Last year, I had a much easier time compiling the top 10 list of receivers. This year, not so much. In fact, this was a little tougher than the other two unlike last year.
I want to start by saying how healthy the crop of receivers are heading into 2020. There are a number of young guys really starting to create some traction behind their name along with the old dogs who have the clout.
What I find most interesting about the receiver position more so than the others is how much fantasy determines the overall perception of how great of a receiver the player actually is. Upon looking at some other lists and I found some glaring omissions that I believe to be shortsighted at best.
Before diving in, I want to make mention of some of the receivers who just missed the cut for the top 10. That included Lions’ Kenny Golladay, Rams’ Cooper Kupp and Bucs’ Chris Godwin.
10. Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys
2019 Stats: 79 rec, 1,189 yards, 8 TDs
2019 Rank: Unranked
Cooper has experienced a bit of a resurgence since joining the Cowboys. In 25 career games, he has over 1,900 yards and 14 TDs. Heading into his sixth season, he has four 1,000 yard seasons. I talked about the success of Dak Prescott’s vertical game in my top 10 QBs. A large part of that is due to his number one receiver who finished with 978 air receiving yards (3rd in the NFL), meaning yards traveled before the catch. He proved to be one of the best vertical threats in 2019.
9. Odell Beckham Jr. Cleveland Browns
2019 Stats: 74 rec, 1,035 yards, 4 TDs
2019 Rank: 4th
One of the two I alluded to in the intro who is becoming lost in the shuffle. The ceiling of OBJ is still one of the highest in the league. Unfortunately, his baggage is what people think of first when with him. The reality is he battled a sports hernia last year that ultimately led to hip and groin surgery. Despite that, he still finished with another 1,000 yards to his name. He certainly looked like a shell of himself.
8. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2019 Stats: 67 rec, 1,157 yards, 8 TDs
2019 Rank: 9th
Reliable and consistent. Since coming in to the league, he has six straight seasons of 1,000 plus yards. He has caught 48 TDs in that time span. That is despite all the inconsistencies of Jameis Winston. Then of course the QB carousel of Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick last season. Now, Tampa signed Tom Brady, a quarterback that hasn’t battled vision problems nor sails the ball on a regular basis.
7. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
2019 Stats: 104 rec, 1,199 yards, 6 TDs
2019 Rank: 10th
After dealing with injuries earlier in his career, Allen has certainly found his stride with the Chargers. He has averaged over 100 receptions and 1,200 yards over the last three seasons. Pair that along with 18 TDs and he has been a model of consistency. Nothing jumps off the charts about his game, but he gets the job done.
6. Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
2019 Stats: 30 rec, 418 yards, 6 TDs
2019 Rank: 6th
The second of the forgotten. Thielen sustained a hamstring injury that hindered his 2019. All of a sudden people have forgotten how dominant Thielen has been the past several years. We saw that dominance on full display in the playoff game against the Saints where he made work of the secondary (especially Marshon Lattimore) on pivotal third downs time and time again.
5. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
2019 Stats: 83 rec, 997 yards, 5 TDs
2019 Rank: 7th
Another receiver who sat out for a handful of games in 2019, Adams is lightning in a bottle for the Green Bay offense. He catches the ball in bunched and once it’s in his hands, good luck stopping him. He finished 12th in yards after catch, 12th in receptions, 3rd in redzone receptions last season while missing four games.
4. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
2019 Stats: 58 rec, 860 yards, 7 TDs
2019 Rank: 8th
Like Adams, Hill also missed four games in 2019 after finishing in the top 10 in receptions, yards, TDs and yards after catch in 2018. When Hill is on the field, it adds a whole different animal to an already loaded offense. His track speed is second to none.
3. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
2019 Stats: 99 rec, 1,394 yards, 6 TDs
2019 Rank: 2nd
Jones is without a doubt going to be in the Hall of Fame one day. He is one of the league’s best receivers to ever touch a field. The debate has always been who is better, Jones or Hopkins. I give the slight edge to Hopkins, which I will get into shortly. I am not opposed to Jones being called better. I love Jones for his body control and long frame which allows him an advantage against defenders.
2. DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
2019 Stats: 104 rec, 1,165, 7 TDs
2019 Rank: 1st
The long standing argument was what could Hopkins do with a formidable QB…cue Deshaun Watson. Although, he was weirdly traded. He still goes to solid young QB with Kyler Murray. The reason I give Hopkins the slight advantage over Julio is his ability to find the endzone and his hands. Hopkins in 2018 caught 110 balls without a single drop. 2018 was when Hopkins began to really make his case for the best receiver in football. Since then, Hopkins has almost doubled the TDs of Jones, while mirroring each other in nearly every other category.
1. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
2019 Stats: 149 rec, 1,725 yards, 9 TDs
2019 Rank: 5th
Can’t Guard Mike, period. Thomas officially holds the title of best receiver in the NFL. Drew Brees getting hurt in 2019 proved that. With Teddy Bridgewater, Thomas reeled in 49 catches, 617 yards, 3 TDs. Those numbers came on 62 targets, still maintaining a high catch rate of 79%. Based on the numbers, the projections for Thomas without Brees was still 130 receptions, 1,600 yards and 8 TDs.
Thomas catches the ball at higher rates than the league has ever seen. In 2018, he shattered the record for catch rate among players who received at least 145 targets in a single season. He caught 85% of his passes. The next best was Wes Welker at 77.2%.
Keep in mind, that is the highest catch rate among qualified receivers in a single season. Thomas has a career catch rate of 78.1%. Because of that, the Saints more often than not play in front of the chains. I believe that leads to more wins.