Coming off his second straight All-Pro season, Julio Jones is the league's No. 1 wideout
As the NFL has become a more pass-oriented league added emphasis and attention has been paid to wide receivers. The most potent offenses in the league have at least one productive wideout, if not two. Four different teams (New Orleans, Oakland, Denver and Washington) had two wide receivers post more than 1,000 receiving yards last season.
Those eight were among the 23 total wideouts to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in 2016. As you can imagine, any list of the top wide receivers would feature many, if not all, of these names. But who is the No. 1 overall target and how does the pecking order shake out after him? Here is Athlon Sports’ list of the top 30 wide receivers in the NFL entering the 2017 season.
Athlon’s player rankings are just one of the features that appear in the 2017 NFL Preview magazine.
2017 NFL Wide Receiver Rankings
1. Julio Jones, Atlanta
All-time NFL leader in average career receiving yards per game (96.3) topped the league in that category once again in 2016. Became sixth player in league history with 300-plus receiving yards in a single game last season versus Carolina.
2. A.J. Green, Cincinnati
Because of a midseason hamstring injury, fell just 36 yards short of joining Randy Moss as only wide receivers to open NFL careers with six consecutive 1,000-yard showings. The 2016 season highlighted by Hail Mary catch for the ages versus Cleveland.
3. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh
This textbook route-runner scored a lucrative contract extension after topping 100 catches for the fourth straight season. No wideout has ever caught more passes in a four-year span (481 for 6,315 yards since 2013).
4. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
No NFL receiver possesses more ability to turn a quick slant into a touchdown. Could rank among all-time greats if able to play in more disciplined fashion.
5. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay
Notched career-highs in catches (96) and receiving yards (1,321) and tied career high in TDs (12) in his third NFL season despite consistent double-teaming. Such defensive attention should be alleviated to an extent by Tampa Bay’s signing of free agent DeSean Jackson.
6. Julian Edelman, New England
Followed in the footsteps of two other superlative Patriots wideouts also under 5'10" (Wes Welker and Deion Branch). Clutch performer in two Super Bowl victories the past three seasons.
7. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay
The 2016 NFL Comeback Player of the Year caught 97 passes for 1,257 yards and a league-high 14 touchdowns. Eleven of those scores came in the red zone, which also led the league in that category.
8. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona
Surefire future Hall of Famer has reinvented himself as a slot receiver with 216 catches over the past two seasons. Outstanding blocker as well.
9. Dez Bryant, Dallas
Receiving numbers took a big dip with Dak Prescott becoming Cowboys starting quarterback. Building a stronger WR/QB bond is key to rebounding in 2017.
10. Doug Baldwin, Seattle
Baldwin remains the NFL’s best undrafted wide receiver. Flourished in 2016 with career highs in catches (94) and receiving yards (1,128).
11. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston
12. Jarvis Landry, Miami
13. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis
14. DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay
15. Emmanuel Sanders, Denver
16. Demaryius Thomas, Denver
17. Brandin Cooks, New England
18. Amari Cooper, Oakland
19. Michael Crabtree, Oakland
20. Michael Thomas, New Orleans
21. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
22. Pierre Garçon, San Francisco
23. Allen Robinson, Jacksonville
24. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo
25. Golden Tate, Detroit
26. Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia
27. Kenny Stills, Miami
28. Brandon Marshall, New York Giants
29. Kenny Britt, Cleveland
30. Adam Thielen, Minnesota