The most exciting position in the NFL has to be wide receiver, and that naturally leads us to look at who the best wide receivers in the NFL are. With the receiving crown changing hands every week, it’s fair to ask who takes the top spot.
The distinction is ultimately meaningless, as all the top receivers add something unique to their offenses that make them go, but taking the title is always tantalizing. Let’s look at who the top wide receiver in the NFL is and where the top NFL wide receivers fall on the list after that.
Who’s the Best Wide Receiver in the NFL?
Justin Jefferson can lay claim to the title of being the best receiver in the NFL. It’s difficult to separate the top two receivers in 2022, but when taking into account career production and capability, Jefferson just barely gets the top spot. An accomplished technician and route runner, Jefferson is a threat at all three levels of the field and has played every position and role in the offense while remaining effective regardless.
While Jefferson has great route-running, ball tracking, instinct for space, and athleticism, what makes him stand out among receivers is his preternatural body control. His highlight catches demonstrate this in a big way, but so does his ability to power through contact while always driving forward and capacity to contort his body in unusual ways to supplement his route-running.
That he layers on top of all of that an incredible instinct for the sideline and first down marker along with an understanding of how NFL coverages work and where they’re weak, and you have the recipe for a high-level threat.
Rest of the Top 10 Wide Receivers Ranked
2) Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins
The fastest premier receiver in the NFL, Hill combines his speed with nuanced route-running, surprising strength, and a great understanding of what his quarterback wants from him. While Jefferson might be a slightly better receiver to have on a team, Hill is the receiver that most alters opposing defenses and makes life easy for his quarterbacks.
3) Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
When the Minnesota Vikings functionally traded Stefon Diggs for Justin Jefferson, they traded not just one top receiver for another but one with a very similar skill set – but that looks a lot different.
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 quarterback friendly to his style of play, but he’s nearly unstoppable when he has chemistry with his passer.
4) A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles
It’s a sign of the times that the league’s best “big” receiver is only number four, but a more open NFL requires different skill sets. Luckily for A.J. Brown, he not only has his size and contested catch ability, but speed and route-running ability to find space.
While former Ole Miss teammate D.K. Metcalf was lauded for his athleticism, Brown also happened to be one of the most athletic receivers in that draft and is demonstrating that in the NFL week after week.
5) Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders
Last year, many would have considered Davante Adams to be 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.
His capacity for middle-of-the-field catches and play in space is elite, but not quite that 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
Like Adams, Ja’Marr Chase is essentially a big with speed who can win in space but excels in contested situations and deep downfield. He doesn’t have the same YAC ability as Adams or instinct for space as Brown, but he’s more explosive than either of them when asked to do what he does best. Chase is an incredible weapon that could muscle his way into elite territory with just a bit more refinement.
7) Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
Losing high-level play from Matthew Stafford meant a small drop-off in production for Cooper Kupp, but he remains the elite slot threat and route-runner that he was last year.
His athletic capability is at a high level – more than many of the receivers below him on the list – but not quite up to the standards of the players in the top five, limiting his explosive potential. He still generates explosives – he nearly set a record for total receiving yards last year – but he’s 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 very gentle downward slope in DeAndre Hopkins’ career as he enters his 30s, but he’s still a high-level player who supercharged the offense when he returned to the lineup. His calling card – jump-ball catches – ruined draft analysts for years as they tried to find the next Hopkins in their favorite big contested-catch receiver.
It never happened. Hopkins has a great understanding of what the offense wants him to do, and he can convert his power and route-running into deep ball capability, but his best work is in the red zone and at the 17-22 yard mark instead of further downfield, capping him compared to other high-level receivers.
9) Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
Perhaps the most underrated receiver this year in the NFL, Tyler Lockett does a phenomenal job getting open, still plays with high-level athleticism, and remains a surprisingly good catch-point receiver.
With some of the most reliable hands in the NFL and a knack for space, 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 ranks fourth in the NFL in receiving touchdowns.
10) Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
Of all the receivers in the top ten, Deebo Samuel may have the best trump card of all of them, though it comes at the cost of being substantially less well-rounded. Samuel is a YAC machine, and he combines his speed, power, vision, and instinct for space to get it done.
He’s not as polished a route-runner as others on the list, nor is he a phenomenal technician against press, but he demolishes angles and provides a unique weapon. He can still break open on routes, though that is a product of his incredible explosiveness more than his technique.
11) DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles
Already an elite route-runner out of the gate, Smith possesses a great combination of speed and agility that has made him an asset to Jalen Hurts and allows the Eagles to attack opposing defenses in a variety of ways with multiple types of route combinations.
Smith plays with physicality but doesn’t have the strength to stand up to the other receivers ahead of him on the list, but he’s a reliable and explosive option.
12) DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
A size/speed freak in every sense of the word, D.K. Metcalf drew comparisons to Calvin Johnson coming out of his combine workouts. His speed, size, and acceleration lived up to that, though he doesn’t have the agility or contested catch capability of the former All-Pro.
That’s fine, Metcalf is on the verge of elite and an incredible option in the Seattle offense, even if he runs a few routes better than others. He still wins jump balls at a high rate and can bail out quarterbacks when in trouble.
13) Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders
Maybe we’d be talking about Terry McLaurin more if he benefited from better quarterback play, but he has averaged 82.6 yards per game since Taylor Heinicke took over. McLaurin is a speedster with good route-running and great hands, and that always has value.
While he could do more against contact and doesn’t have the instinct for space that some other route-running mavens have, he’s a fantastic addition to any roster. It’s a shame he doesn’t play with more timing-oriented quarterbacks because he could really take off.
14) Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints
It’s always difficult to place rookies on lists like these, and with a slightly weaker class in 2022 than in the previous two years, it feels like a risk putting one in the top fifteen. 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 less than a season under his belt, there are very few holes in his game.
15) Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s been an unusual year in Tampa Bay, but that doesn’t take away from the talent of their receivers, who have proven what they can do in better passing environments. Another receiver characterized by excellent body control and a good understanding of field geometry, Godwin does a great job winning between the 20s and adjusting to any pass. He has incredible hands but doesn’t have quite the same capacity for winning deeps as other receivers on the list.
16) Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Evans is an unusual player in that he’s one of the most productive players ever since entering the league but has never threatened to be a top-five receiver in production in any particular year.
It speaks to his 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, he’s 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 in the league. There are some games where he gets open at will, demonstrates uncommon fluidity and after-catch speed, and showcases high-level technique to go with his athleticism.
At other times, he looks clumsy, has difficulty stringing together receiver moves, and can have trouble holding on to the ball. Some of that is injury, and some of that is teams playing him more physically than he’d like, but we see much more of the good than the bad with him, 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
While Deebo Samuel stands alone as a YAC receiver, Amon-Ra St. Brown might be atop the next tier of after-catch specialists. He continues to develop, and his catch-point ability isn’t too bad, either.
Most of his growth has come as a route-runner, and as the Lions offense has improved its timing, he has thrived. His combination of fluidity and strength are great assets and might remind Lions fans of Golden Tate.
20) Garrett Wilson, New York Jets
Like McLaurin, Wilson suffers from a lack of consistent quarterback play. But when the passing game is working, he’s the reason why. He’s great at avoiding contact as an after-catch receiver, and his agility has allowed him to find a number of ways to get open.
While his initial stem could use some work, he’s otherwise already becoming a complete route-runner with good speed and strength. Wilson has a high ceiling he has yet to unlock, and his feel for the game is already there.
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 and without a resolution to his suspension for gambling. 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 route-running 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, he could rocket up the power rankings next year.
22) Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have extraordinary speed on their roster, and they know how to use it. Waddle is a better after-catch receiver than Hill, while Hill does a better job deep, but what really separates them are Hill’s developed instincts, body control, and technical route-running. Nevertheless, Waddle does a lot to help teams win and can immediately turn a game.
23) Jakobi Meyers, New England Patriots
From an undrafted free agent to likely the top receiver to hit free agency in 2023, Jakobi Meyers has had quite the journey. He’s probably the slowest receiver on the list, but he has incredible hands, a good sense for the ball, and is a great route-runner. He won’t be able to win everywhere for an offense, but even for offenses without a deep threat, he can carry a team.
24) Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
Once the standard-bearer for technicians, Keenan Allen has been hampered by injuries – an issue that has plagued him since college. He no longer has his speed, but he does still have most of his short-area quickness, and he’s a great improviser and seam-buster against zones. Allen is a reliable receiver when he’s on the field, though his ability to get on the field is itself a liability.
25) 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 receiver with the Raiders turned into an efficient intermediate route-runner with good hands in Dallas.
Now, with the Browns, he’s 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.
26) Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
Like Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk is a special after-catch player who wins with both strength and agility. He does have some chops as a route-runner that Samuel doesn’t have and can win deep, specializing in sideline plays and seam routes up the middle of the field.
He 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.
27) DJ Moore, Carolina Panthers
Just like Aiyuk, Samuel, and Waddle, 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.
His hands have been an issue, but he does make up for it by reeling in passes that “should” have been incomplete. Though he can moonlight as a running back at times, he doesn’t have the strength of Aiyuk or Samuel and is a little more limited there. Nevertheless, Moore has been a big asset for Carolina and can threaten to score at any time.
28) Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
It has been fun to see Mike Williams develop into his own beyond just a possession receiver, but he seems to have topped out in his development. 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 he had shown in college hasn’t arrived in the NFL, but he still finds moments to be explosive.
29) Drake London, Atlanta Falcons
There are a number of receivers not on this list that are having more productive seasons than the rookie Drake London. But he does a great job getting open on film and plays at a high level when the ball heads his way. Playing with Marcus Mariota has limited his production, but his ability to win contested catches and reel in passes well outside of his 6’4” frame is worth consideration.
Not only that, he’s demonstrated an ability to get open beyond what many scouting reports said of him. He 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.
30) Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings offense funnels passes toward Jefferson at the expense of everyone else – correctly so – so Adam Thielen’s production has plummeted. But he consistently gets open on plays he doesn’t see targets and reels in catches at a consistent rate.
He hasn’t lived up to his red zone reputation this year, and his contested catch ability is no longer like his 2018 self, but he’s only lost a little bit of his agility and none of his route-running. He’s one of the best route-runners in the NFL and still has good athleticism and great hands.
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 a number of quarterbacks, all with different styles. 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.
He still has work to do as a technician, but he’s improved there, too. Pittman has been overshadowed by the rest of the draft class and hidden by his 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. But Christian Kirk is bearing the flag carried forth at first by Wes Welker. Both demonstrate high-level route-running, dynamic short-area quickness, and 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 number one, but he’s flourished when forced into that role.
Just missed the cut: George Pickens, Pittsburgh Steelers; Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals; Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys