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NFL PRR Following 2021: Wide Receivers

There were plenty of receivers who had all star performances throughout the season. Whether they dominated out of the slot, out wide, against man or zone coverage, or just toyed with defenses no matter where they lined up, we saw some stellar pass catching in 2021. Plenty of guys are deserving to make this list, but I can only pick the twelve best of the bunch. As long as they were targeted a minimum of 70 times, they have a chance to crack the list. Let's take a look at this years best route runners and receiving threats in this edition of the NFL PRR!

Photo: Matt Aguirre/Las Vegas Raiders


12. Hunter Renfrow (Last Season: Unranked)

PFF Grade: 80.6 (14th)

Although he's not the flashiest player, Renfrow is an absolute dog. He has some of the cleanest route running in the league and some of the best hands. He tied with Leonard Fournette for the highest catch rate in the entire NFL at 83.1%, and gained 10.1 yards per reception, despite having the lowest average depth of target on this list and 4th lowest in the NFL at 6.8 yards. On 124 targets, Hunter hauled in 103 receptions for 1,038 yards and 9 TDs. He also posted a 122.4 passer rating when targeted, tied for the 3rd highest on this list and 8th highest in the NFL. He did line up in the slot 64.3% of the time, the 2nd highest rate on this list, but he doesn't have great top end speed or explosiveness. He realize on precise route running and unique moves to create separation, and that's a skill not many receivers possess.

11. Tee Higgins (Last Season: Unranked)

PFF Grade: 84.5 (6th)

The Bengals have a bright future at receiver if they can keep both Higgins and Chase in the fold. Tee had a breakout season in his sophomore year, as he posted 1,091 yards and 6 TDs on 74 receptions through 14 games. He added in 16 contested catches, which was the 5th most in the NFL this year. He made a solid mark in the deep game, as he had 5 of those contested catches on passes deeper than 20 yards downfield, with 2 of those resulting in TDs. He was best, however, in the 10-19 yard range, where he posted a 78.9% catch rate, the highest on this list and 3rd highest out of all WRs. He also produced 13.34 yards ran in this range, 5th highest amongst wide receivers. Higgins is the peanut butter to Chase's jelly, and we should see both of them dominate for years to come.

10. CeeDee Lamb (Last Season: Unranked)

PFF Grade: 84.3 (8th)

CeeDee showed his versatility as a slot and wide receiver throughout the entire season. Out wide, he tallied 710 yards and 4 TDs on 47 receptions. In the slot, he gained 392 yards and scored 2 TDs on 32 receptions. He also went 8/8 on contested catches out of the slot as well, compared to going 6/12 from outside. He was dangerous with the ball in his hands, as he forced 19 missed tackles, tied for 4th among all receivers, and recorded 431 yards after catch, ranking 13th in among WRs. He did have a drop rate of 8.1%, which was in the top 15 for highest drop rates in the league, but he contrasted that with 54 first downs and he never fumbled the ball through 16 games. CeeDee should have a massive third season as he takes over the WR1 role for the Cowboys.

9. Tyler Lockett (Last Season: #11)

PFF Grade: 81.0 (12th)

Lockett is the first returning receiver on this list and moved his way up from last year. He was one of the best deep threat receivers in the league, as nearly 38% of his targets came on plays that were 20 yards or deeper. On those plays, he caught 20 passes on 39 targets, and amassed 740 yards and 5 TDs at that depth. In contrast, on passes shorter than 20 yards, Lockett totaled 435 yards and 3 TDs on 53 receptions. In total, he ranked 8th in the league with 1,175 yards and he only had 1 drop through 16 games, which is the lowest of any receiver on this list. With a new QB at the helm, it'll be interesting to see how Lockett gets utilized.

Photo: Justin Casterline/Getty Images

8. Tyreek Hill (Last Season: #5)

PFF Grade: 85.1 (5th)

Taking a dip from last season, Tyreek makes the top 8 after another big year. He totaled 1,239 yards and 9 TDs on 111 receptions, while generating 75 first downs. He dominated against zone coverages, as he tallied 737 yards with only 273 of those yards coming after the catch. There is a common misconception about Tyreek that he is only a deep threat, when in reality, he didn't rank in the top 10 for total yards at any of the key depths. Below are his splits at every depth range:

Behind LOS (< 0 Yards)

Short (0-9 Yards)

Medium (10-19 Yards)

Deep (20+ Yards)
















Yards per Route Ran





These splits should play perfectly to Tua's strengths as Tyreek lines up opposite Jaylen Waddle next season in Miami.

7. Stefon Diggs (Last Season: #2)

PFF Grade: 82.1 (10th)

Diggs continues to make his mark as a top receiver year after year. On 158 targets, he hauled in 103 receptions for 1,225 yards and 10 TDs, while recording 66 first downs and forcing 16 missed tackles. Diggs did a lot of his scoring damage on intermediate routes, as he scored 7 TDs between 10-19 yards downfield, while racking up 464 and 399 yards on short and deep concepts respectively. Stefon didn't need to do anything flashy this season to prove he's still one of the best in the games; he just had to play his game and trust in his young star at QB.

6. Mike Evans (Last Season: #12)

PFF Grade: 73.2 (30th)

Evans had a great season as he continues to extend his streak of consecutive 1,000 yard seasons to eight. Across 16 games and on 74 receptions, Evans racked up 1,035 yards and 14 TDs, a career high for scoring. He also led the NFL in contested catch rate at 83.3%, while posting a 125.6 passer rating when targeted, the highest on this list and 2nd in the NFL. His scoring was split evenly, with 7 TDs coming less 10 yards from the LOS, and 7 more occurring 10 yards past the LOS. With Gronk and AB gone, and Chris Godwin expected to miss some time, expect Evans to dominate for the majority of the season, even with the addition of Julio Jones.

5. Deebo Samuel (Last Season: Unranked)

PFF Grade: 87.2 (4th)

Deebo proved a lot of doubters wrong this year, as the "wide-back" weapon was a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses. In 16 games, Deebo ranked 5th in total receiving yards with 1,405 on just 77 receptions, giving him the highest yards per reception at 18.2 among eligible receivers. On passing snaps, he rarely lined up in the backfield and did a lot of his damage coming from out wide, where he posted 935 yards - with 438 of those coming after the catch. He also had the largest difference in average depth per target and yards per reception, with the difference coming out to 9.6 yards. Add in the most yards after catch per reception at 10.2, and the 2nd most yards per route run at 2.98, it's clear to see just how dominant Deebo was all year long. This goes without mentioning his impressive 365 rushing yards and 8 TDs on the ground on just 59 attempts. He did have 4 fumbles and 12 drops, but his production heavily outweighs his short comings.

Photo: Dylan Buell/Getty Images

4. Ja'Marr Chase (Last Season: Unranked)

PFF Grade: 83.1 (9th)

The rookie phenom out of LSU had the best rookie season we've ever seen from a receiver. He ranked 4th and 3rd respectively with 1,455 yards and 13 TDs on just 81 receptions. He ranked 2nd with 18 yards per reception and posted 2.51 yards per route ran, 5th in the league. He ranked 3rd in both total YAC and YAC/reception with 657 and 8.1 respectively, while totaling 576 yards on deep passes, despite only 141 of those yards coming after the catch. The drops were alarming at times, as he had 10 of them, but his big play ability and extreme athleticism makes up for it. Chase could easily be the best receiver next year, and may be the best receiver the NFL has ever seen.

3. Justin Jefferson (Last Season: #6)

PFF Grade: 90.1 (3rd)

Another LSU product who has taken the NFL by storm had another fantastic season in 2021. On 163 targets, he hauled in 108 catches for 1,616 yards, which ranked 2nd highest in the NFL, and 10 TDs. He only totaled 453 yards after the catch, but also recorded 2.59 yards per route ran, ranking 4th among all receivers. He dominated on intermediate routes, as he eclipsed 726 yards and 4 TDs, while posting 38 first downs and a passer rating when targeted of 121.3. Lastly, he recorded the 2nd most yards against man and zone coverage with 532 and 966 respectively, while also doing some solid work in the slot as he tallied 421 yards there. Many people have JJettas as the clear WR1 heading into next season, and they aren't crazy to believe so.

Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

2. Davante Adams (Last Season: #1)

PFF Grade: 92.7 (1st)

The best route runner in the league put up another stellar year, as he is well on his way to a HOF bid. In 16 games, he caught 123 passes for 1,553 yards and 11 TDs, while recording 83 first downs and 14 contested catches. His 2.82 yards per route ran ranked 3rd in the league, while only being targeted at an average depth of 9.5 yards. He only had 4 drops on the year, and posted a passer rating when targeted of 117.4, putting him in the top 10 in the NFL. Adams also did damage in the slot, as he totaled 608 yards and 7 TDs from that alignment. It pains me to not put him at #1, but Davante has had a solid three year run as my top receiver in the NFL. I still think he's the best overall, but there was one receiver who clearly took the cake this season.

1. Cooper Kupp (Last Season: Unranked)

PFF Grade: 92.3 (2nd)

The triple crown winner takes the throne for the best receiver in the NFL. Kupp led in targets with 189, receptions with 145, yards with 1,947, and TDs with 16. He also grilled defenses from the slot, totaling 1,402 yards and 10 TDs from that alignment. Kupp was also the only receiver in the NFL to have 500+ yards on short, intermediate, and deep passing concepts. He had the highest reception rate on deep concepts with 65.2%, and he posted the highest yards per route run in the entire league with 3.12. Add in a league leading 89 first downs and 24 missed tackles forced, to go along with a passer rating when targeted of 123.9, it's clear to see that Kupp has taken a major leap and was the best receiver in the NFL this season.

Photo: AP Photo/Doug Benc


Final Notes:

Some key receivers to miss out this year were Terry McLaurin, Brandin Cooks, DJ Moore, Diontae Johnson, Chris Godwin, and AJ Brown. Whether it was inconsistent play, injury troubles, or just a case of the drops, these guys didn't do enough to make the cut this year. I still believe any of them could earn a spot in my top 15 overall, and some of them may make the top 12 next season.

Join me next time as I cover the best linebackers of 2021!

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