NFL’s top 5 receivers for 2015

If the NFL has become a passing game, the 23 receivers that eclipsed 1,000 yards in 2014 are proof of that.

Five teams in the NFL had two receivers top 1,000 yards in 2014, further proof at just how adept passing games are getting in the NFL.

Included in those five teams is just one receiver that made our top-five list for 2015, a generally young group (with one rookie from 2014) that is on the rise and could produce even more in the coming years.

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Brown led the NFL in both receptions (129) and receiving yards (1,698) in 2014, averaging 106.1 yards per game. He was also second in the league with 13 receiving touchdowns. While others were more of a deep threat, Brown showed another way to gain yards, with his 615 yards after the catch third in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, and causing 17 missed tackles (second). Brown’s 85 first downs receiving led the NFL. Entering his sixth season with the Steelers, Brown is looking for a new contract and is proving worthy of that after his third season in the last four with 1,000 yards or more.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
Since breaking into the starting lineup on a full-time basis three years ago, Thomas has been a 1,000-yard receiver ever since. Last year was his best yet, catching 111 passes for 1,619 yards and 11 touchdowns. The yards and receptions were both career highs for him and second in the NFL, and his 668 yards after the catch was second-best in the league. With a new contract signed that will pay him $22 million in 2015, all that’s left for Thomas is long-term production that should continue as long as Peyton Manning remains sharp and upright, and Thomas knows it, saying his goal is to set the single-season record for receiving yards.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
After playing only five games in 2013, Jones rebounded for a massive year in 2014, catching 104 passes for 1,593 yards and six touchdowns. His yardage and catches were both third in the NFL last year, but with 15 games played his 106.2 yards per game was second best. He lived up to the perception as one of the NFL’s best deep threats with a league-leading 31 catches of 20 yards or more (no one else had more than 25). With other top receivers signing new deals this month, the bar is set for Jones’ next contract.

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
After threatening to hold out for a new contract, Bryant finally got his wish, signing a five-year, $70 million contract this month that came with a $20 million signing bonus. Bryant got that contract after amassing 5,424 yards and 56 touchdowns over the past five seasons. Last year was his second-best for yards (1,320) and his best for touchdowns (16). While Thomas has Emmanuel Sanders and Jones has Roddy White to help take the pressure off them from a coverage standpoint, no other Cowboys wide receiver had more than 40 catches or 650 yards last season.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants
It’s staggering to think what Beckham accomplished as a rookie. Playing in only 12 games (11 starts), Beckham accumulated 1,305 yards on 91 catches. He led the league by averaging 108.8 yards per game. If that average keeps up for 16 games, he has 1,740 yards, which easily would have led the league. Now he’ll have to respond after defensive coordinators are acutely aware of how dangerous he is. His six catches for 40 yards or more was tied for fourth in the league, his 57 first-down catches was tied for 12th, and his 80-yard touchdown was tied for ninth-longest. Through it all, he didn’t fumble the ball once. Welcome to Year 2 of what is sure to be a long and productive career.

Honorable mention: Jordy Nelson, T.Y. Hilton, A.J. Green, Calvin Johnson, Randall Cobb.

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