One can argue that wide receiver is the NFL’s unquestioned premier position. Given the pass-rampant nature of offenses everywhere, having a dominant No. 1 target is almost a must. That also seems true of having a strong overall No. 2 complement and with most teams using heavy 11 personnel, a dangerous No. 3 provides a further advantage.
Whether lining up most outside or in the slot, stretching the field as a deep threat or using quickness to be a route-running technician, the best receivers in the NFL can take over games at times. The wideouts who can do it all everywhere on the field stand out more than others.
With a forward spin for the upcoming season, here’s how Sporting News sees the top wide receivers stacking up against each other from 1-32:
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NFL wide receiver rankings 2023
1. Justin Jefferson, Vikings (age: 24)
Randy Moss set a pretty high standard with his early career in Minnesota. Minus the scoring rate, Jefferson has dazzled at that level with his big-play ability and swagger to match. Since proving quickly as a rookie he wasn’t just a slot, Jefferson has done the Griddy all over NFL cornerbacks.
2022 stats: 128 catches on 184 targets, 1,809 receiving yards, 8 TDs
2. Tyreek Hill, Dolphins (age: 29)
Hill proved two things during his first in Miami. First, as he approaches 30, he still hasn’t slowed down from his blinding “Cheetah” speed. Second, he can get the job done as a intermediate and deep threat without Patrick Mahomes. Hill should keep thriving with Mike McDaniel and Tua Tagovailoa.
2022 stats: 119 catches on 170 targets, 1,710 receiving yards, 7 TDs
3. Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals (age: 23)
Chase had a little slide from his sensational rookie season because getting a lot more coverage attention to limit his big plays and also missing five games. He will get revved up again with college QB Joe Burrow to do more damage lining up all over the field, however he gets the ball in his hands. It will be fun to see if Chase can displace his former LSU teammate Jefferson at the top.
2022 stats: 87 catches on 134 targets, 1,046 receiving yards, 9 TDs
4. Cooper Kupp, Rams (age: 30)
Kupp was headed to another monster season to mirror a legendary Super Bowl-winning Jerry Rice-esque 2022 campaign. But the injury bug bit him again, limiting him to 9 games in the final season of his 20s. Kupp, like the guys ahead of him, has a great combination of speed, quickness and smarts and is schemed open well by Sean McVay. He has one more big year left in him.
2022 stats: 75 catches on 98 targets, 812 receiving yards, 6 TDs
5. Davante Adams, Raiders (age: 30)
Adams said goodbye to his 20s with a bang during his first season without Aaron Rodgers in Las Vegas. Helped by former college QB Derek Carr, Adams looked like the same future Hall of Fame force through the red zone, leading the league in TDs for the second time in three years while hitting double-digit scores for the sixth time. What’s nuts is that he’s become a better deep threat with age.
2022 stats: 100 catches on 180 targets, 1,516 receiving yards, 14 TDs
6. Stefon Diggs, Bills (age: 29)
Diggs had a slight fade at the end of last season but in the big picture he still was stellar during his third year in Buffalo. He is locked and loaded with good friend QB Josh Allen and should crush it again pre 30.
2022 stats: 108 catches on 154 targets, 1,429 receiving yards, 11 TDs
7. CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys (age: 24)
Lamb got a lion’s share from Dak Prescott last season and delivered with his smooth route-running to be the new version of DeAndre Hopkins. Lamb is locked is the No. 1 upgrade Dallas was looking for long-term.
2022 stats: 107 catches on 156 targets, 1,359 receiving yards, 9 TDs
8. A.J. Brown, Eagles (age: 26)
Brown’s calling card in his first season with Philadelphia was his big-play ability. He was a terrific field-stretcher on the perimeter playing off a blossoming DeVonta Smith. His speed, strength and toughness meshes well with Jalen Hurts’ big arm.
2022 stats: 88 catches on 145 targets, 1,496 receiving yards, 11 TDs
9. Amon-Ra St. Brown, Lions (age: 23)
Brown deserves to be mentioned in the same breath with the other young star receivers. He has taken over the NFL’s premier slot force (like Jarvis Landry once was) and is the clear No. 1 for Jared Goff in what should be an even more explosive offense in 2023.
2022 stats: 106 catches on 146 targets, 1,126 receiving yards, 6 TDs
10. Chris Olave, Saints (age: 23)
Olave proved his first-round value as an all-around receiver out of Ohio State right away, commanding the ball with impressive air yardage from the Saints’ mess at QB. He should fare better with Derek Carr throwing to him.
2022 stats: 72 catches on 119 targets, 1,042 receiving yards, 4 TDs
11. Garrett Wilson, Jets (age: 23)
Wilson proved his first-round value as an all-around receiver out of Ohio State right away, standing out as their No. 1 with issues elsewhere, including the Jets’ mess at QB. He should fare much better with Aaron Rodgers throwing to him.
2022 stats: 83 catches on 147 targets, 1,103 receiving yards, 4 TDs
12. DeVonta Smith, Eagles (age: 24)
Smith being called the “Skinny Batman” vs. Brown’s “Swole” traditional size-speed was an apt nickname because he used his wiry frame to dominate favorable coverage, much like he did moving around on the way to a historic Heisman campaign at Alabama.
2022 stats: 95 catches on 136 targets, 1,196 receiving yards, 7 TDs
13. Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins (age: 24)
Waddle has had two interesting seasons in the NFL. He was the ultimate short-area target replacing Landry as a rookie, averaging an extended handoff-like 9.8 yards per reception. In Year 2, with McDaniels and playing off Hill, he led the league with 18.1 yards per catch as a home-run hitter for Tua Tagovailoa. That points to him continuing to grow as a complete target.
2022 stats: 75 catches on 117 targets, 1,356 receiving yards, 8 TDs
14. Keenan Allen, Chargers (age: 31)
Allen has had a terrific career catching almost everything working inside and out. Durability hasn’t been always on his side and wear is catching up to him, but the equity of a strong decade and remaining a key target in a prolific passing game keep him in the top 15 in the midst of rising young stars.
2022 stats: 66 catches on 89 targets, 752 receiving yards, 4 TDs
15. Drake London, Falcons (age: 22)
London was the surprise first wide receiver drafted in 2022 and was a little behind Olave and Wilson out of the gate. But he also operated with a QB mess and was furthermore a limited option in a run-heavy offense. Not having Kyle Pitts for much of the season to ease the coverage also hurt. London’s catch radius and other skills should lead to a sophomore spike.
2022 stats: 72 catches on 117 targets, 866 receiving yards, 4 TDs
16. Terry McLaurin, Commanders (age: 27)
McLaurin is yet another Ohio State receiver who’s been immediately impactful in the NFL. He has underrated speed as a big-play threat and also gets himself open well on intermediate routes. He could use better QB play with Sam Howell to raise his game but having a top-flight young complement now helps.
2022 stats: 77 catches on 120 targets, 1,191 receiving yards, 5 TDs
17. Tee Higgins, Bengals (age: 24)
Higgins has done well playing off Chase as a versatile target for Burrow in his own right, using size and frame well all the way through the red zone. He is technically sound and reliable with his catch rate.
2022 stats: 74 catches on 109 targets, 1,029 receiving yards, 7 TDs
18. Calvin Ridley, Jaguars (age: 28)
Ridley hardly played in 2021 and sat out all of 2022 with his gambling-related NFL suspension. But when he last was on the field for the Falcons, he was a dominant inside-outside force taking over as the true No. 1 for Julio Jones. With rest at work more than rust, he can be awesome in Jacksonville’s explosive offense with Trevor Lawrence targeting him.
2020 stats (with Falcons): 90 catches on 143 targets, 1,374 receiving yards, 9 TDs
19. Amari Cooper, Browns (age: 29)
Cooper remains under-appreciated (a la Brandin Cooks) for adjusting well to new passing offenses in his constant movement through now three teams (Oakland, Dallas, Cleveland). He’s helped by fine route-running and great hands and just executes.
2022 stats: 78 catches on 132 targets, 1,160 receiving yards, 9 TDs
20. DK Metcalf, Seahawks (age: 25)
Metcalf is built like a Greek god with his classic size-speed-strength profile. But he can be inconsistent with his hands and also surprisingly was more possession-like in 2022 with Geno Smith while averaging fewer than 12 yards per catch. Metcalf once of the most intimidating matchups.
2022 stats: 90 catches on 141 targets, 1,048 receiving yards, 6 TDs
21. Christian Watson, Packers (age: 24)
Watson was a scoring machine with his limited receptions as a rookie. After getting to second-round status with a massive Combine, he needed time to get healthy and effective. His profile screams second-year all-around breakout as Jordan Love’s go-to guy.
2022 stats: 41 catches on 66 targets, 611 receiving yards, 7 TDs
22. Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers (age: 25)
Aiyuk has been pushed hard by San Francisco’s offensive coaching staff to live up to his first-round potential. He delivered on the promise as their best and most reliable receiver everywhere for multiple QBs.
2022 stats: 78 catches on 114 targets, 1,015 receiving yards, 8 TDs
23. D.J. Moore, Bears (age: 25)
Moore has been stuck in a post-Cam Newton QB mess in Carolina so a trade to Chicago should refresh his great skill set. He did do more as a scorer last season but the Bears hope he can expand his big-play repertoire as strong-armed Justin Fields’ new go-to guy.
2022 stats: 63 catches on 118 targets, 888 receiving yards, 7 TDs
24. Deebo Samuel, 49ers (age: 27)
Samuel falls to behind Aiyuk and the others because the durability issues have become a consistent concern. His short-area receiving and power running roles also have diminished with Christian McCaffrey in the mix. He was awesome in 2021 but it’s hard to trust him staying on the field as he’s racked up a lot of injury wear as he gets older.
2022 stats: 56 catches on 94 targets, 632 receiving yards, 2 TDs
25. Diontae Johnson, Steelers (age: 27)
Johnson’s touchdown-less numbers from last season are misleading. He has had issues with drops in the past, but the low-catch and red zone zero was tied more to the QB transition between Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett. His route-running work should translate into a big rebound numbers.
2022 stats: 86 catches on 147 targets, 882 receiving yards
26. Jerry Jeudy, Broncos (age: 24)
Jeudy had limited punch on Denver’s passing game with the Russell Wilson-Nathaniel Hackett offensive dysfunction but he flashed signs of matching Cooper, Smith and Waddle as a classic Alabama-style smooth receiver. He should be more locked in with Wilson for a big first year with Sean Payton.
2022 stats: 67 catches on 100 targets, 972 receiving yards, 6 TDs
27. Chris Godwin, Buccaneers (age: 27)
Godwin was a busy safety valve again for Tom Brady in the latter’s final NFL season but with some past injuries, it’s clear he’s slowed down a bit and now has to work with Baker Mayfield.
2022 stats: 104 catches on 142 targets, 1,023 receiving yards, 3 TDs
28. Mike Evans, Buccaneers (age: 29)
Evans continued his impressive 1,000-yard streak and came through as usual as a big-play threat and red zone body, but there was some signs of diminishing returns in both capacities ahead of turning 30 before the season.
2022 stats: 77 catches on 127 targets, 1,124 receiving yards, 6 TDs
29. Tyler Lockett, Seahawks (age: 30)
Lockett will turn 31 right after the season begins. He’s done well to transition to less of a downfield and slot-dedicated role beyond Wilson. He’s been one of the league’s most underrated playmakers since 2015.
2022 stats: 84 catches on 117 targets, 1,033 receiving yards, 10 TDs
30. Jahan Dotson, Commanders (age: 23)
Dotson is primed for a big second year, too, with his combination of route-running and quickness. He mirrors a younger Lockett, only in a bigger frame as a field-stretcher made more for the outside. Don’t be surprised if Dotson is considered a co-No 1 with McLaurin after his first season with Howell.
2022 stats: 35 catches on 61 targets, 523 receiving yards, 7 TDs