The top of the NFL wide receiver rankings for 2022 is the most arguable position group in the game. There are so many freakishly productive receivers in the game, and they all play the game differently. There’s a top tier, and five players fit in that tier. Depending on what you’re looking for in a receiver, they’re effectively interchangeable.
Note: There will be no rookies on this list, as they’ve yet to play a down in the NFL.
Top NFL wide receiver rankings in 2022
Arguably the top two wide receivers in the NFL moved teams during the offseason, leaving the two best quarterbacks in the league for Derek Carr and Tua Tagovailoa. But they’re not on top of the rankings because of their QB or production. The list is about how difficult it is for defenses to defend them and how “universal” their game is.
1. Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
We’re as surprised as you are. Justin Jefferson’s ranking is not meant to be a hot or even lukewarm take. The young man has no weakness as a receiver, aside from probably not being the best blocker at the position. Of the top receivers, that award is reserved for Cooper Kupp.
It’s easy to tell that Jefferson is a hoops fan. Route running is as much about making the defender wrong as it is about the ability to put a foot in the dirt and snap off a direction change. Jefferson did this consistently against off coverage in college with a “rocker” step that was more eccentric, like a Eurostep in basketball. His flexibility and burst make him the most dangerous route runner in the NFL.
The questions from college were based on beating press. Well, just two years later, Jefferson’s one of the best at beating press coverage. He has a deep aDOT and is slippery after the catch, too. He averaged more yards per catch than any of the top five receivers.
While Tyreek Hill still terrifies defensive coordinators more because of his extraordinary ability with the ball in his hands and unbelievable speed, no receiver gets open as consistently as Jefferson, no matter the route run or the coverage he faces. Jefferson also possesses an outstanding catch radius with his 33-inch arms.
Heading into Year 3, it’s not outrageous to think he could continue to improve. In his first two seasons, he’s amassed 3,016 receiving yards. That’s 261 more than Odell Beckham Jr., who is second on that list.
2. Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
Cooper Kupp just misses out as the best receiver in the NFL, but he might be the best football player in the league.
What Kupp does in the Los Angeles Rams offense is unlike any other role for a receiver. He’s used as a pseudo-TE far too often for my liking, but Kupp’s an excellent blocker, so Sean McVay uses him as such. And he’s not just blocking in the slot; no, he’s cracking on defensive ends and coming across the formation in split-zone runs. He’s a unicorn.
Last season, Kupp led the NFL in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. But he also has McVay and Matthew Stafford, while Jefferson had nepotism and Kirk Cousins. While Kupp is fantastic after the catch, he’s not as dynamic as Jefferson.
3. Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders
Davante Adams has had his own argument for being the best receiver in the game over the last few seasons. The Fresno State alumnus is a first down machine. Nobody in the NFL can manipulate defenders at the line of scrimmage like Adams. That allows him to separate instantly, giving Aaron Rodgers, and now Derek Carr, an open target as the first read more often than not.
While he and Jefferson are similarly route runners who get open and are reliable targets for their respective quarterbacks, Jefferson provides more after the catch, despite Adams outweighing Jefferson by about 20 pounds. However, one could argue that Adams’ almost automatic hands add the value to catapult him over Jefferson, who dropped seven passes last season after only two as a rookie. But drops can be a finicky stat from year to year.
4. Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins
Hill is arguably the most dangerous offensive weapon in the league. His play speed, matched with Patrick Mahomes’ outrageous playmaking ability, made for some of the most attractive backyard football in the league. However, over the past few seasons, Hill’s role had changed in the offense.
He’s become a high-volume target getting manufactured touches around the line of scrimmage. While Hill’s never received the credit he deserves as a receiver, it’s impossible not to see his impact now with the role reversal.
Things will change even more in Miami. Mike McDaniel will find unique ways to deploy Hill, and the role can be interchangeable with Jaylen Waddle, who plays a similar game at a lower production level. While he’ll still terrify defensive coordinators, Hill won’t have Mahomes around to consistently unlock his “ultimate.”
5. DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
Kyler Murray’s splits with and without DeAndre Hopkins could be the only evidence some need to prove that Hopkins is the best receiver in the league. Murray has a passer rating of 98.6 with Hopkins. He’s thrown 45 TDs and 21 INTs in 26 games with Hopkins. Without him, his passer rating drops to 87.9 with 25 TDs and 13 INTs in 20 games. However, part of that is because in 2019, Hopkins was in Houston, and Murray was a rookie.
Hopkins is one of the few receivers in the league that is open even when they’re not open. He uses his frame incredibly well to shield them from defending the catch point, and his hands are legendarily reliable. But other receivers have caught up to the impact Hopkins makes on any given game, and missing seven games last season was the tie-breaker that dropped him down to the end of the first tier.
6. Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals
While Ja’Marr Chase has the physical ability to propel himself into the conversation as the best receiver in the game, a bit more consistency and longevity are needed first. From Weeks 8-14, he averaged only 40 yards per game in the Bengals’ offense. While he is undoubtedly the most dangerous weapon on that offense, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon aren’t slouches either.
It’s the big game that gets us so excited for Chase. It’s the 80 yards on a slant where he breaks three tackles that mesmerizes us. He’s not Hill, but similarly, he will terrify defensive coordinators with his speed and playmaking ability. They have to game plan around him not “killing” them.
If he continues to become more nuanced as a route runner, the roof is the ceiling for Chase. He could be one of the most productive receivers ever if he and Burrow hang out together for the next decade. There’s a very good chance he and his former Tigers teammate are battling for the top spot for 2023.
7. Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
Deebo Samuel might be the most exciting player in the league. Everyone is out to find “the next Deebo” without acknowledging that person doesn’t exist. There really aren’t any receivers in a running back’s body that can also rudimentarily read run keys out of the backfield.
But even Samuel himself doesn’t want to do that. And because he had to, the majority forgets about his torrent receiving pace before his role change in 2021. He had 49 catches through eight games and 882 yards. For the folks keeping score at home, that’s a pace of 98 catches and 1,764 yards, which would have been second in the league behind Kupp.
Not even Hill is as dangerous as Samuel with the ball in his hands in space, and Samuel doesn’t have near the speed Hill does. That’s terrifying. He’s nearly impossible to tackle, averaging 10 yards after the catch per reception. That’s nearly all of Adams’ 12.6 yards per reception.
But soft-tissue injuries have hampered his time on the field. Samuel’s missed 11 games in three seasons. If he can prove himself healthy, he has the ability to rise in the rankings. He’s a better traditional receiver than he’s given credit for, and whoever trades for him (if he is traded) will show that.
8. Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
The Vikings trading away Stefon Diggs couldn’t have gone any better for them if they tried. They traded an outstanding receiver away and then somehow drafted the fifth one off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft and got the best receiver in the game.
Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills got a game-changer as well. Diggs and Jefferson are very similar players. Diggs is just the slightly less physically-gifted version. He’s just a bit shorter and a bit less explosive. However, Diggs possesses that same innate flexibility as Jefferson that makes them such consistent separators at the top of routes. Diggs is also a playmaker away from his frame, and he’s proven to be a reliable high-volume target despite being the obvious target on the roster for Allen.
9. A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles
The evolution of A.J. Brown at the NFL level has been magnificent to watch. While he was an outstanding target alongside DK Metcalf at Ole Miss, he needed to improve as a route runner. Now, his ability to manipulate the cornerback’s leverage lets him get open consistently.
Brown’s not as flexible or explosive in and out of his breaks as Diggs, Adams, or Jefferson, but he’s also 230 pounds at just over 6 feet tall. Or in other words, he’s a bowling ball on the field.
And that shows up after the catch. His closest comp might be Ezekiel Elliott in the open field. They’re big, bruising runners that force defensive backs into making business decisions. Unfortunately, health issues had him at far less than 100% for most of 2021. A fresh start in Philadelphia could be exactly what the doctor ordered.
10. Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A Cavalry Scout in the US Army is coined a “jack of all trades.” While Chris Godwin might be considered a master of none, he doesn’t have any weaknesses. Sure, he’s not a rubber band, but he has good flexibility as a route runner. His hands aren’t made of Stickum, but they’re reliable. And while Godwin ran a 4.42, he’s certainly not primarily a downfield threat.
No, Godwin just does everything well above average, meaning there’s no weakness to exploit, and he can be used in almost any role imaginable within an offense. While he’s not particularly sudden in and out of breaks, Godwin consistently separates because of his intelligence as a route runner.
While many could argue that Mike Evans is the better of the Buccaneers receivers, Jon Ledyard (formerly of Pewter Report) went through the tape of each player and came to his own conclusion. Because of Godwins’ versatility, he gets the nod over his teammate.
Top NFL wide receivers | 11-32
11. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12. DJ Moore, Carolina Panthers
13. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Rams
14. Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders
15. DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
16. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
17. Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns
18. CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
19. Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals
20. Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins
21. Robert Woods, Tennessee Titans
22. Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers
23. Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans
24. Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers
25. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
26. Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders
27. Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears
28. Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts
29. Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
30. DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles
31. Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys
32. Christian Kirk, Jacksonville Jaguars