Ahead of the 2015 season, SI.com is ranking the top 10 starters at every position group. Here are the NFL's top 10 receivers.
July 31, 2015
1 of 10John W. McDonough for Sports Illustrated
1. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Bryant staked his claim to the title of the league's best receiver in 2014, and it was a compelling case. He led the league in receiving touchdowns with 16, caught 51 more passes than any other receiver on his team and there's no receiver in the league right now who's more dangerous when making contested catches. The five-year, $70 million contract extension he signed in July 2015 could turn out to be a bargain in the long run.
2 of 10Simon Bruty for Sports Illustrated
2. Antonio Brown, Steelers
In the 2014 season, no receiver was more productive than Brown: He led the league in catches (128) and receiving yards (1,698) and was targeted 181 times in the regular season alone. Brown stands 5'10" and weighs 185 pounds, but don't mistake him for a speedy slot guy—he can do that, too, but this is a fully-developed receiver with all the skills you want in a No. 1 player at the position.
3 of 10Al Tielemans for Sports Illustrated
3. Jordy Nelson, Packers
Since he came out of Kansas State in 2008, Nelson has grown into the rare receiver with no obvious liabilities. In each of the last two seasons, he's averaged 15.5 yards per catch, and he tied for fifth in the league in 2014 with 12 receptions in which the ball traveled 20 yards in the air or more. You'll still hear people refer to him as a big possession receiver, which is ridiculous
4 of 10Al Bello/Getty Images
4. Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
Honestly, we could have put Beckham fourth overall just for this Week 12 touchdown catch against the Cowboys, and we'd have a case .... but there was a lot more to the rookie's season than one of the best catches in NFL history. The LSU product ended 2014 with 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns—in just 12 games. Put simply, the sky is the limit here.
5 of 10Rick Osentoski/AP
5. Calvin Johnson, Lions
Megatron is still a big deal, even after an injury-plagued 2014 season in which he caught “only” 71 passes for 1,077 yards and eight touchdowns. Yes, Johnson will turn 30 this season. And yes, this is the time when you have to start watching out for the age/injury curve with all players, even the best ones. But in Detroit's high-volume passing attack, Johnson, at full power, can still be a nightmare for opposing defenses.
6 of 10Simon Bruty for Sports Illustrated
6. A.J. Green, Bengals
Green had a few setbacks during the 2014 season. He dealt with arm and foot injuries as well as concussions, and he had to expand his catch radius with Andy Dalton as his quarterback. The ailments that caused him to miss three games last fall shouldn't be major issues for the gifted receiver as he heads into a contract year in 201
7 of 10Simon Bruty for Sports Illustrated
7. Julio Jones, Falcons
If Jones could stay healthy, he'd rise a few notches up this list. There's no question that when he's on the field, he has many physical gifts: speed, agility, catch radius and ridiculous strength after the catch. He missed one game in 2014 and still came down with 104 catches for 1,593 yards and six touchdowns.
8 of 10Jed Jacobsohn for Sports Illustrated
8. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
Nobody doubts Thomas's status as an elite receiver—the Broncos rewarded him accordingly with a five-year, $70 million contract with $43.5 million guaranteed in mid-July—but his reception totals over the last three seasons (94, 92, 111) may be a thing of the past with new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak in the fold. Thomas will have to make the most of the targets he gets.
9 of 10David E. Klutho for Sports Illustrated
9. Randall Cobb, Packers
Green Bay is the only team with two receivers on this list, and while that's a testimony in part to Aaron Rodgers's greatness, it's also about Cobb's game-breaking ability and the creativity of the Packers' coaching staff. You'll see him as an outside receiver and a sweep/fake guy in certain packages, but where Cobb has really established himself is as the most productive slot receiver in the NFL today—and it's not really close.
10 of 10David E. Klutho for Sports Illustrated
10. T.Y. Hilton, Colts
Bruce Arians has always liked to have a smaller speed target in his passing offenses. There was Mike Wallace in Pittsburgh, now John Brown in Arizona, and between those two stops, there was Hilton when Arians was the Colts' offensive coordinator and interim head coach in 2012. Hilton was more strictly a slot guy in 2012 (his rookie year) and 2013, but in 2014, he became Andrew Luck's primary weapon on the outside, catching 82 passes for 1,345 yards and seven touchdowns. Hilton has a contract year in 2016, and the drastically underpaid receiver ($665,000 base salary in 2015) will be looking for big money.
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