The NFL is a passing league. Quarterbacks take up the most financial pie, followed by pass rushers and pass catchers. Offensive tackles follow closely behind. Coaches can wax poetic quips all they want about the importance of an effective run game, but the aerial attack is king.
The best wide receivers in the NFL are like Tom Segura’s comedy special. They’re ball hogs. Despite commanding extra defensive attention, the best WRs in the league maintain ridiculous production levels.
They are three-level threats who beat the press, separate at will, and reel in nearly every off-target pass thrown their way. While production alone is not the end-all, be-all of WR evolution, it’s nice when production and tape meet — as it does with the best wide receivers in the NFL today.
Note: In-season rankings are fluid. Think of it as a power ranking instead of a pure talent-based ranking. What have you done for me lately?
Who’s the Best Wide Receiver in the NFL?
Tyreek Hill is the best wide receiver in the NFL. When Hill moved to South Beach, the question was who would lose out on more production between him and Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. It turns out that neither struggled, as each is independently talented enough to take over games.
Although his post-catch shenanigans have slowed down over the years, Hill has become a far greater traditional receiver over that time. Because of his stature and the perception surrounding him, he’ll likely always be underrated as a route runner.
But incredibly, his ability to climb the ladder and make plays above the rim, despite his diminutive stature, has become his trump card.
Like a praying mantis climbing a stalk, Hill practically climbs defenders as he outstretches his arms to make acrobatic leaps. He also possesses an outstanding feel for finding space and helping his QB when a play breaks down.
For a while, it appeared as though Hill would be the first receiver to top the 2,000-yard mark. It also looked like he could compete with Calvin Johnson’s 122-yards-per-game mark. Unfortunately, minor injuries slowed down his effectiveness over the last few weeks, and we once again narrowly missed on a historical season.
Wide Receiver Rankings | 2-32
2) Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
Justin Jefferson and his main competitor are different receivers, each presenting their unique challenges. Still, Jefferson is arguably the only receiver in the league without a glaring weakness.
The NFL is inundated with ridiculous receiving talent, but after combing through every traditional stat and advanced metric along with film study, it’s clear that the two have separated.
Every big-time receiver has a trump card, and Jefferson is no exception. He possesses truly special flexibility and fluidity, pairing that with great explosive potential and innate route-running ability.
Jefferson is about as slippery as any receiver we’ve seen over the past decade, but he also has high-quality hands that consistently produce spectacular catches to go with his fantastic sideline control.
3) CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
CeeDee Lamb’s fluidity gives him some of the most natural body control in the league. So far in 2023, he and QB Dak Prescott haven’t suffered from the miscommunication issues they so often had in 2022.
Lamb set an NFL record against the New York Giants earlier in the season, catching 10 passes for 150+ yards in three consecutive games. Then, in Week 17, he set the Cowboys single-season record for receiving yards.
He, Prescott, and the Cowboys’ passing attack are on fire. Lamb and A.J. Brown have been battling all season for receiving yards superiority, but he separated late in the year as Brown and the Eagles have faltered of late.
4) A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles
Brown is from another generation. He’s a big, physical bruiser who resembles a tall running back more than a receiver. That makes him an absolute weapon after the catch. It’s simply unfair to have Brown on your team. Defensive backs do not want to tackle him if he has any momentum going north.
In his time with Tennessee, Brown greatly improved the precision in his route running, which took his game to the next level, separating him from his former Ole Miss teammate, DK Metcalf. Brown set the record for consecutive 125-yard games this season, but things have gotten worryingly quiet in December.
5) Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
Ja’Marr Chase can elevate over your dome, run by you down the sideline, or take a slant 80 yards. The only thing keeping him from being the most dominant WR in the NFL is that he doesn’t quite have the route-running chops of the top five.
But it’s not a weakness, either. It’s something Chase has continued to show strides in. His rapport with QB Joe Burrow, who’s been out for the season with a wrist injury, makes for some of the most impressive receptions in any given week. It’s been all-or-nothing for Chase in 2023, despite not having to compete with WR Tee Higgins for targets as often because of Higgins’ injury.
Chase’s boom-or-bust style still produced a few monster outings along the way, with Jake Browning under center.
6) Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders
Touchdowns are often random — unless you’re Davante Adams. He’s only failed to eclipse 10 touchdowns one time since 2016. It all comes down to his ability to win immediately upon the snap of the ball. Adams’ release repertoire is unrivaled, and it allows him to win in confined spaces with ease.
Although he has played in nine games so far this season, his production has slipped in his second season in “Sin City.” That modest decline is proof of how much things can change without adequate QB play.
7) Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
It’s funny how things work sometimes. Brandon Aiyuk has gone from a “meh” prospect to one of the most exciting players to watch in the NFL.
Although he also boasts good YAC ability — the prerequisite to playing in a Kyle Shanahan offense — it’s his absurd attention to detail as a route runner that has become so much fun to dive into.
Aiyuk becomes more impressive to the eyes with every rewatch. He’s gone from a moderately explosive sideline threat to a true technician who can win at all three levels from every alignment.
But what may be most impressive is that the young player got out of Shanahan’s doghouse — a task few are seemingly able to accomplish. Consistently improving one’s own game while also boasting impressive YAC potential may be the only way out.
Aiyuk doesn’t have the volume of production some other receivers have because he plays in a Shanahan offense that spreads the ball around and leans on the run heavily. But anyone who knows ball sees the 49ers WR making defensive backs look silly on a downly basis.
8) Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions
It’s not often we see an entire group of amateurs on the internet who know better than the professionals tasked with selecting players. However, everyone but the league saw Amon-Ra St. Brown coming from a mile away.
St. Brown’s a nifty player after the catch, and the improvements he’s made in his timing from the slot have made him a very friendly receiver to QB Jared Goff.
He’s not the biggest or most explosive receiver in the league, but St. Brown plays with impressive strength and fluidity. One could even venture to claim he’s “gritty” and has quickly proved himself to be one of the best pass catchers in the game.
9) Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
If Jefferson is a Porsche 911 GT2 RS MR going around the Nürburgring, Stefon Diggs is a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. They’re only separated by fractions of explosive athleticism.
The Buffalo Bills receiver may be an even more gifted route runner than Jefferson, but he’s more of an abstract artist than a portraitist — he’ll freestyle more.
That works for Buffalo QB Josh Allen, who is no stranger to creating outside of structure. The two have worked incredibly well with one another — even if there have been some tense moments. Only Adams (498) had more targets than Diggs over the past three seasons heading into 2023.
10) Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
It’s almost unfair to look at Keenan Allen in the same lens as the other receivers on the list. He’s the slowest one, and it’s not particularly close.
While Allen’s 40 time has never been truly indicative of his speed, injuries and age have taken a toll on his explosiveness. Yet, he never needed to be particularly fast to be effective, and while he won’t be a danger to teams down the field, Allen is like the Jason Witten of wide receivers at this point.
Let him run the Y-option and watch him make the correct decision and find the open spot against zone coverage. Allen does just enough physically to separate against man coverage, and he’s been an incredibly productive player in OC Kellen Moore’s offense.
However, injuries to Mike Williams and Joshua Palmer have also made him the only option, and Justin Herbert has been out for the last part of the season.
11) DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
DK Metcalf could be even higher on this list if it weren’t for his inconsistent production in contested situations. The classic physique bodybuilder is and has always been more agile than everyone’s precious three-cone drill led on.
His size, physicality, and ridiculous explosiveness have been paired with impressively detailed route-running chops. Metcalf has bested WR Tyler Lockett in targets each of the last two seasons.
The Seahawks wide receiver had himself a big boy game against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 13. Although he only ended up with 134 yards, his performance felt much more dominant than that — likely because of his three touchdowns.
Not only couldn’t he follow that up against the 49ers, he couldn’t stay in the game. Metcalf had a frustrating day at the office that ended in a completely unnecessary ejection.
12) Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
Chase is faster and nearly as physical, but Deebo Samuel has special vision and creativity with the ball in his hands.
“Just going through the tape, it was, ‘Look how sluggish and, like, how bad you look on tape,’” Samuel said of himself, per The Athletic. “Like I said, what happened last offseason kind of played a big role in that. I’ll never put anything on tape like that again.”
Injuries continue to slow down Samuel’s overall production, but his presence on the field has been a huge boost to the 49ers’ offense since his return. When he’s healthy, Samuel’s one of the most versatile weapons in the NFL. But with so much WR talent, it’s hard to make way in these rankings.
13) Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Evans is a big, fast downfield threat who has consistently been undervalued as a route runner throughout his career. While he won’t snap routes off like Diggs, Evans uses his frame incredibly well and can play with a defender’s leverage to create separation underneath.
He’s been the preferred weapon for QB Baker Mayfield after years of playing second fiddle in the Buccaneers’ offense with QB Tom Brady under center. No matter what seems to happen with the Tampa Bay offense, Evans has been producing big games with Mayfield.
14) Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams
Puka Nacua started the season on a torrid pace. Yet, it was unlikely that a fifth-round rookie, even one as seemingly gifted as Nacua, would continue that streak. But he’s blown by every expectation during his record-breaking season. He’s even outshined Cooper Kupp since his return to the field.
At just shy of 6’2″, a hair over 200 pounds, but with sub 32″ arms, Nacua isn’t winning because he’s bigger. And while he offers more burst than you’d expect from a receiver that size, he’s not an otherworldly athlete, either.
But that’s not what makes a receiver, and pairing his skill set with QB Matthew Stafford has made for a dream combination. He’s comfortable in traffic, has strong hands, and is wise beyond his years against zone coverage, which Stafford has capitalized on this year.
15) DJ Moore, Chicago Bears
DJ Moore was a post-catch phenom — not too unlike Samuel — coming out of the University of Maryland. However, Moore’s usage in the NFL has not been similar to his use in college.
Don’t let his college usage trick you into thinking he’s some rudimentary route runner, either. One simply cannot make a list with this much talent if they’re not. Moore possesses the athletic and technical ability to separate, but the consistency doesn’t match those higher on the list.
16) Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
Cooper Kupp returned to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5 like he’d never left. He led the team in targets, receptions, yards, and average yards per catch. His usage in the Rams’ offense will always teeter between revolutionary and ridiculous.
Still, Kupp will always be a massive part of this offense in more ways than simply catching the football. He’s used in motion behind the line of scrimmage blocking edge rushers, and while that creates easy flat targets at times, he must also block 270-pound DEs from time to time.
Kupp’s return to the field was explosive at first, but things slowed down to a halt after just two weeks. His 266 yards in the first two weeks are more than over his next six games combined (166). Nevertheless, he reminded us of his outstanding abilities against Baltimore, going for 8-115-1 in a performance that somehow felt even more significant than his box score stats. But he’s clearly not been his old self for most of the season.
17) DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles
The “Slim Reaper” is here to stay. DeVonta Smith has always been far more physical than his paper-thin frame would suggest, and his game is larger than life.
Smith glides around the field and makes some of the most acrobatic catches in football. But the fact he can make that all look so simple amazes me the most. He’s having a fantastic season despite being overshadowed by Brown, who is providing elite production.
18) Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
Nobody tracks the ball in the air better than Lockett. He has a homing beacon on his head and hands that’s usually connected with the ball floating in the air. While he’s a great all-around receiver, it’s Lockett’s outstanding body control and uncanny ability to make plays above the rim, despite his size, that makes him special.
19) Calvin Ridley, Jacksonville Jaguars
Calvin Ridley had been away from the game for a long time coming into this season, but it sure doesn’t seem like he’s missed a beat. He moves at a different pace than the rest of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ receivers through drills, and that doesn’t bode well for opposing cornerbacks.
Ridley is a gifted route runner whose precision is rarely matched in the NFL. His production hasn’t been as impressive as expected with Jacksonville, but he’s coming off a few particularly productive games.
20) Garrett Wilson, New York Jets
Garrett Wilson finished tied for the seventh-most targets in the NFL a season ago as a rookie. He entered the league as a high-quality route runner, but he’s still shifty after the catch, and his aerial attack is disrespectful to opposing DBs.
Unfortunately, we won’t see Wilson’s true potential until he gets the benefit of adequate quarterback play. He’s a technically savvy player, but the ball doesn’t get to him accurately and on time enough.
21) Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns
Amari Cooper became more of a downfield option with the Cleveland Browns, but he possesses outstanding straight-line speed, and his frame is far more dense than he’s given credit for.
Chronic lower-body injuries have been the only thing keeping Cooper from being one of the best pass catchers in the league. He appeared poised to have a big second half, but the loss of QB Deshaun Watson for the rest of the season threatened that.
But then Joe Flacco showed up and changed that. Cooper has re-emerged as a fantastic three-level threat.
22) DeAndre Hopkins, Tennessee Titans
DeAndre Hopkins’ game isn’t based on pure athleticism, and he’s been able to maintain his productiveness into his mid-30s. QB Ryan Tannehill struggled to find a connection with Hopkins, but rookie signal-caller Will Levis might already have a rapport with the veteran receiver.
Committing offensive pass interference without getting called for it is a skill, and Hopkins could win a Nobel Peace Prize for it. Nobody can push off and physically dominate defensive backs without getting laundry tossed his way. That skill — paired with his outrageous ball skills — will prolong his career.
23) Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins
In a league where everyone searches for the “next Tyreek Hill,” the Miami Dolphins also have the next-closest thing. The only thing keeping Jaylen Waddle from elevating his stock is his inconsistent hands.
He struggles to finish through contact, and we rarely see the spectacular acrobatic catches we get from Hill. Still, Waddle remains productive as Miami’s second option.
24) Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals
A little over a decade ago, Higgins would have been one of the best wide receivers in the game. He’s big, physical, and heady as a route runner, which allows him to win with consistency over the middle of the field.
Higgins is a problem for defenses at the catch point, and he’s a perfect complement to Chase and WR Boyd. If it weren’t for Chase, there would be no one questioning whether or not Higgins is a WR1. Unfortunately, injuries have slowed down his production as a Bengal.
What comes after his rookie contract, and almost surely after the Bengals, will be fascinating to follow.
25) Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts
If HC Shane Steichen wanted to squeeze as much success from QB Anthony Richardson as possible in Year 1, he needed Michael Pittman Jr. to be every bit of what Brown is for the Eagles’ offense. Unfortunately, Pittman is now catching passes from backup QB Gardner Minshew.
Although the young receiver has proven worthy of a significant pay increase on his second contract, will it be in Indianapolis?
Pittman is a big-bodied receiver who finishes strong over the middle of the field, but he’s far from the naturally loose athlete Brown is. That shows in his lack of creativity post-catch.
The 2024 NFL Draft boasts a handful of more inexpensive options that fit the traditional X build that Steichen is looking for. However, Pittman is doing a good job making that decision difficult, with two consecutive games of over 10 catches and 100 yards and a third falling just shy of those numbers.
26) Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chris Godwin doesn’t have Jefferson’s ceiling, but he’s similar in the sense that he doesn’t have any legitimate weaknesses in his game. He’s sturdy, smooth, and tougher to keep up with than it looks when he’s on the move.
Godwin wins at all three levels of the field, and he can win from the slot or on the outside. It’s been fascinating to see his production next to Evans when different quarterbacks are taking snaps for Tampa Bay.
But he hasn’t mimicked the production he had with Brady. Mayfield has clearly preferred Evans, and that preference scoots Godwin down the rankings.
27) Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints
We shouldn’t be surprised that a Brian Hartline-coached wide receiver hit the ground running as a professional pass catcher. Chris Olave is a player similar to the mold of Calvin Ridley, except he’s a more dangerous downfield option because of the extra horsepower he has under the hood.
But as talented as Olave is, his play in 2023 has been confounding. He seems to be on a different page than QB Derek Carr, who at times seems to be on a different page than reality.
28) Nico Collins, Houston Texans
Sometimes, finding one of the best wide receivers in the NFL comes down to finally receiving adequate QB play. Nico Collins has always been able to stretch the field as a height/weight/speed combination, but OC Bobby Slowik’s offense and rookie QB C.J. Stroud’s arm have unlocked his potential.
Collins has been abusive after the catch so far in 2023, but he’s been playing at less than 100 percent recently, and WR Tank Dell has stepped up. This, though, will change now that Dell is out for the remainder of the season with an injury.
29) Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders
Between explosiveness, size, and playmaking ability, few receivers are more difficult to cover 1-on-1 than Terry McLaurin. His career has been marked by awful QB play, but it’s allowed him to show off the fact that he’s one of the best bad-ball receivers in the game.
Unfortunately, McLaurin’s production has been inconsistent in 2023, which is a surprising revelation considering how impressive Sam Howell has been at times, particularly in the intermediate areas of the field.
30) Christian Kirk, Jacksonville Jaguars
Although many of the wide receivers on this list frequent slot alignments, Christian Kirk is one of the few true slot receivers. Since receiving a contract that made most people tilt their heads like a confused puppy, Kirk has set career highs everywhere.
He possesses dynamic short-area agility, is a nuanced route runner, and has a great feel for finding space to operate when a play breaks down. Kirk’s not as well-rounded as others, and it keeps him from elevating to true WR1 status, but he’s an outstanding piece to have as a second option in an offense.
Getting him back for the playoff run could be massive for a Jaguars’ offense that has struggled more than expected in 2023.
31) Tank Dell, Houston Texans
Tank Dell was one of the biggest surprises of the 2023 NFL season. The Texans’ WR had been a massive weapon for Stroud, especially recently. His route running and speed make him a difficult cover, and he’s feasted in the intermediate and deep parts of the field.
Unfortunately, the rookie broke his leg and will miss the rest of the season.
32) Zay Flowers, Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens overhauled their receiving corps over the offseason. Zay Flowers was supposed to be the exciting rookie to pair with TE Mark Andrews, WR Odell Beckham Jr., and the other already established WRs on the roster. Instead, he became the team’s leading pass catcher.
Flowers may be on the shorter side, but he possesses great contact balance and agility, allowing him to make defenders miss at an incredibly high level. Baltimore is using him as a manufactured touch weapon to a high degree.
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