Dan’s Top 10 Receivers Heading Into the 2015 NFL Season

Hot on the heels of quarterbacks we have the top 10 wide receivers. Before we get into my thoughts I strongly recommend going to check out Dylan’s excellent list here. Much like the QBs this list will be entirely based around opinions, with figures used to emphasise points. We’d love to hear your thoughts, so hit us up on twitter and facebook.

There are some no brainers on this list. The number 1 receiver, much like the quarterbacks I don’t think there can be much argument with. Then the top 8 are a given in my opinion, these guys are unquestionably the pinnacle of talent at receiver, true game changers with only the order in the list being a factor. This leaves about 10 players battling it out for the number 9 and 10 spot and was the biggest headache when composing this list, leaving me unable to put in a chunk of players that would walk into a number one receiver role pretty much anywhere in the league. Let’s start with maybe the most controversial player on the list.

10) Golden Tate

Tate, in my opinion was probably the best signing of the 2014 free agency, especially with a hobbled Calvin Johnson on the Lions line up for a chunk of the season. Tate filled in admirably demonstrating ability to create yards after catch, providing a different type of weapon for Stafford. Tate averaged 7.2 yards after catch and broke a league high 20 tackles, only coughing up the ball once. Tate might have had the best season of his career, but a total of only 4 touchdowns stops me from moving him up this list. If Stafford could stop staring down Calvin Johnson for even a few seconds, Tate might actually be on for a better season than last year.

9) Randall Cobb

If someone was to say that I can take any receiver off this list to start a franchise, Cobb would be who I’d choose. Randall Cobb is the no. 1 slot receiver in the league, but really he’s so much more than that, excelling in every role he’s been given, proving to be more versatile than anyone on this list. Really there is only one thing that’s stopped him breaking into the ‘elite 8’ which is that we’ve only seen him be this good for 1 year. Last year he nearly doubled his touchdowns tally and gained more yards than in any of his previous 3 years. Another strong year from the ultimate slot weapon and I’ll almost certainly move him up.

8) Demaryius Thomas

I find it hard to imagine the next 8 not being the top 8 on everyone’s list. These guys in my opinion are the 8 prototypical receivers that I think we judge the rest of the league on.

Demaryius Thomas had a solid season, managing to stay consistent even when Peyton dropped off towards the end (except for 1 game). Against the Cardinals however was where he shone, gaining 226 yards from 8 receptions, against a vaunted Cards secondary. Thomas’ stats were in many ways the best of his career. However I do have some concerns to do with the changes that have happened in Denver. I initially was concerned about the addition of Kubiak at head coach, but a quick perusal of Andre Johnson’s stats, with a bunch of average QBs throwing to him removed fear on that level. Instead my concerns boiled down to 2 things. No. 1. No Julius Thomas, means less single coverage. Last year the Broncos were teeming with offensive weapons. This year, not so much, with the biggest loss being the pass catching tight end Julius Thomas. No longer is there the question of which Thomas to cover, with defensive talent really just split between Demaryius and Emmanuel Sanders. No. 2. Can Peyton still sling the ball? Whilst I show Peyton some faith on my QB top 10, I struggle to see Thomas being a major part of the offence, when Peyton can’t throw the ball particularly far, with him maybe favouring Sanders and Anderson out of the back field. Despite my fears I have no doubt that he should be a card carrying member of the ‘elite 8’.

7) Dez Bryant

Oh Dez, what can we say about you that hasn’t already been said by you. This will no doubt draw some criticism, but despite my belief previously that he was the 2nd best receiver in the league, I can admit I was wrong and had forgotten a few of the names above him. It should be pointed out that being the 7th best receiver (in my opinion), is still pretty darn good. Dez led the league at receiver in touchdowns and forced a thoroughly decent 16 missed tackles. My concerns with him lie in the interceptions total (which I am very aware of that Romo should shoulder some of the blame) and a not so great yards after catch of just over 4. That being said, he has plenty of opportunities to prove me wrong if the Cowboys are forced to sling the ball as much as we think they’ll be. Dez could make me look very silly. Speaking of which…

6) Calvin Johnson

There is a slim chance that a chequered injury history could catch up with herculean receiver, I just simply can’t write him off. Before last season Megatron was in the conversation as a contender for the greatest of all time, then 1 poor season struggling with injury and he’s written off. Johnson’s stats are pretty average compared to some on this list, so I would say ignore them. Instead look at what he managed to do over the previous 3 years and you’ll see some staggering stats. Johnson has an opportunity to be fully fit at the same time as Golden Tate, which should see coverage ease up a little for him. If not we might see Tate swap places with Megatron on this list!

5) Jordy Nelson

My favourite Packers wide receiver? Randall Cobb. Most talented Packers wide receiver? Randall Cobb (in my opinion). Receiver that is deservedly higher up on this list? Jordy Nelson. Okay so this is probably a little confusing, but the fact is that baring a drop off of massive proportions or an injury, Jordy Nelson will get the majority of the targets next year. Even more of a focus on Cobb will mean Nelson sees more single coverage, which is good for everyone on the Packers offence. I don’t think there is any one thing that Jordy is the best at on this list, however there is no area of his game I can fault him for. Basically he does everything really well, a guaranteed chain mover. I suppose if there was a signature stat, it would be his 11 1st down catches on 3rd and 7 yards plus, which is still beaten by Julio Jones with 13. Nelson is a reliable target for the best QB in the league, really this should be an unstoppable pairing again this season.

4) A.J Green

This could draw some criticism. Green had his worst season of his 4 year career in 2014, which in itself will draw critics. But it’s easy to forget just how many injuries he was battling, whether it a concussion or an arm injury, or a ligament problem that he dealt with all season, but eventually saw him miss 3 games. Green is a much better wide receiver than his QB will ever allow him to be, despite being one of the best in the league at creating separation. Green has had over 1000 yards in all 4 of his seasons so far. Imagine what he could do with an above average quarterback. Maybe it’s sheer hope that sees me put him this high as barring a ridiculous trade happening in the next few weeks he’ll still have Dalton throwing to him, but the fact is he has been the driving force in dragging the Bengals kicking and screaming to a single playoff game every year and deserves a lot of credit for the Bengals still being a relevant team whose biggest concern is winning a post-season game that some teams will never have a sniff at.

3) Odell Beckham Jr

There’s not a great deal I can say about Odell Beckham that people don’t already know. He has everything. His route running is near perfect, he can create separation like no one else, he’s 5’11 but plays like he’s 6’4, he dropped just 2 passes last year, he’s dynamic and fun to watch. To give you a simplified practical example of what he can do outside of that unbelievable catch, he caught 7 passes for 108 yards against Richard Sherman, making the All-Pro corner look ordinary, like he was just a guy. As great as ‘that catch’ was, I’ve never seen anything like that whole performance, where he was the lone shining light in a drubbing from the NFC champs. If Beckham can just replicate what he did last year, he’ll be number 1 on this list, I just need to see more than 12 games, although I am hugely confident that last season wasn’t a fluke.

2) Julio Jones

I was lucky enough to cover some of the Falcons practices last year when they were in this country. In between chasing Devin Hester around (no. 2 on my all-time heroes list), I noticed one thing. Julio Jones looks like he was forged directly by the Gods, built to show the world how to play wide receiver. Despite missing a game last year, Julio had the 3rd most yards in the league for a receiver and despite his touchdown total being down, his 1st down total was insane, picking up a total of 76. I put Matt Ryan on my QB list partially because I think he’s in the best position he’s been in, in years, which is also why I’ve got Julio Jones so high on this list. Julio Jones I genuinely believe could have his best season this year, with help from a healthy offensive line and a great offensive coordinator in Kyle Shanahan.

1) Antonio Brown

Was there any doubt he’d be no. 1? There are many stats he excelled at, like his 1698 yards, or his league high 129 receptions. Brown didn’t have a single game where he gained less than 72 yards, making him not just dynamic, but also consistent, which also can be seen by his (once again), league high 85 first downs and just 5 dropped passes. All of these are great stats and alone prove that he almost certainly deserves to be no. 1 with a bullet, but really the best way to see what’s so special about this guy, is simply watching him play. Brown somehow seemed to make every catch exciting and if it wasn’t for a certain catch by a certain Giants receiver, I think we’d be looking at a lot of Antonio Brown in our top 10 plays of the season. Brown’s reign at the top of this list might be somewhat short lived if OBJ can put together another season like last year, but if Brown can look half as good as he did last year, he’ll be a shoe-in for the top 5.

Did I get it wrong? Hit us up on twitter: @gridirongents