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Top 15 NFL Wide Receivers Heading Into The 2016 Season

In a league of 2,000 plus players, only nine have been arrested this offseason! That number is down from 13 last year, 21 the year before, and 29 arrests three years ago. No dogfights, no abuse of wom

In a league of 2,000 plus players, only nine have been arrested this offseason! That number is down from 13 last year, 21 the year before, and 29 arrests three years ago. No dogfights, no abuse of women and children, nobody shooting themselves in the leg--things seem to be shaping up! Good job, Goodell, your gustapo style of commissioning has had its desired effect.

Without all the distraction of years past, the NFL offseason has been relatively uneventful. There were some big-name free agent signings; Josh Norman went to the Redskins, Brock Osweiller to the Texans, Robert Griffin III to the Browns - that should be a fun sideshow to enjoy.

Teams have all had their OTAs and Minicamps, and the preseason officially begins August 7th, when the Packers host the Colts in the Hall of Fame game.

Perhaps the lack of negative media attention is the result of players taking their celebrity more seriously (sans Johnny Manziel, but he doesn't count). One thing's for sure, it seems like the NFL is poised for another great season.

If the players are prepared, and actually have their heads out of their... armpits, then the fans will be prepared to support them, and gamble on them! Yes, I'm talking fantasy. Yes, it is gambling if you put money on it regardless of the website you use. No, governments should not have control over the betting (free will), access to the websites (net-neutrality), or the ability to collect taxes off the commerce that they otherwise had no interest in (talking to you, New York).

This will be the first of a series of articles on the top position players in the NFL. We will open with Wide Receivers. There's a gang of young players vying for the top spot on this list; the league is fortunate to have such a wealth of talent.

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29 Demaryius Thomas

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Demaryius Thomas actually regressed last year, or else he would have been higher on this list; he would've been a couple of years ago for sure.

It may have been that Thomas wasn't playing with as big of a chip on his shoulder as years past. He used to play every game for his mom, who couldn't come to them because she was in prison on drug-charges. Obama pardoned her last year, and she was able to attend Thomas' games, and his level of play fell off.

It is probably fair to blame Obama for Thomas' struggles with drops last season.

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27 Emmanuel Sanders

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

We'll stick with the Superbowl champion Broncos for our next selection. Where Demaryius Thomas took a step back, Sanders took a step forward. Him and Peyton Manning developed a rapport similar to the one Manning and Reggie Wayne had in Indianapolis.

If the game situation needed a big play, Sanders was usually the one for the Broncos to make it. Peyton could launch one of his wobbly-duck passes and rely on Sanders to out run, out maneuver, out smart his defender to come down with the grab.

Sanders emergence as a top target should continue into next season, even with Mark Sanchez at the helm...

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25 Larry Fitzgerald

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Larry Fitzgerald has always been one the most impressive physical talents at the wide receiver position, but seemed to be succumbing to father time until his resurgence last season. Fitz moved down into the slot often last year and was able to make some outstanding catch and run touchdowns.

It helps that he had Carson Palmer throwing absolute darts over the middle, and on occasion deep down field. Sure beats the heck out of John Skelton, or Drew Stanton.

At 33 years old, Fitzgerald needs to continue dominating smaller defenders to live up to his fat contract. He will account for a $15.85 million cap-hit against the Cardinals this season. Definitely elite-money.

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23 Jeremy Maclin

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Maclin always played second fiddle to the streaky Desean Jackson while he was in Philladelphia under coach Andy Reid. These days he is easily the better receiver of the two. D-Jack is a one-trick pony in DC; he can run fast. Whereas Maclin can do a little bit of everything on the field; he is a veritable Jack of all trades, Master of none.

Maclin has Pro-Bowl level speed, route running, separation, hands, and clutch playmaking abilities. It's too bad that he is hindered by Alex "Vanilla" Smith. If he had a quarterback who could throw the deep ball, Maclin would be on a whole other level.

22

21 Amari Cooper

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The sky is the limit for this kid. Amari Cooper is the prototype NFL wide receiver. After posting a 1,000 yard campaign in his inaugural season in the league, Cooper played in his first of what will surely be many Pro Bowls.

Cooper has the lethal combination of natural talent and work ethic. His mentality is more impressive than his physical attributes, and it actually seemed to rub off on prima donna Michael Crabtree.

With a stud at quarterback in Derek Carr, an All Pro receiver in Cooper, and another All Pro at running back in Latavius Murray, this Raiders team may be set to make a serious playoff push this season.

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19 DeAndre Hopkins

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

After the departure of long-time Texans fan favorite Andre Johnson, DeAndre "Nuk" Hopkins stepped up and filled his shoes nicely. Hopkins may have even poked his toes out the front of those shoes.

Hopkins opened the 2015 season with nine catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns, and showed that he was more than capable of being a number one guy. He went on to finish the year with 100+ catches, 1,500+ yards, and 11 touchdowns.

Hopkins is the real deal. Brock Osweiller has a chance to prove himself in Houston, and Hopkins will assuredly help make him look good.

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17 Jordy Nelson

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jordy Nelson missed the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL suffered in week 2 of the preseason. Fortunately for the Packers, James Jones stepped up in a big way and helped Rodgers lead the Pack back to the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.

Nelson can run the button hook back shoulder route on any corner back in the league, and Rodgers puts it in the prime position every time.

The Pack should find a way to regain control of the NFC North with Nelson back on the field, and take the division title back from the Vikings.

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15 Alshon Jeffery

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Alshon Jeffery took over the number one receiver position last season after Brandon Marshall left to the Jets. Jeffery is in the same boat as Jeremy Maclin, in that he doesn't have a quarterback that can throw him the ball; the only reason he is higher on the list is because he is younger.

Jeffery has had injury issues, but when he is on the field he produces every time. He's a consistent route runner, and comes in handy in the red zone over the middle and on fade routes.

The Bears will need Jeffery to stay healthy this season to keep pace with the Packers and Vikings.

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13 T.Y. Hilton

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

T.Y. Hilton is the most under-rated wide receiver in the league. The diminutive speedster can do a whole lot more than just run deep routes.

Hilton actually plays over the middle quite a bit for a guy of his size. He has excellent reaction off the snap, can handle physical play from DBs, has the quickness to break ankles on his routes, and of course can burn defenders deep.

Andrew Luck struggled last year with numerous injuries, and Matt Hasselbeck lacked the arm strength to utilize Hilton to his full effectivenes. This should be another All Pro year for Hilton.

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11 Brandon Marshall

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

B-Marsh may have an attitude or anger issues, but he clearly uses that energy in a positive way on the field. The six time All Pro has found himself a nice home in New York, which fortunately for him hasn't been too big of a spotlight.

Marshall takes a lot of pressure off the rest of his teammates since he draws so much attention from the defense.

The Jets still have quarterback questions, Ryan Fitzpatrick still hasn't been offered a contract after a respectable season a year ago. It doesn't matter who Marshall's qb is though, he will still put up his numbers.

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9 A.J. Green

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

A.J. Green has never had less than 1,000 yards in a season, and has 45 touchdowns already after five years. He has the size, speed, and vertical jump to make him a threat anywhere on the football field. Green does have a slight frame, so he is prone to injury, but he has proven he can suck it up and play through pain.

The Bengals are in one of the toughest divisions in the league, but a 100% healthy Green makes them a formidable foe against anybody. Expect the Bengals to be in a playoff dogfight, and Green to be named All Pro yet again.

8

7 Odell Beckham Jr.

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Odell Beckham Jr.'s 176 receptions is the most all time in a player's first two seasons, and he missed the first month of his rookie year. In only 21 games he became the fastest player ever to catch 150 balls.

OBJ isn't afraid of mixing it up and getting into some trash-talking, but he walks the walk. Even with Mr. Inconsistency at quarterback (Eli Manning), Odell has niched out a spot for himself as one of the league's best wide outs at only 23 years old.

With Odell, the Giants at least have something they can count on week in and week out.

6

5 Dez Bryant

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

If you can get passed Dez Bryant's diva personality, and just watch him play football, you can see he is a freak. He could easily be the number one receiver on the league, but his emotions control him, not the other way around.

Dez's ability to run after the catch is unrivaled in the NFL. Part of that may be due to the steady flow of testosterone coming from his rage-fueled tirades on the sidelines.

Bryant fractured his foot last season and only played nine games. He should be back with a vengeance, along with a healthy Tony Romo (if that exists).

4

3 Antonio Brown

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

You can't really ask for anything more from a wide receiver. Antonio Brown brings it all, every game. Words to define him include grit, determination, passion, and intellegence.

Brown embodies the change of perception the Steelers have undergone the last few years. They went from a run 'n gun smash mouth football team, to one more aerial oriented under offensive coordinator Todd Hailey

AB caught 129 and 136 footballs in 2014 and 2015, respectively, for 1,698 and 1,894 yards. There is no reason to expect anything less from him next year. The Steelers and the Bengals should be battling for playoff births between eachother.

2

1 Julio Jones

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

You can't ask for anything more out of Antonio Brown, but Quintorris "Julio" Jones actually brings a little bit more. He offers everything that Brown does in the way of work-ethic and competitive drive, but then the guy is an absolute monster; 6'3", 220 lbs., with a 4.39 40-yard dash, and a 38½" vertical.

Julio is a once in a generation kind of athlete, not to take anything away from the other guys on this list. He hasn't gained the credit or reputation he deserves, but as long as he keeps producing on the field, people will have to recognize his greatness eventually.

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Top 15 NFL Wide Receivers Heading Into The 2016 Season