But in the eyes of NFL executives, scouts and players, one pass-catcher rises above the rest: Julio Jones.
In a poll conducted with 50 NFL executives, scouts and players, ESPN ranked the top 10 wide receivers for this upcoming season. pic.twitter.com/AnAXYtAHxJ
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) July 10, 2020
In terms of career accolades, it’s hard to argue that Jones does not belong atop the list. Since being drafted in 2011, he is a 7-time Pro Bowler, 2-time First Team All-Pro selection (2015 and 2016), and has twice won the NFL receiving title (2015 and 2018).
In addition, in April of this year, he was one of four receivers named to the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team.
The NFL’s 2010s All-Decade Team WRs! pic.twitter.com/SaKOdJNbjA
— NFL (@NFL) April 8, 2020
Interestingly enough, not long ago, a few of the receivers on the list debated who was better amongst themselves, specifically Hopkins and Thomas.
Back in May, Thomas not-so-cryptically proclaimed himself the best wideout in the game.
Top of the top
— Michael Thomas (@Cantguardmike) May 18, 2020
For what it’s worth, Thomas is not far off, considering he finished second to only Jones in the ESPN poll.
Last year, Thomas won the NFL receiving title by tallying a ridiculous 1,725 yards (107.8 per game) on a league-leading 149 catches (9.3 per game).
He joined Marvin Harrison, Charley Hennigan, Isaac Bruce, Antonio Brown, Jerry Rice, Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones as the only receivers in NFL history to eclipse 1,700 receiving yards.
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) May 13, 2020
However, Hopkins still took exception with Thomas’ proclamation.
“I definitely think I’m the best. I know I’m the best. Mike’s my boy. I love Mike … But he know if I had Drew Brees my whole career what these numbers would be. Julio Jones know if I had Matt Ryan my whole career – that’s my boy and I train with Julio, too – he know what these numbers would be.”
— Jalen Rose (@JalenRose) May 28, 2020
Hopkins is a 4-time Pro Bowler and 3-time First Team All-Pro selection, one less than Thomas and Jones combined.
Still, Jones’ consistency has seemingly set him apart from the pack, considering he has finished in the top 3 in receiving yards for six consecutive seasons.
— NFL (@NFL) May 28, 2020
On Friday, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, who helped conduct the poll, said that Jones was somewhat surprisingly the runaway top choice among the NFL members he spoke to.
“I went into this process thinking Michael Thomas would push Julio Jones for that No. 1 spot. It didn’t happen. Jones got more than half the first place votes. One NFL coordinator told me he’s simply an Avatar. There’s no one like him … The only knock on him is he’s 31 years old. Occasionally they rest him, he takes a few plays off. But most people thought that he was just more of a threat than Michael Thomas downfield.”
However, former Heisman Trophy winner and Super Bowl MVP Desmond Howard said that not only is Jones not atop his list, he’s not even in the top 2, due to inconsistencies catching and scoring the ball in recent years.
“My problem with Julio Jones is in the past three seasons, he’s dropped 17 passes. That ties him for first in the league. And he hasn’t had a 10-touchdown receiving season since 2012. He’s gonna catch a lot of balls for a lot of yards, but he’s not getting to the endzone at the same clip as some of these other receivers. I think Michael Thomas should be No. 1, then I’d put DeAndre Hopkins at No. 2.”
I absolutely love Julio Jones for what he can do on the field…but dang he drops too many perfectly thrown passes…particularly slants.
— Brian Billick (@CoachBillick) November 27, 2016
We’ll see if Jones can continue his streak of dominance this upcoming season – and also clean up a few minor issues in the drops department – while Thomas and Hopkins, who now has a bonafide superstar quarterback, remain hot on his heels for the title of the game’s best wideout.