B/R NFL 1000: Ranking the Top 100 Wide Receivers from 2014

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterJune 15, 2015

B/R NFL 1000: Ranking the Top 100 Wide Receivers from 2014

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Who is the best player in the NFL? Not based on the last 10 years or one game, but over the last year: Who was the best? 

    Good luck answering that one without starting a fight, right?

    Well, that's what the NFL 1000 aims to do by scouting, grading and then ranking the best players at each position before putting them in order and breaking ties to come up with the top 1,000 players. No narratives, no fantasy football points, no "QBR"—this is cold, hard scouting.

    You can find rankings for all other positions on our B/R NFL 1000 main page.

    The B/R 1000 metric is based heavily on scouting each player and grading the key criteria for each position. The criteria are weighted according to importance for a possible best score of 100.

    Potential is not taken into consideration, nor are career accomplishments.

    Wide receivers are judged, quite simply, on hands (50 points), route running (25), speed (20) and their value as starters or backups (5).

    In the case of ties, our team asked, "Which player would I rather have on my team?" and set the rankings accordingly.

    Subjective? Yes. But ties are no fun.

    Each player was scouted by me and a team of experienced evaluators (Dan Bazal, Cian Fahey, Dan Hope, Marshal Miller, Justis Mosqueda) with these key criteria in mind. The following scouting reports and grades are the work of months of film study from our team.

     

    All statistics from Pro Football Focus. Players' heights, weights and seasons played from NFL.com.

100-96. Nelson, Lee, Crabtree, Hartline, Wayne

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    Ron Antonelli/Getty Images

     

    100. David Nelson, Free Agent

    68/100

    Hands: 34/50; Route Running: 16/25; Speed: 15/20; Starter: 3/5

    The New York Jets decided to waive David Nelson (6’5”, 215 lbs, 5 seasons) after they acquired Percy Harvin in a trade from the Seattle Seahawks. Nelson started in five of the Jets' first seven games but was extremely unproductive. He only managed to catch eight balls for 65 yards in the six games he was on the field.  

    99. Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars

    69/100

    Hands: 29/50; Route Running: 19/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter: 4/5

    It wasn’t a rookie season to remember for Marqise Lee (6’0”, 192 lbs, 1 season). Inconsistency and injuries limited his explosive play to just a handful of games. Lee needs to develop better technique catching the ball, but his overall ability to run routes and work in space should allow him to develop into a quality receiver for the Jaguars over the long term.

    98. Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders

    70/100

    Hands: 31/50; Route Running: 19/25; Speed: 16/20; Starter: 4/5

    A pure possession receiver, Michael Crabtree (6’1”, 214 lbs, 6 seasons) struggled this past season to gain yards after the catch. He isn’t able to create enough separation to be an easy target on most of the routes he runs and has to rely heavily on his body positioning to seal off defenders. Crabtree will look to revitalize his career as he heads across the Bay Area to Oakland next season.

    97. Brian Hartline, Cleveland Browns

    70/100

    Hands: 32/50; Route Running: 19/25; Speed: 16/20; Starter: 3/5

    The career of Brian Hartline (6’2”, 200 lbs, 6 seasons) has been somewhat perplexing. The Miami Dolphins always appeared to expect more from him than they got and paid him accordingly. The 2014 season wasn’t spectacularly worse than what he had done in previous years, but the Dolphins decided to release him. Hartline suffered with drops, failed to consistently create separation underneath and offered no real threat deep. He wasn’t a good fit in Bill Lazor’s offense, to worsen matters.

    96. Reggie Wayne, Free Agent

    70/100

    Hands: 31/50; Route Running: 19/25; Speed: 16/20; Starter: 4/5

    Injuries and age brought Reggie Wayne’s (6’0”, 203 lbs, 14 seasons) career in Indianapolis to a disappointing end. A triceps injury appeared to negatively affect his ability to adjust to the football at the catch point. Wayne’s physical ability simply diminished to the point that he couldn’t consistently create separation against better defensive backs. Defenses began to focus more on T.Y. Hilton in 2014, not considering Wayne a threat.

95-91. Cruz, Parker, Colston, Ross, Shorts

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

     

    95. Victor Cruz, New York Giants

    71/100

    Hands: 25/50; Route Running: 23/25; Speed: 18/20; Starter: 5/5

    Victor Cruz (6’0”, 204 lbs, 5 seasons) barely had enough snaps this season to qualify for our list after going down with a knee injury in Week 6. Even before the injury, Cruz’ season wasn’t going as planned. He wasn’t able to get consistent separation while running his routes, and in only six games he dropped more passes this past season (6) than he did during the entire 2013 season. Cruz will look to have a bounce-back season and try to help the Giants return to the playoffs for the first time since winning the Super Bowl in 2011.

    94. Preston Parker, New York Giants

    72/100

    Hands: 35/50; Route Running: 18/25; Speed: 16/20; Starter: 3/5

    It’s unlikely that the New York Giants will ever look at Preston Parker (6’0”, 200 lbs, 4 seasons) as a potential starter, but they should be satisfied with his play in 2014. Parker provided some explosiveness and relatively big gains at times. His hands proved to be untrustworthy, though, and his overall ability as a receiving option is limited. The Giants invested a significant amount of money in a better version of Parker, Dwayne Harris, during the offseason.

    93. Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints

    72/100

    Hands: 31/50; Route Running: 20/25; Speed: 16/20; Starter: 5/5

    Marques Colston (6’4”, 225 lbs, 9 seasons) finished this past season with his lowest number of catches since 2008, and the second-fewest of his career. Even though he didn’t pull in as many balls as previous seasons, he made the most of his opportunities, racking up 15.3 yards per catch. He is a big-bodied wideout who can play physical at the line of scrimmage and use his size to create space for Drew Brees to throw the ball. Colston should figure heavily into the Saints passing attack for the upcoming 2015 season after they dealt away their two leading pass-catchers from a season ago, Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills.

    92. Jeremy Ross, Detroit Lions

    72/100

    Hands: 39/50; Route Running: 14/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter: 2/5

    Primarily used as a return man, Jeremy Ross (6’0”, 215 lbs, 3 seasons) can create explosive plays on offense if he gets the ball in space. He shows great short-area quickness and has the ability to make would-be tacklers miss. His route running is subpar, and he doesn’t have the size to wall off defenders when going across the middle.

    91. Cecil Shorts, Houston Texans

    73/100

    Hands: 32/50; Route Running: 20/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter: 4/5

    Cecil Shorts (6’0”, 202 lbs, 4 seasons) dealt with some health issues in 2014 but can’t attribute his poor performances to those. Shorts didn’t receive much help from his quarterback, but he also showed off his limitations by making so few impact plays while also struggling to catch the ball consistently. Shorts had seven dropped passes while catching just 53.

90-86. Hurns, Nicks, Holmes, Wright, Morgan

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

     

    90. Allen Hurns, Jacksonville Jaguars

    73/100

    Hands: 34/50; Route Running: 18/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter: 4/5

    Allen Hurns (6’1”, 195 lbs, 1 season) proved to be a very impressive undrafted free agent for the Jacksonville Jaguars during his rookie season. His primary issues came with dropping the ball, with both focus drops and struggling to adjust to inaccurate passes from Blake Bortles. While he was inconsistent catching the ball, his ball skills on the whole offered potential, while his athleticism and route running were relatively impressive.

    89. Hakeem Nicks, Tennessee Titans

    73/100

    Hands: 36/50; Route Running: 18/25; Speed: 16/20; Starter: 3/5

    Coming into this past season, Hakeem Nicks (6’1”, 208 lbs, 6 seasons) was looking to rejuvenate his career in Indianapolis after leaving the New York Giants on a sour note. Nicks wasn’t able to duplicate the success he had early in his career and had to battle each and every week just to get onto the field. His inability to run crisp routes and create separation made it difficult for Andrew Luck to generate a rapport with him on the field. Nicks will be playing for his third team in three years, as he joined the Tennessee Titans this offseason.

    88. Andre Holmes, Oakland Raiders

    74/100

    Hands: 36/50; Route Running: 18/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter: 3/5

    Andre Holmes (6’4”, 210 lbs, 3 seasons) has great length and athleticism with the fluidity to adjust to the football in the air. He is primarily a deep-route-runner because of his lanky frame, but that’s not his biggest issue. Holmes needs to show greater consistency catching the football, as he had five drops and just 47 receptions in 2014.

    87. Jarius Wright, Minnesota Vikings

    74/100

    Hands: 34/50; Route Running: 19/25; Speed: 18/20; Starter: 3/5

    Because of the failures of Cordarrelle Patterson to this point in his career, Jarius Wright (5’10”, 180 lbs, 3 seasons) played a much greater role in the Minnesota Vikings offense than anyone expected last season. He showed off some versatility as a route-runner and explosiveness with the football in his hands, but inconsistency catching the football marred his potential breakout season.

    86. Josh Morgan, New Orleans Saints

    74/100

    Hands: 37/50; Route Running: 18/25; Speed: 16/20; Starter: 3/5

    Josh Morgan’s (6’1”, 220 lbs, 7 seasons) one and only season in Chicago was a forgettable one. He struggled to get on the field, and when he got some playing time he didn't make an impact. At this point in his career, Morgan is relegated to running short, underneath routes. He lacks the speed or size to be effective downfield.

85-81. Avant, Woods, Smith, Butler, Fuller

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

     

    85. Jason Avant, Kansas City Chiefs

    74/100

    Hands: 39/50; Route Running: 18/25; Speed: 15/20; Starter: 2/5

    The best way I can describe Jason Avant (6’0”, 210 lbs, 10 seasons) as a football player is “consistently average.” He doesn’t do anything spectacular and isn’t going to blow anyone away with his speed or athletic ability. Avant does all the little things that go unnoticed by almost everyone. He is an excellent blocker and never takes a play off, which is how he remains on the field as much as he does.

    84. Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills

    74/100

    Hands: 33/50; Route Running: 20/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter: 4/5

    Robert Woods (6’0”, 190 lbs, 2 seasons) made excellent strides in the right direction in his second season in the NFL. He is the perfect complement to the explosive Sammy Watkins. Woods excels on underneath routes opened up by Watkins' ability to stretch the defense. If the Bills can have some more consistent play out of the quarterback position this upcoming season, we could see Woods take another step toward becoming an elite wide receiver.

    83. Torrey Smith, San Francisco 49ers

    74/100

    Hands: 30/50; Route Running: 21/25; Speed: 18/20; Starter: 5/5

    One of the best deep route-runners in the NFL, Torrey Smith (6’0”, 205 lbs, 4 seasons) has made a name for himself by creating big-time plays down the field. Teams were able to adjust a little to Smith’s game this past season, holding him to a career low in yards per catch (15.9). Smith will need run better short-to-intermediate routes to be a consistent target on every down. He does, however, know his strengths, which probably went into his decision to sign with the San Francisco 49ers, who needed a deep threat at wide receiver.

    82. Brice Butler, Oakland Raiders

    75/100

    Hands: 37/50; Route Running: 18/25; Speed: 18/20; Starter: 2/5

    The Oakland Raiders were in need of better wide receiver play in 2014, so Brice Butler (6’3”, 210 lbs, 2 seasons) may feel aggrieved that he didn’t see more time on the field. Butler had limited opportunities, catching 21 passes while playing 278 snaps. Butler had two drops, but he did show some ability to naturally adjust to the ball, using his size to make catches over most defensive backs. Butler is an intriguing player but needs to prove he can be effective at this level on a snap-by-snap basis.

    81. Corey Fuller, Detroit Lions

    76/100

    Hands: 41/50; Route Running: 15/25; Speed: 18/20; Starter: 2/5

    A sixth-round pick of the 2013 NFL draft, Corey Fuller (6’2”, 200 lbs, 1 season) finally saw the field in 2014 for the Detroit Lions. He didn’t play a big role, but the big receiver proved to be reliable at the catch point, even if he was still very raw in his routes. To stay on the field as such a limited route-runner, Fuller needed to be a better athlete. Therefore, he needs to improve as a route-runner to earn his spot.

80-76. Brown, Gabriel, Bryant, White, Bowe

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    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

     

    80. Philly Brown, Carolina Panthers

    76/100

    Hands: 41/50; Route Running: 16/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter: 2/5

    Philly Brown (5’11”, 180 lbs, 1 season) isn’t a refined route-runner or big body. He can’t dominate at the catch point or create separation on a consistent basis. Because of that, he carried out a limited role for the Carolina Panthers offense in 2014. Straight-line speed is what allowed Brown to create separation downfield when given opportunities. Brown needs to develop his routes to become a viable starter, but his natural catching ability should give him a chance.

    79. Taylor Gabriel, Cleveland Browns

    76/100

    Hands: 37/50; Route Running: 18/25; Speed: 18/20; Starter: 3/5

    In an ideal world, the Cleveland Browns likely wouldn’t have looked to rely on Taylor Gabriel (5’8”, 167 lbs, 1 season) as much as they did during the 2014 season. The undrafted rookie exceeded expectations for the Browns within his role, but his limitations were also evident. Gabriel lacks the physical talent to be a starter in the NFL, while he’s not consistent enough with his route running and ball skills to compensate for that. Because of his size, Gabriel will likely look to become a slot receiver over the coming seasons.

    78. Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers

    76/100

    Hands: 36/50; Route Running: 18/25; Speed: 18/20; Starter: 4/5

    It took Martavis Bryant (6’4”, 211 lbs, 1 season) a relatively long time to earn the trust of the Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff. Once he saw the field, there were plenty of highlight plays and negative plays to support either side of the argument for his place. Bryant made several spectacular catches for big plays, but he also had four drops that appeared to be a result of a lack of focus. Those drops and his inconsistent route running were all that held him back as a quality starter.

    77. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons

    76/100

    Hands: 34/50; Route Running: 20/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter: 5/5

    Roddy White (6’0”, 211, 10 seasons) might be past his prime, but when healthy he is still a reliable target for Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons offense. At age 33, White managed to haul in 80 balls to go along with seven touchdowns. He doesn’t get as much separation as he did a few years ago when he racked up two straight 100-catch seasons, but he is an excellent route-runner who understands angles and body positioning. White has always had a small issue with drops, and this past year was no exception, as he let 10 balls fall to the ground. It is only a matter of time before the Falcons will need to start looking for White's replacement, but for now fans should enjoy watching arguably the best wide receiver in Falcons history.

    76. Dwayne Bowe, Cleveland Browns

    76/100

    Hands: 35/50; Route Running: 20/25; Speed: 16/20; Starter: 5/5

    It would be easy to suggest that Dwayne Bowe’s (6’2”, 221, 8 seasons) career is coming to an end based on his play last season. However, while Bowe suffered from too many drops of different kinds last year, his muted production was largely a result of his quarterback’s reluctance to push the ball to him downfield. Bowe still understands how to get open and has enough physical talent to exploit defensive backs both in space and in tight.

75-71. Adams, Washington, Bailey, Cotchery, Aiken

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    75. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers 

    76/100

     Hands; 36/50; Route Running: 20/25; Speed 16/20; Starter: 4/5

    It took Davante Adams (6’1”, 212 lbs, 1 season) longer than he would have expected to take Jarrett Boykin’s role as the Packers’ third receiving option. Once he supplanted the veteran, Adams regularly highlighted his potential by running crisp routes and showing some strength to manipulate defensive backs at the line of scrimmage and through his breaks. An overall lack of explosiveness limited how effective Adams could be, while he needs to be more reliable in catching the ball.

    74. Nate Washington, Houston Texans

    77/100

    Hands: 37/50; Route Running: 19/25; Speed 17/20; Starter 4/5

    Nate Washington (6’1”, 183 lbs, 10 seasons) had arguably the best season of his career in 2013 but couldn’t match it in 2014. Poor quarterback play didn’t help him, but Washington struggled to catch the ball with the same consistency of the season before. He had four drops and 40 receptions. At this stage of his career, Washington’s speed is diminishing, but he can still be a valuable possession receiver if he shows more consistency at the catch point.

    73. Stedman Bailey, St. Louis Rams

    77/100

    Hands: 37/50; Route Running: 19/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter 4/5

    Stedman Bailey (5’10”, 194 lbs, 2 seasons) has a huge amount of potential that hasn’t been realized in the NFL just yet. His overall explosiveness stands out on the field as he seamlessly moves through his routes and pulls away from defensive backs in space. Bailey isn’t a big player, but his ability to adjust at the catch point and pull the ball in is evident. He needs to show more consistency catching the ball and prove his quality in different scenarios to rank higher on this list.

    72. Jerricho Cotchery, Carolina Panthers

    77/100

    Hands: 41/50; Route Running: 18/25; Speed: 15/20; Starter: 3/10

    The Carolina Panthers were likely expecting more from Jerricho Cotchery (6’1”, 205 lbs, 11 seasons) when they signed him last year. He had impressed with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2013 but failed to sustain that effectiveness in a more prominent role with the Panthers. He had a few too many drops, and he lacked the explosiveness to take advantage of his route-running ability. Cotchery is still a good depth option, but his days as a valuable starter are gone.

    71. Kamar Aiken, Baltimore Ravens

    77/100

    Hands: 41/50; Route Running: 17/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter: 2/5

    This past season was the first year Kamar Aiken (6’2”, 215 lbs, 3 seasons) was able to see some quality playing time in his short career. He was a bit of a surprise for the Baltimore Ravens and showed he could be a valuable asset to their offensive attack. Aiken doesn’t have explosive speed but has solid hands and could become a good possession receiver if the situation is right.

70-66. T. Austin, Kerley, Amendola, Patterson, Lloyd

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    70. Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams

    78/100

    Hands: 38/50; Route Running: 17/25; Speed: 19/20; Starter: 4/5

    Tavon Austin (5’8”, 176 lbs, 2 seasons) has benefited more from the St. Louis Rams’ reputation than anyone over the course of his career. Too often his failings are blamed on the Rams’ situation or how he was used. 2014, like 2013, highlighted that Austin himself is most to blame for his failings in the NFL so far. His speed is only evident in a straight line, so his routes are very limited, while his hands have proved to be consistently inconsistent in the NFL.

    69. Jeremy Kerley, New York Jets

    78/100

    Hands: 38/50; Route Running: 20/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter: 3/5

    A few too many drops and limited ball skills to compensate for his small frame make Jeremy Kerley (5’9”, 188 lbs, 4 seasons) a replaceable player for the New York Jets. Kerley is explosive and dangerous working laterally and runs good routes to gain positioning downfield. He simply lacks the physical tools and consistency to even be assured of a slot role in the Jets’ revamped receiving corps.

    68. Danny Amendola, New England Patriots

    78/100

    Hands: 37/50; Route Running: 21/25; Speed: 16/20; Starter 4/5

    It’s safe to say that Danny Amendola (5’11”, 195 lbs, 6 seasons) hasn’t lived up to expectations since signing with the New England Patriots as a priority free agent. 2014 wasn’t a breakout year by any measure, but he did play an important role in the Super Bowl. Amendola is a bit-part player in the Patriots offense. He has limited opportunities to excel, and when those opportunities come with too many drops and too few explosive plays, it’s hard to see him earning a greater role moving forward.

    67. Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings

    78/100

    Hands: 42/50; Route Running: 15/25; Speed: 18/20; Starter: 3/5

    2015 is going to be a make-or-break year for Cordarrelle Patterson (6’2”, 220 lbs, 2 seasons). At least, that’s the hope. 2014 may have been the year that ended his journey toward being anything more than a gadget player in the NFL. There are two Pattersons: the explosive, decisive and exceptionally dangerous player who appears when he has possession of the ball, and the timid, uncertain and slow player who runs seemingly directionless routes without it. Patterson was benched in 2014 simply because he couldn’t get open as a natural receiver. He has a lot of work to do to avoid the athlete-over-receiver tag.

    66. Brandon Lloyd, Free Agent

    79/100

    Hands: 41/50; Route Running: 19/25; Speed: 16/20; Starter: 3/5

    Colin Kaepernick and Brandon Lloyd (6’0”, 200 lbs, 11 seasons) never really fit together as a partnership. The veteran receiver returned to the NFL and showed off impressive quickness with the route-running ability to set up deep shots down the sideline and on post plays. However, Kaepernick isn’t an anticipatory thrower or someone who will consistently get the ball to his receivers on time and with good accuracy. Lloyd’s opportunities were very limited, as he shared snaps with other receivers and missed opportunities because of his quarterback.

65-61. Hester, Jennings, Quick, Benjamin, M. Austin

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    65. Devin Hester, Atlanta Falcons

    79/100

    Hands: 40/50; Route Running: 17/25; Speed: 19/20; Starter 3/5

    Devin Hester (5'11", 190 lbs, 9 seasons) had quite possibly his best offensive game as a professional in Week 1 of this past season. He was electrifying, versatile and productive, racking up 99 receiving yards. It seemed as if the Falcons had cracked the code that the Chicago Bears never could. After that week, the Falcons didn’t utilize Hester the same way, and his production fell off. He hasn’t ever been the best route-runner, or had the best hands, but he is extremely dangerous when he has the ball, whether it be as a result of a running play, screen pass or a slant across the middle of the field.

     

    64. Greg Jennings, Miami Dolphins 

    79/100

    Hands: 40/50; Route Running: 21/25; Speed: 15/20; Starter 3/5

    It wasn’t a good year for Greg Jennings (6’0”, 195 lbs, 9 seasons) by his high standards. The arrival of Teddy Bridgewater should have rejuvenated him, as Jennings excels running intermediate routes while Bridgewater excels throwing to them. Jennings’ routes proved to be just as effective as ever, but his explosiveness dropped off, and his ball skills were unusually inconsistent. He failed to track the ball properly on a seemingly regular basis, while on some plays he seemed to give up early on passes he could have caught.

     

    63. Brian Quick, St. Louis Rams

    79/100

    Hands: 40/50; Route Running: 18/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter: 4/5

    The development of Brian Quick (6’3”, 218 lbs, 3 seasons) came late rather than never for the St. Louis Rams. In his third season, Quick showed off greater consistency tracking the football on routes down the field. His route running is not varied, but he is effective enough on some routes to be dangerous with his big frame and solid speed. Quick had two drops with just 25 receptions, so his hands still need to improve, but his overall contributions were much greater in 2014 than they had been in the first two years.

     

    62. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers

    79/100

    Hands: 38/50; Route Running: 20/25; Speed: 16/20; Starter: 5/5

    You never knew what you were going to get from Kelvin Benjamin (6’5”, 240 lbs, 1 season) during the 2014 season. While the bulk of his stats for the season as a whole were impressive in a vacuum, they came on a disproportionate number of targets. Benjamin failed at the catch point way too often and showed a reluctance to consistently run his routes through. His sheer physical talent made him a matchup problem, but he needs to develop more consistency and better hands to reach his full potential.

     

    61. Miles Austin, Philadelphia Eagles

    80/100

    Hands: 40/50; Route Running: 20/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter: 3/5

    The career of Miles Austin (6’2”, 215 lbs, 9 seasons) was significantly derailed by injuries before last season. He proved his health to an extent with the Cleveland Browns in 2014, but his overall effectiveness is limited now compared to what it was during his best years. He can still get in and out of his breaks effectively but is no longer the explosive threat in space that he once was.

60-56. Jackson, Marshall, Royal, Decker, Richardson

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    60. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    80/100

    Hands: 37/50 ; Route Running: 21/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter: 5/5

    It was a difficult year for Vincent Jackson (6’5”, 230 lbs, 10 seasons) in 2014. He wasn’t aided by playing on a poor offense with poor quarterback play, but Jackson continually dropping the football was the biggest issue. The 32-year-old receiver appears to be losing some of his fluidity to adjust to the ball in the air at this stage of his career. He is still a good route-runner and impressive straight-line receiver who should expect to rebound with Jameis Winston throwing him passes.

     

    59. Brandon Marshall, New York Jets

    80/100

    Hands: 37/50; Route Running: 22/25; Speed: 16/20; Starter: 5/5

    Brandon Marshall (6’4”, 230 lbs, 9 seasons) was mostly his typical self in 2014. He showed off his usual fluid, quick and precise routes while using his size and ball skills to beat defensive backs to the football on a regular basis. He also made his typical helping of spectacular plays while being a key cog of the offense. Marshall dealt with injuries, though, and they may have contributed to his inconsistency catching the football. The New York Jets acquired the receiver with the hope that he will return to his previous well-rounded form.

     

    58. Eddie Royal, Chicago Bears

    81/100

    Hands: 38/50; Route Running: 21/25; Speed: 18/20; Starter: 4/5

    Eddie Royal (5’10”, 185 lbs, 7 seasons) is an undersized, athletically underwhelming wide receiver who continually puts up solid numbers. He makes his living underneath and always seems to make would-be tacklers miss, allowing him to tack on a few extra yards after the catch. He was one of four Chargers to record over 50 catches and 700 receiving yards this past season.

     

    57. Eric Decker, New York Jets

    81/100

    Hands: 38/50; Route Running: 22/25; Speed: 16/20; Starter: 5/5

    After leaving the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning for the New York Jets in free agency before this past season, Eric Decker (6’3”, 214 lbs, 5 seasons) proved that he can be an effective wide receiver in this league no matter who the quarterback is. His 74 catches nearly doubled the next closest receiver on the team (Jeremy Kerley). If the Jets can get more consistent play out of their quarterback and other wideouts, then Decker should be even more successful in 2015.

     

    56. Paul Richardson, Seattle Seahawks

    81/100

    Hands: 42/50; Route Running: 17/25; Speed: 19/20: Starter: 3/5

    Paul Richardson (6’0”, 183 lbs, 1 season) didn’t play much as a rookie, but he did impress when the Seattle Seahawks gave him opportunities. Richardson had limited ball skills and didn’t run a variety of routes with great effectiveness. Instead, he showed off his straight-line explosiveness and fluid quickness to create separation both underneath and deep down the field. Richardson would have likely played a role in the Super Bowl and NFC Championship Game had he not suffered the second torn ACL of his career in the divisional round, which ended his season.

55-51. Matthews, Harvin, Kearse, Johnson, Tate

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    55. Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles

    81/100

    Hands: 41/50; Route Running: 19/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter: 4/5

    Although Jordan Matthews (6’3”, 212 lbs, 1 season) turned in good production for the Philadelphia Eagles during his rookie season, his performances on the field weren’t overly impressive. Matthews suffered with a few too many drops, five with 67 receptions, while also struggling to separate from man coverage on a consistent basis. A lack of quickness and explosiveness meant that Matthews was often too reliant on being schemed open by the system instead of creating his own separation with his individual traits.

     

    54. Percy Harvin, Buffalo Bills

    81/100

    Hands: 37/50; Route Running: 20/25; Speed: 19/20; Starter 5/5

    Much was expected of Percy Harvin (5’11”, 184 lbs, 6 seasons) entering the 2014 season. After an enthralling performance in the Super Bowl, a healthy Harvin was expected to be a focal point of a dangerous Seattle Seahawks offense. Instead, the Seahawks tried to force the ball to Harvin, which simply didn’t work. They traded him to the New York Jets, where he played more like a typical wide receiver but struggled in that role, too. Harvin dropped too many passes and didn’t make enough explosive plays with the ball to justify his hype in 2014.

     

    53. Jermaine Kearse, Seattle Seahawks

    82/100

    Hands: 42/50; Route Running: 19/25; Speed: 17/20; Starter: 4/5

    After flashing a lot of talent as a third receiver for the Seahawks in 2013, Jermaine Kearse (6’1”, 209 lbs, 3 seasons) found himself inserted into the starting lineup in 2014. While he is a talented receiver, his limitations were exposed to a greater degree when asked to consistently beat better cornerbacks. Kearse failed too often at the catch point for a receiver who flashes such impressive ball skills, and his overall athleticism can make it difficult for him to separate. He is still a quality complementary piece overall, but he probably shouldn’t be a starter.

     

    52. Andre Johnson, Indianapolis Colts

    82/100

    Hands: 40/50; Route Running: 21/25; Speed: 16/20; Starter: 5/5

    Drops marred Andre Johnson’s (6’3”, 230 lbs, 12 seasons) final season in Houston. Some of Johnson’s nine drops were a result of trying to compensate for poor quarterback play, but too many were focus drops where he simply let the ball go through his hands. Johnson is still an outstanding route-runner with enough physical talent to be a high-quality starter for the Indianapolis Colts in 2015.

     

    51. Brandon Tate, Cincinnati Bengals

    82/100

    Hands: 45/50; Route Running: 16/25; Speed: 18/20; Starter: 3/5

    It’s rare for Brandon Tate (6’1”, 195 lbs, 6 seasons) to see the field on offense, but injuries paved the way for him in 2014. Tate showed off reliable hands on a small sample size, but his technical ability at the catch point and as a route-runner left a lot to be desired. He is a linear athlete whose top-end speed is still evident but no longer as impressive as it once was. Tate is a special teams player who likely enjoyed the best stretch of his career on offense in 2014.

50. Chris Hogan, Buffalo Bills

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    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Hands

    45/50

    Any receiver who has limited athleticism and limited route-running ability must be effective at the catch point. Chris Hogan (6’1”, 220 lbs, 3 seasons) proved that he can be consistent catching the ball in the NFL last season. His size aids him against smaller cornerbacks, allowing him to gain leverage with his positioning and strength, while his tracking of the ball through the air makes him a natural receiver.

     

    Route Running

    18/25

    Hogan has very limited upside as a route-runner. His feet can be slow at times and his overall speed hampers what he can do. If faced with man coverage against any of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, Hogan shouldn't be the primary target. Where Hogan is effective is against zone coverage. He can find soft spots and be effective working toward the sideline when the defense drops off.

     

    Speed

    16/20

    An agile player with very limited short-area burst and long speed, Hogan is essentially an oversized slot receiver who needs to use his size against better cover cornerbacks because of his lack of athleticism.

     

    Starter

    3/5

    It was a breakout season for Hogan in 2014. He may not have set the league alight, but it was his first real opportunity to prove that he belonged, and he took it. He will likely always be a depth option, but you can carve out a long career like that.

     

    Overall

    82/100

49. Steve Johnson, San Diego Chargers

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Hands

    43/50

    Steve Johnson (6’2”, 207 lbs, 7 seasons) likely expected to play a much greater role in San Francisco during the 2014 season. On roughly 300 snaps, he caught 35 passes for 435 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson showed off good consistency catching the ball, dropping just two passes. More significant was his ability to adjust to Colin Kaepernick’s inconsistent ball placement and uncomfortable velocity. Kaepernick doesn’t throw an easy pass because he is reckless with his mechanics; Johnson didn’t appear to be too concerned with that.

     

    Route Running

    20/25

    The most unorthodox route-runner in the NFL was once again at his creative best in 2014. It wasn’t something that was highlighted as much in the 49ers offense because of the team’s quarterback, but Johnson was able to comfortably create separation and set up defenders trying to cover him with relative ease.

     

    Speed

    16/20

    While he has never had great long speed or acceleration, Johnson has always been a fluid mover with quick feet. He isn’t as quick as he once was, but he is still more than capable of fooling the better defensive backs in the NFL.

     

    Starter

    4/5

    There may not be a better quarterback in the NFL than Philip Rivers to get the most out of Johnson. With his anticipatory throws and consistent ball placement, Johnson’s route running should be highlighted with regularity. Johnson hasn’t played with a quarterback of Rivers' caliber in his career.

     

    Overall

    83/100

48. Riley Cooper, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Hands

    45/50

    While Riley Cooper (6’4”, 230 lbs, 5 seasons) has many flaws in his skill set—catching the football isn’t one of them. In fact, Cooper is reliant on his ability to catch the ball to be productive. He can consistently win at the catch point by using his size and bulk to leverage positioning against even the bigger starting defensive backs in the NFL. Cooper didn’t really fit with the Eagles offense in 2014 because he needs a quarterback who can throw to him with precise ball placement. When he gets that, he can show off his impressive hands.

     

    Route Running

    18/25

    Cooper is a limited route-runner. He should probably only be used on vertical routes and slants or screens, but his athleticism isn’t great enough to justify that adjusted usage. Cooper has decent foot frequency but lacks the upper-body fluidity to get in and out of breaks quickly.

     

    Speed

    16/20

    An inability to separate against man coverage undoubtedly frustrated the Philadelphia Eagles last season. Cooper carries too much weight to be a burner downfield, and he lacks the fluidity to show great quickness underneath. His short-area burst is impressive enough for him to have limited effectiveness on routes such as screens.

     

    Starter

    4/5

    Even though he’s not an ideal starter for the Eagles, Cooper has enough talent to justify his spot on the field if used properly. He’ll likely never be a high-quality starter but should be a reliable replacement option as a third or fourth receiver.

     

    Overall

    83/100

47. James Jones, Free Agent

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Hands

    42/50

    As the Raiders’ primary receiver, James Jones (6’1”, 200 lbs, 8 seasons) saw a large number of targets in 2014. Many of those were uncatchable, but the receiver was able to consistently offer his quarterback a wide catch radius and the ability to adjust to the football against tight coverage. His sideline receptions in particular stood out, as his feet and hands worked in concert with each other. Jones understands how to use his size and strength to gain leverage at the catch point.

     

    Route Running

    21/25

    He is a versatile receiver who can work the middle of the field and set up deep routes against the better cornerbacks in the NFL. Playing with Derek Carr in the Oakland Raiders offense limited how much of that could be seen on targets.

     

    Speed

    16/20

    Even in his prime, Jones never had great speed. He had enough straight-line speed to be a deep threat, but his quickness and short-area burst weren't a strength. In 2014, he still could've been a deep threat but was even more reliant on winning at the catch point to compensate for limited separation.

     

    Starter

    4/5

    James Jones can still be a quality starter in the NFL, but the Raiders clearly wanted to move forward with more youth at the position. He can still be an impact player as the second or third option on a contending team.

     

    Overall

    83/100

46. Rueben Randle, New York Giants

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Hands

    43/50

    Rueben Randle (6’2”, 208 lbs, 3 seasons) can be a frustrating wide receiver. He is a talented player who can make very difficult receptions against tight coverage down the field. However, his consistency making those plays isn’t good enough to truly offer value to his team. Randle was only credited with four outright drops last year, but he left too many opportunities out on the field by not beating defensive backs to the ball.

     

    Route Running

    19/25

    For a player of such size, Randle has an impressive ability to run routes. He doesn’t sink into his breaks, but instead relies on quick, precise feet with fluid athleticism to turn away from tight coverage and work his way through zone coverage. Randle is too inconsistent setting up his deep routes, which can often cost him space downfield.

     

    Speed

    17/20

    Randle has above-average all-around speed without any great individual trait. He is more reliant on winning at the catch point because of his limited overall athleticism.

     

    Starter

    4/5

    The Giants will be hoping that Victor Cruz can be fully healthy coming back from his knee injury. If Cruz is healthy, Randle will likely be forced to compete with Dwayne Harris for his spot outside in three-receiver sets.

     

    Overall

    83/100

45. Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Hands

    43/50

    Donte Moncrief (6’2”, 221 lbs, 1 season) is a reliable catcher of the football, but he should get more out of his size in terms of adjusting to the football. Moncrief shows off natural catching ability when put in space but allows defensive backs to dictate too often when trying to fight for position on the ball against tight coverage. He dropped two passes while catching 37.

     

    Route Running

    18/25

    The most notable aspect of Moncrief’s play is how he releases from the line of scrimmage. Too much hesitation makes him vulnerable to cornerbacks who are willing to engage him quickly at the snap and punish his chest. Moncrief, on the whole, can show quickness through his breaks, but he can also get too sloppy and show off limited intelligence when setting up routes.

     

    Speed

    18/20

    As he showed on a number of occasions in 2014, Moncrief has the long speed to create big plays down the field. He shows off an easy stride that allows him to run with awareness, and even though he’s not exceptionally fluid, he is able to change direction with ease. Moncrief’s short-area burst is impressive but not outstanding.

     

    Starter

    4/5

    Moncrief’s play during his rookie season suggested he would eventually become a starter for the Indianapolis Colts, but the offseason moves made by general manager Ryan Grigson suggest otherwise. He could quickly find himself behind Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton and Phillip Dorsett.

     

    Overall

    83/100

44. Marlon Brown, Baltimore Ravens

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Hands

    45/50

    Long receivers with strength in the NFL need to show off an ability to use that strength at the catch point to be effective. Marlon Brown (6’5”, 214 lbs, 2 seasons) is still developing to the point that he can dominate defensive backs with his size, but his ball skills and consistency catching the ball are already very impressive. He can work back to the ball or pull it in over his shoulder when given opportunities downfield.

     

    Route Running

    19/25

    Brown is not a sharp cutter or exceptionally fluid athlete, but he can escape tight coverage by using his size and overall athleticism. He understands how to subtly lean on defensive backs before releasing in the opposite direction. He doesn’t make it easy to defend sideline routes by being impatient early in his routes. Where Brown really needs to improve is against zone coverage. He needs to show better awareness and decisiveness to help his quarterback.

     

    Speed

    16/20

    A long strider with the ability to push his way downfield in a hurry, Brown is best-suited to run vertical as opposed to horizontal routes because of his athleticism, but he isn’t necessarily a limited linear athlete. His quickness and short-area burst likely won’t get better than they already are.

     

    Starter

    3/5

    It’s possible Brown will be the Ravens’ most important receiver next season after the departure of Torrey Smith. However, he’s largely still unproven at this point.

     

    Overall

    83/100

43. Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Hands

    40/50

    Steve Smith (5’9”, 195 lbs, 14 seasons) was the Baltimore Ravens’ primary receiving target last year. He showed off the ability to make receptions all over the field, whether it was a crucial third-down play over the middle of the field or a deep sideline grab against tight coverage. The only problem Smith had in 2014 was his consistency. He had too many drops—even when considering how involved in the offense he was.

     

    Route Running

    21/25

    Footwork is still what stands out most with Smith. It’s exceptionally difficult to play tight coverage from a press start against him because of his quickness and precision to throw defenders off balance. He understands how to adjust to zone coverage and knows how to aggressively use his upper body both at the release of his route and through its breaks.

     

    Speed

    17/20

    Smith looked much faster overall in 2014 than he did in 2013, but the long speed he possesses is still limited. His quickness and short-area burst are still evident in his routes, though.

     

    Starter

    5/5

    He may not have another season of high-quality football in him, but Smith was definitely one of the better starters in the NFL in 2014.

     

    Overall

    83/100

42. Mike Wallace, Minnesota Vikings

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Hands

    41/50

    The Miami Dolphins gave Mike Wallace (6’0”, 200 lbs, 6 seasons) every chance to be successful in their offense last year. He caught 67 passes, and Miami quarterbacks targeted him 108 times. Wallace was only credited with four drops, but his issues of bringing the ball in came before he tried to catch it. Throughout his career, Wallace has struggled to track the ball consistently, and that became a much greater problem in Miami than it was in Pittsburgh. In 2014, he also developed a tendency to try and make one-handed catches that could have been brought in with two, causing him to miss opportunities to make plays.

     

    Route Running

    18/25

    Wallace has never been an exceptionally versatile route-runner, but he has run a select number of routes to good effect. In 2014, he showed off comeback routes and double moves that were consistently effective while also being featured heavily on deep crossing routes. He may round his routes at times, but his speed often makes up for that.

     

    Speed

    20/20

    He is likely still the fastest player in the NFL. Wallace’s straight-line speed is the base of his success, while his quickness and short-area burst could be seen on shallow crossing routes and screens last season.

     

    Starter

    4/5

    Although still a viable starter, Wallace’s stock has clearly dropped since signing that massive free-agent deal. He should start in Minnesota and spend much of his time running deep routes or crossing routes. Teddy Bridgewater struggles to hit vertical routes but can consistently hit deeper horizontal routes like crossers.

     

    Overall

    83/100

41. John Brown, Arizona Cardinals

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Hands

    44/50

    The biggest surprise of the 2014 wide receiver class was clearly John Brown (5’10”, 179 lbs, 1 season) of the Arizona Cardinals. The rookie receiver’s explosiveness was obvious from the beginning of the season, but his ability to track and adjust the ball in the air to consistently make comfortable receptions was more of a surprise. Brown’s ball skills allowed him to consistently get the most out of the length he does have while he showed resilience to absorb big hits in tight coverage to focus on the football.

     

    Route Running

    17/25

    When you have the kind of quickness, burst and speed that Brown has, you don’t necessarily need to be a precise route-runner to be effective. Brown has both. He understands how to release from the line of scrimmage, set up defensive backs in space and find the soft spot in zones.

     

    Speed

    19/20

    The fluidity and balance that Brown shows off while moving at a speed greater than anyone else on the field is incredible. His ability to change direction in an instant is what makes him so difficult to cover, while his long speed made him a consistent threat if the secondary focused too much on the team’s other receivers.

     

    Starter

    4/5

    All Brown needs to do is prove his consistency against quality defensive backs to become a quality starter. He has all the tools to be a great wide receiver.

     

    Overall

    84/100

40. Cole Beasley, Dallas Cowboys

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    Sarah Glenn/Getty Images

    Hands

    49/50

    Cole Beasley (5’8”, 180 lbs, 3 seasons) is a model of consistency as a possession receiver. He may not offer a huge catch radius or the ability to make spectacular adjustments against tight coverage down the field, but Beasley is a natural hands catcher who willingly works the middle of the field and sustains his focus working on short and intermediate routes to every area of the field.

     

    Route Running

    15/25

    Although he understands how to work short and intermediate routes, Beasley doesn’t show off an understanding of how to set up receivers to create free releases on deeper routes. He also struggles somewhat working against press coverage when confronted by defensive backs who can match his quickness and overwhelm him with their strength.

     

    Speed

    17/20

    While not a great route-runner, Beasley does have the short-area burst and quickness to create separation against man coverage. He lacks the long speed to be a consistent deep threat, but the Cowboys don’t need him to be that kind of receiver.

     

    Starter

    3/5

    It was a surprise when the Cowboys invested so much money in Beasley this offseason. While he is a consistent and effective player within his role, that doesn’t appear to be a role that is all that tough to fill.

     

    Overall

    84/100

39. Brandon LaFell, New England Patriots

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Hands

    43/50

    Despite being a complementary piece in the New England Patriots' passing attack, Brandon LaFell (6’3”, 210 lbs, 5 seasons) was a high-volume receiver in 2014. Tom Brady threw the ball so often that it didn’t matter if Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski were also on the field. LaFell’s consistency catching the ball has been a problem in the past, and it was again in 2014—but to a lesser degree. He dropped seven passes and caught 87 for the season.

     

    Route Running

    20/25

    It was much easier for LaFell to find space in the New England offense than it was when he played for the Panthers. That's because the Patriots’ scheme spreads the field and the presence of Gronkowski and Edelman. This put LaFell in one-on-one situations regularly where he relied on aggressive, precise cutting to create separation against man coverage. He also showed off an ability to sit down in his routes when the coverage dictated it. The Patriots offense requires its receivers to be smart, and LaFell didn’t show any major issues adapting to it.

     

    Speed

    17/20

    A receiver who is slightly above average in everything he does but lacks a truly great speed trait, LaFell has enough straight-line speed to stretch a secondary while being quick enough to work the middle of the field. He lacks the suddenness to be a dangerous yards-after-the-catch receiver, though.

     

    Starter

    4/5

    A player who has landed in an ideal situation to be productive but not someone who will be assured of his starting spot moving forward, LaFell needs to continue to keep his drops to a minimum.

     

    Overall

    84/100

38. Charles Johnson, Minnesota Vikings

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    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    Hands

    45/50

    Teddy Bridgewater and Greg Jennings made the most sense as a quality partnership in Minnesota before the season, but it was Charles Johnson (6’2”, 215 lbs, 1 season) who developed the better understanding with the rookie quarterback. The Vikings picked Johnson up during the season, but he quickly fit into the offense and showed off a rapport with Bridgewater that allowed him to consistently catch the ball on time within his routes. Johnson didn’t show off exceptional ball skills by making spectacular catches, but he was rarely put in position to.

     

    Route Running

    18/25

    He may not be a great route-runner, but Johnson is good enough to fit into offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense. Attacking the deepest level of the defense in particular appeared to be a strength of Johnson’s. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but by being deceptive with his movement early in his routes, he has the ability to come free on posts, crossing routes and deep sideline routes.

     

    Speed

    18/20

    While Johnson is definitely the slower of the Vikings’ two projected starters for the 2015 season (Mike Wallace being the other), he is fast enough to not just be a possession receiver. He isn’t built to take screens underneath and create huge yards-after-the-catch numbers, but Johnson will pull away from defenders on crossing routes and quickly change direction through his breaks to lose tight coverage.

     

    Starter

    3/5

    Consistency is going to be important for Johnson. He somewhat surprised the league last year, but that won’t be the case in 2015. He has the talent to be a full-time starter but needs to prove it against better defensive backs.

     

    Overall

    84/100

37. Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    Hands

    46/50

    It didn’t take Allen Robinson (6’2”, 210 lbs, 1 season) long to create excitement in Jacksonville. The large receiver showed off impressive hands with the ability to make difficult adjustments to the football on a regular basis. He needed to—Blake Bortles’ passes routinely appeared to arrive either off target or not on time. Robinson’s ability to win at the catch point against tight coverage is going to be crucial in determining his future success.

     

    Route Running

    18/25

    Robinson ran a large number of short routes last season that really don’t fit his skill set. He can effectively run curl routes and other shallow routes that require him to face the quarterback or the sideline, but he is better built to attack downfield. Robinson doesn't possess blazing-fast speed, so he needs to outmuscle defensive backs early in his routes to find space.

     

    Speed

    16/20

    A lack of top-end speed and fluidity limit how Robinson can beat defensive backs. He is a very linear player who comes across as rigid in comparison to teammates Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee. While Robinson may be more effective than those players right now because of his strengths, he may not be able to get much better because of his limited physical prowess.

     

    Starter

    4/5

    It would be a surprise if Robinson wasn’t the Jaguars’ No. 1 receiving option behind Julius Thomas this season. He still has to develop and establish himself over a greater sample size, however.

     

    Overall

    84/100

36. Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Hands

    44/50

    Injury cut Brandin Cooks’ (5’10”, 189 lbs, 1 season) 2014 season short, but the Saints made a strong effort to put the ball in his hands before that point. He caught 53 passes in 10 games and only accumulated two drops. His ability to get open allowed him to catch the ball cleanly away from defenders, but there were a couple of contested catches that were impressive considering that was a concern translating from college. Cooks is a natural receiver who should be a high-volume pass-catcher—so long as he plays with Drew Brees.

     

    Route Running

    19/25

    Foot frequency for Cooks is vitally important for his success. He can get in and out of his breaks in a hurry while accelerating away from defenders on short or intermediate routes. Although he doesn’t always need to, he can also set defenders up early in his deep routes to come free.

     

    Speed

    18/20

    Cooks is quicker than he is fast, but he’s exceptionally quick. His slight frame and quick feet make it very difficult for defensive backs to change direction with him, while his acceleration allows him to be dangerous with the ball in his hands.

     

    Starter

    4/5

    The Saints are going to rely heavily on Cooks next season. The departure of Kenny Stills took away a major element of speed from the passing game, so Cooks will need to prove his consistency as a full-time starter.

     

    Overall

    85/100

35. Wes Welker, Free Agent

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Hands

    46/50

    The beating that Wes Welker (5’9”, 185 lbs, 11 seasons) has taken throughout his career appeared to catch up to him in 2014, but his ability to catch the football wasn’t a problem. Welker was consistent adjusting to low passes and effective working over his shoulders. His ability to quickly track the ball and find spots between defenders before absorbing hits was still evident.

     

    Route Running

    20/25

    Although his routes may have slowed down somewhat, Welker’s speed through his breaks was still clear in 2014. Declining physically didn’t affect his ability to find soft spots against zone coverage, while his intelligence in setting up defensive backs was also left intact.

     

    Speed

    16/20

    Welker is still very quick, but his long speed has diminished. He's never really had a great short-area burst to be a dangerous yards-after-the-catch receiver, but now he is more limited than ever before.

     

    Starter

    3/5

    It’s unclear whether Welker will be on the field during the regular season in 2015. He probably should retire after the kind of career he has endured, but that decision may be taken out of his hands altogether because of a diminishing skill set.

     

    Overall

    85/100

34. Andrew Hawkins, Cleveland Browns

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Hands

    43/50

    Four drops put a damper on Andrew Hawkins’ (5’7”, 180 lbs, 4 seasons) rating in 2014, but there was enough evidence of his natural catching ability to be impressed. Hawkins doesn’t have great size, but he constantly attacks the football in the air and attempts to run through it on the ground to give himself the first opportunity to complete the catch. Working the middle of the field doesn’t come with an intimidation factor, too, which is very important for a player of his size.

     

    Route Running

    21/25

    An annual tradition of the offseason is Hawkins’ highlight reel of his route running from practice. Those practice tapes are very impressive, but the quality in his routes can be seen on the field, too. His precision and quickness is distinctive, as he can cut sharper than most with more speed than most.

     

    Speed

    18/20

    Hawkins has the kind of speed that makes him elusive in a phone booth, but he won’t be beating his teammates in 100-meter sprints on a regular basis. His quickness and acceleration help him to be an ideal slot receiver in the NFL.

     

    Starter

    3/5

    As a starter, Hawkins is being asked to do too much. As a third option who can spend most of his time in the slot, Hawkins can be a very valuable complementary piece. He has yet to play with a quarterback who can throw with anticipation and timing to get the most out of his elusiveness.

     

    Overall

    85/100

33. Harry Douglas, Tennessee Titans

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Hands

    44/50

    It was one of Harry Douglas’ (6’0”, 183 lbs, 6 seasons) best seasons in the NFL last year. A primary reason for that was his ability at the catch point. Not only was he more consistent catching the ball cleanly, but he also showed off the ability to track the ball and adjust to it with greater ease. Douglas isn’t a spectacular catch-maker or someone who will catch contested passes on a regular basis, but it’s still important to be able to adjust to wayward passes in space.

     

    Route Running

    20/25

    Douglas is a good route-runner with the versatility to line up all over the field and attack different levels of the defense. He doesn’t have any spectacular traits, but he shows off an above-average understanding of how to use his slight frame as well as his quick, precise feet.

     

    Speed

    18/20

    Douglas’ skill set is well-rounded but unspectacular. That is certainly true of his speed also. He can run away from linebackers and safeties with relative ease but won’t be a constant deep threat against cornerbacks in press coverage. His quickness and short-area burst are both effective, but he doesn’t have the kind of talent that requires the offense to proactively put the ball in his hands.

     

    Starter

    3/5

    Douglas is a depth player who should contribute either as a rotation piece outside or in the slot. He assumes Nate Washington’s role as the veteran receiver in Tennessee, even though he may not get more than 400 snaps.

     

    Overall

    85/100

32. Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Hands

    42/50

    The career of Michael Floyd (6’3”, 225 lbs, 3 seasons) took a wrong turn in 2014. He proved to be less explosive than in 2013 and struggled more at the catch point. Not only did he fail to outmuscle cornerbacks for leverage and positioning as consistently as he did previously, but Floyd also struggled with drops. He had five drops while catching 48 passes. Despite his size, Floyd has the ability to adjust to passes that arrive at different levels of his body. He should be a more effective player at the catch point than he is when you consider his athleticism and ball skills.

     

    Route Running

    20/25

    Floyd is a long, tall receiver, but he doesn’t carry much excess weight. This allows him to be adaptable in his route running whether facing tight press coverage or zone. He shows off inconsistent aggression with his upper body early in routes, which is something that needs to be corrected, but Floyd’s overall ability to create separation isn’t a major issue.

     

    Speed

    18/20

    A long strider who lacks great agility but is quick enough to run a full route tree to good effect, Floyd’s athleticism is mostly about his ability to get into good positions so he can win at the catch point as opposed to outrunning defenders in full sprints.

     

    Starter

    5/5

    He may become surplus to requirements in Arizona if John Brown is as good as advertised moving forward, but even during a down year last season, he was still a quality starter.

     

    Overall

    85/100

31. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Hands

    43/50

    The Buffalo Bills will expect Sammy Watkins (6’1”, 211 lbs, 1 season) to show off more consistency at the catch point moving forward. His hands weren’t bad, but he did fail at the catch point a bit too often. Watkins will rightfully feel that many of his struggles at the catch point could be attributed to very poor passes, as his quarterbacks consistently placed the ball poorly or didn’t throw it on time to him. Watkins’ catch radius is impressive, and he’s comfortable fending off defenders to rebound the ball when it is in the air.

    Route Running

    19/25

    In college at Clemson, Watkins wasn’t required to run a variety of routes. Therefore, it was somewhat of a surprise that he was able to be effective as a route-runner so quickly in the NFL. His balance and aggressiveness working through cuts allowed him to cause problems for quality cover cornerbacks such as Darrelle Revis, Brent Grimes and Xavier Rhodes. His ability to release from the line of scrimmage against press coverage also stood out on a regular basis.

    Speed

    18/20

    Watkins’ straight-line speed wasn’t as impressive during his rookie season as you might have expected, but that also could have been a result of playing through injury. His overall quickness, short-area burst and long speed are very impressive.

    Starter

    5/5

    Although he may have conceded the spotlight to other rookies, Watkins had an impressive rookie season. He is already a high-quality starter who just needs to refine his technique and consistency and better quarterback play.

    Overall

    85/100

30. Markus Wheaton, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Hands

    45/50

    Because of his big plays, Martavis Bryant overshadowed Markus Wheaton (5’11”, 182 lbs, 2 seasons) during the 2014 season. Yet Wheaton proved to be the more reliable receiver. Wheaton is a natural receiver with the ability to adjust to poorly thrown passes and a willingness to make tough receptions against tight contact or impending hits. He can comfortably extend his hands away from his body to pluck the ball out of the air.

    Route Running

    18/25

    Wheaton shows off an ability to make very sharp cuts in his routes. He has a fluid upper body with the willingness to put pressure on his lower-body joints to turn away from defenders. Wheaton can comfortably work the slot or outside, primarily because of his route-running ability.

    Speed

    18/20

    Wheaton has well-rounded speed in terms of acceleration, quickness and long speed, but he doesn’t excel at anything. He needs to mix good route running with his athletic ability to consistently create separation against NFL defensive backs.

    Starter

    5/5

    Wheaton should be a quality starter for the Steelers over the coming years but needs to develop a better relationship with his quarterback. He and Ben Roethlisberger appeared to be slightly out of sync too often last season.

    Overall

    86/100

29. Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Hands

    45/50

    Terrance Williams (6’2”, 208 lbs, 2 seasons) drifted in and out of the 2014 season with the Cowboys. His touches were limited as a result, but when he did get opportunities he typically took advantage of them. Williams’ primary ability comes on deep routes, as he shows off his ability to track the ball and pull it into his body with ease. Williams was able to find his way into the end zone and average more than 16 yards per catch because of his comfort catching the ball at full speed.

    Route Running

    20/25

    For the type of player he is, Williams is already a very good route-runner. He understands how to release from the line and set up his routes initially to attack deep downfield. Where he is still a developing player is on intermediate and underneath routes. He needs to show more suddenness out of his breaks and more awareness of what the defenders covering him are trying to do.

    Speed

    17/20

    Straight-line speed is what makes Williams dangerous. He is a burner who can’t be left in space against limited cornerbacks because he will inevitably come open downfield. While not a linear athlete, he does show off limited quickness and acceleration.

    Starter

    4/5

    Williams probably isn’t suited to be a full-time starter outside, but in the Cowboys offense he doesn’t need to be a typical starter. He is a fine complement to Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley.

    Overall

    86/100

28. Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Hands

    48/50

    Jarvis Landry (5’11”, 202 lbs, 1 season) was slow to adjust to the NFL in his rookie season. A couple of drops and fumbles early in the season appeared to create some skepticism among the coaches in Miami. After the first month or so, Landry became a key piece of the offense as the team’s slot receiver. Playing on the inside in Bill Lazor’s offense meant that he received a large percentage of the team’s targets. Most of those targets came underneath or over the middle of the field, so Landry had to show off toughness and consistency against contact. That is what he did, as he caught the football efficiently.

    Route Running

    18/25

    One of the things that stands out with Landry is his frame. He isn’t your typical slot receiver who relies on great quickness through breaks to create separation underneath. Instead, Landry’s speed and routes are more linear, but he’s fast enough with good strength to make it difficult for teams to press him inside with their slot cornerbacks.

    Speed

    16/20

    Landry isn’t exceptionally fluid or explosive. He’s fast enough to be effective in the NFL and may threaten some big plays on occasion, but overall he should be considered a slow wide receiver.

    Starter

    4/5

    In the Dolphins offense, Landry will have a big role as the team’s third wide receiver. He needs to prove himself capable of playing outside consistently to be considered a high-quality starter, though.

    Overall

    86/100

27. Kenny Stills, Miami Dolphins

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Hands

    44/50

    There are many deep-threat wide receivers in the NFL with the ability to create separation downfield before catching the ball when wide-open. Kenny Stills (6’0”, 194 lbs, 2 seasons) is one of those players, but he’s more than that. He’s more than that because of his ball skills. Stills tracks the ball over his shoulder very well and can adjust to it while working against tight coverage to neutralize the defensive back closest to him. His hands and feet always work in concert by the sideline to give himself the best opportunity to make plays.

    Route Running

    19/25

    Stills doesn’t run every route possible with great effectiveness but does excel on the limited number of routes that he runs well. He knows how to set up his deep shots and can crisply turn back to the sideline on comeback routes. Working infield is more of an adventure, but he is still a viable option on dig routes and shallow crossing routes.

    Speed

    18/20

    With enough fluidity to run a variety of routes and the straight-line speed to quickly eat up space, Stills is one of the faster receivers in the NFL. He doesn’t have that short-area burst to be a dangerous underneath receiver, but his overall speed is still impressive.

    Starter

    5/5

    Drew Brees was not happy with Stills, according to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, and that's seemingly why the Saints traded the wide receiver. With his talent, Stills should be a major contributor for the Dolphins if he fits in well with his new teammates.

    Overall

    86/100

26. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    Hands

    45/50

    At Texas A&M, Mike Evans (6’5”, 231 lbs, 1 season) consistently made contested catches and spectacular plays. He dominated lesser athletes at that level by utilizing his size and ball skills to leverage against them. His ability to dominate at the catch point translated to the professional level during his rookie season. Despite catching passes from Josh McCown, who was often just throwing the ball up for grabs, Evans was able to be consistently productive by high-pointing or adjusting to the ball ahead of the defender covering him.

    Route Running

    20/25

    It’s easy to categorize Evans as a limited route-runner because of his size and how he wins, but his fluidity and foot frequency are impressive enough to make him effective working the middle of the field. His size, strength and balance also make him a dangerous slant receiver when matched up in single coverage.

    Speed

    17/20

    Early on during his rookie season, Evans looked slow. He appeared to be struggling to adjust to the speed of the NFL, and mentally he may have been still struggling to fully grasp the playbook. During the second half of the season, his play speed was much faster, as he was getting in and out of his breaks with greater intensity. His deep speed is good enough to prevent him from being just a possession receiver who can win in the red zone, but he’s not likely to run away from many defensive backs.

    Starter

    5/5

    Not only did Evans prove he can be a quality starter in 2014, but he suggested that he could eventually develop into one of the best receivers in the league. His ball skills and physical traits are simply phenomenal.

    Overall

    87/100

25. Kenny Britt, St. Louis Rams

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Hands

    45/50

    Talent has never been an issue for Kenny Britt (6’3”, 223 lbs, 6 seasons). His career has been marred by injury and inconsistency at the catch point, but neither of those negatives showed up much in 2014. During his first season with the St. Louis Rams, Britt played with poor quarterback service and was a focal point of the passing game but still only had three drops. He understands how to use his large frame to adjust to the ball and is a natural hands catcher.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Britt can do whatever is asked of him. That is the benefit of his supreme athleticism. When he runs slant routes or short, in-breaking ones he can use his quickness and size to shield the defender from the ball. When he has to attack the intermediate levels of the field, he has quickness in and out of his breaks to quickly turn away from defenders. Britt’s size and athleticism mean he doesn’t have to be great at setting up his deep routes but that he understands how to avoid tipping them off.

    Speed

    17/20

    He's a receiver without a great speed trait to rely on, but above-average ability in terms of acceleration, quickness and long speed. Britt has more than enough athleticism at his size to be a matchup problem for defenders.

    Starter

    5/5

    As long as he continues to be focused on his craft, Britt should remain a quality starting receiver for Jeff Fisher’s Rams.

    Overall

    87/100

24. Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Hand

    46/50

    It was an impressive 2014 season for Malcom Floyd (6’5”, 225 lbs, 9 seasons), primarily because of his ability to attack the football on routes deep downfield. Floyd can fully extend against tight coverage to pluck the ball out of the air. He is better working infield, but along the sideline his hands and feet also work in concert to make him an effective player. Floyd’s rapport with Philip Rivers is one of the strongest of any quarterback-wide receiver connection in the NFL.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Floyd isn't consistently exceptional at any particular route but is consistently effective in everything he does. He can create space on intermediate routes with his understanding of defenses while having the foot speed and overall size to win on short routes. His value running deep routes is obviously what makes him so effective.

    Speed

    17/20

    Floyd is 33 years of age and suffered a serious injury during the 2013 season. His physical skills aren’t what they once were. He still has enough long speed and agility to be a deep threat but offers very little YAC ability underneath. He has adequate speed but is lacking one truly great trait to rely on.

    Starter

    5/5

    If Floyd can continue to play like he did in 2014, he should once again be a crucial piece of the Chargers offense.

    Overall

    88/100

23. Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Hands

    45/50

    Consistently winning at the catch point has allowed Anquan Boldin (6’1”, 220 lbs, 12 seasons) to extend his career further than he really should have. The San Francisco 49ers wide receiver uses his bulk and strength to leverage position against defensive backs who are weaker than him, which is most of them. His reactions to passes he sees late are very impressive, but more often than not he is able to track the ball early to make comfortable catches.

    Route Running

    22/25

    He may have diminished levels of speed, but Boldin is still able to make sharp cuts in his routes while understanding how to set defenders up in space. Playing with such bulk and strength means he doesn’t have to consistently create separation to be effective, but that bulk also comes in handy early in routes against defensive backs who attempt to play tight coverage.

    Speed

    16/20

    For a player of his size and age, Boldin’s feet are still impressive. He shows off quickness and balance that you wouldn’t expect. However, he won’t run away from many defensive backs at this level and lacks a short-area burst to be dangerous with the ball.

    Starter

    5/5

    Boldin has the type of game that ages well. As long as he can continue to be effective at the catch point, he will be a prominent contributor in the 49ers passing game.

    Overall

    88/100

22. Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Hands

    45/50

    Doug Baldwin (5’10”, 189 lbs, 4 seasons) is one of the most natural receivers in the NFL. He has soft hands that allow him to snag the ball out of the air at full extension. He doesn’t become less comfortable even when forced to adjust on the sideline or when making receptions over the middle of the field. He may not be a big receiver, but his leaping and ability to track the ball in the air make him a very reliable target for Russell Wilson.

    Route Running

    22/25

    Watching Baldwin release from the line of scrimmage is one of the more entertaining individual acts the NFL has to offer. Not only is he very quick with his feet, but Baldwin is able to make subtle body movements to sell fakes while sinking his hips to get in and out of his breaks. It’s his route running that makes him so dangerous working from different areas of the field against different types of coverage.

    Speed

    17/20

    Although his size and role would lead you to presume that Baldwin’s greatest physical trait is his quickness, his burst of acceleration actually stands out more than his ability to change direction. Baldwin can pull away from receivers very quickly working underneath routes while also highlighting his vertical route running as he finds space.

    Starter

    4/5

    It would be a surprise if Baldwin wasn’t an integral piece of the Seahawks offense next season. The franchise has made many moves to bring in new pass catchers over recent seasons, but Baldwin should be the one constant.

    Overall

    88/100

21. Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Hands

    44/50

    With Calvin Johnson obviously affected by injury, Golden Tate (5’10”, 195 lbs, 5 seasons) saw a huge workload in 2014. He was targeted 145 times, catching 105 passes while dropping six. Tate isn’t a big receiver but plays big by attacking the ball at its earliest possible point on a regular basis. He understands how to track and adjust to the ball to negate tight pressure down the sideline while being brave and aggressive against impending hits.

    Route Running

    21/25

    The quickness and decisiveness of Tate’s routes always stand out. He is able to release from the line of scrimmage by using his strength despite his size, and from there his quick feet allow him to make sharp cuts away from tight coverage. Tate is also smart enough to consistently find the soft spots in zone coverage.

    Speed

    18/20

    Tate is a constant deep threat but doesn’t possess great long speed. He sets his deep routes up by relying on his route running and overall quickness. That overall quickness combines with a short-area burst to make him very effective on shorter routes and with the ball in his hands.

    Starter

    5/5

    In a more aggressive passing attack with the Detroit Lions, Tate was given more opportunities to prove his worth and consistency. He is a very talented player who should continue to be a high-quality starter.

    Overall

    88/100

20. Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Hands

    42/50

    In the Green Bay Packers’ high-powered passing attack, Randall Cobb (5’10”, 192 lbs, 4 seasons) was a high-volume receiver. As such, he had a significant number of drops. On 145 targets, he caught 106 passes with eight drops. Cobb’s ability to quickly react to Aaron Rodgers’ fastballs helped him on quick throws, while his leaping ability and wide catch radius allowed him to make some spectacular receptions downfield.

    Route Running

    24/25

    With exceptional quickness and balance, Cobb is a nightmare to cover from the slot. He doesn’t have great size, but his foot frequency allows him to consistently beat defensive backs to spots when they are in off-coverage and throw them off balance when they are in press coverage. Importantly, he also understands how to adjust quickly to zone coverage.

    Speed

    17/20

    Cobb is a deep threat, but not a consistent one. His long speed and short-area burst don’t stand out against NFL athletes. The receiver relies on his quickness and fluidity to create separation in tight spaces.

    Starter

    5/5

    The Packers re-signed Cobb in free agency to a big contract because of his importance to the offense. He is not a replaceable slot receiver who is simply carried by his quarterback. Rodgers does elevate his production, but the receiver has a huge amount of individual talent, too.

    Overall

    88/100

19. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Hands

    42/50

    Whenever you are a focal point of a passing game, you are likely to drop more passes. However, Julian Edelman (5’10”, 200 lbs, 6 seasons) can’t use that excuse for his inconsistency in 2014. The receiver had too many focus drops on passes he should have caught with relative ease. Despite catching an incredible 118 passes, his 13 drops will likely still play on his mind during the 2015 season.

    Route Running

    25/25

    Because he assumed the role of Wes Welker, Edelman is often paired with the former Patriots player in terms of skill set. While both players are exceptionally good at creating separation on any route they are asked to run, there are notable style differences. Edelman is more likely to use his upper-body strength to push away from tight coverage, whereas Welker is always more reliant on his quickness.

    Speed

    17/20

    Agility is the only truly great speed trait that Edelman possesses. His short-area burst and long speed are both effective enough to be an option on screen plays and on passes deep down the sideline.

    Starter

    5/5

    His consistency catching the ball needs to improve, but Edelman proved his value to the Patriots as a starter during the playoffs last year. It’s more likely that he'll replace Tom Brady at quarterback rather than be demoted as a starting receiver.

    Overall

    89/100

18. Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Hands

    44/50

    Injury appeared to affect Alshon Jeffery’s (6’3”, 216 lbs, 3 seasons) consistency during the 2014 season. He was still making spectacular catches, but with much less frequency. This meant that he left too many 50-50 plays on the field. Despite his relative struggles in that area, Jeffery was a very effective catcher of the ball in 2014. He can make plays that very few receivers in the league can make because of his combination of size, athleticism and ball skills.

    Route Running

    23/25

    Jeffery doesn’t need to be exceptionally precise or quick in his routes because of his size and athleticism. Despite that, his footwork is still very impressive for a player of his size. He has developed into a more well-rounded receiver since coming into the league and now understands how to attack different levels of the opposition’s coverage. Finding spots in zone coverage over the middle of the field may not be a strength for Jeffery yet, but it’s no longer a weakness.

    Speed

    17/20

    Despite showing some upper-body fluidity at the catch point, Jeffery is very much a linear athlete when it comes to movement through his routes. He has the speed to separate behind the secondary and a short-area burst to be effective with the ball in his hands. All he lacks is above-average quickness.

    Starter

    5/5

    By replacing Brandon Marshall with Kevin White, the Chicago Bears have shifted Jeffery into their primary receiver role. He needs to show greater consistency in the weaker areas of his skill set to complement the great strengths he possesses.

    Overall

    89/100

17. DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Hands

    42/50

    A few too many drops took the shine off what was a very impressive season for DeSean Jackson (5’10”, 178 lbs, 7 seasons) in 2014. The wide receiver has always been a natural hands catcher who can make plays against tight coverage and adjust to off-target throws when open downfield. His deep tracking is spectacular and played a major role in his averaging more than 20 yards per reception last year.

    Route Running

    23/25

    Though primarily known as a deep threat, Jackson is one of the more well-rounded route-runners in the NFL. Jay Gruden’s offense allowed him to show that off, even though the quarterbacks struggled to send him the ball often and accurately. His quickness on slants and precise footwork against off coverage allows him to create separation at all areas of the field.

    Speed

    20/20

    Jackson is one of the few receivers in the NFL with easy speed. He shows no real effort striding down the sideline as he easily pulls away from defensive backs trying to cover him more often than not. His long speed is his greatest trait, but his quickness and short-area burst are also above average.

    Starter

    5/5

    If Robert Griffin III can return to form in 2015, Jackson should have a huge season. Griffin’s greatest strength is his deep ball, and Jackson thrives tracking the football downfield.

    Overall

    90/100

16. Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Hands

    47/50

    An abnormally large number of Pierre Garcon’s (6’0”, 217 lbs, 7 seasons) targets in 2014 came on short throws. He was often essentially acting as an extension of the running game. These huge numbers of short passes were obviously easier to consistently catch than passes that are pushed downfield into tight coverage, but Garcon still had to stay focused and show consistent technique. He had just two drops while showing off an understanding of how to set up his YAC by setting his feet properly and catching the ball away from his body.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Because of how he was used, many of Garcon’s plays showed us nothing of his route running. However, he still ran downfield enough to be gauged in that area and continued to be an effective player. Garcon is a sudden mover who can lose tight coverage through his breaks and make adjustments on the move to react to zone coverage.

    Speed

    18/20

    Garcon’s short-area burst is what makes him an effective receiver on short routes. Roughly half of his yards came after the catch last year because he was able to turn upfield quickly and change direction easily to find space. When given opportunities, he can also take the top off the defense with his straight-line speed.

    Starter

    5/5

    Washington needs to fix its passing attack, but the problem isn’t at the wide receiver position. Garcon is a quality weapon who can hurt defenses in different ways.

    Overall

    90/100

15. Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Hands

    47/50

    Kendall Wright’s (5’10”, 191 lbs, 3 seasons) ability to catch the football has been pushed to its limits over the past two seasons. A cavalcade of inaccurate passers have repeatedly thrown the ball at him rather than to him. Wright has responded well to his lack of quality service, though. He has lightning-quick reactions and the fluidity to adjust his body in an instant so he can snatch the ball out of the air with his extended hands. Despite being forced to consistently make tough receptions last year, he was credited with just one drop.

    Route Running

    21/25

    With his low center of gravity, outstanding quickness and precise footwork, Wright is almost impossible to stick with in space. He has enough strength to fend off bigger defensive backs when they attempt to be aggressive with him in coverage, and most of those players can’t stick with him through his breaks anyway. Wright is a very smart, effective route-runner; the only concern is how often he freelances within Ken Whisenhunt’s offense.

    Speed

    17/20

    The kind of quickness that Wright possesses is rare. His relatively light frame allows him to change direction in an instant, while his precise footwork prevents him from taking false steps to slow him down. His initial burst is good enough to make him a very dangerous screen receiver, while he has just enough long speed to act as a deep threat. Wright needs to be faster in a straight line to get a higher rating here.

    Starter

    5/5

    Wright is going to be an integral part of Marcus Mariota’s rookie season. He and Delanie Walker were the team’s two best receivers last year, and both would receive much more nationwide acclaim if they received better service.

    Overall

    90/100

14. Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers

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    Denis Poroy/Associated Press

    Hands

    45/50

    With soft hands and natural overall receiving ability, Keenan Allen (6’2”, 211 lbs, 2 seasons) has quickly become a staple of the San Diego Chargers passing game. Four drops in 2014 were overshadowed by his overall production. Allen is able to make receptions against tight coverage down the sideline. He can work the middle of the field bravely to absorb heavy hits and can erase slight inaccuracies when put in space.

    Route Running

    24/25

    Allen’s footwork shot to fame early in the season when he released from the line of scrimmage against Richard Sherman on a couple of successful plays. His quick and precise feet allow him to shift his weight quicker than his opponents on a regular basis. This makes him very difficult to track through breaks and allows him to set his routes down in tight areas against zone coverage.

    Speed

    16/20

    If Allen had more impressive long speed, he would be considered among the top receivers in the NFL. Unfortunately for Allen, his long speed is only average. He is quicker than fast, overall, and lacks the short-area burst to be an exceptional YAC receiver.

    Starter

    5/5

    Entering his third season, the Chargers will rely on Allen as much as they have over the first two years of his career. Steve Johnson’s arrival may push him to work routes further downfield, though.

    Overall

    90/100

13. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans

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    AJ Mast/Associated Press

    Hands

    46/50

    Save for a couple of drops, DeAndre Hopkins’ (6’1”, 218 lbs, 2 seasons) hands were simply phenomenal in 2014. He has a massive catch radius that extends above his head and around his body. His ability to adjust to passes below his waist to get underneath the ball with such speed is incredible for a player of his size. Hopkins has the hand size and focus to pluck the ball out of the air with one hand even when working against tight coverage.

    Route Running

    21/25

    Hopkins carries a relatively tall frame with substantial bulk. Yet despite that weight and frame he is an exceptionally fluid mover with the quickness and acceleration to consistently lose cornerbacks in tight coverage through breaks. Hopkins is an intelligent player who understands positioning and how to manipulate defenders through his stems.

    Speed

    18/20

    Although he will never win a 40-yard sprint against every receiver in the league, Hopkins has enough straight-line speed to be a constant deep threat. His overall speed is more important for the type of game he plays than his ability to stretch the field. He has a burst to take short passes down the field for first downs as well as the quickness to change direction in an instant.

    Starter

    5/5

    Andre Johnson’s heir is well on his way to being one of the best receivers in the NFL. While he doesn’t receive enough national attention, it’s hard to argue that Hopkins isn’t one of the best young receivers in the NFL right now.

    Overall

    90/100

12. Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Hands

    48/50

    While catching an incredible 108 passes last season, Emmanuel Sanders (5’11”, 180 lbs, 5 seasons) was assigned just two drops. That might be an astonishing feat on its own, but it shouldn’t be surprising for Sanders. The receiver shows off outstanding technique when adjusting to balls in the air and has the soft hands to comfortably pluck the ball out of the air when they are extended away from his body. Sanders can absorb big hits and handle tight coverage as well, so you won’t ever expect to see the ball bounce off his body.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Foot injuries early in Sanders’ career hampered his route running to a degree, but he was always an under-appreciated route-runner in Pittsburgh. In the Denver Broncos offense, he was afforded every opportunity to show off his versatility, precision and consistency. Sanders understands how to set up defensive backs who try to sag off him in coverage by attacking the right spots and using his upper body to sell fakes. His footwork is lightning-quick, which allows him to sustain speed through his breaks and make very sharp cuts away from tight man coverage.

    Speed

    17/20

    He may not have the top-end straight-line speed of Mike Wallace, but the overall speed that Sanders plays at is incredible. His quickness, fluidity and burst make him exceptionally difficult to cover and a dangerous weapon on screen plays with the ball in his hands. His top-end speed is more than enough to threaten the end zone from anywhere on the field.

    Starter

    5/5

    If Sanders got to play with Peyton Manning from the beginning of his career, he would likely hold a number of records and be held in much higher esteem than he has been. He should still be considered a high-quality starter independent of the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

    Overall

    90/100

11. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Hands

    45/50

    There may not be another player in the NFL who can erase poor ball placement as well as A.J. Green (6’4”, 207 lbs, 4 seasons). Despite his size, Green is exceptionally fluid, so he can make adjustments below his ankles and also snatch the ball from high in the air above his shoulders. Tight coverage and physical play at the catch point don’t typically bother him, but he did have a few focus drops in 2014.

    Route Running

    23/25

    With his fluidity and nimble feet, Green is comfortable getting in and out of his breaks for a player of his size. He understands how to be precise with his footwork to avoid wasting steps while also setting up defenders both down the sideline and over the middle of the field. He is one of the most versatile route-runners in the NFL.

    Speed

    17/20

    Although he is not a slow player, Green’s fluidity and balance is more impressive than his acceleration and long speed. He won’t outrun every defensive back in a straight sprint but often only needs to be fast enough to get to a position where he can use his body to leverage positioning.

    Starter

    5/5

    Green is a young, exceptionally talented receiver who should be entering his prime. His expectations would be huge if he could get more consistent service from his quarterback.

    Overall

    90/100

10. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Hands

    49/50

    A future Hall of Famer, Larry Fitzgerald (6'3", 218 lbs, 11 seasons) saw his numbers dip in 2014, but his consistency as a pass-catcher was still obvious. On 107 targets, Fitzgerald was credited with just one drop.

    Route Running

    21/25

    One of the best route-runners in the NFL, Fitzgerald did see his breaking routes suffer more last season. He wasn’t as explosive out of his breaks and was limited to more straight-line routes.

    Speed

    15/20

    Speed isn’t a big part of Fitz’s game, but he gets by with excellent agility and instincts. Given his frame 6’3” frame, he’s able to still make people miss. His 12 missed tackles caused last year are proof of his slipperiness.

    Starter

    5/5

    Even as he enters his age-32 season, Fitzgerald is still a true No. 1 receiver. With a healthy season and a healthy quarterback, his numbers are set to rebound in 2015.

    Overall

    90/100

9. Jeremy Maclin, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Hands

    48/50

    Jeremy Maclin (6'0", 198 lbs, 5 seasons) was a star for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, catching 85 balls on 140 targets and dropping just one target all season. He’s confident, consistent and doesn’t make mistakes timing the ball or adjusting his hands for grabs away from his body.

    Route Running

    20/25

    Maclin has proved to be a good route-runner but is a little limited after injuries. His hips aren’t as flexible or agile as previously, which keeps his breaking routes from being elite. He’s still very good, but a little stiffness is holding him back from being great.

    Speed

    18/20

    Maclin has the pure speed to beat defenders over the top or with the ball in his hands on short routes that allow YAC chances. Maclin is slippery in space and a true stud with the ball in his hands—as evidenced by his average of six yards after the catch.

    Starter

    5/5

    The Chiefs got a good one in free agency. Maclin, when healthy, has proved to be both dependable and explosive as a threat with the ball in his hands.

    Overall

    91/100

8. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Hands

    44/50

    Regarded by many as the best receiver in football, Calvin Johnson (6'5", 236 lbs, 8 seasons) has never been a flawless receiver when it comes to dropping passes. In 2014, he put seven opportunities on the ground on 124 targets—a ratio that’s much higher than that of the other top receivers. Johnson makes the unreal catch against double coverage but will drop easy grabs too often.

    Route Running

    24/25

    A full route tree has never been a big part of Johnson’s game, but he dominates on routes where he can get his body between himself and the ball. He’s a jump-ball artist and a physical, tough presence on slants and deep-breaking routes.

    Speed

    18/20

    Injuries have taken some of his speed, but Johnson is still a freakishly fast player for his size. He can run past coverage and also does a great job making defenders miss underneath. He has both burst and buildup speed.

    Starter

    5/5

    Injuries held Johnson back in 2014 and are becoming an issue for him each season. Is his oversized frame wearing down? We’ll see in 2015, but when he’s right, Megatron is still unstoppable down the field.

    Overall

    91/100

7. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Hands

    44/50

    A sure-handed deep threat at receiver, T.Y. Hilton (5'9", 178 lbs, 3 seasons) will drop the intermediate pass here and there. His seven drops within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage are an issue and the reason why his score here isn’t higher. He’s a great receiver, to be sure, but his drops add up. His ability to track the ball over either shoulder is impressive, and he’s very tough when asked to make grabs over the middle.

    Route Running

    24/25

    Hilton is a brilliant route-runner, showing the quickness to beat coverage underneath and the mixture of speed and body control to win battles going down the field. His body control on the sideline and when asked to adjust to the ball in flight is jaw-droppingly good.

    Speed

    19/20

    Hilton has the raw speed to simply run past defenders. Any cornerback facing him must respect his burst off the line, which leaves him open for a lot of pop passes right off the snap. With the ball in his hands, Hilton is one of the NFL’s most dangerous players.

    Speed

    5/5

    An established star, Hilton is a true blue-chip player. That’s impressive considering he was a late-third-round pick back in 2012 and was thought to be too small to be a No. 1 receiver.

    Overall

    92/100

6. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

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    Bill Haber/Associated Press

    Hands

    44/50

    On 156 targets in 2014, Julio Jones (6'3", 220 lbs, 4 seasons) dropped eight passes but secured 104 of them for catches. His hands score isn’t perfect, but Jones’ big mitts make him a tough cover. He’s able to extend and make ridiculous catches away from his frame and is tough enough to pull in catches in traffic.

    Route Running

    25/25

    Big receivers aren’t supposed to bend and glide like Jones does. He’s super-agile and able to sink his hips and then accelerate through breaks. Jones has size to box out defenders and speed to threaten them down the field.

    Speed

    18/20

    A physical freak with great size and great speed, Jones is able to beat defenders in multiple ways. He can run past cornerbacks or run them over if they get in his way.

    Starter

    5/5

    When healthy, Jones is an elite receiver. The only issue in his scouting report is that he’s never started a full 16 games in a season.

    Overall

    92/100

5. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

     

    Hands

    46/50

    Jordy Nelson (6'3", 217 lbs, 7 seasons) is one of the best receivers in football, but his hands score is lower than you might expect thanks to eight dropped passes on 146 targets and 98 catches. Nelson has strong hands on the sideline and the strength to pull down catches in traffic but has to eliminate the easy drops when a hot pass comes in.

    Route Running

    25/25

    You could make a successful argument for Nelson as the best pure route-runner in football. His timing, agility, explosiveness out of cuts and awareness of coverage are elite.

    Speed

    17/20

    Nelson was a track star in high school, and his speed is very good, especially in the open field. He’s able to explode and separate out of breaks in his routes and is dangerous after the catch thanks to his start-and-stop speed.

    Starter

    5/5

    Nelson is the best receiver on an offense featuring the NFL’s best quarterback. He’s productive, dangerous and consistent.

    Overall

    93/100

4. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Hands

    45/50

    Demaryius Thomas (6'3", 229 lbs, 5 seasons) was super-productive in 2014, catching 111 balls for over 1,600 yards. He did drop nine passes, though. Thomas can struggle with the occasional concentration drop, but we also noticed several times that passes coming to him weren’t tight spirals.

    Route Running

    25/25

    A physical route-runner, Thomas knows how to get open with his body or speed. He can post up against cornerbacks or beat them for jump balls. He does a great job reading the defense and knows how to sit down in space to make himself a target.

    Speed

    18/20

    Thomas doesn’t have elite track speed, but at 229 pounds he’s able to accelerate downfield and beat cornerbacks to the ball doesn’t struggle to separate with speed when needed. Thomas’ 4.38-second time in the 40-yard dash is accurate to his field speed—which is crazy for his size, but not elite speed compared across the board.

    Starter

    5/5

    The top-rated “big” receiver on the list, Thomas has been the biggest beneficiary of Peyton Manning’s arrival in Denver and is set to be paid for his status as an elite wide receiver.

    Overall

    93/100

3. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Hands

    47/50

    On 178 targets in 2014, Antonio Brown (5'10", 186 lbs, 5 seasons) grabbed 129 catches (the most in the NFL) and dropped only five passes. That isn’t a perfect grade, but it’s close, and Brown is as dependable as they come. He’s able to make the tough grab in traffic and has the concentration and coordination to attack the ball off the ground.

    Route Running

    25/25

    The best route-runner in football, Brown is able to beat big cornerbacks with speed and quickness and can beat small cornerbacks with savvy moves and timing. His ability to time routes and then accelerate out of breaks is jaw-dropping.

    Speed

    17/20

    Brown is quicker than fast but has the speed to pull away from coverage and get open. He doesn’t produce huge gains after the catch consistently but has moves in space to avoid tacklers.

    Starter

    5/5

    Brown was electric in 2014, showing production and traits that add up to his status as one of the game’s best playmakers.

    Overall

    94/100

2. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

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    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    Hands

    49/50

    Odell Beckham Jr. (5'11", 198 lbs, 1 season) made the signature catch of the 2014 season—maybe of any season ever—and showcased just how strong his hands are. On Beckham’s 129 targets, he dropped just two of them. His ability to beat defenders to the ball and then secure the catch is nearing legendary.

    Route Running

    23/25

    Beckham’s smaller size give him the quick hips and feet needed to be a great route-runner. He’s agile in space and has the speed to run away from defenders out of the break. There’s some room for improvement on his body control and ability to beat the press.

    Speed

    18/20

    Beckham has enough speed to threaten defenses deep, and his 5.3-yards-after-the-catch average shows his slipperiness in space. With a full offseason to train, Beckham has the athleticism to improve his score.

    Starter

    5/5

    Beckham, Jr. dominated the NFL in his 793 snaps last year. He’s an emerging star with icon potential.

    Overall

    95/100

1. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Hands

    47/50

    Dez Bryant (6'2", 220 lbs, 5 seasons) was an unstoppable force in 2014, and the Dallas Cowboys are lucky to have a sure-handed star at receiver. Bryant’s hands aren’t the best in the NFL—he dropped five passes on 135 targets in 2014—but they are very, very good. He’s able to make the routine catches and the ridiculous ones...even if the refs won’t recognize them as catches.

    Route Running

    25/25

    An elite route-runner, Bryant has mastered the route tree since coming to Dallas. He’s perfected his craft and has the skills to break off routes at full speed and manipulate his hips and feet to create separation from defenders.

    Speed

    18/20

    Most big receivers can’t move with the speed and grace of Bryant, who shows his burst out of breaks but also the speed to run away from defenders after the catch. Getting separation over the top is no issue for him. Bryant’s 4.52 speed coming out of college doesn’t do justice to his speed on the field.

    Starter

    5/5

    Bryant has become the standard by which wide receiver prospects are judged thanks to his combination of strength, speed and agility. He’s a game-changer.

    Overall

    95/100