The Four Receivers Who Are Doing Their Thing Like Nobody Else
Davante Adams WR Raiders
There hasn't been a receiver in the NFL who has been as consistently dominant as Davante Adams in the past four years. It is because he has "unlocked the code"-- he discovered what makes him different. His body control and two-step quickness are unlike any receiver... maybe ever. When looking at his numbers on paper: 6'1, 215 lbs. with a 4.56 40-yard dash, nothing really stands out. He's got solid size and ran a below-average 40-yard dash. On paper, you'd expect him to be a fine receiver, but not a guy who has nearly 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns in the past two seasons. While some of his success can be accredited to his chemistry with his former quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, Adams ended up being the best receiver Rodgers has ever had. I can say that confidently with no disrespect to Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and James Jones. One attribute that made Adams such a reliable receiver for Rodgers is his ability to contort his body and come down with remarkable catches. I've never seen a receiver quite like Adams with the awareness and control towards the sideline and in the red zone. He knows where he is on the field at all times and can manipulate his body into a favorable position to make ridiculous catches. He knows perfectly when to break, when to show his hands, when to lean into the DB, and when to turn. It is nearly impossible for defensive backs to get a read on him. What may be even more impressive than his body control is how quickly he can separate with just one or two steps. Everything starts with his irreplicable "hop release". This is where he squares the DB up by jumping into an even stance with his feet parallel to one another. From there he quickly decides how he gets off the line based on how the defensive back plays him. No matter what the DB does, Adams has an answer to quickly get separation. I have never seen a receiver play with the suddenness that Adams plays with. His combination of body control and short-area quickness allows him to play the receiver position like nobody else.
Deebo Samuel WR 49ers
Despite the questions of whether or not he will repeat his role as the 49ers' "wide back", Samuel offers a rare ability that can be utilized whether or not he's in the backfield. The beautiful thing about his ability is that his head coach, Kyle Shanahan, knows how to utilize it perfectly. While it is special that he can be so affective coming out of the backfield, the real "separator" is what he does with the ball in his hands. He is like an all-pro running back with the ball in his hands, he just prefers to get the ball like a receiver. I've never seen a receiver with the vision that Samuel has when the ball is in his hands. Samuel inherently understands angles and how to run over defenders by using their momentum against them. Samuel is tough and fearless; he is never afraid to lower his shoulder. Not only is he a punishing runner, but he is also an explosive "gap finder". He recognizes how to make defenders miss, and after he makes his move he finds a hole to burst through. Samuel's ability to get upfield with the ball in his hands is why his YAC numbers are so remarkable. What Samuel does with the ball in his hands allows him to play the receiver (and wide back) position like nobody else.
Cooper Kupp WR Rams
What separates Cooper Kupp isn't his size, strength, or speed... it's his smarts. He sees the field like a quarterback; it's rare for a receiver to understand every mismatch, defensive philosophy, and hole in coverage, but Kupp does. He is able to channel what he sees in the film room onto the football field-- this is why you see him running wide open despite not being the most physically imposing receiver. You can see the "Sean McVay influence" when watching Kupp find holes in the middle of defenses. Kupp exploits these openings in coverage by running at a certain pace, understanding the tempo of plays, and deciphering exactly when to break his route off. The way Kupp sees the field is so helpful for his quarterback, and a big reason why he won Super Bowl MVP. His success isn't because of his genetics, but because he understands football better than any receiver in the NFL.
Tyreek Hill WR Dolphins
I have never seen a receiver as fast as Tyreek Hill consistently terrorize defenses as much as he does. Usually when it comes to receivers with speed comparable to Hill's they get categorized as solely a deep threat or special teams ace. I've never seen a receiver with Hill's natural athleticism used the way he gets used. While part of that can be accredited to Andy Reid's genius, I give a lot of credit to the way Hill takes care of his body. For the speedster receivers, you tend to see them get injured because of a light frame or pulled hamstrings due to the speed they run at. With Hill, there is none of that-- he is very top-heavy despite having cheetah quickness. He is capable of going 0 to 100 real quick, but he can also go back down from 100 to 75 in a split-second. Whether it's him tracking a football, breaking on a hitch, or going up top to get the ball, Hill has rare control over his freakish speed. Hill's speed and control allows him to play the receiver position unlike any other receiver in NFL history.