NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players of 2022” — voted on by the players themselves — concludes on Sunday, Aug. 28. Players ranked 20-1 will be revealed over the course of three hour-long episodes, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
Five superstar wideouts sit among the 20 unnamed players remaining in this epic countdown. With that in mind, former NFL defensive back Jason McCourty, who retired in July after a 13-year career, provides his ranking of the top 10 receivers heading into the 2022 season.
What a great offseason to be a wide receiver, as six of the 10 players on my list below signed new contracts. But before we jump into the hierarchy, I have to acknowledge the forgotten three: DeAndre Hopkins, Allen Robinson and Michael Thomas.
Hopkins and Thomas are two of the league’s best receivers when healthy, but injuries have taken a toll of late — and Hopkins is set to miss the first six games of this season after violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Robinson, on the other hand, finally joins a team with a top-10 quarterback after spending the majority of his career with subpar play at the position. The league is better when these three talented wideouts are at their best; hopefully, we’ll see that this fall.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t give some love to another group of receivers. Four youngsters who just missed my top 10 — the Bengals’ Tee Higgins, Cowboys’ CeeDee Lamb, Commanders’ Terry McLaurin and Seahawks’ DK Metcalf — could definitely play themselves into the ranks of the elite in 2022.
Alright, enough preamble. Let’s get to the rankings!
Los Angeles Chargers · Age 30
Allen might not be the fastest guy on the field, but his releases off the line of scrimmage — I’d rank him second in the NFL in this area, behind only Davante Adams — allow him to get ahead on his routes from the snap. He uses a crossover-like move to beat defenders and routinely provides a reliable target for quarterback Justin Herbert, who’s improved in each of his two pro seasons. Allen has proved he’s one of the league’s best wideouts with 95-plus receptions in each of the last five seasons. He’s especially dependable on third and fourth down, with a league-most 70 catches on such downs since 2020. If I’m an NFL quarterback, I want this type of receiver in the huddle.
Philadelphia Eagles · Age 25
When I was with the Patriots in 2019, we competed against the Titans in joint practices in Nashville. I didn’t know who Brown was going into that week, but it only took a few practices for the second-round pick to prove to me that he absolutely belonged in the league. Brown promptly proceeded to lead the Titans in catches, receiving yards and receiving TDs in each of his three seasons in Tennessee. Now in Philadelphia following a draft-day trade, Brown’s fueled by how the deal went down. He should have no problem fitting in with Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith and Co. He also shouldn’t have a problem getting back to piling up 1,000-yard seasons, given his ability to make the contested catch, accumulate yards after the catch and break tackles, qualities that make him a top-tier wideout.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Age 29
Evans is Mr. Consistent. It doesn’t matter who’s throwing him the ball — he’s going to get at least 1,000 yards. After all, that’s exactly what he’s done in each of his eight NFL seasons, producing the longest such streak to begin a career in league history. Evans might not be the loudest or flashiest receiver; he’s just a guy who performs no matter the situation, typically letting his production do the talking. With Tom Brady throwing him the rock — and finding him for 27 scoring strikes over the past two seasons — the 29-year-old is finally starting to get the national attention he deserves. Evans has been this good for years and should continue to be a matchup nightmare for defenses in 2022 barring injury.
San Francisco 49ers · Age 26
There was so much talk about Deebo’s usage as a running back last season, but he still had 1,405 receiving yards, good for fifth in the league. Kyle Shanahan does a great job using jailbreak and bubble screens, but those only work well with a special talent like No. 19, who compiled 779 yards after the catch in 2021 (second in the NFL). I’m excited to watch Samuel back up last year’s performance after he signed a lucrative three-year extension during training camp.
Hill’s insane speed makes him an absolute nightmare to defend. Defenses can put their fastest cover man on him — plus an extra safety — and still can’t stop him. With the Patriots, I played against Hill and the Chiefs twice in the 2018 season, including the AFC Championship Game. In the regular-season matchup, which was a Sunday Night Football game, he caught seven balls for 142 yards and three touchdowns. In one possession late in the third quarter, we got backed up into the red zone and actually thought we were in an OK position because Hill couldn’t beat us vertically. Then Andy Reid put Hill in the slot and the guy burned us to the corner of the end zone. In the fourth quarter, he supplied his typical downfield dynamism with a 75-yard catch-and-run touchdown. His ability to accelerate to full speed immediately off the line of scrimmage is the best I’ve ever seen. That said, I appreciate the fact that Hill hasn’t just relied on his raw explosiveness in recent years; he’s continued to develop as a route runner. This will be great for Tua Tagovailoa in Miami.
Diggs was a really good player in Minnesota. I faced him in Week 1 of 2016, Diggs’ second NFL season, and clearly remember one catch he made in the fourth quarter. In one-on-one coverage down the sideline, Diggs made a heck of a grab with late hands. The former fifth-round pick has worked his way into the upper echelon of NFL receivers by making similar plays every time he takes the field. Diggs has been well worth the first-round pick Buffalo gave up for his services, logging 2,760 receiving yards and 18 TDs on 230 receptions over two seasons with the Bills. Diggs dictates coverage, often demanding safety help over the top, and opens up so many opportunities for those around him. There’s no doubt that he’s helped Josh Allen develop into one of league’s top quarterbacks, inherently tossing the Bills right into the thick of Super Bowl contention.
Cincinnati Bengals · Age 22
I got to watch Chase up close in Week 3 of the 2021 preseason, when my Dolphins played in Cincinnati. In that game, the rookie had his fourth drop in five preseason targets. I remember hearing rumblings from people questioning if he’d ultimately become a premium playmaker for Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ offense. Then the regular season started, and all Chase did was make plays. He dominated cornerbacks outside the numbers on the regular, helping him set an NFL rookie record with 1,455 receiving yards. Coming off that monster first season, he’s in a great situation to duplicate his success in Year 2 — just like the next guy on this list did in 2021.
Minnesota Vikings · Age 23
A lot of people thought it was crazy to trade Stefon Diggs, but his replacement has provided the Vikings with staggering production. In fact, no one in NFL history has logged more receiving yards in his first two seasons than Jefferson (3,016). His rookie campaign was impressive in itself, but the fact that he exceeded that output across the board in Year 2 — after the league had an entire season of film on him — is pretty remarkable. We’d be foolish to think we’ll see anything different from him in Year 3. Cue the Griddy.
Los Angeles Rams · Age 29
Kupp captured the receiving triple crown last season with 145 receptions, 1,947 receiving yards and 16 receiving TDs. He then went on to ball out in the postseason, setting up the game-winning field goal in the Divisional Round and providing an MVP performance in the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI triumph. But what was most impressive to me, as an NFL cornerback, was his breakdown of a play during an interview with my NFL Network colleague Bridget Condon after the Rams’ Week 13 victory over Jacksonville. Gerald Alexander, my DBs coach in Miami last season, showed our unit that interview, and I remember being amazed by Kupp’s level of understanding from a defensive back’s perspective. He knew exactly where to go and what he needed to do to have success. To have that type of knowledge — along with his physical talent — is incredible.
Las Vegas Raiders · Age 29
Having played against Davante multiple times during my career, this was a no-brainer for me. Adams’ raw production speaks for itself, as he leads the NFL in receptions (432), receiving yards (5,310) and receiving touchdowns (47) since 2017. Sure, he’s racked up those crazy numbers with a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, but the receiver is equally talented and did just as much for the Packers over the last few seasons as the back-to-back MVP. Now he’s playing with an old friend and college teammate — Derek Carr — in a system that absolutely will showcase his abilities. Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels is superb at getting his best offensive players the ball. I practiced against his units for three years in New England, and the offense is tough to defend at any time, let alone when he’s working with elite players. Combine that with Adams’ unparalleled ability to get open off the line of scrimmage — and stay open — and this is a match made in heaven.