed got most of his receptions off the arm of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. He has less Pro Bowls,receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown catches that both Brown and Carter. Yet he played in four Super Bowls, where Brown appeared in one and Carter never did.
Then there are the old school fans who point to the obvious fact none of these three receivers ever dealt with the ten-yard chuck rule, which makes it much harder to excel as a receiver, as opposed to the offensive-friendly rules the trio participated in. Rules that greatly inflated statistics, perhaps making a player look better than an older player because the modern numbers dwarf the statistics from the ten-yard chuck era.
Men like Mac Speedie, Lionel Taylor, Harold Carmichael, Drew Pearson, Gino Cappelletti, Sonny Randle, Cliff Branch, Harold Jackson, Pete Retzlaff, and LaVern Dilweg are just a few great receivers on par with Carter, Brown, and Reed still awaiting their inductions. Men who dealt with a much rougher game, let alone the ten-yard chuck.
Carter has a feel-good story attached to his career, one that has now extended to where he provides analysis on television. With career on the ropes because of drugs, he rebounded and became a leader. Most recall him serving as a mentor to Moss.
He won the Bart Starr Man of the Year Award in 1994, the Bryan "Whizzer" White NFL Man of the Year Awards in 1998, and the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 1999.
Besides the 17 NFL records he either owns or shares, he is a member of the NFL's 1990s All-Decade Team. He is one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings as well as being a member of their 40th Anniversary Team.
The Vikings have retired his jersey and inducted him into their Honor Roll. His induction into Canton is inevitable, the only question left is the year it will happen. The Vikings have had a huge amount of great receivers to play for them, but Cris Carter may be the best ever.
Notable Players Drafted in 1987 * Denotes Hall of Fame Member
1. Vinny Testaverde, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2. Cornelius Bennett, OLB, Indianapolis Colts 8. Shane Conlin, MLB, Buffalo Bills 9. Jerome Brown, DT, Philadelphia Eagles 10. Rod Woodson, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers * 13. Chris Miller, QB, Atlanta Falcons 20. Haywood Jeffries, WR, Houston Oilers 22. Harris Barton, OT, San Francisco 49ers 23. Bruce Armstrong, OT, New England Patriots 26. Jim Harbaugh, QB, Chicago Bears 29. Nate Odomes, CB, Buffalo 34. Tim McDonald, SS, Saint Louis Cardinals 35. Christian Okoye, FB, Kansas City Chiefs 63. Jerry Ball, NT, Detroit Lions 72. Henry Thomas, DT,Minnesota Vikings 98. Rich Gannon, QB, New England 110. Steve Beuerlein, QB, Oakland Raiders 122. Hardy Nickerson, MLB, Pittsburgh 150. Greg Lloyd, OLB, Pittsburgh 183. Bo Jackson, RB, Oakland 206. Kevin Gogan, OG, Dallas Cowboys 261. Merril Hoge, Pittsburgh 276. Frank Winters, Cleveland Browns 283. Howard Ballard, OT, Buffalo 292. Elbert Shelly, DB, Atlanta 334. Tyrone Braxton, DB, Denver Broncos