Throughout the 2019 NFL season, I continued to keep a close eye on wide receivers across the league. I generally prefer to watch and evaluate at least eight games of every notable receiver whether that be live viewings or after the fact. After putting the WRs through my grading scale and evaluation process, I’m ready to rank the best wide receivers in the NFL based on their play during the 2019 season and recent relevant seasons.
Before getting into the rankings, it’s important to share a few disclaimers. Right now, at this point in time, the WR position is deeper than it has ever been in the NFL.
The top-end talent is as good as ever. This ranking was created through extensive film study across the entire league with an eye on statistics, but ultimately it’s just my opinion, which I like to believe is an informed one. A difference of opinion within a few spots on the ranking usually comes down to preference in skill-set at the position.
Notes: Considering we haven’t seen A.J. Green on the field in about a season and a half, he was exempt from this ranking. On top of that, there were quite a few rookie WRs that made waves during last season. However, they all had inconsistencies in their own way, currently have limited sample sizes, and haven’t shown the developed traits of most veteran receivers near the end of the top-25.
With all of that in consideration, I decided to rank the second-year wide receivers separately based on their 2019 season. Those receivers would rank higher if this was a draft for the future but didn’t quite crack this list.
The honorable mentions that were considered but ultimately left off the ranking were Mike Williams, Marvin Jones, Brandin Cooks, Tyler Boyd, and Calvin Ridley.
Finally, let’s get into the ranking.
Top 25 wide receivers in the NFL
25. DJ Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars
There wasn’t a wide receiver that took a bigger step last season than DJ Chark, and his speed along the boundary makes him constantly dangerous. Chark was one of just nine wide receivers to produce over 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns last season.
24. DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins
The DeVante Parker breakout season finally happened in 2019, as he set his career-high in receiving yards by more than 450. Despite uninspiring quarterback play, Parker posted over 1,200 yards and 9 touchdowns, which included impressive performances against some of the best cornerbacks in the league.
23. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
While the Patriots offense struggled at times last season, Julian Edelman quietly had his best statistical season. His 16-game average since 2013 is 102 receptions for 1,117 yards, and his playoff résumé speaks for itself.
#SBXLIII MVP Julian Edelman has great feet and change of direction, but an underrated aspect of his game is how he creates separation with his hand usage. Edelman beat all three LAR cornerbacks because they failed to slow down his stem or breaks: pic.twitter.com/aRi5txhoyO
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) February 4, 2019
22. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 2019 season was a disappointment, but that was more the result of injuries to both him and his quarterback. The talent shown during his 1,400-yard season in 2018 was still there in spurts on film but he needs to more consistent as the lead receiving option to climb back up into the top tier.
21. Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams
Robert Woods is an ideal fit for the Sean McVay offensive system, and his production has taken off over the past two seasons. Woods is just one of four wide receivers to have at least 85 receptions and 1,100 receiving yards for each of the past two seasons.
20. Emmanuel Sanders, New Orleans Saints
The productive veteran wide receiver is approaching 8,000 career yards, but the most impressive aspect of Emmanuel Sanders’ 2019 season was how his presence revitalized the 49ers passing offense after their trade to acquire him.
19. Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos
After impressing during his rookie season, Courtland Sutton took the next step in his second year. His catch radius and downfield ball tracking is special, but don’t sleep on his strength after the catch. Sutton posted over 1,100 yards last season while breaking 12 tackles.
18. DJ Moore, Carolina Panthers
DJ Moore impressed in his rookie 2018 season by producing 421 yards after the catch, but he developed as a route runner in his second-year en route to 1,175 receiving yards. He rapidly progressed into a bonafide WR1 despite being just 22 years old.
17. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
While T.Y. Hilton battled injuries last season, his explosiveness is as dynamic as ever. His touchdown production actually improved in 2019, and his career 15.6 yards per reception verifies his vertical presence.
16. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
Tyler Lockett has developed as a route runner over the past few years, mixing well with his world-class speed. He was born to play alongside Russell Wilson, and you could make the argument that Lockett is the best receiver out of structure in the entire league. His passer rating, when targeted over the past two years, is a ridiculous 144.3.
Tyler Lockett over the last two seasons:
— 139 receptions (77.2%)
— 2,022 yards (11.2 yards per attempt)
— 18 touchdowns
— 1 interception
144.3 passer rating 🔥 pic.twitter.com/tYEZBmgDrs
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) May 1, 2020
15. Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
Adam Thielen battled injuries last season but was still the productive receiver we’ve known for years now. His separation and ability to adjust to off-target throws while contested are special qualities.
Adam Thielen has set an NFL record with 5 consecutive 100 yard games to start the season. He’s putting on a show today in Philadelphia.
•Hand usage to fight through contact
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) October 7, 2018
14. Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
Despite his production being limited by mediocre quarterback play, few receivers operated at a higher level on a play to play basis than Allen Robinson. He’s a three-level route runner with length and was a vacuum with passes within his radius last season. Bears quarterbacks had a 93.2 passer rating when targeting Robinson last season, and just an 80.6 rating on all other throws.
13. Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
One of the quickest, most defined technicians in the league, Cooper Kupp’s ability to create passing windows or find space against zone coverage is special. On top of racking up 94 receptions, he was second in the NFL in receiving touchdowns last season with 10.
12. Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns
Odell Beckham Jr. has always been supremely talented, but his on-field product has been inconsistent over the past three seasons. Regardless, his splash plays can change the entire complexion of games, and he’s posted over 1,000 yards in every season that he’s played in at least 12 games.
11. Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
Few wide receivers, if any, create separation like Stefon Diggs. His skill-set doesn’t end there, as he’s shown the ability to win in tight spaces at a high rate. Diggs has proven that he’s dangerous as both an underneath and vertical threat.
Three keys to Stefon Diggs’ Sluggo that tied the Minnesota-Green Bay game:
•Staying light on his second step allowed for the hard plant + sell inside
•Eyes inside sold Slant on the CB who was peeking in the backfield
•Low pads + level shoulders allowed for the seamless C.O.D pic.twitter.com/rjF5KbFAfL
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) September 17, 2018