Player Profiling: NFL Wide Receiver Rankings

Thom Cunningham@ThomBhombCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2009

Ranking the top receivers the league has to offer entering the 09' season...

(Prior to Derrick Mason's retirement)


1. Randy Moss (NE)

He is arguably the most talented receiver to ever play the game. Moss can out run any receiver, split any coverage and catch any ball thrown his way. He will have an all-around better team playing with him this season rather than his '08 year.

Brady is back and the entire organization is hungry for that Lombardi Trophy more than ever. New England is out to prove they are the best, and Moss is a huge part of that.

With more motivation to win and a better cast, I think New England's offense might be as good if not better than when they went 18-0. If you think Fitz should be number one, that's fine; but if Moss isn't in your top two, I want to know what you've been watching this past decade.


2. Larry Fitzgerald (ARI) 

This is a guy who could very well be on his way to becoming the best receiver to ever play. He is strong, big, fast, smart and the perfect teammate you would want in your locker room. He can jump over any defender because he positions himself perfectly to box out anybody trying to snag one on him.

He is an MVP-quality player and I still believe he should have won a Heisman Trophy. Any organization would be lucky to have a player like Fitzgerald.


3. Steve Smith (CAR) 

Smith is another receiver with MVP quality written all over him. His height comes as no concern because he has some of the best hops and speed in the league. He is not afraid to take a hit and has shown his toughness throughout his career.

He reminds me of a quicker and younger Hines Ward whose leadership is as big as his talent. A rare player to find in this league, and a play maker every time he steps onto the field.


4. Andre Johnson (HOU)

The only thing holding Andre Johnson back from becoming the best in the league is his injuries. Johnson has yet to play an entire NFL season on a consistent basis. When he is on the field however, he can out run and out catch anybody defending him.

He has the perfect speed and size to run almost any route and usually finishes plays real well. He is a tough receiver to bring down in the open field and never misses a stride when running. His potential is through the roof, but he needs to play more consistently to seriously hold any shot of becoming the best in this era.


5. Calvin Johnson (DET) 

I can't believe this guy didn't make the Pro Bowl! Calvin has every characteristic you would want in a receiver. He is tall, fast, a hard worker and has some of the best hands in the league. He separates himself from defenders extremely well when the ball is in the air and has the body to develop into a decent blocker.

His toughness mentally and physically is something he can improve on; but between the two years he has played in, Calvin has improved in that degree already. A threat to put up big numbers each week, and did so consistently last year.


6. Reggie Wayne (IND)

One of the best route runners in the league and will only see more balls now that Harrison is gone for good. His speed, quickness and awareness makes him a constant threat on the field. He reminds me of a Torry Holt in his prime.

Wayne is another receiver who can catch almost anything thrown his way and has proven his liability throughout his career. Apart from how great of a pure football player Wayne is, the guy is a straight up athlete.


7. Anquan Boldin (ARI) 

Boldin is opposite of what many people refer to receivers as prima donnas. He is a tough and explosive receiver with great hands and speed that hurts. His work ethic is one of the best in the league and he has brought a superstar level to his game consistently each year, despite on-going contract disputes.

Having Fitzgerald alongside only creates a better opportunity for getting him the football. Although I believe Fitz is a better receiver overall, Boldin was putting up better numbers than Fitzgerald was before he got hurt against New York. A number two in the desert, but number one talent overall.


8. Brandon Marshall (DEN) 

Marshall said that he can catch any ball he wants to that is thrown his way; I don't think he was kidding. This guy has freak-like talent that gives him the potential to become the league's best one day. He has deceitful speed that allows him to out run most defenders.

His height and arm span gives quarterbacks an easy target in most situations (just like Moss, Fitzgerald and Ocho). I don't question his mentality, I just don't understand it. He seems to be a good kid for the most part; but whenever he is in the news, it's for the wrong reasons.

A new place to call home might be what Marshall needs, but it's not like staying in Denver will pull him down either.


9. T.J. Housmandzadeh (SEA)

T.J. has proven he can put up big numbers on a consistent basis. Some wonder whether or not TJ can take over as the number one in Seattle. Although Ochocinco was listed as Cincinnati's number one, TJ has been the main target for that offense the past two seasons.

His ability has gone anywhere; he can still run just about any route and snag any ball. He knows where to go and how to get there in any situation you put him in. He will be playing with a smart and proven quarterback with play making capabilities.


10. Lee Evans (BUF) 

Evans has the talent to be a top receiver in this league. His speed to get vertical is very dangerous and his agility allows him to go to any part of the fields he wants. He hasn't been high in the statistic categories recently, but I believe the addition of Owens will only enhance his ability to become a constant problem for opposing defenses.

I think Owens will allow Evans to play at his highest level of potential; but unfortunately, Trent Edwards has a lot to do with that too.


11. Chad Ochocinco (CIN) 

Chad has already proven he can be the best, but only when he is fully dedicated. Chad
"Johnson" used to run any route, catch any ball, jump over any defender and celebrate any touchdown. Johnson would talk trash to everyone and anyone. I remember he carried a list of cornerbacks of who would be guarding him each week and talk tons of shit.

You see, Johnson was at his best when his mindset was on football. It didn't matter if he was talking trash, thinking of dances or playing with the media. Johnson's mind was on being the better player on the field, which made himself and everyone else better as well.

The past two years, Ochocinco wasn't focused on becoming a better player or team mate. Ochocinco was worried about starring in movies and trying to escape Cincinnati. His actions and attitude off-the-field reflected his play on-the-field. This year might be different however. Cincinnati got rid of T.J. in order to give Ochocinco more responsibility as their play maker.

Will he change? Apparently Ochocinco has been going crazy this off-season by working out. His attitude, work ethic and overall outlook has changed for the better so I do think Ochocinco will produce nicely this year.

This is a very talented and determined player entering the '09 season hungry to taste success again; but more importantly, his mindset is back on football.


12. Roddy White (ATL) 

When Roddy White first entered the NFL I thought he could be the next Marvin Harrison. After watching his style of play, I was obviously wrong; but potential talent might be the same. White is probably the most underrated route runner in the league. He can separate himself very nicely by only making one move.

He has some of the biggest hands compared to most receivers and concentrates on the ball extremely well when it's in the air. White usually has a lot of receiving yards each year, but that's mainly because of his ability to run after the catch. He is dangerous in the deep game, but not as consistent as the shorter routes.

Adding Gonzalez should only enhance his football knowledge and success.


13. Santana Moss (WAS)

This guy has big-play capability every time he runs down field. Moss is a very elusive receiver with great hands and a ton of heart. He can make defenders miss in the open-field and can sneak behind a secondary for the long ball. He is another receiver who despite being "altitude-challenged," plays hard and consistent.

Moss has always been very productive and has rarely underachieved in any part of his career. A very dangerous, under-the-radar receiver who puts up big and productive numbers each year.


14. Dwayne Bowe (KC) 

I'm not going to lie, Dwayne Bowe surprised me two years ago when he become a threat in the league. I'm not sure why though, mainly because he was a rookie. He has the height and build you would want any receiver to have; plus his speed, hands and leaping ability gives him a pretty nice arsenal to work with.

He is not afraid to make big plays when needed and has as much guts as he does dreads. His awareness on what to do in certain situations needs improvement and  must show he can take over as the true number one target (now that Gonzo is gone).


15. Greg Jennings (GB) 

Jennings is one of the most physical receivers in the league. He is a tough, fast receiver with the ability to bounce off tackles and hit the home run play. His hands are as good as they come and he has a nice receiver complimenting him in Driver.

Grant and the running game could help him out as well, but overall Jennings has the ability to take over as the go-to guy when the game is on the line. His football intelligence if often overlooked and is one of his most dangerous abilities in the game.


16. Wes Welker (NE) 

Welker should pick up right where he left off. Despite Brady's absence, Welker still produced solid numbers for New England last season. His speed is obviously his best quality, but Welker has come into his own as very reliable target.

He has the intelligence and ability to help carry any offense, let alone New England's, far into a season. He can make the big play if needed, but does a better job of running underneath before going deep.


17. Roy Williams (DAL) 

I'm not sure why people say this man is a bust. It is very hard for any player, let alone a receiver, to come to a new team midseason and dominate immediately. Williams has proven he has the talent and ability to produce nicely.

Now that he has been given time to work more closely with the offense, expect a much more educated Roy E. Williams this year. Witten still might be the true number one, but Williams should produce nicely either way. He is a long receiver with great speed and soft hands. His toughness comes and goes, but his big play capability has yet to disappear.


18. Terrell Owens (BUF) 

It is hard to rank T.O. this low, but his drops continue to tally. He still has the ability to bounce off most defenders and create big play opportunities. His toughness and desire have seemed to lack, but he always freshens up when he enters a new city. Why should this year be any different?

I don't want to hear anything about his attitude in the clubhouse or his cause for drama. The only legitimate reason I see why T.O. won't produce this year is because of Trent Edwards. If you think this guy's talent is gone, you are insane.

He might even be a blessing in disguise in Buffalo. The organization and city is treating this man like a king. They gave him a key to the city, a welcoming ceremony at the airport and a laid back atmosphere to work under (never complained about him missing workouts).

You might think those are reasons T.O. is a "cancer," but it might actually work in his favor. Owens plays well when he is happy; and when Owens plays well, the team around him plays well.

What makes Owens happy? Being the center of attention, an important player on the team, someone to look up to as a leader and being able to do whatever he wants to do. Buffalo is a place where T.O. can do all of those things which makes him more comfortable with the team he is playing for.

When Owens is happy and comfortable, he can help take a team to the playoffs. You want to talk about track records with this guy? Look at what this man has done with each team he has been on so far.

He has the record for most receptions in a football game while with San Francisco. He had one of his best performances with Philadelphia in the Super Bowl (despite a broken leg) and had the most touchdown catches in one season with Dallas (although he did hold most drops one year too).

Look at the track record on-the-field and not the one off-the-field; because now, he is in a place where none of that will matter.


19. Derrick Mason (BAL) 

He is probably the most underrated receiver in the league today. Mason was on top of the league in receptions two years ago and helped guide a young Flacco deep into an NFL season.

He is fast, explosive and determined just as much as Ray Lewis. He is not afraid to brawl and has some of the best football knowledge in the league today. He is always in the post-season and that is no coincidence. Flacco's game will only improve, and that will also elevate Mason's game as well.

I would only be concerned with injuries when I hear Derrick Mason (mainly due to his age), but this is one of the best veteran leaders in the game.


20. Donald Driver (GB) 

Driver is a more experienced Greg Jennings. The style of play those two show is almost exact. They can both bounce off of tackles, explode on the run, catch almost any ball and go deep at any point in time.

He is another veteran receiver you can trust in certain situations. One thing you can count on from Driver is that he will be one of the toughest and fearless players on the field each week, which is scary if you mix in his football ability. He is a great football player who uses his game to do his talking.


21. Marques Colston (NO) 

Colston is one of the best receivers at climbing the ladder. He can snag a ball at its highest point while running in stride. His short routes tend to be a lot slower than his deeper routes, so it is very easy to read what Colston is doing.

When the ball gets to him though, he will grab it and never let go. He is always a threat to create a big play across the middle. he also does a great job of boxing defenders out with his size. I don't think his thumb will bother him this year and I expect an overall solid year from Colston.


22. Santonio Holmes (PIT) 

Holmes is on the verge of just exploding as a top receiver. His size limits him from out jumping one-on-one coverage, but his speed and hands make up for that. He can get anywhere he wants to go and has developed better hands every year.

His offseason workouts have been extremely good from what I've heard, so he might be on the brink of having his best season yet. He can make the big play when needed which is what it comes down to in the end.


23. Hines Ward (PIT) 

What can't this guy do? Out jump one-on-one coverage, that's about it.


24. Antonio Bryant (TB) 

I have always been impressed with Bryant's athletic ability. He is a big body receiver who never quite figured out how to stay productive. He has finally found his jig in Tampa Bay yesteryear and displayed many highlight-type catches.

He seems a lot stronger than he has been in the past and is running with a purpose to get somewhere. I like the new Antonio Bryant and I don't believe he is a fluke. Winslow will help take pressure off of him as well.


25. DeSean Jackson (PHI)

He is quickly turning into a playmaker. His intelligence needs vast improvement, but is a very confident and athletic talent with tons of potential. His route running skills are very nice which is scary because he is so young.

He, along with every Eagle receiver, is a deep threat almost every play. He can make defenses pay with one step and displayed pretty decent hands. His consistency and determination as a mature NFL player needs development; but other than that, the sky is the limit for this kid.


26. Jerricho Cotchery (NYJ) 

Cotchery has the talent and potential to become a reliable number one in his career. He has won the starting role in New York and with a new coach and system, his career might be secure if he can produce like he has the past few seasons.

Cotchery can jump with any defender, and slip by coverage to get open. He is a big target with great route running ability to go deep. He seems to be a hard-working player determined to become great. I like the future for Jerricho as a top receiver, just not the immediate future.


27. Lavernous Coles (CIN) 

Coles is another underrated receiver with a lot of quality. He is a reliable target for any offense he is a part of. Coles has been the number one his entire career, now playing with the talented Ochocinco might help elevate his game to a higher standard.

Most people see Coles going to the Bengals as the beginning of the end in his career, but I believe he will produce the same way he did back in his prime.

The Bengals have a great supporting cast around Coles; and if he can learn the playbook and adapt quickly, then he might be producing solid numbers on a consistent week-to-week basis.


28. Bernard Berrian (MIN) 

Berrian is an explosive playmaker any way you want to look at it. He can run with any defender and exploded quickly after making the catch. Every time he touches the ball it seems he is running away, mainly because he is not a receiver who can run sit-down routes as well.

He is most dangerous when his legs are moving. His vertical game is one of the best in the league and could actually compete as one of the best given a decent quarterback and maturity.


29. Torry Holt (JAC)

It hurts to rank Torry Holt this low, but he is still a very reliable receiver. It is hard to see Holt in anything but a Rams uniform and I'm not sure how he will fit in with Jacksonville.

Garrard will ultimately determine Holt's overall success at the end of the year, but he is still the same great route running, ball-snagging receiver he was five years ago.

He is easily one of the best receivers I have ever witnessed play this game; and if Jacksonville is his last stop, I hope he does well there. A solid, reliable talent who brings a great character and work ethic to his game.


30. Braylon Edwards (CLE) 

Braylon had a terrible season last year. He dropped every ball thrown his way and seemed out-of-sync the entire season. He has shown he has the capability to become a top receiver in the league; but if his attitude continues to be negative, then his game play will mirror that.

Braylon needs confidence and motivation to do well which I'm not sure he has. That shouldn't take away from this kid's talent and what he is capable of bringing each week.


31. Chris Chambers (SD) 

Chambers is an under-the-radar receiver who hurts defenses every time he sees the field. Chambers runs sneaky routes that give quarterbacks a big, but hidden window to throw to. Chambers is probably the most aware receiver in the league and has the second best (behind Randy Moss) ability to make a catch on the sidelines.

He brings precision to his game and despite his 5'11" height, can make acrobatic catches that many receivers can't make. Chambers can take over a game through the air; but with all of the talent on that offense, it is hard to get him the ball that many times in one game.


32. Vincent Jackson (SD)

Jackson always produces well when he is involved in a game. His height and speed keeps defenses guessing whether he will keep running or just stop and go inside.

Jackson is a great receiver in the deep passing game and has made a ton of big plays for that offense the past few years. He positions his body nicely to make the best play on the ball and usually wins.

Jackson has yet to show his reliability down the stretch of an NFL season though; but if Jackson can produce up to his full potential, then the San Diego offense should be in good shape the entire year.


33. Eddie Royal (DEN)

Royal is a great route runner with tons of speed and potential. He is not afraid to go across the middle of the field and look for the big play. His motor is always running and I've never seen him complain on the field. He is a good, hard-working individual with a humble but deadly approach to his game.

His feet skills are amazing and can burn any defender with one change in direction. I don't see any reason why Royal should produce again this year. I don't think Cutler made this kid good, Royal is just an athlete.


34. Issac Bruce (SF) 

Bruce and Hill might be an under-looked duo in the league this year. Bruce has the ability to keep chains moving on drives, especially on third down situations. His routes are precise and his hands are softer than toilet paper. He understands the game and is a good leader for the young receivers on that squad. He can put up numbers on a consistent basis and is the 'safety net' of the receiving core. Davis might develop into his own this year, which might take attention off of Bruce too. Bruce might have a quietly successful season; but if he does, then San Francisco should be a contender.


35. Mark Clayton (BAL) 

Clayton really started to come into his own last year. He had struggled to develop his game when he first entered the league, but became a bigger target for Flacco as the season moved on.

He can break away from tackles while keeping his speed and direction. His ball handling skills has improved over the years and has finally figured out how to separate himself from defenders. Clayton and Mason could be two of the most reliable receivers next season, which is all Flacco needs to move this offense in the right direction.


36. Devin Hester (CHI) 

If Devin Hester is going to develop into the receiver Chicago wants him to, this is the year. He has shown signs of becoming a solid receiver for this ball club. Chicago needs to show more confidence in his game if they want him to take over as a long-term target.

Hester can run away from anyone covering him and is not afraid to go up and grab a ball. He can take a hit without loosing much speed. I think he has the potential to reach Steve Smith status later in his career; but overall, he is a number two at best.


37. Miles Austin (DAL) 

This should be a player on everybody's sleeper list. Austin has some of the best hands I've seen from any up-and-coming receiver. He has the speed and quickness to run sharp and precise routes and a very tough mindset.

There is nothing to hate about Miles Austin other than he hasn't played a lot. I believe he has taken Patrick Crayton's role as the number two, but I think he has earned it. Another receiver who reminds me of Hines Ward, except can he block like him?


38. Percy Harvin (MIN) 

I still think Percy is the best receiver coming out of the draft. He is fast, explosive, smart, tough, and focused.

Adding Harvin's athletic ability with players like Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, Bernard Berrian, and dare I say Brett Favre should help bring confidence to his game. All the talk is on Maclin being the top rookie receiver, but I like Harvin.


39. Steve Breaston (ARI) 

Breaston proved he can take over as the number two receiver if Boldin wants to leave. He torched way too many defenders in the slot and could go up and grab a ball with most defenders.

If Breaston turns a corner, don't bother chasing him because he is gone. The Arizona receiving core is eerily similar to the triple threat core Minnesota had with Moss, Carter, and Reed.

Breaston has the ability to be a number two for many organizations, but having him as the slot is perfect for his style of play. A vertical route runner with speed and hands makes Breaston a third threat for most defenses he faces.


40. Johnnie Lee Higgins (OAK)—Great speed and mindset can turn this hardworking kid into a go-to guy in the future.

41. Lance Moore (NO)—The numbers he produced last season shouldn't surprise you. He can snag any ball in his range, the problem is his range is not that big.

42. Anthony Gonzalez (IND)—Great hands and route running skills are nice to have, but Peyton as your quarterback helps a lot too.

43. Greg Camarillo (MIA)—I'm actually going to pay attention to Camarillo this year. He surprised many last season with his game, but can he do it again?

44. Kevin Curtis (PHI)—If he can stay healthy on a consistent basis, I'd put him in the top 25. He is a big play threat when he is on the field. The problem, he can never stay on the field.

45. Joey Galloway (NE)—He has been a number one every team he has played for. His talent goes without saying, now adding him as the slot in New England almost seems unfair.

46. Tedd Ginn Jr (MIA)—Could have a breakout year, but Camarillo and Bess are breathing down his neck for the number one spot. If he can produce big plays more often, then his starting role should be fine.

47. Justin Gage (TEN)—The most under-rated route runner in the league and can separate himself from most defenders with his height. A breakout year from Gage is expected from me and having him as low as No. 47 is actually an insult.

48. Mushin Muhammad (CAR)—A reliable veteran for a team who is hungry for a ring. Anytime you add those things together you always get something good.

49. Kevin Walter (HOU)—A hard worker who really found his way into the offense last year. He can become a reliable number two, but must keep up with the up-beat tempo Houston's offense has for an entire NFL season.

50. Antwaan Randle EL (WAS)—Another proven receiver with a ton of talent. He can throw, catch, and run. He seems like the perfect utility player for many offenses.



51. Donnie Avery (STL)

52. Rashied Davis (CHI)

53. Davone Bess (MIA)

54. Michael Jenkins (ATL)

55. Bryant Johnson (DET)

56. Brandon Jones (SF)

57. Darrius Heyward-Bey (OAK)

58. Patrick Crayton (DAL)

59. Jason Hill (SF)

60. Harry Douglas (ATL)


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