NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2019" airs daily at 9 p.m. ET over the next two weeks, unveiling a new set of 10 honorees in each episode. In Episode 5, a trio of wide receivers -- Larry Fitzgerald, A.J. Green and Mike Evans -- were revealed at Nos. 60, 58 and 53, respectively. With that in mind, NFL Network analyst and former NFL wideout Nate Burleson provides his own ranking of the top 10 wide receivers heading into the 2019 regular season.
"Madden" isn't the only one who's high on Houston's WR1. He's my top wideout based on a combination of things: A) His catch radius is out of this world; B) he high-points the ball to win contested catches; and C) Deshaun Watson is nearly two years removed from his ACL injury, so the quarterback's renewed mobility will allow him to extend plays and make life quite difficult for defensive backs attempting to plaster receivers. And that's just the beginning. The 6-foot-1 wideout isn't the fastest player on the field, but he's mastered the art of body positioning and knows how and when to attack the ball. Not to mention, Hopkins just had the most receptions without a drop in a season (115) since Pro Football Focus started charting drops in 2007. With a freakish skill set and a talented, young QB, it feels like Hopkins is just getting started heading into Year 7.
We're so used to Jones putting up sensational numbers that we forget just how difficult it is to lead the league in receiving yards, something Atlanta's WR1 has done twice in the last four seasons. Even more impressive is the fact that Jones has logged five straight seasons with more than 1,400 receiving yards. Much of his gaudy production has come against double- and triple-teams, too. The best part is he shows no sign of slowing down.
The Saints' WR1 made the argument last season that he should be in the best-receiver-in-the-NFL conversation, and he's right. Thomas led the league with 125 receptions despite ranking outside the top 10 in targets (11th with 147). His connection with future Hall of Famer Drew Brees becomes more magnetic with each passing year. And with his production doing the talking entering Year 4, the All-Pro is looking for a major raise. In fact, he's apparently staying away from training camp until he gets one.
Although Evans is the third-highest-paid receiver (by annual average), he routinely gets overlooked due to the Bucs' constant struggle to stay relevant on a national scale. That doesn't mean you shouldn't pay attention to what he brings to the table for this unit. At 6-5, 231 pounds, Evans can run every route in the route tree. He's also durable and aggressive when the ball is in the air. Evans could be in line for a big year with new head coach Bruce Arians determined to right Jameis Winston.
From my own experience, a new hairstyle signifies turning over a new leaf. Well, guess what? Odell showed up to the ESPYs sporting a new cut, which tells me we're about to see OBJ 2.0 in Cleveland this season -- a scary thought, knowing the success he had early in his career. He is just scratching the surface and now joins the most talented group he's ever played with. Expect Beckham to bring the fireworks in 2019.
Defenses have feared Brown for years because he's one of the best route runners and most clutch receivers of his era. The reason Brown, who had a league-leading 15 receiving TDs last season in Pittsburgh, fell outside my top five is simple and has little to do with Brown himself. Pittsburgh's offensive line did a tremendous job protecting Ben Roethlisberger, thus allowing the QB to hang in the pocket and find AB downfield. The receiver's new passer, Derek Carr, was sacked 51 times last season. If the Raiders' O-line can't protect the franchise quarterback, we won't see the same statistical output we're used to seeing from Brown.
Allen has bounced back from injuries and is out to prove he's one of the most resilient receivers in the business. He's averaged nearly 1,300 receiving yards over the last two years, helping the Chargers emerge as an AFC power. With the Bolts heading into the 2019 season as legit contenders, this could be the year Allen stamps his place in my top five at the position.
Hill is the most explosive player in the NFL. Period. Usually guys who are that fast have trouble slowing down to transition in and out of breaks, tracking the ball or straight up catching it. But Kansas City's WR1 has an unbelievable knack for slowing the game down even when he's playing faster than everyone else. As great as Patrick Mahomes was last season, he doesn't sniff 50 touchdowns without the "Cheetah."
Adams suffers from the "GOAT QB Complex," a made-up syndrome that occurs when great skill-position players are overlooked because they play with one of the best quarterbacks in the game. (Even when Jordy Nelson was at his best, he was fully overshadowed by Aaron Rodgers.) Yet if you look beyond the quarterback, Adams has improved each season, with his best coming in 2018 (111 receptions for 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns). He's evolved into a dynamic red-zone threat and Rodgers' most-trustworthy target.
There are those who don't appreciate what JuJu has done over his first two NFL seasons because he has played with the likes of Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger. Trust me, I know what it's like playing next to a superstar -- SEE: Randy Moss in Minnesota and Calvin Johnson in Detroit -- and the good thing about being a WR2 is a lot of pressure doesn't fall on you. You're able to play loose and are given the opportunity to make a ton of plays facing single-coverage. That's what JuJu has done since coming into the league and you have to respect him for it. Now with Brown in Oakland, JuJu should receive even more targets than he had a year ago (166). I see the youngster having another big season of around 1,400 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns, allowing him to be fully recognized outside of AB's legacy.
HONORABLE MENTION: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals. When healthy, the veteran receiver is as good as anyone in the league. But the inconsistency of the team and his health (played 16 games once in the last three years) causes him to be overlooked and, in this case, forces him to take a back seat to guys who have been more readily available. That said, I've seen Green make incredible catches in traffic, whether on a slant or Hail Mary, and I'm always impressed by how focused he is within the chaos of each play.