The NFL has become a league that is infatuated with the passing game. This Air Raid Revolution began nearly a decade ago with the Tom Brady-to-Randy Moss Patriots, and has reached a new peak in each of the most recent seasons since then. It's rare to see a game that doesn't feature at least 60-70 passing plays between the two respective teams facing one another.
A lot of this has to do with the arm strength and talent of the quarterbacks who've taken the league by storm like Aaron Rodgers, and Patrick Mahomes, but the men who are just as credible and influential for this peak in the passing game are the people receiving these bullet passes, lobbed fades, and screens: the receivers.
It's widely understood amongst NFL connoisseurs that the greatest wide receiver of all-time is Jerry Rice. Point, blank, period. There are arguments out there for Randy Moss, Michael Irvin, and T.O. from a pure talent level, but overall: Jerry Rice is regarded as the GOAT at the position. But isn't it important to also consider some of the great tight ends who've played the game just as effectively as wide receivers such as Rob Gronkowski, Tony Gonzalez, and Travis Kelce? I personally believe that it is, because a tight end can be just as effective in the passing game as any wideout.
In the modern NFL, it's nearly impossible to decide on a concrete list of the top five or ten wide receivers in the league. Nearly every talking head's list is different today from what it was last week. That's just the way the media naturally reacts. The recency bias is too overwhelming to overcome, and I can't lie to you, I'm just as much a victim of it as Shannon Sharpe is. So, in order to determine who the best wideouts are in the league, I'll be updating my personal list of the Top 10 receivers in the NFL every Wednesday throughout the season. Below is my All-Hands Team.
The All-Hands Team
10. Cooper Kupp
Season Stats: 23 Rec/31 Tgt, 268 Yds, 2 TD, 4 20+ Yd Rec, 74.2 Catch%, Long: 66
Do you ever wonder how the Los Angeles Rams offense is so sneakily effective? Well, the answer is Cooper Kupp (and Sean Mcvay's genius offensive mind).
Kupp has that get-open-instinct that not a lot of other receivers in the league instinctively have. He seems to always find the open spot in the zone, or manages to finesse his defender in man coverage. His footwork is second-to-none, and that's one of the most important attributes to have as a wide receiver (just ask Antonio Brown).
Coop is sneakily athletic, yet his athleticism isn't intimidating enough for defenders to respect it (for some odd reason) which leads to the secondary often underestimating his ability after the catch. Take this play against the New Orleans Saints in Week 2 for example.
If Kupp can continue to make plays at the rate he's been performing for the past two seasons, then he won't be a sleeper for much longer and will finally be recognized as the top tier receiver that he truly is.
9. Davante Adams
Season Stats: 15 Rec./21 Tgt, 198Yds, 0 TD, 3 20+ Yd Rec, 71.4 Catch%, Long: 39
Davante Adams has the luxury of playing with one of the five best quarterbacks of all-time in Aaron Rodgers, but he would be a dominant wideout no matter which field general was tossing the ball to him. His hands are as surefire as anybody else's in the league, and his ability to break tackles after the catch is what separates him from the rest of the wideouts that Rodgers has played with in the past.
What makes Adams one of the elite pass-catchers in the league is his deceptive route running ability. Number 17 can make a cornerback turn his head several times in a matter of seconds, and once he has you where he wants you, you're fucking toast.
Adams was voted by his peers as the 35th best player in the NFL, and that just goes to show how well respected he is throughout the league. Xavier Rhodes, the top cornerback for Green Bay's division rival Minnesota Vikings said that Adams is the hardest receiver in the league to stay in front of. It's safe to say that nobody's underestimating Davante Adams's ability to be the game breaker that he is week in and week out.
8. Amari Cooper
Season Stats: 16 Rec./21 Tgt, 238 Yds, 4 TD, 3 20+ Yd Rec, 76.2 Catch%, Long: 45
If you're ever just unbelievably bored, and feel the urge to drool over a wide receiver with pure talent, then just checkout this highlight video above. Cooper was widely regarded as one of the most talented wide receivers in the NFL immediately after he was selected by the Oakland Raiders out of Alabama, and once he arrived in Dallas his full potential was finally revealed.
The dude just makes this whole football thing look easy. His route running is as routine as a normal person breathing. It's as if he was born to do this. He can catch a screen and take it 80 yards to the crib. He can run a slant over the middle and make a defender miss on a crucial 3rd-and-8. And he can break a defender's ankles on an in-and-out route in the red zone for an easy wide open touchdown toss from a rolling out Dak.
Amari is truly one of a kind, and has the ability to take the top off of any defense in the league. He will be a key factor in Dallas's pursuit for a Super Bowl this season.
7. Evan Engram
Season Stats: 23 Rec./30 Tgt, 277 Yds, 2 TD, 3 20+ Yd Rec, 76.7 Catch%, Long: 75
Rob Gronkowski moved like a tight end. Travis Kelce looks like a prototypical tight end. Tony Gonzalez was as tall as any General Manager would want a tight end to be. Evan Engram, on the other hand, doesn't move like a tight end, doesn't look like a tight end, and is as tall as a shooting guard for the Knicks. In other words, Number 88 for the Giants is an anomaly. Engram runs like Julio Jones, and has hands like Deandre Hopkins. What more could you want out of a pass catching tight end?
Engram went for 6 catches, 113 yards, and a touchdown this past Sunday against the Tamba Bay Buccaneers in Daniel Jones's debut performance. Danny Dimes has to be thankful to have a weapon as deadly as Engram at his disposal. The first touchdown of his rookie season came on a dump down pass to a sprinting Engram across the middle who took the ball 75 yards to the crib.
As of right now, he's the only tight end on my list, and it really looks like he'll be on this list for the long haul as long as he and Jones can both remain healthy.
6. Michael Thomas
Season Stats: 25 Rec./32 Tgt, 266 Yds, 1 TD, 1 20+ Yd Rec, 75.8 Catch%, Long: 24
Can't Guard Mike has lived up to his name since entering the league in 2016. He's demonstrated that he's one of the most reliable pass catchers in the world, and because of that he's become Drew Brees's favorite target.
Thomas won't wow you with his speed, height, or jumping ability, but he will make you shake your head if he's facing your favorite team's secondary. Despite Brees's recent thumb injury, Thomas has remained consistent in the last two games. He's currently second in the league in receptions with 25 total, and he's doing it efficiently by catching nearly every ball thrown his way.
As long as Bridgewater can get the ball within Thomas's general vicinity, Can't Guard Mike is going to come up with the rock. The Ohio State Alum has proved to the league that he's one of the most intimidating players to defend in the league, and that notion was affirmed when his peers voted him as the 13th best player in the entire world this offseason.
5. Odell Beckham Jr.
Season Stats: 19 Rec./30 Tgt, 288 Yds, 1 TD, 4 20+ Yd Rec, 63.3 Catch%, Long: 89
Forget football, Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the most gifted athletes in the entire world. The man has the body of an inked up Greek God, and hands that deserve a sponsorship from Elmer's Glue.
After several seasons in New York with a mediocre aging quarterback in Eli Manning, Odell finally has the opportunity to play with a gifted, progressing QB in Baker Mayfield in Cleveland. He's often lined up next to his long time best friend, Jarvis Landry, whom he played college football with at LSU, and the pair are probably the most dominant receiver tandem since Wes Welker and Randy Moss in the early 2010's or last year's combo of Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Although the Browns are off to a slow start, OBJ has been one of the few bright spots in the organization. He's constantly the center of the media's attention whether he's making ridiculous one-handed snags, or wearing a watch that costs more than your house. I think it's hilarious that Odell wears a Richard Millie while he's balling out because I can just imagine him lining up out wide, checking his watch, and saying to his defender, "Damn. I'm still busting your ass?" Once he and Mayfield officially get on the same page, the rest of the league will be helpless for the next decade.
4. Deandre Hopkins
Season Stats: 19 Rec./28 Tgt , 218 Yds, 2 TD, 3 20+ Yd Rec, 67.9 Catch%, Long: 38
Whether you call him Nuke, Hop, Deandre, or Real-Life Alien, you have to call him a Top Five Wideout. There's no argument against it. Last season, Hopkins completed the ultimate feat that every wide receiver in the world dreams about: he didn't drop a single ball. Not one. That's not a typo, he literally didn't drop a pass that hit his hands.
Can you imagine how relieved Deshaun Watson must be when he throws the ball his way? There's hardly a 1% chance that he'll drop the ball. The man makes defenders look silly on a week-to-week basis, and the best part about him is that he'll let them know too.
I recall a specific scene from Hard Knocks on HBO a couple of years ago where they followed the Houston Texans. The Texans held a practice against the Washington Redskins, and things started getting heated between a younger Deandre Hopkins and veteran DeAngelo Hall. Just when they were about to start throwing hands, a slew of teammates came in and broke the two apart. Hop started slowly pacing backwards and told Hall, "I fear God, boy," like ten times in six seconds. Moments later, Hopkins was running a route with Hall guarding him in man-to-man coverage, then he made a quick curl route move and literally broke Hall's ankles. Check out the video below to see the hysterical encounter that personifies both Hopkins's incredible shit-talking ability, and his route running precision.
3. Mike Evans
Season Stats: 14 Rec./28 Tgt , 279 Yds, 3 TD, 5 20+ Yd Rec, 50.0 Catch%, Long: 55
Standing at 6'5", and weighing in at 235 pounds, Mike Evans is the most physically dominant presence at the wideout position in the NFL. He definitely looks more like a tight end than he does a wideout.
Evans was a highly touted wide receiver coming out of Texas A&M where he played alongside Johnny Manziel, and it turned out that he was the one who deserved more attention out of that deadly college duo. He's played nearly his entire professional career with Jameis Winston, a supremely average quarterback, and it hasn't made much of a difference regarding his productivity because Mike has the most ridiculous catch radius in the NFL. All you have to do is put the ball within ten feet of him, and he'll go up, through, below, or around his defender to grab it. He's also, more likely than not, the best blocking receiver in the world.
The all-around receiver had one of the best games of his career this past Sunday against the New York Giants. He tallied 8 catches, 190 yards, and 3 touchdowns, proving that he'll be a legitimate problem for defenses for the entire 2019 season and beyond.
2. Keenan Allen
Season Stats: 29 Rec./42 Tgt , 404 Yds, 3 TD, 8 20+ Yd Rec, 69.0 Catch%, Long: 34
If a random wide receiver were to approach me (for God knows what reason) and ask me which NFL player's tape they should watch if they want to become better at getting wide the fuck open, then I wouldn't even hesitate to tell them that Keenan Allen is their dream guy.
Statistically, Allen has been far and away the best wide receiver in the league this year. He ranks first in catches, receiving yards, and 20+ yard catches by a mile and a half. He's having the best season of his career through three weeks, and is only going to get better as the season goes on, and he develops even more of a constant rhythm with his trusty side-slinging quarterback, Phillip Rivers. Anytime Phil's in trouble in the pocket, he knows that he can just toss the ball in Allen's direction, and he'll find a way to come down with it.
The dude had a ridiculous stat line of 13 receptions, 183 yards, and 2 touchdowns this past weekend against the Houston Texans. The only thing keeping Keenan from being number one on my list is that he just isn't threatening enough with the ball in his hands, but nonetheless, he's probably the best player in the league at getting the ball in the first place which cannot be discounted or overlooked.
1. Julio Jones
Season Stats: 19 Rec./30 Tgt , 265 Yds, 4 TD, 4 20+ Yd Rec, 63.3 Catch%, Long: 54
Julio Jones is an alien. You can't convince me otherwise. When people bring up the topic of what it would be like if LeBron James played football, I quickly mention that the NFL already has a LeBron-level athlete, and his name is Julio Jones.
Side Note: One of my favorite Young Thug lines of all-time is his bar on the track 'With Them' that goes, "I got some birds like I'm Julio! My outfit outdated it's Coogi though."
It doesn't matter what your opinion is on Matt Ryan, who's long been disputed as either an underrated or overrated quarterback, because all he has to worry about is getting the ball to Number 11.
Jones has everything in his arsenal that you would want from a wide receiver. First of all, he's fucking huge standing at 6'3", and weighing in at 220 pounds. Secondly, the man is a jet: his 40 yard dash is 4.39 seconds. Once he gets the ball in his hands, he's like a freight train. You aren't going to tackle him with one defender. It's my firm belief that there hasn't been a player like him in the league's entire history. He's like a much thicker Randy Moss, and he has the potential to break every receiving record in the NFL's history.
Tune in next Wednesday for the updated version of this list. Thanks for reading.