Antonio Brown tops Julio Jones for PFF's Best Receiver Award
Leading the league in receptions in eight of the 11 seasons that spanned his NFL career, former Alabama and Green Bay Packers receiver Don Hutson was a game changer in the NFL. The first player to have 50 or more receptions in a season and the first player to have 1,000 or more receiving yards in a season, Hutson held 18 major NFL records at the time of his retirement, some of which still stand to this day.
With that in mind, we’ve decided to name the award for the best receiver in football after him, rewarding the top receiver at any position in the 2015 season with the Don Hutson Award.
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
The best receiver in the NFL for the second year in a row, what Brown continues to do is somewhat staggering. Tied for the league-lead with 136 receptions, and second with 1,841 receiving yards, it’s the consistency of his hands that really wins you over. With just five drops from 141 catchable targets, Brown has the fifth-lowest drop rate amongst wide receivers, at 3.55. Brown’s work after the catch is tough for opposing defenders to deal with, forcing 23 missed tackles in the regular season as he continues to be one of the most dangerous playmakers in the NFL.
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Jones is used similarly to Brown in that, like the Steelers, the Falcons want to feed the ball to their top playmaker as often as possible. That led to him ending the season tied with Brown for 136 receptions, and with 30 more receiving yards, at 1,871. Jones dropped back from Brown, albeit only slightly, with double the amount of drops (10), and three fumbles, which is tied for most amongst wide receivers. That shouldn’t detract too much from what was a stunning season, though, and one in which he led all wide receivers with an average of 3.04 yards per route run.
Theo Riddick, HB, Detroit Lions
A running back in the top three receivers in the NFL? And one with an overall PFF rating of 65.2? No, we’re not mistaken. That’s because Riddick had a receiving rating of 99.9, catching 80 passes for 697 yards in 2015. Relishing his role as the Lions’ receiving back, he led all running backs with 2.30 yards per route run. It’s not hard to see why the Lions were so keen to get the ball in his hands, with Riddick forcing 36 missed tackles as a receiver, the most of any player in the league.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
New England’s superstar tight end was up to his old tricks once again this year, leading all TEs with 1,176 receiving yards and averaging a whopping 16.3 yards per reception over his 72 catches. Gronkowski was the Patriots’ best receiving option in a year where they have struggled with injuries across the offensive skill positions. His yards per route run average of 2.31 was second amongst tight ends, and he averaged 2.07 yards per route run from the slot. Just another impressive season by the former Arizona Wildcat.
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
Gronkowski wasn’t the only tight end in a star receiving role this year. Olsen, Cam Newton’s favorite target, got the job done in Carolina once again, racking up 1,104 yards. At 14.3 yards per catch, he is a weapon in the passing game, even if his run blocking left something to be desired. He was tied for third amongst tight ends with an average of 2.24 yards per route run, and will be the Panthers’ best receiving threat against the Seahawks in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.