One of the most important traits a receiver can have in today's NFL is elusiveness—the ability to make defenders miss in the open field and create separation from opponents in pursuit, all while avoiding big hits in the process.
And with that, here are the five most elusive receivers in the NFL today. As a minor sidenote, a "receiver" can be any player that catches the ball, not merely a wide receiver.
Mike Wallace does not posses the agility or the burst that other players on this list do; rather, his elusiveness is derived mainly from his straight-line, 4.3 speed.
Quite simply, there are few DBs in the NFL today that can keep up with Wallace, especially now that he's learned how to run cleaner and more crisp routes. In space, Wallace does have above-average elusiveness, but he simply lacks the quickness, explosive first step and savvy necessary to be higher on this list.
The Panthers' Steve Smith is a true big-play threat every time he touches the ball. He possesses world-class speed and quickness, surprising upper-body strength, excellent hands and tremendous vision.
Smith is too quick and strong to jam at the line, is able to quickly establish separation from even the best cover CBs and is nearly impossible to solo tackle in space. Smith's agility and blazing first step allow him to make defenders look silly.
The Philadelphia Eagles' LeSean McCoy is the best pass-catching running back in the NFL, bar none.
There is simply no player in the NFL more difficult to bring down in space than McCoy—he's a player that can cut back better than anyone in the league, is as shifty and elusive in the open field as players like Marshall Faulk and Barry Sanders and can absolutely fly.
And unlike many players on this list, McCoy fights for extra yards and rarely goes down after the first hit—he's the type of receiver out of the backfield that gives defensive coordinators nightmares. One missed tackle and "Shady" can be off to the races.
Wes Welker is living proof that brain can triumph over brawn, even in today's NFL.
The diminutive Patriots wideout lacks great speed and quickness, but more than compensates with a superior understanding of the defense, a quick first step and some of the best hands in the game today. Any ball Tom Brady throws that is even close to Welker almost always results in a catch.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Welker's game is his ability to seemingly always fall forward, avoiding the big hit whenever possible. He's reliable, he's explosive and he's elusive.
DeSean Jackson is the most explosive, most elusive receiver in the NFL, period. If you don't believe me, believe Jerry Rice, the player (almost) universally acknowledged to be the greatest wide receiver to ever play the game.
Jackson is one of the fastest players in the league, possesses otherworldly quickness, an explosive first step and a penchant for making big plays. He's finished second and first in the NFL is yards per catch over the past two seasons, respectively.
In the open field, there are few defenders in the league that can catch Jackson and even fewer that stand a chance of tackling him once they catch him. In short, he's the ultimate big-play weapon.