Best Wide Receivers in the NFL 2023: Justin Jefferson Leads the Pack, D.J. Moore Climbing the Ranks

Best Wide Receivers in the NFL 2023: Justin Jefferson Leads the Pack, D.J. Moore Climbing the Ranks

The most exciting position in the NFL has to be wide receiver, and that naturally leads us to look at who the best WRs in the NFL are. With the receiving crown changing hands every week, it’s fair to ask who takes the top spot.

The distinction is ultimately meaningless, as all the top receivers add something unique to their offenses that make them go, but taking the title is always tantalizing. Let’s look at who the top WR in the NFL is and where the top NFL wide receivers fall on the list after that.

Who’s the Best Wide Receiver in the NFL?

Justin Jefferson can lay claim to the title of being the best receiver in the NFL. It’s difficult to separate the top two receivers, but when taking into account career production and capability, Jefferson just barely gets the top spot. An accomplished technician and route runner, Jefferson is a threat at all three levels of the field and has played every position and role in the offense while remaining effective regardless.

While Jefferson has great route running, ball tracking, instinct for space, and athleticism, what makes him stand out is his preternatural body control. His highlight catches demonstrate this in a big way, but so does his ability to power through contact while always driving forward and capacity to contort his body in unusual ways to supplement his route running.

That Jefferson layers on top of all of that an incredible instinct for the sideline and first-down marker, along with an understanding of how NFL coverages work and where they’re weak, and you have the recipe for a high-level threat.

best wide receivers in the nfl

Wide Receiver Rankings 2-11

2) Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins

The fastest premier receiver in the NFL, Tyreek Hill combines his speed with nuanced route running, surprising strength, and a great understanding of what his quarterback wants from him. While Jefferson might be a slightly better receiver to have on a team, Hill is the one that most alters opposing defenses and makes life easy for his quarterbacks.

3) Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills

When the Minnesota Vikings functionally traded Stefon Diggs for Jefferson, they traded not just one top receiver for another but one with a very similar skill set – but that looks a lot different.

Both are great route runners, but Diggs is more explosive in his routes and has a longer history of difficult catches. His freelancing requires a QB friendly to his style of play, but Diggs is nearly unstoppable when he has chemistry with his passer.

4) A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles

It’s a sign of the times that the league’s best “big” receiver is only No. 4, but a more open NFL requires different skill sets. Luckily for A.J. Brown, he not only has his size and contested-catch ability but also speed and route-running ability to find space.

While former Ole Miss teammate DK Metcalf was lauded for his athleticism, Brown also happened to be one of the most athletic receivers in that draft and is demonstrating that in the NFL week after week.

5) Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders

Following the 2021 season, many would have considered Davante Adams to be the top receiver in the NFL. Truthfully, one could still make that case. But we know that Adams is at his best when winning off the release against 1-on-1 coverage, whether that’s to take a slant to the house or win deep.

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Adams’ capacity for middle-of-the-field catches and play in space is elite but not quite to the level of the receivers above him. Of course, he makes up for it by being deadlier in the red zone than any of them. Adams is a touchdown machine, and it doesn’t matter who’s throwing him the ball.

6) Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals

Like Adams, Ja’Marr Chase is essentially a big with speed who can win in space but excels in contested situations and deep downfield. Sounds like the dream receiver.

Chase doesn’t have the same YAC ability as Adams or instinct for space as Brown, but he’s more explosive than either of them when asked to do what he does best. Chase is an incredible weapon that could muscle his way into elite territory with just a bit more refinement.

7) Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams

Losing high-level play from Matthew Stafford meant a small drop-off in production for Cooper Kupp, but he remains the elite slot threat and route runner that he was when he led the league in receiving yards in 2021.

Kupp’s athletic capability is at a high level — more than many of the WRs below him on the list — but not quite up to the standards of the players in the top five, limiting his explosive potential. He still generates explosives, showcasing that in his near-record season, but Kupp is better as a space player winning intermediate routes. Either way, there aren’t many things he’s below-average at, and he’s a huge asset for the Rams.

8) DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals

We’re seeing a very gentle downward slope in DeAndre Hopkins’ career as he enters his 30s, but he’s still a high-level player who supercharged the offense when he returned to the lineup. His calling card — jump-ball catches — ruined draft analysts for years as they tried to find the next Hopkins in their favorite big contested-catch receiver.

It never happened. Hopkins has a great understanding of what the offense wants him to do, and he converts his power and route running into deep-ball capability. Yet, Hopkins’ best work is in the red zone and at the 17-22 yard mark instead of further downfield, capping him compared to other high-level receivers.

9) Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks

Perhaps the most underrated receiver this year in the NFL, Tyler Lockett does a phenomenal job getting open, still plays with high-level athleticism, and remains a surprisingly good catch-point receiver.

With some of the most reliable hands in the league and a knack for space, Lockett is an improviser’s best friend while also happening to play a disciplined style of football that fits timing offenses. His understanding of space extends into the red zone, one reason he ranks fourth in the NFL in receiving touchdowns.

10) Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers

Of all the receivers in the top 10, Deebo Samuel may have the best trump card of all of them, though it comes at the cost of being substantially less well-rounded. Samuel is a YAC machine, and he combines his speed, power, vision, and instinct for space to get it done.

He’s not as polished a route runner as others on the list, nor is he a phenomenal technician against press, but Samuel demolishes angles and provides a unique weapon. He can still break open on routes, though that is a product of his incredible explosiveness more than his technique.

11) DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles

Already an elite route runner out of the gate, DeVonta Smith possesses a great combination of speed and agility that has made him an asset to Jalen Hurts and allows the Eagles to attack opposing defenses in a variety of ways with multiple types of route combinations. Smith plays with physicality but doesn’t have the strength to stand up to the other receivers ahead of him on the list, but he’s a reliable and explosive option.

Top Wide Receivers Remaining

12) DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

A size/speed freak in every sense of the word, Metcalf drew comparisons to Calvin Johnson coming out of his Combine workouts. Metcalf’s speed, size, and acceleration lived up to that, though he doesn’t have the agility or contested-catch capability of the former All-Pro.

That’s fine; Metcalf is on the verge of elite and an incredible option in Seattle’s offense, even if he is a bit more specialized in his route tree. He still wins jump balls at a high rate and can bail out quarterbacks when in trouble.

13) Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders

Maybe we’d be talking about Terry McLaurin more if he benefited from better QB play. Neverthless, McLaurin averaged 82.6 yards per game after Taylor Heinicke took over in 2022. McLaurin is a speedster with good route running and great hands; that always has value.

While he could do more against contact and doesn’t have the instinct for space that some other route-running mavens have, McLaurin’s a fantastic addition to any roster. It’s a shame he doesn’t play with more timing-oriented quarterbacks because he could really take off.

14) Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints

It’s always difficult to place rookies on lists like these, and with a slightly weaker class in 2022 than in the previous two years, it feels like a risk putting one in the top fifteen. But Chris Olave has earned it despite uneven quarterback play.

Olave has a great release and gets into gear quickly, presenting the Saints with a great deep option out of the gate. He also has great ball tracking and is a good enough route runner to present threats at all three levels of the defense. With less than a season under his belt, there are very few holes in his game.

15) Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s been an unusual year in Tampa Bay, but that doesn’t take away from the talent of their receivers, who have proven what they can do in better passing environments.

Another receiver characterized by excellent body control and a good understanding of field geometry, Chris Godwin does a great job winning between the 20s and adjusting to any pass. He has incredible hands but doesn’t have quite the same capacity for winning deep as other receivers on the list.

16) Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mike Evans is an unusual player in that he’s one of the most productive players ever since entering the league but has never threatened to be a top-five WR in production in any particular year.

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It speaks to Evans’ consistency and the value of his size, contested-catch ability, and understanding of the game. He’s an underrated route runner, though his agility and speed don’t always allow him to show it off. Overall, Evans is a great weapon to have, but he won’t ever be the best.

17) CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys

If CeeDee Lamb were consistent, he’d be one of the top receivers. There are some games where he gets open at will, demonstrates uncommon fluidity and after-catch speed, and showcases high-level technique to go with his athleticism.

At other times, Lamb looks clumsy, has difficulty stringing together receiver moves, and can have trouble holding on to the ball. Some of that is injury, and some of that is teams playing him more physically than he’d like. But we see much more of the good than the bad with Lamb, which is how he gets on this list.

18) Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals

A prototypical possession receiver, Tee Higgins is a perfect fit in the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense, complementing Chase’s deep threat and Tyler Boyd’s underneath outlet work. Higgins makes the most of his large frame and does a good job absorbing contact throughout the route and the catch point. While he could do a little bit more to get open as a route runner, he’s still developed there and is capped largely by his speed.

19) Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions

While Samuel stands alone as a YAC receiver, Amon-Ra St. Brown might be atop the next tier of after-catch specialists. St. Brown has continued to develop, and his catch-point ability isn’t too bad, either.

Most of his growth has come as a route runner, and as the Lions’ offense has improved its timing, he has thrived. St. Brown’s combination of fluidity and strength are great assets and might remind Detroit fans of Golden Tate.

20) Garrett Wilson, New York Jets

Like McLaurin, Garrett Wilson suffers from a lack of consistent QB play. But when the passing game is working, he’s the reason why. Wilson is great at avoiding contact as an after-catch receiver, and his agility has allowed him to find a number of ways to get open.

While his initial stem could use some work, Wilson is otherwise already becoming a complete route runner with good speed and strength. He has a high ceiling he’s yet to unlock, and his feel for the game is already there.

21) Calvin Ridley, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Atlanta Falcons decided to trade Calvin Ridley to the Jacksonville Jaguars after it was clear the Falcons needed to reload for 2023 without having a resolution to his suspension for gambling. That might mean that Trevor Lawrence will end up with a high-level receiver without the Jaguars having to spend a draft pick there.

Ridley is up there with the best of them when it comes to running routes and beats out other Alabama alums like Jaylen Waddle, Jerry Jeudy, and even DeVonta Smith in that category. If he’s maintained his health and athleticism throughout his suspension, Ridley could rocket up the power rankings next year.

22) Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins have extraordinary speed on their roster, and they know how to use it. Waddle is a better after-catch receiver than Hill, while Hill does a better job deep. But what really separates them are Hill’s developed instincts, body control, and technical route running. Nevertheless, Waddle does a lot to help teams win and can immediately turn a game.

23) Jakobi Meyers, New England Patriots

From an undrafted free agent to the top receiver to hit free agency in 2023, Jakobi Meyers has had quite the journey. He’s probably the slowest receiver on the list, but Meyers has incredible hands, a good sense for the ball, and is a great route runner. He won’t be able to win everywhere for an offense, but even those without a deep threat, he can carry a team.

24) Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

Once the standard-bearer for technicians, Keenan Allen has been hampered by injuries — an issue that has plagued him since college. Allen no longer has his speed, but he does still have most of his short-area quickness, and he’s a great improviser and seam-buster against zones. Allen is a reliable receiver when he’s on the field, though his ability to get on it is itself a liability.

25) Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns

While “reinvention” is an incorrect way to characterize Amari Cooper’s career arc, he has been a different type of receiver at every stop. A speedy drop-prone WR with the Raiders turned into an efficient intermediate route runner with good hands in Dallas.

With the Browns, Cooper began winning deeper and on the sideline with contested catches. The truth is, he can be all of those things with enough focus and consistency. When he maintains his level of play, he’s a fantastic player.

26) Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers

Like Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk is a special after-catch player who wins with both strength and agility. He does have some chops as a route runner that Samuel doesn’t have and can win deep, specializing in sideline plays and seam routes up the middle of the field.

Aiyuk does well when fighting through contact for the ball and has strong hands, too. He still has more to do to develop as an intermediate and short route runner, but the instincts are there, and he’s turned into a very friendly target.

27) DJ Moore, Chicago Bears

Just like Aiyuk, Samuel, and Waddle, DJ Moore is a fantastic athlete that has leveraged his explosiveness and speed to turn into a great after-catch player but still lacks the finer details to be a high-level route runner.

Moore’s hands have been an issue, but he does make up for it by reeling in passes that “should” have been incomplete. Though he can moonlight as a running back at times, he doesn’t have the strength of Aiyuk or Samuel and is a little more limited there. Nevertheless, Moore has been a big asset for Carolina and can threaten to score at any time.

He now finds himself as a member of the Chicago Bears after being traded in a package for the first overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft.

28) Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers

It has been fun to see Mike Williams develop into his own beyond just a possession receiver, but he seems to have topped out in his development. An alright route runner with adequate athleticism and a fantastic sense of how to find the ball, Williams can be crucial on high-leverage downs and in the red zone but doesn’t always add much between the 20s.

The speed Williams had shown in college hasn’t arrived in the NFL, but he still finds moments to be explosive.

29) Drake London, Atlanta Falcons

There are several receivers not on this list that had more productive seasons than the rookie Drake London. But on film, London does a great job getting open and plays at a high level when the ball heads his way.

Playing with Marcus Mariota has limited London’s production, but his ability to win contested catches and reel in passes well outside of his 6’4” frame is worth consideration. Not only that, he’s demonstrated an ability to get open beyond what many scouting reports said of him.

London still doesn’t have big-play athleticism, but his ability to find space and win the ball separates him from other receivers with more well-rounded skill sets.

30) Adam Thielen, Free Agent

The Minnesota Vikings’ offense funnels passes toward Jefferson at the expense of everyone else — correctly so — so Adam Thielen’s production has plummeted. But he consistently gets open on plays he doesn’t see targets and reels in catches at a consistent rate.

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Thielen hadn’t lived up to his red-zone reputation this year, and his contested-catch ability is no longer like his 2018 self, but he’s only lost a little bit of his agility and none of his route running. He’s one of the best route runners in the NFL and still has good athleticism and great hands.

31) Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts

Michael Pittman Jr. has had to adapt to a variety of different roles as the Indianapolis Colts have cycled through many quarterbacks, all with different styles. It’s to Pittman’s credit that he’s been productive regardless of that role, and he can power through linebackers to win in the air or get away from cornerbacks to win deep.

Pittman still has work to do as a technician, but he’s improved there, too. Pittman has been overshadowed by the rest of his draft class and hidden by his team’s carousel of quarterbacks, but he has been productive despite it all.

32) Christian Kirk, Jacksonville Jaguars

There had been a small slot receiver trend a few years ago in the NFL, but it had all died out. Nevertheless, Christian Kirk is bearing the flag carried forth at first by Wes Welker. Both demonstrate high-level route running, dynamic short-area quickness, and a good understanding of how the offense needs to operate, even as the play develops.

And both are friendly targets for their quarterbacks. While neither were consistent as pass catchers, their ability to generate first down after first down on an enormous number of targets helped keep the offense moving. Kirk shouldn’t be a No. 1, but he’s flourished when forced into that role.