It’s supposed to take time for rookies to impact winning in the NFL, especially in the playoffs.
The highest drafted players are typically on bad teams and the players who get drafted to great teams aren’t typically relied on to be major parts of the team in their first year.
Every once in a while, though, a player can burst onto the scene and contribute right away. On offense, there have been situations when rookies in the skill positions gained their quarterbacks’ trust early enough in the season to become a key piece of an offense come playoff time.
Below are the NFL rookies with the most receptions in a single postseason. It isn’t easy to have instant impact in a playoff setting, but these players were able to do it.
Rookies With the Most NFL Postseason Receptions
26 Receptions – Rashee Rice, Kansas City Chiefs (2023 Postseason)
Where would the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs have been without Rice in the 2023 season?
The Chiefs’ receiving corps was inconsistent all season and, surprisingly, the most consistent in the group was a rookie, Rice, who earned Patrick Mahomes’s trust at the end of the regular season, tallying at least five catches in each of the last six games.
Rice started the playoffs with a monster game against the Miami Dolphins, catching 8 of 12 targets for 130 yards and a touchdown. He caught four passes for 47 yards against the Buffalo Bills, then eight passes for 46 yards against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game. In a thrilling 25-22 overtime victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII, Rice caught six passes for 39 yards.
His consistent volume for the Chiefs in the postseason was enough to give him the top spot on this list.
25 Receptions – Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals (2021)
There was some consternation about the Bengals selecting Chase with their first-round pick.
The team had serious needs on the offensive line, but instead opted for Joe Burrow’s college teammate and the most dynamic wide receiver in the draft class. The move paid off instantly as Chase recorded the most receiving yards in a rookie season since 1960 (the record was topped in the 2023 season by Puka Nacua of the Los Angeles Rams).
His dominance didn’t stop there.
Chase had nine receptions for 116 yards against the Las Vegas Raiders in his first playoff game, which already tied for the second-most receptions in a postseason game in Bengals history.
He had another five catches for 109 yards in a 19-16 win over the Tennessee Titans in the NFL divisional round. He then had his lowest yardage total against the Chiefs in the AFC championship game, with six catches for 54 yards, but he made up for it with his only touchdown of the postseason.
In Super Bowl LVI, he caught five passes for 89 yards, but the Bengals fell to the Los Angeles Rams 23-20.
It all added up to 25 catches for 368 yards in four games.
22 Receptions – Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts (2006)
One of Peyton Manning’s biggest strengths was taking what the defense gave him, and that meant checking down to Addai frequently in the 2006 playoffs.
Addai caught all seven of his targets for 26 yards in the Colts’ 23-8 win against the Chiefs in the wild-card round, although the real story of that game was his 122 rushing yards on 25 carries.
Despite his high postseason total, Addai combined for only five catches for 26 yards in the next two games against the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots.
But in Super Bowl XLI, Manning needed Addai’s help against a formidable Chicago Bears’ defense, and Addai obliged him. He ran for 77 yards on 19 carries, and caught all 10 of his targets for 66 yards – an unsung hero in the Colts’ 29-17 victory.
In total, Addai caught 22 of his 23 targets for 118 yards in the playoffs. He may not have been the most explosive player after the catch, but his reliability was impactful.
21 Receptions – Sam LaPorta, Detroit Lions (2023)
What’s most impressive about LaPorta making this list is that it looked like he might not play at all in the playoffs.
Nursing a knee injury, the Lions tight end forged on after the regular season.
While he caught just three passes for 14 yards in his first playoff game, he made one count for a touchdown. He then seemed healthier in the divisional round, when he caught nine of 11 targets for 65 yards.
He had another great performance in the NFC championship game, with nine catches for 97 yards in a 34-31 loss to the 49ers.
LaPorta ended the 2023 postseason catching 21 of 27 targets for 176 yards.
Torry Holt, St. Louis Rams (20 Receptions, 1999)
There’s a reason he was called Torry “Big Game” Holt, and it started early in his career.
His high for receptions in his rookie regular season was six, but he matched that in his first playoff game, grabbing six targets for 65 yards against the Minnesota Vikings.
He exceeded the total with seven receptions each against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC championship game and the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. It didn’t hurt to add in 109 receiving yards and a touchdown on Super Sunday.
In total, Holt had 20 catches for 242 yards in three games as part of a Rams offense nicknamed “The Greatest Show on Turf.”
17 Receptions – Austin Collie, Indianapolis Colts (2009)
Collie was another player whose season high in receptions came in the NFL playoffs.
The Colts wide receiver started the playoffs with four catches on 52 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens, then exploded for a season high in both catches (seven) and yards (123) with a touchdown against the New York Jets. He added another six catches for 66 yards in a Super Bowl XLIV loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Collie ended his three-game postseason with 17 receptions for 241 yards and two touchdowns. He had only five catches for 72 yards in the playoffs over the rest of his five-year career.
15 Receptions – David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals (2015)
In 16 regular season games, Johnson had 36 catches. But in just two postseason games, he had 15.
The Cardinals running back opened the playoffs with six catches for 43 yards against the Green Bay Packers. Despite the Cards being blown out by the Carolina Panthers 49-15 in the NFC championship game, Johnson came up big, catching all nine of his targets for 68 yards to go with 60 yards rushing and a rushing touchdown.
Johnson never returned to the postseason after his rookie campaign.
15 Receptions – Chad Morton, New Orleans Saints (2000)
Morton had all 15 of his career postseason receptions in his rookie year, and 13 of those came in one game.
He opened the playoffs with a quiet two catches on five targets for 34 yards in the Saints’ 31-28 victory against the Rams. But in the divisional round, quarterback Aaron Brooks found his running back early and often, and Morton ended up with 13 catches for 106 yards as they defeated the Minnesota Vikings 34-16. It marked the single-game rookie high for NFL postseason receptions.
Morton played another six seasons, but primarily on special teams, and didn’t tally another postseason catch.
14 Receptions – Steve Smith, New York Giants (2007)
No, not that Steve Smith.
The Steve Smith on this list came onto the scene with the Giants in 2007 and had a non-descript regular season, with just eight catches for 63 yards in five games.
But he became one of the improbable parts of the team’s improbable playoff run. It started small for Smith, as he had three receptions for 29 yards in the wild-card round against the Buccaneers.
That improved to four catches for 48 yards the following week in a win over the Dallas Cowboys. He then had just two catches for 25 yards in a NFC championship game win over the Packers.
But in a Super Bowl XLII upset of an 18-0 New England Patriots’ squad, Smith was the team’s second-leading receiver with five catches for 50 yards.
13 Receptions – Steve Junker, Detroit Lions (1957)
While the first nine names on this list came from 1999 or later, you have to go all the way back to 1957 for the NFL rookie with the 10th-most postseason receptions.
At that time, Junker’s 13 catches marked the rookie high for NFL postseason receptions, and his record wasn’t broken for 40+ years. Plus, he did it in only two games.
Junker caught exactly half of quarterback Tobin Rote’s 16 completions in the Lions’ 31-27 division round win over the 49ers, turning his eight catches into 92 yards and a touchdown.
He only had five catches in a 59-14 championship game win over the Cleveland Browns, but they went for 109 yards and two touchdowns.