Top 10 WRs in NFL: Odell Beckham, Julio Jones and Michael Thomas battle for second behind No. 1 who might surprise
DeAndre Hopkins may not be a burner but he does everything else better than everyone else
Last season Michael Thomas led all receivers with 125 receptions. Julio Jones' 1,677 yards was also tops. As was Antonio Brown's 15 touchdowns. All three players grace our list of the top 10 NFL wide receivers heading into 2019, but you'll have to keep reading to see the seven other names, as well as the No. 1 pass catcher.
So how were these rankings determined? The wideouts were ranked collectively by 11 members of the CBSSports.com NFL writing and editorial staff. We each ranked our top 10 and our individual ballots were then turned into one list using a point system. So before you get angry, this isn't our personal list, it's a consensus.
Knowing that, here are several names who just missed the cut: Juju Smith-Schuster and A.J. Green narrowly missed the No. 10 spot. Following them, there was a considerable drop off to T.Y. Hilton and Amari Cooper, followed by Stefon Diggs and Brandin Cooks, who both received one 10th place vote. Also worth noting: Tyler Lockett, who finished No. 1 in total value and value per play among all receivers last season, according to Football Outsiders' metrics, didn't get a vote.
OK, let's get to it.
10. Tyreek Hill, Chiefs
On the field there is no denying how explosive Hill can be. In 16 games last season he had 87 receptions for 1,479 yards and 12 touchdowns. Hill also returns punts (he took one 91 yards to the house in the '18 season opener). He ranked No. 6 in value per play among all wideouts, according to FO, and No. 7 according to PFF's grades.
But his future is tenuous because of off-field incidents that led the team to suspend him indefinitely. That said, after Hill met with NFL personnel last week, the Chiefs were reportedly hopeful that the receiver would rejoin the team by training camp later this month. As a contingency plan against any suspension Hill may face, Kansas City took speedster Mecole Hardman in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
9. Keenan Allen, Chargers
Allen's measurables don't blow you away; he ran a 4.71 40-yard time at his pro day back in 2013, proving once again that straight-line speed is overrated in the NFL. Considered a first-round talent, Allen wasn't selected until the third round by the Chargers. Great news for Philip Rivers, terrible news for the 31 other teams. As a rookie, he had 71 catches for 1,046 yards and eieght touchdowns and he's had his two most productive campaigns in 2017 and 2018. Two seasons ago Allen had 102 receptions for 1,393 yards and last season he was good for 97/1,196.
Football Outsiders ranked him No. 9 in total value, while Pro Football Focus had him at No. 6. And while Allen may not be the fleetest of foot at his position, he's one of the two or three best route-runners on the planet.
8. Adam Thielen, Vikings
Thielen has gone from undrafted free agent with virtually no chance to make an NFL roster to the sixth-highest-paid wideout in the NFL (in terms of average salary). He played at Division II Minnesota State Mankato and he wasn't even on NFL scouts' radar when he showed up at a regional combine and blazed a 4.45 40 and a 6.77 3-cone time.
Thielen began his career on the Vikings' practice squad. A year later, in 2014, he made the 53-man roster and logged eight receptions for 137 yards. He had similar stats the following season but Thielen exploded onto the season in '16 when he had 69 catches for 967 yards and five touchdowns. Last season was his best to date: 113 receptions, 1,373 yards, nine touchdowns and No. 8 in total value, according to FO.
7. Mike Evans, Buccaneers
The good news is that Winston is in the final year of his rookie deal and has a lot to prove. The better news is that new Bucs coach Bruce Arians is a quarterbacks whisperer of sorts, and not only that, he loves the deep ball. Put another way: Don't be surprised if Evans improves on his 86 receptions, 1,524 yards and eight touchdowns from a season ago.
6. Davante Adams, Packers
Adams was part of one of the best receiver draft classes in recent memory. The 2014 group included Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, Jarvis Landry and Marqise Lee -- and all but Landry were selected before Adams heard his name with the 53rd overall pick. After really good seasons in 2016 and 2017 (149 combined catches, 1,882 yards, 22 TDs) Adams went off in '18: 111 catches, 1,386 yards, 13 touchdowns.
PFF graded him as the No. 8 wideout a season ago and he did it on a Packers team lacking of other pass-catching options. We're not joking: the second-leading receiver on this squad was 31-year-old tight end Jimmy Graham who had 55 receptions -- 56 fewer than Adams. It'll be interesting to see how Adams -- and, more importantly, Aaron Rodgers -- adapts to Matt LaFleur's new offense.
5. Antonio Brown, Raiders
Brown will be 31 on July 10 but he remains one of the NFL's best players. And the reality is that he would probably be ranked higher than No. 5 if he had remained in Pittsburgh. But he and the Steelers had a falling-out, he forced his way out of town and now he's in Oakland playing for a four-win outfit that features a quarterback in Derek Carr who ranked just ahead of Eli Manning last season in terms of total value.
But there's no denying Brown's talents; he's had at least 101 catches in each of the last six seasons and he led the league with 12 touchdowns a season ago. That said, he ranked 19th in total value among all wideouts last season, via FO and was 26th, according to PFF. The Steelers have a knack for getting rid of wide receivers at exactly the right time. Is Brown the latest example?
4. Michael Thomas, Saints
If we re-drafted the 2016 class Thomas, who was originally the 47th selection, might be the first-overall pick, ahead of Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Joey Bosa. He's been a terror in New Orleans, where he's logged 321 receptions in three years and never caught fewer than 92 passes in a season.
Last season was his best to date: 125 catches, 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns, and he'll soon parlay that into a commensurate salary. As it stands, he ranks 159th in average compensation among wideouts ($1.28 million) but that's about to change. He's on course to be the league's highest-paid pass-catcher and should pull down anywhere from $18-22 million annually.
3. Julio Jones, Falcons
Jones averages $14.2 million a season, which currently ranks 12th among all NFL wide receivers, just ahead of Allen Robinson. But that will change and Jones, one of the league's best players, will be compensated as such. The only question is when. He skipped voluntary offseason workouts but showed for OTAs, and is convinced that team owner Arthur Blank will keep his word when he said that Jones will be a Falcon for life.
At 30, Jones is one of the oldest receivers on this list but unlike Antonio Brown, who slipped in the advanced metrics rankings, he's No. 6 in total value, via FO and No. 3 behind DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas, according to PFF.
2. Odell Beckham Jr., Browns
If you liked Beckham in New York, where he had to catch passes from Eli Manning, then you should love him in Cleveland. No, it wasn't all Manning's fault that the Giants' offense sputtered -- the offensive line was a mess -- but in Baker Mayfield Beckham gets a young mobile quarterback with a rocket right arm. The biggest questions will be: Are there enough footballs to go around (there are also playmakers Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, David Njoku and Nick Chubb to consider), and can this young inexperienced team handle the expectations to suddenly win games after years of losing? Beckham could go a long way in answering that question, and we wouldn't be surprised if he matches his output from his first three seasons (95 catches, 1,300 yards, 12 TDs).
1. DeAndre Hopkins, Texans
Hopkins was the second receiver drafted in 2013 -- Tavon Austin was first -- but the 27th overall pick is the best player in the class and it's not even close. At 27, Hopkins is in his prime, and while his 4.57 40-time at the combine didn't blow anyone away, his route-running and incredible hands have made him the top vote-getter here.
He's had at least 1,200 receiving yards in four of the last five seasons, including a career best 115 catches and 1,572 yards in 2018. He ranked second in total value last season, according to FO, and graded out at the No. 1 wideout, via PFF. And he'll again be the centerpiece of the Texans' offense, which could be special if the team can find a way to keep Deshaun Watson upright after he endured 62 sacks a season ago.
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