Whether it was a diving one-handed snag, a perhaps excessive end zone celebration, or mind-boggling burst of speed past defenders for a touchdown, NFL wide receivers provided their fans incalculable joy in 2015.
This year 13 receivers have already surged past the 1,000-yard threshold and as many as 10 others are capable of reaching the benchmark with two games remaining. That could make for a repeat of last season when 23 total wide outs crossed the 1,000-yard barrier.
Yet while there might be plenty of receivers with strong numbers, only 10 can make our top list of the NFL’s best.
Compared to our list from the offseason, there’s been a major shakeup up and down due to injuries, poor quarterback play, or just a failure to live up to expectations.
1. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (116 receptions, 1,586 yards, 9 TDs)
The Steelers most potent offensive weapon outside of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Brown maintains his status as No. 1 while currently ranking second in catches, first in receiving yardage, fourth in yards after the catch (YAC), and tied for 10th in touchdown receptions. Coupling his near-perfect route running with blazing speed, Brown recorded seven 100-yard games and pulled down two touchdowns in three different games. He was in danger of seeing a big dip in production after Roethlisberger missed time due to injury, but Brown excelled once Big Ben came back.
2. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (118 receptions, 1,544 yards, 7 TDs)
Rising seven spots from last year's list, Jones has already set a new career-best in receptions and should blow by his career-high in yardage. He recorded seven games of 100 or more yards and would’ve reached the end zone more if not for quarterback Matt Ryan’s turnover woes. Standing at a massive 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Jones is by far the best possession or third-down receiver in the game.
3. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (97 receptions, 1,315 yards, 10 TDs)
Four different quarterbacks fired off passes to Hopkins this season, either due to awful play or injury, and the third-year speedster still racked up new career-highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns while climbing into our top four. His 176 YAC is low but that has more to do with the lack of weapons around him, and by all other accounts Hopkins is among the NFL’s elite and could challenge Brown for No. 1 someday if Houston can find a consistent quarterback.
4. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants (91 receptions, 1,396 yards, 13 TDs)
Some questioned ranking Beckham at No. 2 in our first list, but in his second season he completely lived up to the hype with the third-most yards in the league and is presently tied for the league-lead in touchdown receptions. He falls one spot due to his poor mental judgement against the Panthers in Week 15, but Beckham should rise next season.
5. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (77 receptions, 1,206, 8 TDs)
Credit tight end Tyler Eifert’s rise to Green’s lower reception total, but otherwise he moves up two places after recording his fifth straight 1,000-yard year and third with more than 1,200 yards. The 27-year-old could’ve held back after signing a massive contract extension before the start of the season, but instead burned opposing pass defenses four times for 100 or more yards. Few players have better balance on the sidelines than Green.
6. Brandon Marshall, New York Jets (93 receptions, 1,261 yards, 11 TDs)
The second-oldest receiver on this list, Marshall, 31, returned to his once dominant form to potentially lead the Jets back into the postseason. He’s already notched the eighth 1,000 yards season of his career and is just two touchdown grabs away from exceeding his career mark. Another hulk for defensive backs to struggle to tackle, Marshall put together scoring streaks of three and six games this season and stands as Jones’ main competition for most difficult matchup in the league.
7. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals (99 receptions, 1,131 yards, 7 TDs)
The elder statesman of the bunch, Fitzgerald snapped a three-season drought for his first 1,000-yard output since 2011 and he’s well on pace to exceed his career-high in total receptions. He's also still an efficient player with YAC (429 yards). More importantly, Fitzgerald’s helping Arizona return to the postseason and possibly the Super Bowl.
8. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos (93 receptions, 1,128 yards, 5 TDs)
Peyton Manning’s downfall and a lucrative new contract could’ve completely derailed Thomas’s season, but the 27-year-old corralled his fourth-straight 1,000-yard season and still has time to pull down 100 or more receptions in consecutive season.
9. Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars (69 receptions, 1,141 yards, 13 TDs)
Tied with Beckham and Seattle’s Doug Baldwin for touchdown grabs, Robinson came into his own this season by more than doubling the yardage output from his rookie year and leading the NFL with 26 catches for 20-plus yards.
10. Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders (68 receptions, 1,040 yards, 6 TDs)
The only rookie on the list made Derek Carr one of the young quarterbacks to watch in the NFL, and for a time made the Raiders a threat to make the postseason for the first time in 14 years. Cooper not only led all rookies in receptions and yards but he finished off receptions for 375 YAC and should climb this list over the next couple of seasons.
Honorable mentions: Mike Evans, Buccaneers; T.Y. Hilton, Colts; Jarvis Landry, Dolphins; Ted Ginn Jr., Panthers; Eric Decker, Jets; Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson, Lions