Sports & Swag’s 2016 Football Preview first took a look at the Top 10 NFL Quarterbacks. Now, the preview turns from the players throwing the ball to the ones catching it. There are many big play receivers currently in the NFL. Therefore, that makes compiling a list like this pretty subjective. This list was compiled mainly on the premise of how these players have performed in the past, and their outlook for the 2016 season. That includes if he’s coming back from injury, if he’s an injury risk, and how good is his quarterback. Of course, being a great wide receiver is about more than just making big plays. It’s about making those plays when the game is on the line. It’s also about making all the small plays in between. Does your favorite receiver make the list of Top 10 NFL Wide Receivers? Read on to find out.
TOP 10 NFL WIDE RECEIVERS for 2016
10. MIKE EVANS – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Evans, has quickly become Jameis Winston’s favorite target in Tampa. The third-year receiver from Texas A&M has a knack for making big plays, and is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. Evans’ combination of size and speed makes him difficult to cover, especially in the red zone. Evans’ 1,200 yards receiving came on only 74 receptions. That was with sharing targets with Vincent Jackson, who’s not getting any younger. It’s very conceivable that Jackson’s numbers could fall off some this season, and Evans should be the beneficiary.
9. AMARI COOPER – Oakland Raiders
After a pro bowl appearance in year one, Amari Cooper is well on his way to becoming an elite NFL receiver. With so many good receivers in the league, and seeing he’s only in his second season, this may seem a bit high for him. But, with Cooper’s skill set and the emergence of Derek Carr at QB, ninth may actually be a little low. The Raiders have a real shot at making the playoffs this season and the combo of Carr and Cooper are a big reason why.
8. ALLEN ROBINSON – Jacksonville Jaguars
Allen Robinson, came virtually out of nowhere to put up huge numbers in 2015. The question is, can he reach those numbers again in 2016? Robinson, does have to share targets with another promising receiver in Jacksonville, Allen Hurns. Together, Robinson and Hurns are tough to handle, and a big reason why some think the Jags can contend in the AFC South. Of course, more improvement from Blake Bortles at QB will be essential. Regardless, there’s no question Allen Robinson’s talent, and knack at making difficult catches scream top 10 receiver.
7. JORDY NELSON – Green Bay Packers
Jordy Nelson, definitely belongs on the list of top 10 NFL wide receivers when healthy. Especially, when you consider he receives passes from the NFL’s best QB, Aaron Rodgers. However, there are questions of how well he’ll recover from the ACL injury of a year ago. That injury cost him the entire season. Nelson, isn’t flashy, but he knows how to get open. He can beat you deep, however his claim to fame is his blue-collar style of play. He and Rodgers have amazing chemistry. They both make the other one better. It may take some time for Nelson to actually be 100 percent. But, when he does, look for him to put up big numbers, for a Packer team with Super Bowl aspirations.
6. DEMARYIUS THOMAS – Denver Broncos
It’s going to look very strange seeing Demaryius Thomas receiving passes from anyone else besides Peyton Manning. Manning, is retired, and Mark Sanchez seems to be the guy will take over. Needless to say, that’s leading to many questions about the defending Super Bowl champs. One thing that shouldn’t be questioned, however, is how good a receiver Thomas is. Through all that ailed Manning and the Broncos’ offense in 2015, Thomas managed to gain 1,300 yards on 105 catches. And, that’s with sharing targets with another elite receiver, Emmanuel Sanders.
5. BRANDON MARSHALL – New York Jets
Brandon Marshall’s ability to be physical with his size make him a Top 10 NFL Wide Receiver. Considering that Marshall has never played with an elite quarterback, he’s probably a bit underrated. Marshall’s career numbers over ten seasons (882 receptions, 11,000 yards) are impressive. Whether, it’s in the red zone or on a deep pattern, Marshall is tough to handle. As a result, the Jets have that threat on offense that can make them a dangerous team. Ryan Fitzpatrick, is back in the fold after lengthy contract negotiations. And, so is the newly acquired Matt Forte. Therefore, if the defense holds up, the Jets could surprise in 2016.
4. ODELL BECKHAM JR. – New York Giants
Odell Beckham Jr. brings a sense of flair to the list of Top 10 NFL Wide Receivers. No one makes more spectacular catches than OBJ. He’s also great at making all the normal plays, as well. But, for some, his being number four on this list will seem a little low. Beckham’s 1,450 yards receiving placed him fourth in the league. See where this is going? While, stats that each receiver compiled aren’t the only criteria for this list, they of course are still a good tool. OBJ, should have some help in the way of Victor Cruz, who missed last season due to injury. Some think this is the year Eli Manning and the Giants put it all together and win the NFC East. A huge season by Beckham Jr. will be vital for that to happen.
3. DEANDRE HOPKINS – Houston Texans
If you tell me that you think DeAndre Hopkins is the best receiver in the NFL, I’m not going to argue with you. Well, not much anyway. Because, I can easily see where someone that thinks Hopkins is the best is coming from. Especially, when you consider the numbers (111 catches, 1521 yards) this guy put up, while playing through average at best quarterback play. Former Bronco, Brock Osweiler, is now the new signal-caller. While, Osweiler seems like an upgrade, how much of an upgrade is a really valid question. Of course, it will help Osweiler to have someone like Hopkins to throw the ball to. The defense is good enough that the offense doesn’t have to be great. However, make no mistake, Osweiler and Hopkins are the key to how far the Texans go in 2016.
2. JULIO JONES – Atlanta Falcons
Much the same as DeAndre Hopkins, if you told me Julio Jones is the NFL’s best receiver, I wouldn’t argue. In fact, Julio Jones is probably the most versatile. None of the receivers on this list have the combination of size, strength, physicality, and speed that Jones does. As a result, Jones is the most dominating receiver in the NFL. There’s just one thing holding him back a little. Matt Ryan. Matty Ice, a nickname given to Ryan to reflect his knack for coming up big in clutch situations, is well deserved. However, it’s usually because of his inconsistencies early in games that the Falcons have to make a comeback in the first place. Still, Jones and Ryan are one of the NFL’s best tandems. It’s just that there’s another tandem that’s better.
1. ANTONIO BROWN – Pittsburgh Steelers
While, Julio Jones is very dominating, so is AB. Antonio Brown, is a nightmare to opposing defenses. He doesn’t have the size that some on this list have. But, he makes up for it with speed, route running, and working his you know what off. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that he’s the recipient of passes from Big Ben. The chemistry he has with AB is remarkable. Especially, when you look at how Brown’s numbers worsened after Big Ben’s injury. The Steelers offense, even without Le’Veon Bell, looked like the NFL’s best before Big Ben’s injury occurred. Still, AB managed to have an incredible season (136 catches, 1,834 yards). Those numbers led the league. It’s scary to think how good his numbers could have been if Big Ben were available for the full season.
Just missing the cut…….
So, many good wide receivers just couldn’t crack the list. But, if they’re not on this list, there’s a good reason why. How about A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals? Sure, Green is still considered a very good receiver. However, his numbers fell off some due to an injury last season, and the Bengals lost Marvin Jones. So, there’s a lot of question about who will play opposite of Green. That could allow defenses to focus on Green even more.
How about the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant? We all know Bryant has the ability, but can he or Tony Romo stay healthy?
T.Y. Hilton, put up pretty good numbers without a healthy Andrew Luck in 2015. Can he do better with Luck (no pun intended) in 2016? If so, he could definitely be looked at as one the top 10 NFL wide receivers.
There are also guys like Larry Fitzgerald. Many thought Fitz’s career was over. He proved he deserved consideration for a top 10 NFL wide receivers list, last season. There are also guys like Sammy Watkins in Buffalo, who also have what it takes to crack this list. There are also guys like the Panthers’ Kelvin Benjamin and the Bears’ Kevin White. Both of whom, missed the entire 2015 season due to injury. Both could easily be on this list by season’s end.
So, do you agree or disagree? Who makes your list of Top 10 NFL Wide Receivers? Feel free to let us know in comments. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned to sportsandswag.com for more football as the 2016 season gets underway.