NFL Receiving TD Leaders By Year—1980s
Contrary to popular belief, Jerry Rice was not the NFL's leader in touchdown catches every year that he played. But Rice did lead six times, and three of those were in the ‘80s. There were some other great players who led in TD catches that decade, and here is a complete list of them:
1989-Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers (17)
The 1989 season marked the third time in Jerry Rice's then-young career that he led the NFL in receiving TDs, and the second time that he led the league in receiving yardage. Rice caught 82 passes that season for 1483 yards and 17 touchdowns.
1988-Mark Clayton, Miami Dolphins (14)
Mark Clayton had the benefit of catching passes from one of the most prolific QBs of all-time in Dan Marino. Until 2007, Marino was the NFL's leading passer of all-time, but was surpassed by Brett Favre. Clayton, meanwhile, led the NFL in receiving touchdowns twice, the second of which was the 1988 season when he caught 86 passes for 1129 yards and 14 TDs.
1987-Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers (22)
1987 was magical for Jerry Rice, as he broke the single-season mark for receiving touchdowns with 22, a record that stood until Randy Moss broke it in 2007 with 23. That year, Rice caught 65 passes for 1078 yards and the 22 TDs, and even carried the ball eight times for 51 yards with one more TD.
1986-Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers (15)
1986 was Jerry Rice's first year as a starter, and he took full advantage of the fact that he was part of an offensive juggernaut with a Hall of Fame QB in Joe Montana. Rice caught 86 passes that season for a league-leading 1570 yards and 15 touchdown catches. He also had 10 carries for 72 yards and one rushing score.
1985-Daryl Turner, Seattle Seahawks (13)
Seattle's Daryl Turner only played four seasons in the NFL, and never had more than 35 catches in one year. In 1985, Turner caught 34 passes for just 670 yards, but 13 of his 34 catches were for touchdowns, which led the league.
1984-Mark Clayton, Miami Dolphins (18)
1984 was Mark Clayton's first year as a starter, and he made it count with 73 catches for 1389 yards and an NFL-leading 18 touchdown receptions. Clayton averaged 19.0 yards per catch that season as well.
1983-Roy Green, St. Louis Cardinals (14)
Roy Green was a speedy receiver who led the NFL with 1555 receiving yards in 1984, averaging 19.9 yards per catch. But the year before that, Green led the league in touchdown receptions with 14. In all that season, Green caught 78 passes for 1227 yards.
1982-Wes Chandler, San Diego Chargers (9)
In the strike-shortened 1982 season, San Diego's Wes Chandler still put up some impressive numbers. Chandler caught 49 passes for a league leading 1032 yards (21.1 yard average) and 9 touchdowns, which also led the NFL.
1981-Steve Watson, Denver Broncos (13); Alfred Jenkins, Atlanta Falcons (13)
1981 was Broncos' WR Steve Watson's best season, as he caught 60 passes for 1244 yards and 13 touchdowns. The 13 TDs were a career high, with Watson's second-highest total being 7 TDs in 1984. It also earned Watson a tie for the NFL lead in 1981 with the Falcons' Alfred Jenkins, who caught 70 passes for 1358 yards (which led the NFL that year) and 13 TDs of his own.
1980-John Jefferson, San Diego Chargers (13)
John Jefferson was catching passes from Dan Fouts in San Diego, and in 1980 he led the NFL in touchdown catches with 13. That season, Jefferson had 82 receptions for a league leading 1340 yards and the 13 TDs.