Who Will Be the NFL's Best Receiver at Season's End?

Kamille SimmonsContributor IIIOctober 16, 2012

Who Will Be the NFL's Best Receiver at Season's End?

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    The National Football League loves offense. And the quarterbacks of the NFL, well, they love to throw the ball.

    That makes a good wide receiver an important part of any team. And to be the best WR in the league, well, that's even more valuable.

    But with all the talent in the NFL, who will stand to be the best WR in the league when it's all said and done this season?

    Here's a list of the five best receivers in the league, with No. 1 being the best at the end of the year.

5. A.J. Green

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    Cincinnati’s A.J. Green has at least one touchdown in all but one game this season. And he’s playing on a team that very clearly prefers to run its offense in the air rather than on the ground. The Cincinnati Bengals have 13 receiving TDs this year compared to just three rushing.

    A.J. Green’s 628 receiving yards lead the NFL and the Bengals offense shows no sign of abandoning the pass anytime soon.

    But the Bengals are going up against some tough defenses against the pass in the coming weeks, including Dallas in Week 14. The Cowboys allow just 181 receiving yards a game, which is good for best in the league. 

    If the Bengals want to win more and develop a more balanced offense, they’ll need to develop a better run game.

    For now, A.J. Green’s fantasy owners can just relish in the points their top receiver (and Cincinnati’s one-sided offense) continues to bring each week.

4. Brandon Marshall

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    Chicago’s Brandon Marshall has 35 receptions for 496 yards this season, including three games with more than 100 receiving yards.

    Marshall and Bears QB Jay Cutler played together for three years in Denver after both were drafted in 2006. It’s pretty obvious that Cutler plays favorites when it comes to his WRs. Marshall has more receptions and receiving yards than the Bears’ next three receivers combined. And his three touchdowns this season are matched only by RB Michael Bush.

    The Bears do have a strong rushing game with their top backs Matt Forte and Michael Bush, who each have over 200 yards rushing this season. Chicago is ranked 10th overall in the league for rushing yards with 123 per game.

    Still, Marshall’s on track to pick up about 1,600 receiving yards this year, and the way Cutler throws to him (averaging just under 100 receiving yards a game), Marshall might just get there.

3. Reggie Wayne

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    Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne is among the league leaders in receiving yards (593) and receptions (41). Wayne is a 12-year veteran who has a history of playing with one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Peyton Manning.

    Last season, the Colts used three different QBs as they tried to make up for the loss of Manning.

    Wayne had his lowest number in receptions (75) since 2003, when he had just 68. He also picked up fewer than 1,000 receiving yards for the first time since his 2003 season.

    This year, Wayne is playing with No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck, who has shown his preference for getting the ball to Wayne.

    Wayne has been targeted 70 times this season, compared to Indianapolis’ other WR, Donnie Avery, with 48. The Colts' second-leading receiver, Donald Brown, is out a few weeks for knee surgery, so Wayne can probably expect to see the ball come his way even more in his absence.

    When the Colts are trailing, Wayne is their go-to guy. Of his 593 receiving yards on the year, 400 of them have come when the Colts are behind in the game.

    At the rate he’s going, he’ll have about 90 more receptions this season to equal 130 for the year. And he’s on pace to pick up more than 1,800 receiving yards.

    Will he get to 1,800? Probably not. But if he keeps playing the way he has been, he’ll definitely end the season as one of the NFL’s best WRs.

2. Wes Welker

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    Wes Welker is second in the league in receiving yards with 622 on 48 catches.

    Welker is a tough, clutch receiver who has earned his title as Tom Brady’s favorite. On third downs with six-plus yards to go, Welker has 11 receptions for 134 yards.

    The Patriots' balanced offense is one thing that places it among the top offenses in the league. Well, plus Tom Brady. But New England has as many rushing TDs (10) as it does receiving this year.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean New England won’t continue to milk it in the passing game, which means more throws to Welker. He’s on par to catch for about 1,700 yards by season’s end.

    Last season, Welker caught for more than 1,500 yards in the season (so it’s possible!). Though this time, he’s playing alongside WR Brandon Lloyd, who has taken on a bigger role in his first year with the Patriots than he’s had since his 2010 season with Denver.

    Welker and Lloyd have been targeted by their QB about the same number of times, but Brady throws the long ball more to Welker. His longest catch was for 59 yards in Week 3 against Baltimore. And he has four games with more than 100 receiving yards. 

    Even if Welker doesn’t make it to 1,700 yards for the season, he’s already proven himself to be one of the league’s best WRs.

1. Percy Harvin

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    Minnesota’s Percy Harvin is another league leader in receiving stats. But it's his hard work and versatility that make him who will be called the NFL's best WR at the end of the season.

    He has 540 yards on 49 catches thus far. However, Harvin doesn’t just catch the ball. He’s got 63 yards and a rushing TD this season.

    And that’s not all. Harvin also works as a punt returner for the Vikings and his work in this department accounts for almost 450 yards in addition to running one back for a TD.

    His versatility makes him such a valuable player for Minnesota. The Vikings aren’t just running their offense through the always-feared Adrian Peterson. They’ve got other options now. 

    The Minnesota Vikings' receivers are playing with second-year QB Christian Ponder, who’s thrown for 1,400 yards and eight TDs this season. Ponder started 10 games last year following some poor performances by Donovan McNabb, and he’s been the Vikings' starter for all six games this season. 

    Harvin may not be working with Tom Brady as a distributor, but his hard work on the field has given him some impressive numbers. It’s also what makes him the NFL’s best wide receiver.