The debate of best receiver in the NFL is most often between Antonio Brown, Odell Beckam Jr. and Julio Jones but there are a couple of other receivers who could make a case to be the best in the league (or at least having the best year). When you look at the best wide receiver you have to look at a player who has the ability to break a game open and make the big catch. The best receiver has to be multi-faceted and be able to take a short pass the distance after the catch and beet the defense over the top with speed.
Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr and Julio Jones all have these abilities, but we must also consider that they all have good supporting casts around them. Brown has the best supporting cast, with the best receiving core, best quarterback (top 5), and best running back. This must be taken into consideration when evaluating a receiver based on production. Beckham has a good quarterback and an okay running back, but no other threats at wide receiver which allows the defense to key in on him. Julio Jones has a good quarterback, solid receiver number two in Roddy White and and good running back in Freeman. This allows him to take advantage of play action for big plays.
There are a few other wide receivers who have elite production with far superior supporting casts than these big three. One of the most notable wide receiver who is lighting up the league is Deandre Hopkins, currently number three in receiving yards with 1,432 and 11TDs. Hopkins has the second most catches for a 1st down after Brown. What makes Hopkins standout is that he is playing with a fourth string quarterback due to injury and has lost his starting running back to injury yet again. The only other receiver Houston has is Nate Washington, so you would think the defense could key in on Hopkins to stop him, but again and again they have failed. He has make highlight reel catch after catch (and many one handed).
Allen Robinson has also had an incredible year, sixth in receiving yards with 1,292 and tied for the lead in receiving TD’s with 14. Robinson also has the most receptions for 20+Yds with 28 over Antonio Brown. Robinson also has an incredible 17.2 yards per catch, which is significantly higher than all of the other elite receivers. Allen Robinson is an explosive player who is able to get the top off the defense and physically imposing at 6’3″ 215lbs. He is able to have success down the field and in the red zone. Robinson is playing with a young quarterback and virtually no run game, but he does have a good number two receiver on the other side. Robinson also has zero fumbles, which means he has good ball security after the catch.
Another surprising candidate for the best receiver in the league is Rob Gronkoski. 3-Time Pro-Bowlers and 2-Time All-Pro he has shown to be the best tight-end in the league. At 6’6″ and 265lbs, Gronkoski is the most challenging receiver to cover in the NFL. The challenge of covering Gronkowski is matching up with both his size, agility and speed. He is too agile and fast to be covered by a linebacker, as well as too big and physical for a corner or safety. The only thing that has slowed Gronk down has been injuries, but when he is on the field he simply cannot be stopped. He also has an incredible catch radius, which allows for an incredible asset for a quarterback. Over Gronk’s career, he has averaged over 11TDs/year and when healthy he easily achieves 1,000+Yds. This year Gronkoski is on pace for over 1,200 yds and 11+TDs. What makes this more impressive is the lack of threats on the Patriots outside of Gronkoski. The opposing team knows Brady is throwing to Gronk, yet no one has been able to stop him yet. The only factor that limits Gronkowski as far as the best receiver is the fact that he has a hall of fame (maybe best ever) quarterback throwing to him.
Once you consider all of the factors that impact a receiver, you have to put Hopkins a the top of the list. When you consider the limitations at quarterback and lack of a number two receiver. It isn’t even a close competition, Hopkins is the best receiver in the league. I think second you would have to put Gronkowski as he is un-coverable, with his size and speed combination. I would say that the third best wide receiver would be between Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones, both are good choices but I would personally go with Odell Beckham Jr. due to his ability to perform in the lime light.