In honor of Antonio Brown’s mega deal making him the highest paid receiver a thought crept into mind. There’s no denying his productivity, impact on the game and lovable theatrics, but is Brown the best receiver in the league? If not him, then who?
The 2016 season was filled with twists, turns and changes in the wide receivers hierarchy. So using an advanced formula cooked up by none other than the author, these criteria were factored into the list: PFF grade, catches, yards, touchdowns, explosive receptions (20+yard receptions) and of course, the eye test. It’s time to determine who the best receivers in the NFL were in 2016.
1. Julio Jones
At 6’3″ and 220 pounds with 4.39 40-yard speed, Jones is as good as it gets. He produced the sixth 300-yard receiving game in NFL history, as well as 83 catches for 1409 yards. He also put up six touchdowns, 27 explosive receptions and a PFF grade of 96.4 in 2016.
2. Antonio Brown
Brown would be number one if God had blessed him with Jones’ body. Overwhelming with speed and precision routes, Brown takes short routes and turns them into long gains. Posting 106 catches for 1284 yards, 12 touchdowns, 22 explosive receptions and a PFF grade of 88.9, Brown is worth every penny of the deal he just signed.
3. Jordy Nelson
The NFL’s 2016 Comeback Player of the Year may not be a popular choice for number three, but his numbers speak for themselves. Nelson put up 97 catches for 1257 yards, an NFL-leading 14 touchdowns, 19 explosive receptions and a PFF grade of 83. He was an ironman for the Packers; he played in the playoffs with broken ribs.
4. Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham may not have been having any fun early in the season, but he started clowning defenders at the end of it. With 101 catches for 1367 yards, 10 touchdowns, 20 explosive catches and a PFF grade of 84.3, OBJ reminded everyone that he remains a Giant on the field.
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5. Mike Evans
Evans madd up for his issue with drops last season by turning in a 2016 season to be proud of. The second-year receiver tallied 96 catches for 1321 yards, 12 touchdowns and an astounding 93.3 PFF grade. Tampa Bay has something cooking with Winston and Evans for years to come.
6. T.Y. Hilton
Hilton lead the league in total receiving yards with 1448 and 28 explosive receptions, while adding six touchdowns on 91 catches. He and Andrew Luck have become the league’s premier downfield-passing duo. Having Luck as his quarterback back made a difference in 2016.
7. Michael Thomas
Thomas emerged as Drew Brees’ favorite target down in the bayou: he hauled in an impressive 92 catches for 1137 yards and scored nine touchdowns. HE also earned a grade of 87.1 by PFF and had 27 explosive receptions. What makes this even more impressive is that this is Thomas’s rookie season.
8. Julian Edelman
Edelman quite possibly made the best catch in NFL history in Super Bowl LI. As if that wasn’t enough, he put up yet another magnificent season. Edelman had 98 catches for 1106 yards, scoring three touchdowns with 11 explosive receptions and graded out at 81.2. This rating seems a little low, considering the production.
9. Larry Fitzgerald
It’s amazing the way Fitzgerald is able to continue to produce year after year. In 2016, the ageless wonder posted a league-leading 107 catches for 1023 yards, scoring six touchdowns with eight explosive receptions garnering a PFF grade of 85.1. How much longer can Fitzgerald continue his assault on the record books? With a season like this, it would appear he’ll get at least one more year.
10. Amari Cooper
Few receivers possess his elite footwork and route running abilities that Cooper has. He put up another Pro Bowl season with 83 catches for 1153 yards, five touchdowns with 21 explosive receptions and a grade of 80.9. With a change in offensive philosophy gearing toward the vertical passing game, Cooper could do even better in 2017.