15 min read

2023 NFL Midseason Top 24 Wide Receiver Rankings

Wide receivers are incredibly difficult to rank. Factors such as scheme, quarterback play and alignment (slot vs. out wide) can have an impact on receivers’ final stat lines each week.

This article attempts to account for all those factors when ranking the league's top 24 wide receivers.

NFL’s Top 24 Wide Receivers

1. Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins

Tyreek Hill is the NFL’s most unstoppable wide receiver because of his incredible speed and ability to out-leverage defenders in a diabolic football scheme. It does not matter if the defense is in man coverage, zone coverage or bracketed; Hill can outrun the defense, understand what it’s taking away and change his route, all while being on the same page with Tua Tagovailoa

According to Sports Info Solutions, Hill is first in the NFL in yards per route run against zone coverages and third in yards per route run against man coverage.

The chart above from NFL Next Gen Stats from Week 1 displays just how creative coach Mike McDaniel is with Hill and how Hill’s route tree is not something you can scheme against. Some of these routes seem to be cut short, and some are him running to the soft spot of the zone because he understands where to sit down his route. 

2. Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

Justin Jefferson is sidelined with a hamstring injury, but he’s still the No. 2 wide receiver in football. Jefferson is one of the game's most intellectually sound route runners and has gotten better at beating these bracket coverages teams run. 

The perfect example of this is the 42-yard reception he had against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1. Jefferson got Antoine Winfield to slightly turn his hips toward the sidelines before breaking inside and giving Kirk Cousins a perfect window to throw the ball.

3. Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals

Ja’Marr Chase is one of the most explosive wide receivers in football and one of the few who can take a slant 80 yards and then win a jump ball on a go route down the field. 

The only area where Chase still has room for improvement is his route running, because he relies a lot on his physical ability, and against some of the elite press man corners, that can be an issue. 

Chase is close to surpassing Jefferson and will eventually be the best wide receiver in the NFL. Chase’s separation numbers are rising — according to NFL Next Gen Stats, he is averaging 3.4 yards of separation. 

That’s also a credit to Bengals coach Zach Taylor for getting more creative with Chase. The charts below show the previous two matchups against the San Francisco 49ers and how Chase was targeted. You can see he is being used as more of a complete wide receiver, which showcases how dangerous he is becoming.

4. A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles

There isn’t a player built like A.J. Brown at the receiver position. For the first time in his career, the Philadelphia Eagles are making him the main focus of their offense; as a result, he has had six straight games with more than 125 yards receiving. 

Brown is similar to Chase; the Philadelphia wideout can rely on his physical abilities over his technical abilities to beat defensive backs. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Brown averages 2.5 yards of separation. That is not a high number compared with some top-tier players, but the play below is the perfect example of how little separation matters for someone of his size and skill set.

The Washington Commanders cornerback is in the perfect position to make a play on the ball, but Brown physically outmatches him and finds a way to make a one-handed grab. 

Giving Brown man coverage results in big plays at a consistent rate. Using our tool The EDGE, powered by Sports Info Solutions, you can see Brown is the only player averaging more than four yards per route run against man coverage in the last two seasons (minimum 100 routes). 

5. Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders

Davante Adams is the first wide receiver whose production doesn’t match his ranking, but he is a top five wide receiver in football. Adams is one of the best separators in our game and can read coverages at one of the highest levels.

Athletically and at 30 years old, he isn’t quite the same as some of the players in this tier, but his hands are arguably the best of the group. He’s in a situation that doesn’t fit what he does well. If he were paired with Joe Burrow, Josh Allen or Jalen Hurts, he would be producing at one of the highest levels.

The above play was from Week 8 and was an incomplete pass because Jimmy Garoppolo could not find a way to get Adams the ball. The play in the below tweet is from 2022, where Adams put his defensive back in a spin cycle, and it’s still something he does today. Adams is still a top-five wide receiver but can’t show it because of his current situation.

6. Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills

While not as physically gifted as some other receivers, Stefon Diggs stands out as one of the craftiest route runners in the NFL. Paired with a top quarterback, he's effective at all levels of the field and is a top-tier play-maker. 

Using NFL Next Gen Stats, Diggs is consistently a player who gets 2.7 to 2.9 yards per separation. That’s a high-level number but not quite the numbers we have seen the top five players on this list put up.

7. CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys

CeeDee Lamb is as talented as every player listed above him but isn’t consistently used properly or put as the main focus of the offense every week. Lamb is as fluid route runner, makes plays downfield, has reliable hands and does damage after the catch. 

After the game against the 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys made it a priority to get him the ball in different ways, and it’s showing the talent he can be as a player. He’s put up three straight weeks of more than 100 yards receiving and is doing so on various routes.

8. Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams

Cooper Kupp embodies consistency. Since Matthew Stafford joined the Los Angeles Rams, Kupp has showcased some of the best hands in football. His ability to read the game like a quarterback sets him apart.

This route against Darius Slay showcases Kupp’s understanding of leverage and how to get open in 1-on-1 situations. Kupp hits a “rocker step,” causing Slay to take one missed step inside and create the needed separation for Kupp to make the catch over his shoulder. 

9. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

Keenan Allen has elite route-running and separation skills, making him a force every week. While his athleticism has diminished slightly, his football IQ and ability to destroy people with his release package compensate for it. 

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, his average yards of separation is 3.4, which ranks fifth among players with at least 30 targets this season.

He still has top-tier hands in this league and puts them on display in the video above.

10. Garrett Wilson, New York Jets

Garrett Wilson possesses all the tools to ascend on this list, but he needs more experience. He excels at beating his defender, but his understanding of reading coverages and finding soft spots is a work in progress.

According to Sports Info Solutions, Wilson averages 2.7 yards per route run against man coverage. That’s top 15 in the NFL without great quarterback play. However, he averages 1.4 yards per route run against zone coverage.

11. Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions

Although he often lines up in the slot, Amon-Ra St. Brown shines in any alignment. His understanding of coverages, ability to leverage defenders and fearless play over the middle set him apart. 

If given the opportunity to play with a coach like Sean McVay and a quarterback like Stafford, he could match Kupp's offensive player of the year production from two years ago.

In the past two years, St. Brown has a catch rate of 72.6 percent against zone coverages, and it’s because of his chemistry with Jared Goff and understanding of where the soft spots are to cut off his routes. 

The chart below against the Buccaneers shows how he’s winning over the middle of the field and creating plays after the catch.

12. DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

DK Metcalf is a physical specimen, but his release package and route-running need refinement. He's one of the most physically dominant wide receivers in the league. But to enter the top-tier status, he must get better at the little things. 

The game against the Cincinnati Bengals shows a few examples of how quarterback play can affect things. Below, Geno Smith has hit his drop and is looking at Metcalf for a chance at a big play but ends up throwing the ball away.

This exemplifies how Metcalf needs a better release package and can’t get jammed for this long on a play. Bengals CB Cam Taylor-Britt is playing good football lately, but he is nowhere near Metcalf’s size or strength. 

13. DJ Moore, Chicago Bears

DJ Moore shares a playing style with Chase, showcasing great athleticism, ball skills and yards-after-catch ability. However, Moore’s fluidity in route running can improve, which prevents him from moving up in these rankings. 

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Moore’s 230-yard game against the Commanders happened despite him having a low route separation average.

This graph shows how his damage done was after the catch, which is his style is similar to Chase’s. The screen grabs of the catches show there isn’t much separation on these routes due to Moore’s route running and Justin Fields not being a great timing passer.

14. Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers

Brandon Aiyuk is a versatile receiver and a favorite of mine. Aiyuk is one of the best yards-after-catch players in the NFL, averaging over 4.4 yards after the catch this season. 

According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Aiyuk averages 3.1 yards of separation per reception, ranking sixth among players with 30 targets. 

Aiyuk is the 49ers’ man coverage beater. During the past two seasons, he has averaged 3.4 yards per route run against man coverage. Aiyuk can play in the slot and out wide, and he is asked to win deep, over the middle or on short routes. 

His game in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers displays all of his talent, and if he’s asked to be the main guy, he can handle it.

15. DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles

DeVonta Smith is the second-best receiver on his team but could be a No. 1 option elsewhere. He excels at separating and would thrive with a quarterback who had great timing with him on his breaks. 

Smith is not someone who gives you much after the catch, but he can make plays such as the one below and can consistently get open down the field.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Smith averages the same yards of separation per reception as Adams and Diggs. Smith shares a lot of similar traits to those receivers but isn’t quite as good.

16. Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders

Despite facing inconsistent quarterback play throughout his career, Terry McLaurin has consistently surpassed the 1,000-yard mark. His ability to make the most of limited targets stems from his exceptional contested-catch skills and versatility.

McLaurin is averaging three yards of separation per reception but still finds ways to win in contested catch situations such as the one above. Plus, he does it without some of the quarterback options the top receivers have.

17. Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals

Tee Higgins has struggled during his contract season but remains one of the top 20 wide receivers in football. He isn’t a top-end separator, averaging 2.3 yards of separation per reception, but he can high-point the football, win on these contested catches and make big plays down the field. 

He is one of the best No. 2 receivers in football. 

Higgins is a boundary wide receiver who can win on the sidelines at a high level, and we saw that on display in Week 9. He has run more than 80 percent of his routes out wide this season and hasn’t shown a ton of productivity if he’s moved into the slot. 

18. Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins

Jaylen Waddle's evaluation is complicated due to playing with Hill, who sets a high bar. Waddle's strengths lie in his ability to make plays after the catch and in his speed and route-running capabilities.

He excels in separating from defenders on numerous routes. However, he struggles when facing press coverage or contested situations, often opting to high-point the ball instead of running underneath it.

This drop by Waddle in the AFC playoffs is an example of him leaving his feet to catch the ball but body catching it, instead of getting his hands out in front of his face. 

Waddle is still a top 20 wide receiver because of his ability after the catch and how he creates issues for defense backs on horizontal and vertical routes. 

19. Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints

Although Chris Olave's season isn’t off to a great start, he remains one of the most talented receivers in the NFL. Although he is not a yards-after-the-catch specialist — averaging only four yards after the catch per reception — he consistently creates separation in the intermediate part of the field.

Olave averages 3.1 yards of separation per reception, with an average depth of target of more than 13 yards. He is still developing but is already a top 20 receiver.

20. Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns

Amari Cooper is one of the most complete receivers in the NFL, but he has battled numerous leg injuries throughout his career and has been inconsistent. He showcases his ability to make contested catches and find ways to win against bracketed coverage, proving his worth even with less-than-stellar quarterback play.

Cooper is one of the most well-rounded players in the league, and he has elite footwork. The play below shows his 58-yard reception in the second quarter against the 49ers.

San Francisco plays man coverage on this rep, and Cooper makes the cornerback fall at the stem of his route. Cooper could be higher on this list, but his inconsistencies make him a difficult player to grade.

21. Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers

Deebo Samuel's route running skills might not be his primary strength, but his extraordinary yards-after-the-catch ability compensates for this. He relies heavily on creative play-calling, making him a versatile weapon who can excel as a wide receiver, slot receiver or running back.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Samuel is averaging 8.2 yards after the catch per reception and more than nine yards the previous two seasons. 

Samuel is not a product of Kyle Shanahan, but he has benefited by playing in Shanahan’s system. Regardless, he is still a top 24 wide receiver and the best at breaking tackles. 

22. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With a remarkable streak of nine consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Mike Evans continues to excel on deep routes and possesses exceptional high-pointing skills. Regardless of his quarterback situation, he consistently delivers impressive performances. 

Evans works the sidelines at a high level. His yards of separation per reception is only 2.5, according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats, but he is still producing at a high level.

23. DeAndre Hopkins, Tennessee Titans

DeAndre Hopkins' ranking is primarily due to age-related declines in athleticism. While he isn’t an elite separator anymore — averaging one of the lowest yards of separation per reception — he still has reliable hands. Also, exceptional sideline work still makes him a top 24 receiver.

Hopkins showcased his juice on the deep routes in Will Levis’ first start, while winning horizontally and providing some yards after the catch. Hopkins was once the best wide receiver in the game, but his age has brought him to the bottom end of the top 24.

24. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks

Tyler Lockett isn’t known for producing significant yards after the catch, but his ability to play both inside and outside, and his proficiency at all three levels of the field, sets him apart. 

He boasts remarkable hands and excels at tracking deep passes, making him a well-rounded receiver.

Lockett’s ability to toe-tap is world-class for a receiver of his size, but a majority of these throws show his exceptional ability to complete over-the-shoulder receptions. Lockett is a special receiver who does not receive enough love as one of the better players in the league.

Follow The 33rd Team Podcast Network on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.