Top 8 free agent wide receivers

Nathan Jahnke breaks down the top wide receivers that are set to hit free agency, including Marvin Jones and Rishard Matthews.

| 7 months ago
(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

Top 8 free agent wide receivers


A team can never have too many good wide receivers, and there are only a few options that could stand to be solid role players. With a small supply, the top available receivers will be in high demand.

Below are PFF’s top eight wide receiver free agents:

(Editor’s note: This list was updated on March 4, 2016.)

1. Marvin Jones

2015 team: Cincinnati Bengals

Jones is coming off a season with career-highs in receptions and yards. The Bengal had a breakout season in 2013 with 10 touchdowns. He proceeded to miss the entire 2014 season with injury, but had a solid rebound in 2015. Part of what makes Jones a good option is his ability to make defenders miss after the catch. Typically, the top receivers in missed tackles caused are a combination of the elite outside receivers or the slot receivers. Jones rarely lines up in the slot, and was in the top 20 in missed tackles in both 2013 and 2015. While a team probably shouldn’t use him as their No. 1 receiver, he makes a very good second option.

2. Rishard Matthews

2015 team: Miami Dolphins

In the 2015 offseason, the Dolphins went out and added a number of receivers that made it seem like Matthews would be buried on the depth chart. During training camp, Matthews managed his way into the starting lineup, and performed admirably over the first 10 games of the year before suffering a season-ending injury. Typically, a good receiver will have a good catch rate and low yards-per-catch, or a good yards-per-catch and low catch rate. Matthews is the rare receiver who did both last year. He was the only player in the top 25 in each category among the 119 receivers with the most playing time.

3. Travis Benjamin

2015 team: Cleveland Browns

Of the 2015 unrestricted free agent wide receivers, the only one to top 900 yards in 2015 was Travis Benjamin. The one area Benjamin is most helpful is as a deep threat. He had 363 receiving yards on deep passes, which was 16th-most in the NFL. Four of his eight deep catches went for touchdowns. His one drawback is that he drops too many passes, with six dropped passes over the second half of last year. In every other way he has been an average receiver. No team had worse play from their quarterbacks than the Browns, so a new setting with a new QB could help Benjamin break out as a very good receiver.

4. Jermaine Kearse

2015 team: Seattle Seahawks

While there were better receiving options in Seattle, the Seahawks still had plenty of success when throwing Kearse the football. When Kearse was targeted, the Seahawks had a 126.1 NFL passer rating, which was the fourth-best for any wide receiver in the NFL. He started playing especially well late in the season. From Week 14 on, including the playoffs, his +7.4 cumulative grade was the seventh best for wide receivers. The receivers above him might have more upside, but over the last three years, Kearse has been more consistent.

5. James Jones

2015 team: Green Bay Packers

The top five receivers are all players who entered the league in 2012 and can sign long-term contracts. If a team wants more of a short-term fix with less upside (but less bust potential), James Jones is their best option. His 17.8 yards-per-catch were the best for receivers with at least 35 catches. While he was invisible in some games, in others (with the right cornerback matchup) he was capable of huge showings. For most of his career, Jones has benefited from having Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, but even in 2014 in Oakland, Jones was still an average receiver.

6. Rueben Randle

2015 team: New York Giants

Most receivers on this list helped their stock in 2015, but Randle was an exception to that rule. After three straight years of increasing playing time and improved production, Randle saw plenty of playing time in 2015 with not enough production. He had just 1.31 yards-per-route-run, which was sixth-worst for those with at least 500 routes. This was due to a lack of big plays in 2015. In 2014, he forced 13 players to miss tackles on him, which was 10th-best among receivers. If he can return to his 2014 form, he would be a solid second receiver.

7. Nate Washington

2015 team: Houston Texans

The top seven wide receivers on this list are all outside players with little to no experience in the slot. At his best, Washington is a dependable receiver who is capable of moving the chains. He’s been penalized just three times over the last five years, and during the majority of seasons, he’s an above average run-blocker. At his age (32), there probably isn’t much left in the tank, but he can still be part of a wide receiver rotation.

8. Andre Johnson

2015 team: Indianapolis Colts

Thrice our second-highest graded receiver in the NFL (2008, 2010, and 2012 seasons), Andre Johnson is likely nearing the end of a quality career. In 2015, he finished as the 60th-ranked receiver in the league, notching four touchdown receptions for Indy—two in Week 5 against the Texans. While he was once an elite wideout, Johnson will turn 35 in July, and his drop rate of 12.8 percent last season (ranked 68th among NFL WRs) won’t likely attract many suitors. He could be an okay veteran pickup for cheap, however, and can still act as a vertical threat (caught all five deep passes thrown his way in 2015).

| Director of Analytics

Nathan has been with Pro Football Focus since 2010. He is the Director of Analytics, an NFL analyst, and a fantasy writer.

  • Ryan Crinnigan

    #10 Andre Johnson

    (lulz)

    • Zachary Mills

      You think they’ll cut Johnson?

      • Ryan Crinnigan

        As a Colts fan, I do hope so. He’s been a great player, but he was just-a-guy, if not worse, last year. I suspect they’ll release him for the cap space and play more Dorsett.

  • Tim Edell

    Terrible WR FA class!!

    • crosseyedlemon

      Sssh Tim! Talk like that might tempt Terrell Owens to attempt a comeback so he can prove that his being passed over for induction into Canton was unfair.

    • BILL KWOK

      The sign of the TIMES.

  • Nikrizzi17

    Mohammad Sanu? I know the production isn’t there but he has the upside. And as a Giants fan rueben randle the most overrated receiver in this class. Everyone knows he’s trash but once YOUR team signs him don’t go around saying how good he is cuz he not AT ALL. Runs poor routes and doesn’t trust his hands so he tends to catch with his body when given the chance. I’d take any guy on this list over him, Eh Brian Walters screw it him too but you get the point. He won’t be in NY next year when he comes to your team, unless you can make him your WR4 (which is highly unlikely) may the lord be with you.

    • LostAlone

      I agree about Sanu. Between AJ Green who has amazing chemistry with Dalton and Eifert who is a legitimate receiving weapon there isn’t much left for Sanu to pick up. When Green has been down in the past Sanu has really stepped up and played like a legit number 1. I think the Bengals will probably try to resign him and I’d be shocked if he wanted to go elsewhere. This season his production wasn’t great so it’s not like he’ll be up for a lot of money and the Bengals are a team very much on the rise so it seems likely that he’ll stay put. If not, I can imagine him winning a number 1 job on a receiver needy team.

  • Nikrizzi17

    Lots of underated guys in here. It looks like a horrible class but a lot of these guys were either burried on the depth chart or played for bad teams. Rishard Mathews can play slot or outside and still be productive. Travis Benjamin is a burner not desean esque but if I’m a GM I’d take a look for the price he’s also a special teams stud. Marvin jones probably the best number 2 reciever in the league right behind sanders, decker, martavis Bryant I probably missed one chill out going off the top of my head (Crabtree lol I thought of another) but the point is he can play outside and take pressure off of your #1 reciever very underated at going up for the ball and coming down with it on the sideline getting his feet in bounds. He didn’t get a lot of looks in the redzone cuz of green and Eifert plus they like to run the ball a lot even tho they had no run game. All you fantasy fans don’t sleep on this FA class. Remember emmanual sanders a couple years ago yeah neither did I until he lit up the NFL with Peyton. If they land with the right QB and the right scheme one or all three of these guys could help you win your league. Same for mo Sanu who is not on this list but has a high chance of resigning with cinci. Laugh all you want I’ll be the one with (fantasy) ring next season

  • HawkHeart55

    If you got James Jones on your roster you should be shopping for a new general manager.