In honor of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, we're highlighting the best of the best across the NFL. Heading into the 2021 season, who are the premium players in five marquee areas: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, pass rusher and cornerback? Twenty-five analysts individually ranked their top three in each category, and then we tallied all of the votes via this simple formula:
Each first-place vote: 3 points
Each second-place vote: 2 points
Each third-place vote: 1 point
Below, you'll find the wide receiver podium -- highlighting the gold, silver and bronze medalists from our accumulated ballots -- as well as additional intel on the position. Check back all week as this series continues.
THE WIDE RECEIVER PODIUM
Total points: 63 (1st: 17; 2nd: 6; 3rd: 0)
Judy Battista: The NFL is so flush with great receivers that we could put together a second podium with those who didn't make our medal stand. Davante Adams would still be at the top. He is coming off one of the greatest seasons in NFL history, with 115 receptions for 1,374 yards and a league-leading 18 touchdowns. In only 14 games. No wonder Aaron Rodgers, who clearly isn't thrilled with everyone in Green Bay, wrote Adams a note last season to tell the receiver how important he is to him.
Total points: 34 (1st: 5; 2nd: 5; 3rd: 9)
Cynthia Frelund: Since 2013, no receiver has caught more passes than Hopkins. And last season, his first in Arizona, Hopkins improved in every way I measure wide receiver impact -- both when targeted and when he was not the subject of the target. The icing on the cake? Pro Football Focus credited Nuk with a career-high 22 forced missed tackles in 2020. Hopkins could certainly surpass Adams for gold next season.
Total points: 26 (1st: 1; 2nd: 10; 3rd: 3)
Nate Burleson: Stefon Diggs has climbed his way to my personal WR mountaintop (see: individual ballots below) after an extremely successful first season with Josh Allen in Buffalo. Davante Adams holds my second spot, thanks to his trusty hands and dominance in the red zone. That brings me to Tyreek Hill, whose God-given talent pumps fear into opponents the way Hall of Famers Randy Moss and Deion Sanders did. "Cheetah" is an exceptional route runner with great hands, and he can win vs. double or triple coverage. When he gains even a half step, the defense is toast.
INSIGHTS INTO THE WR VOTING
- Eight wide receivers received at least one vote this year -- one fewer than the number in the 2016 edition of this exercise.
- Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Robinson are the only WRs who made it onto a ballot this year and when we gave out medals in 2016. Jones earned the bronze medal five years ago, Hopkins was the highest vote-getter to miss that podium and Robinson received one vote. The other six wide receivers who also received votes back in '16: Antonio Brown (gold medal), Odell Beckham (silver), Dez Bryant, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall and Jordy Nelson.
- The average WR age on each voter's ballot this year: 27.8 years old.
- Seven of the 25 voters had some combination of Adams, Hopkins and Hill on the ballot.
WR RECORD HOLDERS
FASCINATING WR STATS FROM NFL RESEARCH
- The two wide receivers with the most receiving yards in 2020 -- Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins -- were both acquired via trade prior to the season. Diggs (acquired from Vikings) finished with 1,535 receiving yards, while Hopkins (acquired from Texans) had 1,407.
- Three of the top five WRs in receiving yards in 2020 were drafted in the first round: Hopkins (1,407), Justin Jefferson (1,400) and Calvin Ridley (1,374). Non-first-rounders include Diggs (1,535; fifth-round pick) and Davante Adams (1,374; second round)
- There has not been a wide receiver to lead the NFL in receiving yards in consecutive seasons since in Calvin Johnson 2011 and '12. Johnson sits alongside Andre Johnson (2008-09) and Jerry Rice (1989-1990 and 1993-95) as the only WRs to lead the league in receiving yards in consecutive seasons in the Super Bowl era.
- The 2020 season featured eight players with at least 100 receptions, third-most in NFL history behind 2018 (11) and 1995 (9).
- The 2020 season also saw five rookie wideouts with 800-plus receiving yards (T-most in NFL history, 2014): Justin Jefferson (1,400, rookie record), CeeDee Lamb (935), Tee Higgins (908), Chase Claypool (873), Jerry Jeudy (856).
- Top speed reached by a wide receiver since 2018 (Next Gen Stats): 22.23 mph, Cordarrelle Patterson (46-yard run at Denver in Week 2 of 2019)
|Judy Battista||Davante Adams||Stefon Diggs||DeAndre Hopkins|
|Jeremy Bergman||Davante Adams||Stefon Diggs||Tyreek Hill|
|Ali Bhanpuri||DeAndre Hopkins||Tyreek Hill||Julio Jones|
|Tom Blair||DeAndre Hopkins||Davante Adams||Stefon Diggs|
|Gil Brandt||Davante Adams||Stefon Diggs||DeAndre Hopkins|
|Kyle Brandt||Davante Adams||Tyreek Hill||Allen Robinson|
|Nate Burleson||Stefon Diggs||Davante Adams||Tyreek Hill|
|David Carr||Davante Adams||Tyreek Hill||DeAndre Hopkins|
|Brooke Cersosimo||DeAndre Hopkins||Davante Adams||Stefon Diggs|
|Jeffri Chadiha||Davante Adams||Tyreek Hill||DeAndre Hopkins|
|Gennaro Filice||Tyreek Hill||Davante Adams||DeAndre Hopkins|
|Cynthia Frelund||Davante Adams||DeAndre Hopkins||Justin Jefferson|
|Chase Goodbread||Davante Adams||Tyreek Hill||DeAndre Hopkins|
|Marcas Grant||Davante Adams||DeAndre Hopkins||Stefon Diggs|
|Maurice Jones-Drew||DeAndre Hopkins||Davante Adams||Stefon Diggs|
|Dan Parr||Davante Adams||Tyreek Hill||Stefon Diggs|
|Kevin Patra||Davante Adams||DeAndre Hopkins||Allen Robinson|
|Adam Rank||DeAndre Hopkins||D.K. Matcalf||Stefon Diggs|
|Marc Ross||Davante Adams||Tyreek Hill||DeAndre Hopkins|
|Marc Sessler||Davante Adams||Tyreek Hill||DeAndre Hopkins|
|Nick Shook||Stefon Diggs||Davante Adams||DeAndre Hopkins|
|Joe Thomas||Davante Adams||Tyreek Hill||Stefon Diggs|
|LaDainian Tomlinson||Davante Adams||DeAndre Hopkins||Julio Jones|
|Jim Trotter||Davante Adams||DeAndre Hopkins||Tyreek Hill|
|Lance Zierlein||Davante Adams||Tyreek Hill||D.K. Metcalf|