Best Wide Receivers in the NFL 2023: Justin Jefferson Leads the Pack, Davante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins Not Far

Wide receiver is the most exciting position in the NFL and a big part of the modern game, but who are the best WRs in the league?

Best Wide Receivers in the NFL 2023: Justin Jefferson Leads the Pack, Davante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins Not Far

After weak free agency and draft classes at wide receiver, fans and NFL teams have come to appreciate how valuable a top-tier receiver truly is. It’s also one reason we’ve taken a look at who the best WRs in the league are.

The yardage title might change throughout the year from week to week, but whoever is the most dangerous receiver in the league does not.

In the end, taking the top spot might not mean much — each of the top receivers adds something different to their offenses, but having the “top” receiver can mean a lot. Let’s look at who the best WR in the NFL is and where the top wide receivers fall on the list.

Who’s the Best Wide Receiver in the NFL?

Justin Jefferson has the best argument for being the best receiver in the NFL. A number of receivers can make reasonable claims for the top spot, but after evaluating box score statistics like total yardage, advanced statistics like yards per route run, tracking data like “open rate,” and technical traits like route-running ability, Jefferson wins the title.

Jefferson is a threat at all three levels of the field in part because of his attention to detail and overall technical ability. He can play every receiver role and helps the offense from any spot on the field, even the backfield.

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Jefferson has a number of high-level receiver abilities, like route deception and a good understanding of space, but what sets him apart is his incredible body control. That can present itself both with impressive catches — including the 2022 Catch of the Year — as well as fantastic sideline control.

Add in his phenomenal arsenal of route-running techniques, surprising strength, and an advanced understanding of coverages and situational awareness, and you get a receiver package that can be virtually unstoppable at all three levels of the field.

best wide receivers in the nfl

Wide Receiver Rankings 2-11

2) Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins

Tyreek Hill is the premier deep threat in the NFL, and his combination of pure speed and detailed route running has allowed him to separate himself from the other deep threats around the league. He knows what his quarterback wants and plays with strength that belies his frame, and that has enabled him to alter the nature of the Dolphins’ offense and force defenses to change their geometry.

3) Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills

The fact that the Vikings functionally exchanged Stefon Diggs for Justin Jefferson and ended up getting a very similar receiver to Diggs is kind of interesting — both have similar skill sets, even as they express themselves in different ways.

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 elite when he has chemistry with his passer.

4) A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles

In a previous era of football, A.J. Brown would be the uncontested top receiver in the NFL because of his fit as a classic split-end who can win contested catches. Even in the modern era of football, his talents are immensely valuable. He’s more than a big body with speed — he has great ball-tracking ability and fantastic route running.

5) Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders

It wasn’t that long ago that Davante Adams was considered 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 one-on-one coverage, whether that’s to take a slant to the house or win deep.

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

Three of the receivers ranked between fourth and sixth on this list are big receivers with good spatial awareness and uncommon speed for their size. Ja’Marr Chase might have the most downfield capability of all of them, with legitimate deep-threat capacity that can change offenses.

Chase’s instincts aren’t quite at the level of Brown or Adams, especially for space before and after the catch, but he’s an elite player nevertheless and can produce more explosive plays than either of them. With some more refinement, he could be the top receiver in the league.

7) Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams

Cooper Kupp’s dip in production has nothing to do with a dip in his quality of play and more to do with the offense around him. He’s still a high-level threat from the slot and has the ability to win underneath and intermediate with deadliness and can win deep when the offense needs him to.

Kupp’s athletic capability is more significant than people think and is more than many of the WRs below him on the list, but he’s not quite as athletic as the players in the top five, limiting his explosive potential. He can still create big plays as he did 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 decline in DeAndre Hopkins’ ability as he enters the final phase of his career, but he’s still an extremely valuable player who supercharged the offense when he returned to the lineup. His calling card — jump-ball catches — defined draft analysis for receivers for years as teams and experts tried to find the next Hopkins.

They failed. 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. At the moment, however, Hopkins’ best work is in the red zone and at the 17-22 yard mark instead of further downfield. That limits his versatility and value compared to the top receivers on the list.

9) Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks

One of the most underrated receivers by NFL fans at large, Tyler Lockett does an outstanding job getting open, showcases high-quality speed and quickness, and remains a surprisingly good catch-point receiver.

His best quality may be his hands, and combined with his ability to find or create space, he can generate offense where most receivers don’t. 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 ranked fourth in the NFL in receiving touchdowns.

10) Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers

Deebo Samuel may be the best receiver in the NFL at generating yards after the catch. The only reason he doesn’t rank higher on this list is that he isn’t as well-rounded as the other receivers in the top 10.

His combination of strength, vision, speed, and power allow him to get further with the ball in his hands than any other receiver in his position, but he could do a better job getting off the line of scrimmage or adding technique to his route-running game. Still, he’s a unique weapon that’s hard to defend.

11) DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles

At 11th overall, DeVonta Smith is almost the opposite of Samuel. He doesn’t have the remarkable strength or build that Samuel has to absorb contact or bully through defenders, but Smith is an elite route runner despite his age and NFL inexperience.

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That, combined with speed and agility, allows him to complement Brown and provide fantastic value to the Eagles’ offense, giving them a diversity of approaches most offenses can only dream of.

12) DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

A size/speed freak in every sense, Metcalf drew comparisons to Calvin Johnson coming out of his Combine workouts. Metcalf has the physical dominance of Johnson, but he hasn’t quite lived up to the comparisons without the quickness and route-running ability that Megatron had, and he doesn’t win contested catches as often as the comparisons would have you believe.

Metcalf is nevertheless on the verge of being elite and happens to be 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

It’s difficult to separate the receivers ranked eighth through 13th, and Terry McLaurin ends up drawing the short straw. As much as we take care to ignore quarterback play when constructing these lists, one can’t help but wonder if McLaurin would be ranked higher if he had a higher-quality passing game in Washington.

McLaurin averaged 82.6 yards per game after Taylor Heinicke took over in 2022 and, if Sam Howell works out, could be a 100-yard receiver. McLaurin is a speedster with good route running and great hands, and that always has value.

He’s not fantastic against contact, and he doesn’t have the knack for space that some other receivers with his profile have, but there isn’t a roster in the league that he wouldn’t add value to. With a timing-oriented offense, he could really take off — like a supercharged Michael Thomas during Thomas’ healthy years in New Orleans.

14) Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints

It’s always difficult to place first-year players on lists like these, and with a slightly weaker receiver class in 2022 than in the previous two years, it feels like a risk putting one in the top 15. 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 just a season under his belt, there are very few holes in his game. If he can keep it up, he’ll move up the list.

15) Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This is another example of a receiver that might have been hurt unfairly by the level of a quarterback throwing to him, but Chris Godwin also dropped off because of the difficulties in generating explosive plays after returning from the injury he suffered in 2021. He gets open less often and doesn’t find himself going as deep.

He still has an extensive understanding of space and great body control, meaning he can win between the 20s and adjust to the ball anywhere outside of his frame. He has incredible hands and has shown an ability to win in the slot or on the outside.

16) Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mike Evans is odd in that he’s been one of the most productive players by every metric since entering the league, but he’s never demonstrated top-five WR production in any particular year.

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 uncommon technical ability as a route runner and as a catcher.

At other times, Lamb has been clumsy, shows difficulty stringing together receiver moves, and can have trouble holding on to the ball. He’s been impacted by injury, and he falls off against teams that play more physical coverage, but there are other times that his drop-off in play is a mystery. We tend to 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

After Samuel, Amon-Ra St. Brown leads the next tier of YAC receivers. He’s been a pleasure to watch develop as a receiver, and he’s been a fantastic catch-point receiver — we don’t often see YAC specialists also play competitively in contested situations.

Most of his growth has come as a route runner, and as the Lions’ offense has improved its timing, he has thrived. In many ways, he’s the perfect receiver for Jared Goff. St. Brown’s combination of fluidity and strength are great assets and might remind Detroit fans of Golden Tate, but with better hands.

20) Garrett Wilson, New York Jets

After winning Offensive Rookie of the Year, one might think Garrett Wilson should rank higher on the list. The truth is, the difference between 14th and 20th is small, and Wilson could easily shoot up the rankings after the beginning of the 2023 season, especially with a Hall of Fame lock at quarterback throwing to him.

Like St. Brown, 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. He still needs refinement as a route runner, but if he stopped his technical development right now, he’d be one of the better technicians at the position in the NFL.

With more time and an even greater understanding of the nature of an NFL player, he could end up as a top-five receiver.

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. On top of that, they didn’t have a clear resolution in the works for his gambling-related suspension. 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 shoot up past Smith and into the top 10.

22) Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins have phenomenal speed at their skill positions on offense, and they know how to use it. Waddle is a better after-catch receiver than Hill, while Hill does a better job downfield. But what really separates the two are Hill’s developed instincts, body control, and technical route running. Still, Waddle makes sure that defenses can’t cheat too deep, and he can do a lot to secure wins.

23) Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Seattle Seahawks

It’s a risk to put a rookie here before the season starts, but if we were to pick one to begin dominating the early portion of the 2023 season, it would be Jaxon Smith-Njigba. He’s a nuanced route-runner who has learned how to play the game from Ohio State receivers coach Brian Hartline, who has put outstandingly technical receivers into the NFL who have made immediate impacts. JSN doesn’t have long speed, but he can help Seattle punish defenses for focusing too much on one aspect of their offense.

24) Jakobi Meyers, Las Vegas Raiders

From an undrafted free agent to the top receiver to hit free agency in 2023, Jakobi Meyers has had quite the journey. He’s the slowest receiver on the list, but Meyers has fantastic hands, great ball instincts, and advanced route-running skills. He won’t be able to win everywhere for an offense, but he can carry a team — even ones without a deep threat to open up space.

25) Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

Keenan Allen has been plagued by injury throughout his college and NFL career, and it has begun to impact his speed and quickness. Nevertheless, he still showcases some short-area agility, and he’s a great improviser and seam-buster against zones. Allen is reliable when he’s on the field, and his route-running technique operates as teaching tape.

26) 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.

MORE: NFL Offense Rankings Entering 2023 

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.

27) Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers

Like Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk is a gifted YAC receiver who features both strength and agility as parts of his game. He is a bit better of a route runner than his counterpart and does a better job winning 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.

28) DJ Moore, Chicago Bears

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, much like Aiyuk, Waddle, and Samuel.

Moore’s hands have been an issue, but he does make up for it by reeling in passes that “should” have been incomplete — winning difficult catches and losing some easy ones. He’s versatile enough to play running back at times, but he doesn’t have the strength of Aiyuk or Samuel and is a little more limited there.

Nevertheless, Moore was a big asset for Carolina and now finds himself as a member of the Chicago Bears — he should resolve the problem they’ve had supporting Justin Fields with capable receivers.

29) Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers

It has been fun to see Mike Williams develop into more than a possession receiver, but he seems to have topped out. Like Allen, he’s had injury and availability issues that have impacted his ability to grow as an athlete.

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.

30) Drake London, Atlanta Falcons

There are several receivers not on this list that had a more productive 2022 than Drake London. But on film, London does a great job getting open and producing when he’s targeted.

With Desmond Ridder at quarterback, we might be able to see more of what London can offer. Even before Ridder took over the offense, we saw London’s ability to win contested catches and reel in passes well outside of his 6’4” frame. 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.

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 quarterbacks, all with different styles. That’s hopefully set to change now that Anthony Richardson is helming the offense.

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. With a more consistent style of play, he might be able to really put himself on the map.

Pittman still has work to do as a technician, even though he’s developed in that regard. The rest of the 2020 draft class has overshadowed him, which hasn’t been helped by the 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 are extremely nuanced route runners, have dynamic short-area quickness, and demonstrate 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.


About the Author

Arif Hasan
Arif Hasan
Arif Hasan, NFL analyst for Pro Football Network, has been writing about the NFL for more than a decade. Arif specializes in deep-dive analysis using film and analytics to break down the biggest storylines. His work has appeared locally and nationally, featuring in publications like the Star Tribune, the LA Times, the International Business Times, Forbes, MSNBC, and Bleacher Report. Prior to joining Pro Football Network, Arif covered the Minnesota Vikings for The Athletic and Zone Coverage.

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