Over the years, the NFL has transitioned from run-heavy offenses to ones that involve a great deal of passing plays. The game is more explosive now than it has ever been before, and a big reason for that is the incredible talent that the game’s young receivers possess. Not to mention, quarterbacks are playing better than ever — with several throwing for 4,000-plus yards on a regular basis.
They wouldn’t be able to do that so easily without help from their receivers, however. And there are some truly great ones. These are the 10 best wideouts in the game today as we head into the 2016 season.
1. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
There are a lot of outstanding wide receivers in the NFL right now, most of which are under the age of 30. There is only one Antonio Brown, though. For the past three seasons, he’s been the best wideout in the league, and that’s not going to change in 2016. Last season, he tied Julio Jones for the league-high with 136 catches, while his 1,834 yards were second. It’s the consistency with which Brown gets it done that sets him apart. He was forced to play four games without Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, which did lead to a slight drop in production. Yet, he still nearly led the league in yards and was tied for seventh among wide receivers with 10 touchdowns.
Entering 2016, Brown, Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell are expected to be healthy, which gives Pittsburgh arguably the best triplets in all of football. And Bell’s presence will only open up the field for Brown, too. A full season with Roethlisberger will continue to build Brown up as the best wideout in the game — one that’s nearly uncoverable with just one man on him. He’s on track to put together a Hall of Fame-caliber career.
2. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Make no mistake about it: Julio Jones is a close second to Brown. He has superior size (6-foot-3) and speed to Brown, but his hands aren’t quite as good, having dropped six passes in 2015. There’s no doubting his overall talent and ability to take one to the house on any given play, he just needs more polishing than Brown does at this point — and that’s OK. He nearly went stride-for-stride statistically with Brown last season, catching 136 passes for a league-high 1,871 yards and eight touchdowns. Having a quarterback of Matt Ryan’s caliber certainly helps, but it’s not like Jones had much pressure taken off of him by his fellow receivers.
Last season was more than just a breakout year for Jones, too. It was a display of what he’s capable of when used correctly. Running out of the slot and on the outside as the X receiver, Jones showed he can get the job done from all over the field. If Jones can put up similar numbers to the ones he had in 2015, he’ll challenge Brown further for wide receiver supremacy.
3. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
Odell Beckham Jr. has played a mere 27 games in the NFL, yet he’s already scored 25 touchdowns and set a boatload of records. Putting him at No. 3 even feels a bit low based on his sheer playmaking ability since coming into the league, but he’s just a hair behind Jones. Still, he’s one of the best receivers in the game today, and will be for the better part of the next decade. After two seasons, Beckham has yet to play a full 16-game slate. He missed four games in 2014 due to an early injury, and he was suspended one game last season for his involvement in the constant back-and-forth between him and Josh Norman. Despite those missed games, Beckham has still put up at least 1,300 yards and 90 receptions each year. He and Eli Manning have built a great relationship in New York, having a great deal of trust in one another on the field. Not to mention, Beckham will come down with most 50-50 balls thrown his way, which helps that trust.