10 best receivers in the NFL today

As part of our NFL 2013 kickoff section examining the role of wide receivers, Christopher L. Gasper consulted with an NFL scout to compeil his top 10 wide receivers in the NFL today. The analysis below comes from the scout:

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1: Calvin Johnson, Lions

  • Had a record 1,964 receiving yards last season. “He is a rare combination of size and speed. Teams play him differently. I saw a game last year where a team played him like he was a gunner on punts, just doubled him with a defensive back like a vice [outside punt coverage player].”

Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

2: Andre Johnson, Texans

  • Only Jerry Rice has more 1,500 yard seasons than Johnson, who is tied with Marvin Harrison for second with three. “He is real crafty in terms of setting up his routes, selling his move, just sticking his foot in ground and going in a different direction.”

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3: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals

  • He is the youngest player in NFL history to record 700 receptions. “I would say the best hands in the NFL. His ability to high-point the ball and make the contested catch is the best in the league. ...He is a physical player. You can’t press cover him.”

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4: Reggie Wayne, Colts

  • He is the active leader among wide receivers in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. “He is an aging guy, but he is a very good route runner. When he is running his route he presses the defensive back and separates out of his breaks.”

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5: A.J. Green, Bengals

  • The first rookie wide receiver elected to the Pro Bowl since Anquan Boldin. “He is another one like Calvin Johnson, if you get the ball in his vicinity he can catch it over a guy. Rare body control for a guy that size. He is the fastest guy of the group.”

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6: Brandon Marshall, Bears

  • He holds the NFL single-game record for receptions with 21. “His size and his physicality set him apart. When contact is made he knocks guys off. ...He swats people away from him. He is more of a possession category, but has deceptive speed.”

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7: Roddy White, Falcons

  • Only Calvin Johnson has more receiving yards and receiving touchdowns over the last five seasons. “He is strong runner after the catch, very good route runner, good hands. He is a competitor. He just shows up every week and gets his big catches.”

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8: Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers

  • Since 2008, has the longest average yards per catch in the NFL (18.3). “He is a guy who can get vertical, For a big guy he can really stretch the field and make those tough vertical catches. He uses his body so well to shield defenders.”

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

9: Wes Welker, Broncos

  • He has the most catches (672) and yards after catch (4,034) in the NFL since 2007. “His toughness is what sets him apart. He is a nifty route-runner who reads coverage well and is good after the catch. ...His short-area quickness sets him apart.”

10 (tie): Demaryius Thomas, Broncos and Julio Jones, Falcons

  • Thomas (left) had the second-most catches of 25-plus yards in the NFL last season. “When I think of him I think of the big plays.” Jones is a Pro Bowler. “Very explosive player for a guy his size.”

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