Ranking every NFL team’s wide receiver corps, headlined by a 5-way battle for the top spot

A great wide receiver can transform an NFL offense. Two can turn an also-ran into a Super Bowl contender.

The league’s evolution into a hyper-efficient pass-first league has made pass catchers vital in a game that once revolved around bulldozing ground attacks. Wide receiver has become the third-highest paid position among its elite, with 13 players making at least $20 million in average annual salary.

That makes our receiving room rankings the most important in our triumvirate of skill positions. We’ve already tracked down the most complete and impressive running back and tight end rotations, and now we’re onto the players most likely to take over an offense (from a non-quarterback perspective).

There are a few contenders to the title “best wide receiver corps” and the tier of “pretty good” stretches from seventh place to 20th. It turns out lots of teams have invested in the position, even if there are a few very clear “have nots” among the ranks. So how do we parse out each team’s place in this entirely-too-early lineup?

Star power matters — a true WR1 can single-handedly change the fortunes of an offense — but so do depth and youth. We’ve watched reliable veteran wideouts like Allen Robinson and Robert Woods fall off late in their careers. Having high-potential young players further down the roster is the ideal insulation for an age-related decline; so which teams have the best combination of elite talent and rising stars?


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Top projected wideouts: Robert Woods, John Metchie III, Nico Collins, Tank Dell

The hope is Metchie, who missed the entire 2022 season after being diagnosed with leukemia, will be at full strength and ready to claim a spot atop C.J. Stroud’s target list. That wouldn’t just be inspiring, it’ll be paramount to the Texans’ efforts to keep from sending a top-five draft pick Arizona’s way after dealing that future first at this year’s draft.

Woods has officially vacated the circle of trust after a career-worst 5.8 yards per target in his age 30 season with the Titans. Dell could thrive with the opportunity he’s given; the diminutive wideout had more than 2,700 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns in his final two seasons as a Houston Cougar.

Dan Powers-USA TODAY Sports

Top projected wideouts: Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Chris Moore, Kyle Phillips

Burks has plenty of room to grow — his body control and hand strength give him legitimate WR1 potential. But after that, things get dicey. Westbrook-Ikhine and Moore carry legacies as inexpensive daily fantasy fliers who pay off two or three times per year. Each has to make a significantly more consistent impact for Tennessee to exceed expectations in what could be Ryan Tannehill’s last season with the club.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Top projected wideouts: Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks

Watson put up 31 catches for 523 yards and seven touchdowns over the final eight games of his rookie season. That’s a 1,100-yard, 15 touchdown pace that Green Bay is praying he can replicate now that Jordan Love has taken over the starting quarterback job. Doubs was useful in his debut campaign last fall, but the team will need help from unheralded veterans or overlooked rookies to keep this group afloat.

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Top projected wideouts: Marquise Brown, Rondale Moore, Greg Dortch, Michael Wilson

If Brown is healthy, he’ll brute force his way to 1,200 receiving yards because there’s so few consistent options on the Cardinals’ roster. Moore’s average catch depth as a pro is just 1.4 yards downfield (though that did improve to 3.5 yards last season). Dortch had 50-plus receiving yards in five games and 15 or fewer in nine. Arizona’s on the brink of a rebuild, and adding talent at wideout is going to be paramount to Kyler Murray living up to his end of a pricy contract extension.

AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann

Top projected wideouts: Kadarius Toney, Skyy Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Rashee Rice

Kansas City is banking on potential; Valdes-Scantling is the elder statesman to a trio of playmakers all 24 years or younger. Toney proved he could dazzle in spurts in his half-season as a Chief, but rarely for long. Moore settled into a similar pattern of inconsistency as a rookie. And Rice was devastating at SMU in 2022, but has tons to prove on Sundays. The question now is which of these guys is Patrick Mahomes going to turn into a star?

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Top projected wideouts: Drake London, Mack Hollins, Scotty Miller, KhaDarel Hodge

London is incredible — a young star with a massive catch radius who can create windfalls for quarterbacks capable of lofting the ball somewhere in his general direction. Hollins is coming off a career year … but also turns 30 this September. Miller and Hodge are depth pieces capable of big catches, but are unable to maintain a consistent impact. That’s fine; Atlanta’s made it clear the plan is to run the ball 60 percent of the time anyway.

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Top projected wideouts: D.J. Chark, Adam Thielen, Jonathan Mingo, Terrace Marshall Jr.

Bryce Young will be surrounded by complementary pieces in search of a WR1. The hope is that Mingo can rise up and snatch that brass ring, but that’s a lot of pressure for a second round rookie. Instead, Chark and Thielen will provide reliable targets and go where their routes dictate. Marshall, a 2021 second round pick, will have the opportunity to prove his value as a big play threat.

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Top projected wideouts: JuJu Smith-Schuster, DaVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Tyquan Thornton

Smith-Schuster has repeatedly shown he’s better when he’s not at the top of the depth chart, but that’s likely where he’ll land in New England’s island of misfit toys. Parker can be a devastating presence on any given week, but lately that’s been limited to two or three games per season. Bourne is the kind of run-after-catch who can help Mac Jones thrive, but he spent 2022 in the doghouse. Someone from the young triumvirate of Thornton, Kayshon Boutte and Demario Douglas will have to stand up to make this unit truly threatening.

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Top projected wideouts: Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce, Isaiah McKenzie, Josh Downs

This young squad is capable of making this ranking a cold take, particularly if Anthony Richardson can exceed expectations as a talented, but raw, rookie quarterback. Pittman is a reliable possession receiver and Pierce showed flashes of a competent deep game in an uneven rookie season (albeit one with some outright weird QB/coach synergy). Downs’ presence could help free up space for each of them, as the UNC star was uber-productive from the slot in college and could have an immediate impact inside for Indianapolis.

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Top projected wideouts: Darius Slayton, Parris Campbell, Wan’Dale Robinson, Jalin Hyatt

New York has a deep brew of young and talented wideouts without a clear-cut alpha. Can Slayton, nearly cut in 2022, follow up on last season’s breakout? Will Campbell stay healthy enough to make an impact? What can Robinson and Hyatt bring to the table as shifty-but-unexperienced targets with big play potential? How do Sterling Shepard and Isaiah Hodgins fit in?

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Top projected wideouts: Cooper Kupp, Ben Skowronek, Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell

Kupp is great and set to return to full strength in 2023. He’s gonna need his health, because he’ll be forced to beat double teams all day thanks to an uninspiring supporting cast of wideouts behind him. Skowronek is the team’s most accomplished NFL wideout behind the 2021 offensive player of the year. He has 50 career receptions.

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Top projected wideouts: Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cedric Tillman

Deshaun Watson wasn’t a top-30 quarterback after returning from suspension following more than 20 accusations of sexual misconduct and what the NFL itself described as “predatory behavior.” His path back to the Pro Bowl may depend on two young wideouts realizing their potential. Cooper remains solid, but Moore and Tillman will have a massive opportunity to step up and add an extra dimension to the Cleveland offense. Moore’s run-after-catch ability and Tillman’s downfield capabilities should pad out what’s been a limited passing playbook for the Browns.

AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

Top projected wideouts: Chris Olave, Michael Thomas, Rashid Shaheed, Tre’Quan Smith

There’s tremendous potential here — but the Saints’ ascension to a top five unit depends mightily on Thomas’ health. That’s a risky bet; he’s played in only 10 games over the last three seasons and hasn’t been nearly the same player he was in 2019 when he does take the field. But Olave shined in a consistent rookie campaign and Shaheed emerged as a versatile big play threat who caught more than 82 percent of the balls thrown his way despite his average target distance of more than 11 yards downfield.

AP Photo/Doug Benc

Top projected wideouts: Rashod Bateman, Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers, Devin Duvernay

Nelson Agholor is also waiting in the wings. That’s important; Beckham is 30 years old and coming off a major knee injury. Bateman has played just 18 of 34 possible games in two seasons as a pro.

This gives newly-extended Lamar Jackson a receiving corps with a high ceiling and low floor. If everything comes together like general manager Eric DeCosta hopes, this is a dangerous group. Or it could be a bottom-five unit … again.

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Top projected wideouts: Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard, Corey Davis, Mecole Hardman

The Jets have armed Aaron Rodgers with a deep receiving corps — they’ll head into camp with at least 13 players at the position — and some old friends after signing both Lazard and Randall Cobb. Wilson certainly looks like a true WR1, but this group’s success may hinge on if Davis can stay healthy and be the kind of presence New York hoped for when it signed him to a three-year, $37.5 million contract in 2021. If he can regain his 2020 form, it’ll relieve the pressure on the rest of this wideout group, allowing Lazard to thrive as a possession receiver and clear Wilson to fly downfield.

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Top projected wideouts: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams, Marvin Jones, Kalif Raymond

The Lions traded up to draft Williams despite knowing a torn ACL would effectively redshirt him in 2022 (he finished the season with one catch on nine targets … albeit for 41 yards and a touchdown). Now the pressure will be on to provide a field stretching presence that allows St. Brown to thrive with his intermediate routes. Bringing Jones back into the fold provides a beloved and reliable veteran who can create big plays in a pinch, just not as consistently as he used to.

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Top projected wideouts: Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Khalil Shakir, Trent Sherfield

Buffalo’s quest to find Diggs a proper running mate landed on a first round pass catcher … at tight end. Dalton Kincaid’s arrival will help, but the Bills need Gabe Davis to fulfill his potential on a weekly basis to relieve some of the pressure from their WR1’s shoulders. Shakir, who averged better than eight yards per target in limited reps as a rookie, could impress with a larger role this fall.

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Top projected wideouts: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, Marvin Mims

Denver is flush with young(ish) receiving talent — K.J. Hamler is waiting to round out that rotation — and in need of a solution to Russell Wilson’s passing woes. Patrick’s return from injury and Mims’ arrival gives new coach Sean Payton options. The former Saints’ Super Bowl champion built a winner around the waning arm talent of late-stage Drew Brees, so if anyone’s able to turn this deep collection of good-not-great talent into a top 10 unit, it’s him.

AP Photo/Daniel Kucin Jr.

Top projected wideouts: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown

McLaurin remains a steam engine with perpetual coal on the field, regardless of who is throwing to him — he’s averaging better than 1,000 yards per season in Washington despite the lesser clown-show tryouts that have been his quarterback carousel. Samuel remains a viable tool when healthy, but Dotson is the key to making this a top-10 unit. The speedy deep threat had 21 catches and 344 yards over the final five games of his rookie campaign.

AP Photo/Matt Durisko

Top projected wideouts: Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Allen Robinson, Calvin Austin III

Johnson is a high-volume target who put in work to address the drops that plagued his early career. Pickens was occasionally electric as a rookie and may be poised for a breakthrough in 2023, but that will depend on if Kenny Pickett’s deep ball is up to the task (Pickens’ average target depth as a rookie was nearly 15 yards downfield). Robinson averaged 78 receiving yards per game for the Bears in 2020 and hasn’t hit more than 34.2 in two injury plagued seasons since. Now he’s 30, which … does not bode well for one of the strongest-handed players in the game.

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Top projected wideouts: D.J. Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Dante Pettis

Moore’s arrival is a godsend for a WR-needy team. More importantly, it sends the team’s complementary receivers to spots where they can thrive.

Mooney struggled with added defensive focus in 2022, but at his peak he’s a ball-tracking genius who can exploit single coverage for first downs. Claypool is still more of a concept than a finished project, but Chicago doesn’t need him to be a top-two wideout and can return him to his Swiss Army Knife best self in weird formations like we saw early in his career with the Steelers. That’s a significant upgrade for Justin Fields; now he just needs his offensive line to keep him upright after getting sacked on more than 13 percent of his drop-backs in two seasons as a pro.

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Top projected wideouts: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, Jalen Tolbert

How much does Cooks still have in the tank? The speedy wideout looked cooked in his final season as a Ram in 2019, but rebounded from injury to post back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns with the Texans in 2020 and 2021. He backslid a bit in 2022 and tried to orchestrate his (eventually successful) departure from Houston, but that can be attributed to, uh (points broadly at the Texans’ franchise).

Now he’ll be counted on to be WR2 behind Lamb in his age 30 season. He could be the key to unlocking the prolific version of Dak Prescott who was starting to emerge in 2021.

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Top projected wideouts: Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Renfrow, Keelan Cole

Giving Adams a reliable intermediate target (Meyers) and a viable short range guy (Renfrow, if healthy) should open up his route tree and limit the amount of double-teams thrown his way — especially if Josh Jacobs can follow up on his breakthrough 2022 at tailback. The question is, who will be throwing him the ball? Jimmy Garoppolo remains affected by last year’s broken ankle and the two quarterbacks behind him on the depth chart are Brian Hoyer and Aidan O’Connell.

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Top projected wideouts: Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Jamal Agnew

Kirk’s expensive deal earned criticism last offseason but paid off with career highs across the board and, more importantly, a tremendous second season from Trevor Lawrence. Ridley’s presence will allow him to slide back toward a WR1b situation, assuming the former Pro Bowler is healthy and capable of regaining the form from his early Atlanta Falcons days. Jones looks like a perfect WR3; a veteran capable of gashing defenses who forget about him (three 100-plus yard games in 2022).

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Top projected wideouts: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Danny Gray

This group thrives regardless of who is throwing passes their way, but concerns linger. Was Samuel’s career-low (by a wide margin) 6.7 yards per target the product of shaky quarterbacking and nagging injury? Or are a litany of hits beginning to catch up to him? Can a franchise with a swollen cap sheet keep Aiyuk around as free agency looms? Is Jennings capable of filling a larger role?

Eh, it’s Kyle Shanahan; history suggests he’ll figure it out.

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Top projected wideouts: Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, Jalen Reagor

Addison is capable of making this a top-three unit, but that’s putting a big weight on the first-round rookie’s shoulders. He wasn’t as prolific at USC as he was in 2021 at Pitt, but even if he struggles, Osborn has proven he has the goods to be a suitable second option. Jefferson is averaging more than 1,600 receiving yards per season over his three-year career and makes this a top-10 group on his own.

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Top projected wideouts: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage, Trey Palmer

Evans is entering his 10th year in the NFL and has never had fewer than 1,000 receiving yards in a season. Godwin is averaging nearly 80 yards per game over the last four seasons. Gage is a valuable third option whose impact waned after the move from Atlanta to Tampa, but that can be explained away by the anemic offensive line that cut down his route tree.

Unfortunately for them, they’ll be tasked with lifting up either Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask behind center in what promises to be a rebuilding year for the Bucs.

AP Photo/Chris Szagola

Top projected wideouts: AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith, Olamide Zaccheaus, Quez Watkins

Brown and Smith were instrumental in pushing Jalen Hurts to MVP candidacy in his second season as a full-time starter. Their versatility to devastate defenses from anywhere and adjust to their quarterback’s needs on the fly keeps Nick Sirianni’s playbook wide open. Zaccheaus is a wild card third option; he turns 26 in July and is coming off a career year (40 catches, 533 yards) despite playing for a Falcons team whose passing offense was mostly theoretical in 2022.

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Top projected wideouts: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Quentin Johnston, Josh Palmer

Let’s throw a huge caveat on here; this ranking is heavily weighted on these three guys all being healthy and Johnston delivering on the promise he showed at TCU in 2022. Allen and Williams combined to miss 11 games last season and are each in their seventh season as a pro or later. The risk of a dropoff is real, which convinced the Chargers to throw their first round pick at Johnston rather than address a 21st-ranked defense.

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Top projected wideouts: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Braxton Berrios, Cedrick Wilson Jr.

Hill and Waddle were the be-all/end-all of Tua Tagovailoa’s breakthrough 2022. Between them, they accounted for 3,066 of the team’s 4,765 receiving yards — roughly 65 percent of the team’s passing offense. Berrios will provide viable help from the slot, but this is a two-man show. An extremely good, defense-ruining two-man show.

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Top projected wideouts: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Dee Eskridge

If Smith-Njigba regains his 2021 form — 958 receiving yards in his final five games! — this is 2023’s top receiving corps. Lockett’s age is a bit of a concern — he turns 31 in September — but his consistency and ability to avoid contact suggest he can put up his fifth-straight 1,000-yard campaign this fall. Metcalf is an impossible human being who looks and plays like he was sent back in time from a more evolved version of humanity to frustrate cornerbacks.

AP Photo/Emilee Chinn

Top projected wideouts: Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin

There’s no team that can match the devastating power and depth of Joe Burrow’s receiving corps — even if the Seahawks come pretty close. Chase, Higgins and Boyd combined for 21 touchdowns and more than 2,800 receiving yards last fall, each filling different roles designed to infuriate opposing defensive coordinators. This is a group that can thrash defenses with deep balls or big runs after the catch, from the sideline or the slot.

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