How does one go about judging a wide receiver? There are many metrics you can use: route-running, speed, and agility are all great arbiters of determining the quality of a wideout. But there’s another area that helps separate the great NFL receivers from the merely good: their hands.
Which receivers have the best hands in the NFL? To get a better grasp on that, it helps to look at two key statistics: catch rate (the total number of a receiver’s targets divided by their receptions) and drop rate. Let’s take a closer look at four receivers with the best hands in the NFL.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
He may not get the attention many of his peers receive, but Mike Evans has some of the most reliable hands among all NFL wide receivers. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have targeted Evans 772 times for 442 catches over the course of his six years in the NFL. That’s a catch rate of 54.7%.
That isn’t as high as others on this list, but remember that many of those non-catches could have been errant throws. Based on the inconsistency Tampa’s seen from the quarterback position during Evans’ career, that’s more than likely in many cases.
Evans has also only dropped nine passes over the last two seasons. If he can get his hands on it, it’s likely going to be caught.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
During his four-year career, Saints’ quarterbacks have targeted Michael Thomas 495 times for 383 receptions. That’s a catch rate of 77.4%. Thomas has had the benefit of playing alongside one of the most consistent quarterbacks in football in Drew Brees, but his ability to catch balls dependably is hardly in question. Thomas has only dropped seven balls over the past two seasons — three in 2018 and four in 2019 so far. That gives him drop rates of 2.0 and 5.1%, respectively.
Thomas has emerged as a player Brees can count on no matter what the situation. It’s a perfect set up: in Brees, New Orleans has a quarterback who can squeeze the ball into tight situations. With Thomas, Brees knows the pass doesn’t have to be perfect. No matter where Brees’ puts the ball, Thomas is as close to a sure thing as he can get.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
Julio Jones has emerged over the last few seasons as one of the top receivers in football. He also has some of the best hands in the league. Jones has been targeted 1,157 times for 738 receptions — a catch rate of 63.8%. Jones is one of the most sure-handed receivers in the league. This season he only has one drop through seven games for a drop rate of 1.6%. Last season he had only nine drops all year for a drop rate of 5.3%.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
During his career, DeAndre Hopkins has been targeted 966 times for 577 receptions. That’s a catch percentage of 59.7%. While that may not seem outstanding at first glance, taking a closer look at the numbers acquits Hopkins nicely.
In 2017 and 2018 (during which time he’s played alongside DeShaun Watson) Hopkins has put up catch percentages of 70.6 and 72.1, respectively. Houston’s quarterbacks prior to Watson didn’t give Hopkins much to work with.
In 2018, Pro Football Focus looked at players with the most contested catches. Unsurprisingly, Hopkins’ name came up:
“Simply put, his hands are ridiculous, so it comes as no surprise that he found his way onto this list. No one had more contested targets than Hopkin’s 43. He ended the regular season with catches on 25 of those targets for 311 yards and three touchdowns.”
Armed with a much better quarterback than he had in past years and a catch radius that would make any receiver jealous, Hopkins has the best hands in the NFL.