The NFL is thirsting for superstars. Future Hall of Famers like Calvin Johnson and Peyton Manning recently called it quits, and franchise heroes Tom Brady and Larry Fitzgerald are pushing into the retirement age for their respective positions. Don’t conflate this with the idea that the league is somehow running out of talent; the faster NFL has been getting young athletes who have excelled at meeting its high demands. This isn’t quite a league of marketable, commercial-ready stars, but it is one of potential, especially in the wide receiver position. They’re the faces of a pass-happy, modern NFL.
The young fans who grew up watching Randy Moss’ weekly showcases or Steve Smith Sr.’s on-field passion are now Pro Bowlers and No. 1 receivers. Some of them are out here making acrobatic one-handed catches with a startling amount of ease. Others are out here breaking records. A few are even doing both. But whichever way you slice it, everyone on this list of the best wide receivers have played major parts in their teams’ successes. The inclusions here also include the short, yet pugnacious and the freakish combinations of size and speed. Regardless of the athletic ability, these guys get the job done mainly because there are very few answers to what they bring to the table (even though teams employ people specifically to find those answers).
The wideouts on this list ranges includes the obvious ones with league-topping statistics to those with a ceiling-less amount of potential (as is the case of Amari Cooper). Is it possible that any one of these receivers will fall off? Well, yes—that’s always a possibility. But no one here is on this year’s Madden cover, and fantasy owners are well aware it’s always safe to bet on these guys. So without further ado, here are some of defensive coordinators’ biggest nightmares and our favorite highlight reels.