Michael Thomas' record-setting season culminated with AP Offensive Player of the Year honors
When it comes to identifying the top wide receiver in the NFL, it's only fitting to go with the guy who is coming off of a historic season. Michael Thomas broke Marvin Harrison's single-season record for receptions with 149. His impressive campaign included a record 28 catches over the first two games and he went on to become the first wide receiver since Jerry Rice in 1993 to be named AP Offensive Player of the Year.
Thomas isn't the only prolific pass catcher leaving his mark on the league, however. Julio Jones posted his sixth straight season with 1,300-plus receiving yards (finished six yards shy of 1,400). DeAndre Hopkins went over 1,100 yards for the fifth time in his career and also was part of a blockbuster trade in March that sent him to Arizona.
He's not the only wide receiver that landed in the list below who will be in a new uniform this season either. Stefon Diggs was traded from Minnesota to Buffalo, Brandin Cooks went from the Rams to the Texans, and Emmanuel Sanders, who was traded during the 2019 season from Denver to San Francisco, signed with New Orleans in free agency where he will tag-team with Thomas.
Athlon's player rankings are just one of the features that appear in the 2020 Pro Football magazine.
2020 NFL Wide Receiver Rankings
1. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
Nobody was a better or more important volume receiver, which was good for New Orleans’ otherwise-depleted receiver corps. He led the league with 185 targets, 149 receptions and 1,725 yards. Thomas also made those receptions count — he led all receivers in yards after catch (588) and first downs (91), and only Seattle’s Tyler Lockett had a higher passer rating when targeted among receivers who took at least 50 percent of their offensive snaps than Thomas’ 123.3.
2. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Since Jones’ rookie season of 2011, only Antonio Brown has more catches than Jones’ 797; nobody has more receiving yards than Jones’ 12,125; and though seven receivers have more touchdown receptions than his 57, that has more to do with the predilection of Atlanta offensive coordinators to use Jones as a decoy in the red zone. Jones is not anywhere near done yet as evidenced by his 99 catches for 1,394 yards and six touchdowns.
3. DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
It still seems like a fever dream that the Texans traded Hopkins to the Cardinals for running back David Johnson and a few picks back and forth, but there’s one thing for sure — giving Kyler Murray one of best contested-catch receivers in the league will do wonders for Murray’s development. More than an intermediate bruiser, Hopkins caught seven passes on 20 targets of 20 or more air yards for 237 yards and three TDs last season.
4. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Speaking of contested-catch receivers, there aren’t any better than Evans. Last season, even with Jameis Winston testing Evans’ catch radius and patience, Evans still grabbed 67 catches for 1,157 yards, eight touchdowns, and a 17.3 yards per reception average. Now, take Winston out and replace him with Tom Brady, and you’ve got quite a passing game going on.
5. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
All Adams has done over the past four seasons is average better than 1,000 receiving yards with an NFL-leading 40 touchdowns catches during that span. He came just three yards shy of a third straight 1,000-yard season, a number he would have flown by if he hadn't missed four games due to injury. But what's even more impressive and indicative of how important Adams has become to Aaron Rodgers is that he still finished with more than twice as many receiving yards as any other Packer and nearly 40 more catches despite missing a quarter of the season.
6. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
Hill’s speed doesn’t just allow Patrick Mahomes to pepper opposing defenses with deep passes. Hill also acts as perhaps the ultimate decoy, forcing safeties to take him seriously on every passing play. Not that Hill isn’t productive, especially on the deep stuff — last season, he caught 13 passes of 20 air yards or more for 473 yards and five touchdowns.
7. Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys
Cooper has been a highly productive alpha receiver with an ever-expanding route palette. After a 2019 season in which he caught 79 passes on 119 targets for 1,189 yards and eight TDs, Dallas rewarded him with a new five-year, $100 million contract. It will be interesting to see how Cooper and Dak Prescott align in Mike McCarthy’s route concepts, which have generally been more rudimentary than most.
8. Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Even with Jameis Winston throwing interceptions left and right last season, Godwin proved to be one of the NFL’s most productive receivers as a complement to Mike Evans. He grabbed 86 passes for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns in Bruce Arians’ high-volume passing game, and he caught 10 passes of 20 or more air yards for 298 yards and two touchdowns. With Tom Brady on board, expect an uptick in efficiency, if not deep productivity.
9. Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
With John Brown, Cole Beasley and Diggs, whom the Bills got in a blockbuster trade in March, Buffalo now has one of the league’s best receiver groups. With his top-level speed, elusiveness and contested-catch ability, Diggs had the most catches of 20 or more air yards last season with 17, and no other receiver had more yards (676) or TDs (seven) on such passes.
10. Allen Robinson II, Chicago Bears
Through his NFL career, Robinson’s primary quarterbacks have been Blake Bortles in Jacksonville and Mitchell Trubisky in Chicago. That he’s managed two 1,000-yard seasons since 2015 — including a 2019 season in which he caught 98 passes on 154 targets for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns — is a testament to his talent and route awareness.
11. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
12. Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns
13. Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
14. Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions
15. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
16. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
17. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
18. Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns
19. Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
20. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
21. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
22. Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams
23. Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans
24. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
25. Emmanuel Sanders, New Orleans Saints
26. DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins
27. Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals
28. Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons
29. Terry McLaurin, Washington
30. A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans