Wide receivers may get the diva designation, but they are integral to the way modern professional football is played. The endless variety of shapes, sizes, and skill sets can make comparing WRs like apples to oranges. Let’s go down the rabbit hole — who are the top wide receivers in the NFL heading into the 2021 season?
Top 25 wide receivers in the NFL for the 2021 season | 25-16
With so many talented playmakers across the NFL landscape, let’s jump right into the pinnacle of the position.
25. Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers
Johnson narrowly edged out Will Fuller for the final spot on this Top 25 Wide Receivers of the NFL list. Only five wide receivers were targeted more often than Johnson last year. Not everyone realizes it, but Johnson pretty much took over the Antonio Brown role for Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers passing game.
Johnson needs to become more reliable, and he had a huge problem last year with dropped passes. However, don’t underestimate what Johnson does well and what he is capable of, especially from a route-running standpoint.
24. Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos
How much do we hold Sutton’s lost 2020 season against him? It has to be a factor, and frankly, if he were healthy all of last year, he might be ten spots higher on this list. Sutton is still a work in progress, but he can be a nightmare for opposing defenses and consistently has made his quarterback look better than they truly are. What if…say…Sutton had Aaron Rodgers throwing to him?
23. Antonio Brown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It went somewhat unnoticed, but Brown played extremely well for Tampa Bay last year. He clearly gets overshadowed in that offense by Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Of course, Brown isn’t the player he once was for the Steelers, but he is still an excellent technician that can nickel and dime a defense apart or hit the home run. And now he returns to Tampa Bay to try to repeat.
22. Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns
Landry gets overlooked every year, but you just concede that he is excellent at what he does. He is a tough guy who blocks well, which is crucial out of the slot in Cleveland’s run-heavy offense. Landry does the dirty work year after year. His highlight reel won’t blow you away, but Landry has put together a heck of a career.
21. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
Many look at Lockett as somewhat of a gimmicky player that plays second fiddle to D.K. Metcalf. Well, he might be behind his teammate on this list, but there is nothing gimmicky about Lockett’s abilities as an NFL receiver. Lockett finished the season with 100 catches and was only one of seven wideouts to finish with double-digit touchdown catches in 2020.
20. Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns
Beckham is the most difficult player to rank on this entire list of top NFL wide receivers. He has played 23 games in a Browns uniform but has only racked up 1,354 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns over that two-year span. Simultaneously, it’s not that long ago that Beckham ranked just behind Antonio Brown and Julio Jones as the best wide receiver in all of football.
Beckham will turn 29 years old during this upcoming season. It is difficult to truly tell where he is in his career right now. He is almost assured of climbing or falling on this list a year from now in a big way, just not sure of the direction — he is highly capable of rising or plummeting.
19. Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys
Cooper has an up-and-down nature to his game, and consistency isn’t his forte. It might not be long before CeeDee Lamb (who was already considered for this list) takes over as the Cowboys’ lead receiver. That being said, Cooper has all the physical attributes you look for in a star NFL wide receiver and is capable of taking games over.
18. Kenny Golladay, New York Giants
The Giants are obviously believers in Golladay after giving him a four-year, $72 million contract this offseason (after a season in which Golladay only caught 20 passes for Detroit in five games played). Golladay also isn’t young as some might think and will turn 28 years old this year, which is his fifth year in the league. Still, Golladay has size, strength, and the ability to win at the catch point. That isn’t easy to find.
17. D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers
Moore is an elite athlete. His movement skills are rare, coupling extreme fluidity and explosion. Moore’s 18.1 yards per catch is the best of anyone on this list, and that was with the ultra-conservative Teddy Bridgewater throwing him the ball. You get the feeling that we are just seeing the beginning of what Moore can ultimately become. Maybe his second year with this coaching staff and a more aggressive quarterback can unleash what Moore is capable of.
16. Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
Thielen caught 14 touchdowns in his 15 games and is a fantastic player. Yet, he benefited from Justin Jefferson being on the other side of him more than Jefferson benefited from Thielen. That isn’t to take one thing away from Thielen, who also used to have a similar relationship with Stefon Diggs. Still, it would be interesting to see a defense focusing on taking Thielen away as their top objective.