NFL Wide Receiver Rankings, Who's At the Top?

Frank Salinas on Oct. 29, 2018

Looking at the top NFL wide receivers at the halfway mark.

We are approaching the mid-point of the NFL season, and inevitably, it’s the time of year where countless positional and team rankings along with a few half-season end-of-year awards lists are released. This is one of them. First, let’s go over some parameters for this list.

Our ranking lists have become overly influenced by fantasy football statistics. Which, is viable considering much of our small talk around the water cooler consists of that devastating 1 point loss because of that last meaningless sack on Monday night. Or that trash TD that Andy Dalton threw at the end of a blowout game to give us the bitter taste of defeat.

So let’s focus on tangible measurements, W-L record, REC (receptions), explosive plays (20 plus yard, catches), Yards and the most important, TDs, since points scored in actual football games result indirectly helping your team win. Intangible plays are recognized as well, we often call this, “the eye test.” Explosive bursts, One-handed catches, ability to separate, toe-tapping near the boundary and wide catch radiuses are in the repertoire of all the elite pass catchers in the NFL, so when we accumulate all these measurements into one receiver, who is at the top for the current 2018 season?

The current reception and targets leader in the NFL heading into Week 8 is Adam Thielen. The Vikings are sitting at 4-2-1, and he is a stalwart in their passing game. He’s also leading the league in Yards, having amassed 822 yards thus far, with Julio Jones being a close second with 812. Thielen is currently tied for seventh with three others at five touchdowns, also ranks second among receivers in YAC.

The argument can absolutely be made for Thielen to top this list with his amazing consistency this year, having over 100 yards each game and many Vikings’ fans will argue so, but let’s continue looking at the rest of the worthy receivers.

Jones.

Julio Jones is one of the purest physical specimens at the Wide Receiver position in the NFL. He’s the Adrian Peterson of receivers. If you were to comprise a receiver from top to bottom, much like AP at running back, Jones is the prototype. His 15.3 YPA average is tied for fourth among the NFL’s top 50 reception leaders. He’s second in yards and has the capability of providing some of the most acrobatic catches you will ever see. The Falcons are currently at the bottom of their division with a 3-4 record.

The most glaring statistic that can’t be overlooked is zero touchdowns this year, that’s right zero. I don’t have to inform you fantasy owners as I’m sure you’re the first to point it out to your fellow fantasy football players. His lack of red-zone, production is inexplicable, is it too few targets, lack of Falcons’ creativity missing Kyle Shanahan? Alternatively, is it that the Falcons have a legitimate, young shifty slot that supplanted the Taylor Gabriel role who was a legit no. Number one WR at Alabama? Either way, it’s mind-boggling and his lack of TDs this season means he can’t top this list.

Your favorite Texan.

DeAndre Hopkins has every intangible you want in a receiver. Wide catch radius, one-handed reception capability, DB separation and body control near the boundary abilities are all second to none. His highlight reel catches are exciting, game-changing and deflating for the opposing defender. He’s the leading receiver of the current AFC South first place 5-3 Houston Texans.

His 47 catches are tied for eighth in the league, and 707 yards are tied for third. He’s first in catches over 20 yards, Nuk is a monster. Us Texan fans are blessed to go from Andre Johnson to DeAndre Hopkins as our No. 1 option. Hopkins’ knack for the flair and timely 1st down receptions make him a strong candidate for the top but only hauling 4 TDs thus far in the season may not be a strong enough case.

Steelers top WR.

Antonio Brown is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. Who will ever forget the time he drop-kicked Spencer Lanning on a punt return. AB is having an interesting year, he’s still shown game-breaking ability, specifically with his game-winning TD against Cincinnati, but with the emergence of JuJu Smith-Schuster, his production has dipped just a bit. His 40 catches are tied for 17th in the league, and 478 yards are 23rd. Weird, right?

You’d think a player of his caliber is ranked in the top ten of every reception statistic. He is second in touchdown catches with six, and the Steelers AFC North-leading record of 3-2-1 make him a viable option for the top spot, but at the halfway point, he still has some climbing to do in other categories to be the No. 1 receiver.

That Packer WR.

DaVantae Adams is Aaron Rodgers’ most targeted receiver this season. The rapport between them is undeniable, Aaron Rodgers is one of the best throwers of the football in the NFL. He’s currently tied for 8th with Hopkins with 47 REC on the year, tied for second with Brown with six TD catches. His 557 yards are ranked 16th, with Aaron Rodgers getting rest and healthier coming off the bye week, we’ll see DaVantae Adams put together a stellar second-half of the year. Heading into Week 8, he may not be quite there to be at the top.

Michael Thomas is one of the purest route runners in the game. He also has one of the best to ever do it, Drew Brees throwing to him. We’ve seen Brees enhance mediocre receivers in his career, but Thomas is far from mediocre. Thomas is ranked 11th in receiving yards with 588 and tied for 3rd with 53 REC. His 4 TDs are tied for 11th. The Saints are sitting atop the NFC South with their 5-1 record. Thomas’ benefit of having Brees propels him into the conversation of best receiver in the league. Let’s see if he’s able to jump to the top of the list at the end of the year, for now, he’s in the conversation.

Some others.

Odell Beckham Jr. is as electrifying a player we’ll see this year. He seems short in stature but plays like a 6’4’’ possession receiver. His slant routes are close to unstoppable. He is tied for third with 53 catches with Thomas and Jones. The New York Giants are a disappointing 1-6 on the year. Easily one of the most underachieving teams in the NFL. OBJ and the Giants will be competitive for the rest of the year, but with a horrible offensive line, Eli doesn’t have the time to get OBJ the ball. When he does touch it, he’s still amazing with the ball. His 649 yards are 4th in the league, but with the Giants struggling so bad, it’s hard to put him at the top.

Tyreek Hill is the fastest player in the NFL. Oh, how I wish we could see the fastest players race in a 60-yard dash as part of Pro Bowl week so we could settle this debate every year. He ran a 9.98 in the 100-meter dash in college. This is world class speed, couple that with the NFL’s hottest sensation of the year in Patrick Mahomes, and we have a recipe for a special year. His 7 TD catches top the league right now. He ranks 5th in yards with 635, is 2nd to Hopkins with 12 catches of 20 plus yards.

The Sunday Night play of him scoring this 75-yard touchdown is one of the NFL’s highlights and lowlights of the year. The fan that threw the beer at him at the end of play faced a charge of disorderly conduct the next day. His team is 6-1 atop the AFC West with their only loss coming to the dynasty that is the New England Patriots in one of the best games of the year. He’s a must-see player this year and the reason why I believe he’s the best receiver in the league at the halfway point.

NFL’s Top WR Through Week 7

  1. Tyreek Hill
  2. Adam Thielen
  3. DeAndre Hopkins
  4. Antonio Brown
  5. Michael Thomas
  6. Davante Adams
  7. Odell Beckham Jr.
  8. Julio Jones

It’s so difficult to quantify each of these outstanding players hard work, performance week in and out. I believe this list is honest and directly related to team performance and wins. Take the player off the team and are they still atop their division or even more abysmal? Each one of these players is amazing, and I love to watch them play week in and week out. We’ll see who claims the top spot after week 17.

All Stats from NFL.com

NFL

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