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The Schein Nine

Ranking NFL's top wide receivers in 2020: Is Keenan Allen right?

Keenan Allen is angry at the world. Or at least his NFL peers.

Ranked 77th in NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2020 -- this year's installment of the annual exercise that tabulates votes from the players themselves -- the Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver took to Twitter to air his grievances:

Better than Tyreek Hill, Mike Evans and Chris Goodwin, eh? How about Chris Godwin?

Truth be told, Allen is consistently underappreciated. This cat's a rare talent. One of the very best route-runners in the NFL. But yeah, he also has an amazing (and deserved) amount of self-confidence. And a chip on his shoulder obviously born of his criminal underratedness. Last year around this time, Allen came on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," and proclaimed he was the best receiver in the NFL. His No. 2? DeAndre Hopkins. Everyone wants to do these lists.

In the wake of Allen's Twitter venting, my editors asked me to weigh in with my current receiver rankings. Good thought! First, though, I'd like to provide a few comments on some wideouts who aren't on my list:

  • Taking his entire career into account, Larry Fitzgerald is a Mount Rushmore receiver. I will fight anyone who disagrees. But at age 36, with DeAndre Hopkins now in the fold, Fitz is no longer the Cardinals' top pass-catching option.
  • Odell Beckham Jr. undoubtedly has the raw talent to make this list. But his last three seasons just haven't been the same as his first three seasons. He needs to re-establish himself among the elites at the position in 2020.
  • The aforementioned Chris Godwin just barely missed the cut. Fresh off a breakout 2019 campaign (86 catches for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns), he could definitely make his way onto this list with another big showing in 2020.
  • Amari Cooper is great with Dak Prescott. A true route artisan. That said, I don't think Cooper will be the best receiver on his own team this year -- not after Dallas stole CeeDee Lamb with the No. 17 overall pick in April.

Alright, enough dilly-dally. Let's get to the meat of the matter! Is Keenan right? Well, I'll support him on the Goodwin/Godwin front ...

Here is my ranking of the top NFL wide receivers in 2020, Schein Nine style:

Michael Thomas
New Orleans Saints · Age: 27

As a voter in the Associated Press' annual NFL awards, I was pretty vocal early that Thomas would receive my support for Offensive Player of the Year. And he did indeed take home the hardware, becoming only the second receiver ever to win the award (joining Jerry Rice). There are faster, more electric wideouts in the NFL, but nobody is more consistently dominant on game day right now than this fifth-year pro in New Orleans. And that's what it's all about.

Thomas entered the NFL in 2016 and immediately caught 92 passes for 1,137 yards. His production steadily increased in 2017 (104 catches, 1,245 yards) and '18 (125 catches, 1,405 yards), but he reached a whole other level last year. Thomas broke Marvin Harrison's single-season record with 149 catches and led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,725 -- 331 yards more than Julio Jones' second-ranked total of 1,394. The crazy part is that New Orleans' second-leading wide receiver was Ted Ginn Jr. with 30 catches for 421 yards. So, when Drew Brees dropped back to pass, everyone knew where the ball was going. But no one could cover No. 13. Think the guy has the right Twitter handle: @CantGuardMike.

DeAndre Hopkins
Arizona Cardinals · Age: 28

After Thomas, Hopkins received my other AP vote for first-team All-Pro at receiver. And actually, by the absurd standard that Nuk has set, he kind of had a down year in 2019, with 104 catches for 1,165 yards and seven scores. Must be nice to put up that stat line and have people feel like you left some meat on the bone.

Stickum was banned from the NFL in 1981, but I think Hopkins was born with it a decade later. Dude has vice-grip hands. Add in his ball-tracking, acrobatics and fancy footwork, and Hopkins is a force of nature in contested-catch situations. He's a superstar playmaker -- and wait until you see the numbers he puts up in Kliff Kingsbury's offense in Arizona ...

Julio Jones
Atlanta Falcons · Age: 31

In theory, placing Julio at No. 3 makes me a tad queasy. He's arguably the most talented receiver in the game, a superfreak who puts up monster numbers. Over the past six years, Jones has averaged 1,565 receiving yards. But Thomas and Hopkins are a few years younger. And they're more prolific touchdown scorers. I don't know. We're splitting hairs here, people.

In the 2019 regular season, Jones had six 100-yard receiving games (tied for the second-most with Chris Godwin, trailing Michael Thomas' whopping total of 10). In the last one of those 100-yard efforts -- which came in Atlanta's Week 16 win over the Jaguars -- Julio racked up 10 catches for 166 yards, but somehow didn't hit paydirt. That's really the only critique you can have about Jones' game: For whatever reason, he just doesn't score as many TDs as you'd expect.

Mike Evans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · Age: 26

The raw talent, body, hands, ability to out-grapple multiple defenders -- it's all special. And now he gets to play with Tom Brady instead of Jameis Winston. Welcome to heaven, Mr. Evans.

Evans actually responded to Keenan Allen's Twitter rant with a statement of his own: "I like the confidence but be realistic you not on my level bro." It's close, but I have to agree with Evans. He's been in the league six years and he's logged six 1,000-yard campaigns. That's with subpar quarterback play, too. I can't wait to see what 2020 holds for this big-bodied beast of a wideout.

Tyreek Hill
Kansas City Chiefs · Age: 26

Yes, I'm giving Hill the nod over Allen, too. These three guys are very tightly packed. But Hill has something over every single player on this list, and that's his electrifying speed. It's almost unfair, and it makes him the most terrifying home-run hitter in the game today. Since entering the NFL in 2016, Hill has scored 17 touchdowns of 50-plus yards. In that span, no other player even has 10. He's a player defenses have to account for on every single play. One false step, and it could be a touchdown.

And of course, it doesn't hurt that Hill gets to catch passes from the best player in sports today. Patrick Mahomes + Tyreek Hill = must-see TV.

Keenan Allen
Los Angeles Chargers · Age: 28

Keenan Allen is absolutely great. I understand and appreciate his self-assurance. I've called him vastly underrated on numerous occasions. He does all of the dirty work for the Chargers, he's ultra-reliable in big spots and he's been well over 1,100 yards in each of the past three seasons.

His calling card, as mentioned above, is his elite route-running. He's truly an artist, both in his releases off the line of scrimmage and at the top of his routes. Ask any NFL cornerback and he'll tell you: Allen's a nightmare to stick with. Speaking of pristine route-runners ...

Davante Adams
Green Bay Packers · Age: 27

He never gets full credit for being awesome. Adams has earned Aaron Rodgers' trust as an elite receiver. He makes big plays for the future Hall of Fame quarterback on a consistent basis. With his route-running polish and ability to gain separation on anyone, Adams is the gamebreaking threat in Green Bay.

Missing four games with a toe injury in 2019, Adams fell 3 yards shy of his second 1,000-yard season. With good health, he'll blow past that mark in 2020 -- and could hit double-digit TDs for the fourth time in five years.

Stefon Diggs
Buffalo Bills · Age: 26

This is a stud WR1 who'll be even better now that he's teamed up with the strong-armed Josh Allen (who's about to enjoy a true breakout season in 2020).

I love Diggs' knack for making big plays in big spots. He's a spectacular route-runner and a prolific deep threat. Next Gen Stats defines "deep targets" as passes of 20-plus air yards. In this area last season, Diggs led the NFL in deep receptions (15), catch rate (57.7%) and yards per target (24.0), while tying for first with five deep touchdowns.

Allen Robinson
Chicago Bears · Age: 26

I'm seizing the darn moment to make a point. I love Allen Robinson. This guy has had Blake Bortles and Mitch Trubisky as his quarterbacks. His 1,000-yard seasons should count as 10,000-yard seasons. Robinson's smart, savvy and highly productive. He led the NFL with 14 touchdowns back in 2015. Then, after torn ACL set him back for a bit, he posted 98/1,147/7 line last season -- highly impressive, considering the state of the Bears' 29th-ranked offense.

Bottom line: I want Allen Robinson on my team.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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