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You can’t win without one, so here are the very best 30 receivers in the NFL

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best receivers in the nfl

NFL expert Phil Prior does the unenviable task of identifying and ranking the NFL’s 30 best receivers.

It’s a receivers’ league these days, the NFL. Just as much as it’s a quarterbacks’ one.

We just have to look at the chaos this 2023 season has relentlessly thrown at us, with backup QB’s being called upon way more than any of us had hoped.

And with teams onto their second or even third QB, we’ve seen mixed success; with offensive scheme, protection and weapons all proving very real factors in determining which contenders have managed to stay afloat.

But what’s increasingly remaining a constant is that to win in the NFL, having playmaking pass-catchers is truly a non-negotiable.

The Chiefs don’t win the 2023 Super Bowl without Travis Kelce, the Rams don’t hoist the Lombardi trophy a year earlier without Cooper Kupp and even Tom Brady certainly needed help for all seven of his successful championship missions — a shoutout to Rob Gronkowski… and others.

So with that said, amidst the chaos of another drama-filled NFL Playoffs upon us, who are the best receivers in the league?

Travis Kelce, NFL Fantasy
Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, 34, has aged like a fine wine in the NFL.

Top 30 best receivers in the NFL

It’s worth noting we’re trying our best to not overreact to the most recent football we’ve seen; class is permanent.

Some of the league’s best WRs have been injured, or suffered from terrible quarterback play that’s out of their control. While it’s also important to contextualise what rookies and young guns have done on more limited sample sizes.

So keep that in mind, as we dive in.

30. Chris Olave (Saints)

Olave instantly looked comfortable at NFL level and has now compiled two very sound seasons after New Orleans took him in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He’s a threat at all levels of the field, making life tough for opposition secondaries.

29. Zay Flowers (Ravens)

The first of a few rookies on this list. Flowers played the most snaps of all first-year offensive skill weapons and immediately became a pivotal part of a Ravens offence that likely sees quarterback Lamar Jackson claim an MVP.

Flowers’ speed and twitchiness evolved Baltimore’s passing game, which may elevate them all the way to the Super Bowl.

NFL Fantasy breakout players
Raven Zay Flowers (left) was tipped to have a breakout campaign, along with QB Jordan Love (middle) and RB Isiah Pacheco (right). It’s fair to say they all did exactly that.

28. Keenan Allen (Chargers)

The 31-year-old route technician still has it. And Allen proved just that by helping pretty much single-handedly driving LA’s offence after team mate Mike Williams season came to an end in Week 3.

27. Amari Cooper (Browns)

At a time we thought, perhaps, Cooper’s best football was behind him, he puts up a career-best 1,250 receiving yards. He looked unstoppable at times this season… particularly against the Texans on Christmas Eve, putting up a franchise record 265 yards off 11 catches.

26. Sam LaPorta (Lions)

What an unbelievable breakout season in his first in the NFL. Make no mistake, he’ll be higher on this list in no time at all. But it’s also tough to extrapolate individual production in this incredibly well-run offence; he was schemed open a lot. That’s not to say it wasn’t an incredibly impressive rookie campaign, playing a position that normally takes a few years for Tight Ends stepping up into the NFL.

25. Michael Pittman Jr. (Colts)

Pittman flew under the radar entering this season, but quickly reminded us he’s a fast-twitched, well-built option that moves around the formation and finds production, whether it’s a rookie still finding their feet at quarterback, or backup Gardner Minshew.

24. DeAndre Hopkins (Titans)

Hopkins’ best ball is behind him, but in a bizarre season where he’s had to catch spirals from multiple throwers, he’s still proven to be a reliable primary option and still gets down field effectively.

23. DK Metcalf (Seahawks)

Metcalf should be higher on this list, but is under threat of giving up same-team bragging rights to Jaxon Smith-Njigba some time soon. His physical traits and speed are otherworldly, but the inconsistencies are a sign he probably should be taking his craft more seriously in the days in between games.

22. Mike Evans (Buccaneers)

This guy is just phenomenal. Just when we all think it’s time Evans fades into the twilight of his career, he puts up another 1,000 yard season; that’s now 10 in a row and uncharted waters. A guy you might’ve heard of named Randy Moss did that six straight times — he’s the next closest to the Buccs veteran.

He’s still taking wild contested catches and getting open down field, despite the tread on those legs. Mike Evans is going to the Hall of Fame one day.

21. Trey McBride (Cardinals)

This pick will come as a shock to many, but McBride’s been a breakout waiting to happen since Arizona drafted him in 2022 and hasn’t looked back since stepping up in Week 8; the numbers have been truly insane since that juncture.

It’s taken merely eight-ish weeks for McBride to set a new franchise record for receptions in a season by a tight end (57). Over that stretch, since the season’s midpoint, he’s top 10 in the league – for all receivers, not just TEs – for targets per game (8.8, WR8), target share (28.3%, WR7) and targets per route run (WR9). And to reiterate, targets are earned.

Since Week 8, he’s put up the 15th most yards per game of all receivers (73.3) and single-handedly driven the Cardinals’ pass game. He doesn’t match other elite tight ends for duel production (receiving and blocking — hence why George Kittle doesn’t quite make this list), but as far as pass-catchers go, this is a real dude.

Trey McBride Cardinals image
Cardinals top receiving weapon Trey McBride

20. Courtland Sutton (Broncos)

Sutton has enjoyed a bounce-back campaign and been the driving force of Denver’s offence.

He tore his ACL in 2020, at the peak of his powers, and hadn’t looked the same player since. But the Sean Peyton era has started superbly for the 28-year-old, who should still have plenty of good football in front of him.

19. Jayden Reed (Packers)

An outstanding draft pick by the Packers, Reed has been a focal point of Green Bay’s offence in his rookie season and by all reports is the alpha of the group behind closed doors.

His ability to make plays, as an undersized weapon, whether down the field or as a rusher at the line of scrimmage, has helped quarterback Jordan Love emerge as the team’s genuine long-term option.

18. Tee Higgins (Bengals)

It’s not easy to extrapolate what Higgins does in the Bengals’ offence, given team-mate Ja’Marr Chase attracts his fair share of attention on the opposite side of the formation.

But if Higgins is ever asked to be the 1A on a team, he’ll undoubtedly excel; he has the route tree and catching skills that every NFL team is not only looking for, but needs.

17. Tank Dell (Texans)

Despite being deemed ‘uncoverable’ by coaches at the Senior Bowl, rookie Tank Dell flew under the radar as a breakout receiver entering the NFL. And it didn’t take long for the 23-year-old to prove he’d smash past his supposed ceiling as a ‘gadget guy’.

Despite a fractured fibula ending his season early, Dell’s earned the honour of being the highest rookie on this list; he instantly become breakout QB CJ Stroud’s go-to guy and it’s no coincidence offence has been harder to come by since the receiver’s absence.

From Weeks 8-12, after Houston’s bye and up to his last full game, he was Fantasy Pros‘ second-ranked receiver over that stretch, behind just CeeDee Lamb. Dell separates like few receivers in the league and his per-catch numbers are out of control.

16. Puka Nacua (Rams)

The Rams’ young gun has genuine claims at the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, despite what Houston quarterback CJ Stroud managed to do. Nacua broke a 60-year historic mark, totalling 1,486 yards, the most for a rookie ever (beating Bill Gromans’ 1,473).

Puka deserves top spot for all rookieson this list even before you consider what he’s able to do in Sean McVay’s run game — the kid can also block. Nacua’s also capable of taking the ball out of the backfield, as an extension of his offence’s ground game. Star.

15. Garrett Wilson (Jets)

Producing in that Jets offence, with that quarterback play… say no more. It’s scary to think what a player of Wilson’s talent could do in a better situation, given he’s on pace for a second-straight 1,100-yard season since being drafted.

14. Deebo Samuel (49ers)

Deebo’s production comes in waves, but his physical and destructive ball-running after the catch make the 49ers’ weapon an absolute handful for opposing defensive players. Whether it’s on a rushing or receiving play, Samuel has rare touchdown-scoring capabilities… and scoring TDs is the name of the game at the end of the day.

13. Jaylen Waddle (Dolphins)

This guy gets overshadowed by Miami team-mate Tyreek Hill, but Waddle’s mix of sheer speed and quick feet make him a handful for opposition cornerbacks, whether Hill’s playing or not.

nfl's best receivers, jaylen waddle
Miami flier Jaylen Waddle

12. Brandon Aiyuk (49ers)

Tyreek’s going to get referenced with back-to-back players here, because Aiyuk sits third behind Hill for most plays of 20+ yards this season (23).

The big-play specialist is about as elite as it gets in the NFL when it comes to separating from defenders. The ‘problem’ is, Aiyuk’s in such a good offence that San Fran’s receivers are often schemed so open that his crisp route running goes under-appreciated.

11. Stephon Diggs (Bills)

Diggs is moving into the back end of his career now, but he still produces in Buffalo’s offence in all four quadrants.

Josh Allen has, quite simply, been a different quarterback since Diggs joined the Bills.

10. DJ Moore (Bears)

In his first year in Chicago, subsequently also Moore’s first year in a competent pass game offence, the 26-year-old has removed all doubt he’s capable of producing as a team’s alpha WR1 and handling the defensive attention that comes with that.

Whether he helps extend QB Justin Fields’ time with the Bears remains a question, but there’s enough on film to warrant the young passer continuing to get a shot, somewhere, beyond the 2023-24 season. Having a dawg on offence, like DJ, makes all the difference.

9. Travis Kelce (Chiefs)

It would’ve been rough to leave the 34-year-old outside of the top 10, even if we might be witnessing evidence of a decline this season.

He’s been the best receiver on, essentially, the best team for a number of years now, with his elite smarts, strong hands and god-like body control putting him firmly in the conversation as the best tight end we’ve ever seen. Kansas City went all the way without Tyreek Hill – a name that keeps coming up – because Patrick Mahomes’ combination with Kelce is just that damn good.

8. Amon-Ra St. Brown (Lions)

Talk about baller. The Lions got an absolute steal with St. Brown a few years back and he infamously knows all the names of the receivers called out before him in the 2021 Draft. It’s that kind of next-level competitiveness that’s helped fuel Amon-Ra to become one of the best in the league.

There are few pass-catchers better at demanding targets in the middle; he has a sixth sense for the first down markers and squeezes every last yard out of his after-the-catch opportunities.

Who to pick NFL fantasy football
Amon-Ra St. Brown (middle) was a great pick in NFL Fantasy, again, in 2023.

7. CeeDee Lamb (Cowboys)

Lamb has taken a big step in 2023, having already been a top-tier guy for a couple of seasons before.

He’s helped Dallas become one of the league’s best offences, averaging seven catches (equal-2nd behind only Keenan Allen) and 93 yards per game (4th).

6. Ja’Marr Chase (Bengals)

In what’s been an interrupted campaign for Chase, dealing with niggles and also the Week 11 season-ending loss of QB Joe Burrow, Cinci’s No.1 has stayed elite in catches (7) and yards per game (83).

It’s his explosiveness that makes Chase one of the NFL’s best and don’t be surprised to see him back in the top five a year from now.

5. Davante Adams (Raiders)

Tae still has it. He’s been subjected to some highly inconsistent quarterback play and poor scheme from a basket case Raiders offence that saw coach Josh McDaniels suffer a mid-season firing. But Adams is still one of the best receivers in the NFL, no question.

The savvy route running and secure hands are still showing up on film and there’s no question the production would be higher in a better offensive environment.

davante adams, nfl's best receivers
Davante Adams

4. Cooper Kupp (Rams)

Injuries have caught up with the 2021 triple crown king in each of the last two seasons, but he’s still managed to produce on ankles clearly less than 100%.

Kupp is a specialist at taking full advantage of different defensive looks. And he’s bigger than he appears; such is the fluidity with which he does everything after the ball is snapped.

The Rams receiver is up there with Kelce as one of the highest IQ players in the sport and that continues to show up in Sean McVay’s offence.

3. Tyreek Hill (Dolphins)

Hill’s been the best receiver of the 2023-24 season; his sheer pace is just a nightmare for opposition defences. In years past he occasionally went missing in games, but that certainly hasn’t been the case this season.

The Dolphins flier has recorded the most big plays in the league; 26 of his receptions have gone for 20 or more yards. And he’s top of the pile for yards per game this season, with 119.

Going forward, he’s still probably not the first receiver you’re hypothetically picking if starting a new franchise, given age and off-field stuff. But while we can fault the player, we can’t fault the play.

2. Justin Jefferson (Vikings)

Like Kupp, this season has been clipped by annoying injuries, but Jefferson, at his best, is one of the first non-quarterback players you’d want on your team.

He came into the league as a guy many thought would be elite around the line of scrimmage and as a route runner, but he’s been far more than that for the Vikings. The fourth-year star picks up a first down on 79% of his receptions, good enough for fifth in the NFL, and in an interrupted campaign is still second for yards per game (97), only behind Hill.

justin jefferson, best wrs in the nfl
The phenomenal Justin Jefferson

1. AJ Brown (Eagles)

AJ Brown is the full package; big, physical, fast, skilful and crisp on routes. Philly’s alpha receiver is effective near the line of scrimmage and deadly on deep targets. He’s a contested catch beast, but also a YAC (yards after the catch) weapon.

Brown’s had the highest percentage of team targets in the NFL this season (32.5%); and targets are earned. He’s top three for yards after contact per reception (2.2) because he catches the ball in stride and is tough to bring down; a nightmare for defences.

At 26, he’s at the peak of his powers and what a savvy trade by Philadelphia a couple of off seasons ago it’s proven to be — the former Titan has helped Jalen Hurts reach his full potential.

UNLUCKY TO MISS OUT: George Kittle, Mark Andrews, DeVonta Smith

Picture of Phil Prior
Phil Prior
Phil is the editorial lead at Only Sports, bringing more than 12 years of wide-ranging sports media experience to the team. But it’s his unrivalled passion that sets him apart. He also commentates AFL on SEN Radio, plus Rugby on Stan Sport. Find Phil on LinkedIn.

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