Twice a week this offseason Blaine Grisak and Jake Ellenbogen will share their top-10 players from each position in the NFL. We’ll the discuss our lists and why we ranked players where we did as well as the position in general.
We also asked the rest of the Downtown Rams staff who their top-10’s were and will have a poll and its results at the end.
In this edition, Blaine and Jake unveil their top-10 wide receivers in the NFL heading into the 2019 season and who is ready to take that next step.
1. DeAndre Hopkins – HOU
2. Julio Jones – ATL
3. Tyreek Hill – KC
4. Michael Thomas – NO
5. Odell Beckham Jr. – CLE
6. Keenan Allen – LAC
7. Davante Adams – GB
8. Adam Thielen – MIN
9. JuJu Smith-Schuster – PIT
10. Mike Evans – TB
1. Odell Beckham Jr. – CLE
2. DeAndre Hopkins – HOU
3. Adam Thielen – MIN
4. Antonio Brown – OAK
5. Julio Jones – ATL
6. Michael Thomas – NO
7. A.J. Green – CIN
8. Tyreek Hill – KC
9. Keenan Allen – LAC
10. Robert Woods – LAR
Blaine: When it comes to the best wide receivers in the NFL, it doesn’t get much better than DeAndre Hopkins. The Houston Texans wide receiver has the ability to completely take over a game. He’s one of the best route runners, has great hands, has the big-play ability, and can go up and get the ball in 50-50 situations.
After that, I think you have to look at Julio Jones in Atlanta. He gets a lot of flack for not finding the end zone from fantasy football owners, but he’s one of the best in the business. At No. 3 I have Tyreek Hill – we’ll see what happens with him, but he took huge strides as a more overall, well-rounded receiver last year rather than just a deep threat.
In the middle at No. 5, I have Odell Beckham Jr. and then heading down to the bottom of my list, JuJu Smith-Schuster makes an appearance in my top-10. I loved what he did in Pittsburgh and really look forward to seeing him solidify himself among the league’s best this season.
Jake: Alright, so I love Hopkins but my number one is Odell Beckham Jr. Keep in mind, Gurley made my top spot at running back, Aaron Rodgers made my top spot at quarterback and I have said that injuries do not weigh into my rankings. Beckham when healthy is the best receiver in my opinion. His route running is phenomenal, his hands are as strong as can be, his ball skills are very good for being 5-foot-11, and he’s the most dangerous man with the ball in his hands in the open field.
After Beckham, I do place Hopkins there. Hopkins literally doesn’t drop a pass so I can’t shame you for having him first. After that is Thielen and Brown three and four which may surprise some, but bottom line is Thielen is an elite route runner with very reliable hands, great size, and great speed.
After that I have Julio rounding out the top five, your third guy Tyreek Hill falls to eighth for me. I’m still not convinced Hill is of the caliber of the others. Lastly, Rams receiver Robert Woods makes a grand entrance into the top ten based on the fact he’s the best blocking receiver in the game, very reliable, clutch, and his football IQ is up there with the best of them.
Blaine: When it comes to the wide receivers, this is such a deep position group in the NFL and there is so much to discuss. The first thing I want to talk about is Beckham. He is one of the most talented guys in the league – he’s your number one. How much is he going to benefit from a change of scenery in Cleveland? I’ve always felt like with Beckham, if he can get the mental side of the game down, he’d really be able to take the next step. Now not only does he get out of New York, but he gets a fantastic young quarterback in Baker Mayfield to throw him the ball. Him and Jarvis Landry on the same field together are going to bring up old memories of their LSU days. How excited are you for Beckham in Cleveland?
Jake: Yeah Blaine, I think when you look at what Beckham did with Eli Manning at the latter end of his career, you start to feel great about his future with a young quarterback that broke the rookie touchdown pass record in Baker Mayfield. Then you pair him next to his best friend and old college teammate Jarvis Landry, who both wanted this to happen for the last few years? This is a win for Beckham. I think he’s already the best but I think with Cleveland you could see the first 2,000 yard receiver if they really feature Beckham the way they should. He is a complete game-changer for this organization. Lastly, I just want to say, I think Beckham’s mental game is overblown and I think he was meshed in with the rest of the hapless Giants. The Giants did him a solid by letting him go play with a great young quarterback and play for a city that actually wants him. Imagine giving someone a contract where they make $20M annually for over 4 years and then deciding to trade him after his first year. Yeah, Beckham is going to thrive in a big way this year and beyond.
Blaine: I agree. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch and I think the NFL is excited for Cleveland to be relevant again. Now to another receiver that will have a change of scenery – Antonio Brown. Much different circumstance here. While Beckham was traded, it wasn’t because he demanded it. Brown on the other hand for some reason wanted out of Pittsburgh. It just amazes me that the Steelers had two of the best playmakers in the NFL in Le’Veon Bell and Brown and both decided to go to lesser organizations like the New York Jets and Raiders. How do you see that move going and then if you had to choose between Beckham and Brown: which player is going to benefit from the move more and then which player is going help their team the most this season?
Jake: Great question. Isn’t it weird how they went from Amari Cooper to Antonio Brown after looking like they were just tanking? I think the edge is definitely Beckham. Look, Jarvis Landry is great but he’s a physical slot receiver that can win some on the outside but he’s simply not the athlete Beckham is. Brown is the same thing for the Raiders, but I just feel like the Browns will be forcing so many turnovers or punts based on their talented defense that Beckham will have to contribute the most.
As good as guys like Landry, Higgins and Callaway are, they just simply aren’t as consistent as Beckham can and will be. There’s also something to point out in regards to Beckham – he’s upgrading a ton at the quarterback position. I would make the argument with Brown that he’s downgrading a ton at the quarterback position. I would also question how good Brown will be outside of Pittsburgh. Is he still the same Antonio Brown? Of course, but it’s worth noting guys like Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace and even Martavis Bryant all left for “greener pastures” and completely did a 180. Will Brown do that? Probably not. However, do you have any doubts about Beckham in Cleveland? For me, none at all.
Blaine: That’s interesting you bring up Mike Wallace. That’s a point that I haven’t really thought of, but it makes sense. I’m not sure how Brown will fair in Oakland, but the Steelers have done a great job developing receivers so I think they’ll be fine. Speaking of those young receivers though – JuJu Smith-Schuster really came in and did a fantastic job last season. He makes an appearance in my top-10. Saquon Barkley and Baker Mayfield really stole the show in terms of the 2018 rookies, but Smith-Schuster had a noteworthy year as well. He became the fastest wide receiver in NFL history to record 1,500 yards in a season, breaking Larry Fitzgerald’s record. Smith-Schuster didn’t make your top-10 and while the wide receiver position is deep I have to ask why you left him out and then what he can do to take that next step this year as well as maybe any other second or third year receivers?
Jake: Oh yeah I love JuJu from his days at USC. However, I don’t think he’s top ten yet. While it might not be time yet, he’s still close and has plenty of time to get there. I think it’s important to keep in mind that Cooper Kupp and him are two of the best receivers from that draft class. I would make the argument that Kupp could put up those same numbers if he was just sharing targets with Antonio Brown instead that of Todd Gurley, Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks/Sammy Watkins. I would also make the argument the Steelers throw a ton, however, I do like Smith-Schuster’s ability to block and I think that goes a long way. Like I said, he’s not far off but I would make the argument neither is Kupp.
His numbers are great and should only get better as he transitions into the number one receiver role in Pittsburgh. The Steelers as far as developing talent have a future star they drafted out of Toledo in Diontae Johnson. I do believe Donte Moncrief will be a stud this year as well so we will see with the Steelers. Bottom line is no matter where we have Smith-Schuster ranked, no matter how many targets go to each guy, having him, Moncrief, Johnson and even James Washington is going to make life without Brown easy as can be for Big Ben.
Blaine: As someone who has JuJu in their top-10, I can at least respect the explanation. When we discussed running backs last week, we talked about the Kareem Hunt situation. Well, another situation in Kansas City has arisen – this time with Tyreek Hill. I am honestly still shocked that he’s on their roster. What are your thoughts on this situation and do you think he will be on the Chiefs roster come Week 1?
Jake: This situation is both bizarre and extremely delicate. We heard the audio and it’s pretty obvious if there was video (like the Kareem Hunt situation), Tyreek Hill would be out of a job. We can’t say whether he did or didn’t do what he’s been accused of and of course, you can fake pretty much anything nowadays. It’s just so bizarre.
I think Hill will be on the roster Week 1, but if he’s not, then you will likely see Mecole Hardman turn into exactly what Hill was (without the off-field concerns) and that was my worry about why I didn’t put Hill higher on my list. I legitimately think that Hardman is going to end up becoming a star with Patrick Mahomes being his quarterback for the next four-to-five years.
Hardman was the best receiver at Georgia despite many believing it was Riley Ridley (because of the big name) and Hardman was drafted first. The elite speed Hardman possesses is what will get him a long way, but he has very solid hands, he’s a good route runner and is great at improvising when he is redirected off his route. Watch out for Hardman! However, to answer that question with some finality, I do believe Tyreek Hill will be a go Week 1 of the NFL season.
Blaine: I do like Hardman as well. Like the Steelers, when it comes to developing offensive talent, Andy Reid is at the top of the list. It will be an interesting story to keep an eye on as the offseason progresses. I’ve mentioned several times how deep the wide receiver position is. We ranked our top-10 wide receivers, and while I’m not going to ask you to rank your top-10 wide receiver corps, I will ask you which teams you think are among the elite. You have Robert Woods in your top-10, so I would certainly include the Rams, and then after that I think you go Browns and then maybe the Vikings. Who would your top-3 wide receiver groups be?
Jake: You said my top three. Rams, Browns and Vikings in that order. It seems insane to have the Vikings that high because after the big two of Thielen and Stefon Diggs, it’s not on the level of the Rams (Kupp, Woods, Cooks & Reynolds) or Browns (OBJ, Landry, Higgins & Callaway). However, those two are just so good they deserve the third spot. Honorable mention of that could have been the Seahawks if Doug Baldwin didn’t get injured and have to retire. I don’t know about you, but Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and now you add D.K. Metcalf? Sheesh. You could stay in that division and look at the Arizona Cardinals with Larry Fitzgerald, Hakeem Butler, Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella and I mean even the San Francisco 49ers with Deebo Samuel, Dante Pettis, Marquise Goodwin, Jalen Hurd, Jordan Matthews and Trent Taylor.
Now that I think about it, there’s a lot. Maybe Minnesota isn’t in there and maybe even the Eagles with Alshon Jeffery, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, DeSean Jackson, Mack Hollins and Nelson Agholor. Let us not forget about Washington with Josh Doctson, Terry McLaurin, Paul Richardson, Kelvin Harmin and Trey Quinn. You pushed me down a rabbit hole Blaine. I guess we’ll just call this a two horse race with the Rams and Browns haha.
Blaine: Ha! I love it. It’s funny you mention the caliber of receivers in the NFC West. It’s honestly incredible the amount of talent. This used to be a division that was dominated by defenses. You had the Legion of Boom and then obviously the great defenses in San Francisco. The Rams had a stud defense under Jeff Fisher as well. This division has done a complete 180 and I believe Sean McVay and his offensive philosophy has had a lot to do with that. Before we wrap up, as always let’s give our honorable mentions or guys that just missed our list. I think I will go with Antonio Brown, Larry FItzgerald, and Stefon Diggs. Who just missed your list?
Jake: Alas, my favorite part of the piece when I decide to name a bunch of names that almost made the top 10! Well, I would definitely give the nod in this order: Davante Adams, Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, (completely forgot to talk about that crazy Tampa Bay receiver group but oh well too late.) Brandin Cooks, Stefon Diggs and then my super honorable mentions were Jarvis Landry, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyler Lockett, Larry Fitzgerald, Cooper Kupp, T.Y. Hilton, Kenny Golladay and Alson Jeffery.
Thanks again guys for reading another DTR Top-10 article. Blaine and I hope you are having as much fun reading this as we are writing it. We’ll be back on Friday for our top-10 tight ends.
1. DeAndre Hopkins – HOU
2. Julio Jones – ATL
3. Odell Beckham Jr. – CLE
4. Michael Thomas – NO
5. Antonio Brown – OAK
6. Tyreek Hill – KC
7. Adam Thielen – MIN
8. Davante Adams – GB
9. AJ Green – CIN
10. Keenan Allen – LAC
Others Receiving Votes: JuJu Smith Schuster, Mike Evans, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks
Dan Gleason: 1. Julio Jones, 2. DeAndre Hopkins, 3. Michael Thomas, 4. DeVante Adams, 5. Odell Beckham Jr., 6. Antonio Brown, 7. JuJu Smith Schuster, 8. AJ Green, 9. Mike Evans, 10. Keenan Allen
Ricky Marnell: 1. DeAndre Hopkins, 2. Tyreek Hill, 3. Michael Thomas, 4. Juilo Jones, 5. Antonio Brown, 6. Odell Beckham Jr., 7. Adam Thielen, 8. Mike Evans, 9. Brandin Cooks, 10. AJ Green
Alex Washburn: 1. Odell Beckham Jr., 2. DeAndre Hopkins, 3. Michael Thomas, 4. Antonio Brown, 5. Julio Jones, 6. Adam Thielen, 7. Tyreek Hill, 8. DeVante Adams, 9. AJ Green, 10. Keenan Allen