Which Player Will Lead the NFL in Receptions: Thomas, Jones, or Other?

by Rick Rockwell
on August 13, 2019
9

Minute Read

Wide receivers have long been described as “divas” on the field due to their personalities and demands to get the football. However, to lead the NFL in receptions requires a physical toughness and endurance that few men have ever accomplished. Furthermore, only once in nearly three decades has a player led the NFL in receptions for two consecutive seasons. Once again, proving how difficult this accomplishment is.

With the regular season quickly approaching, NFL betting sites have released odds on which player will lead the league in receptions for the 2019 NFL season. Let’s take a look at these odds, identify some betting value, and see if we can win!

NFL Receptions Leader Betting Odds

The following NFL prop bet odds are courtesy of BetOnline:

  • Michael Thomas (+450)
  • DeAndre Hopkins (+600)
  • Julio Jones (+600)
  • Tyreek Hill (+600)
  • Antonio Brown (+800)
  • Davante Adams (+800)
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster (+1000)
  • Adam Thielen (+1100)
  • Zach Ertz (+1100)
  • Christian McCaffrey (+1200)
  • Saquon Barkley (+1400)
  • Travis Kelce (+1400)
  • Odell Beckham (+1800)
  • Julian Edelman (+2200)
  • Keenan Allen (+2200)
  • Mike Evans (+2200)
  • Stefon Diggs (+2500)
  • Alvin Kamara (+3300)
  • Jarvis Landry (+3300)
  • TY Hilton (+3300)
  • George Kittle (+4000)
  • Amari Cooper (+5000)
  • Cooper Kupp (+5000)
  • Robert Woods (+5000)
  • Brandin Cooks (+6600)
  • Le’Veon Bell (+6600)
  • David Johnson (+8000)
  • Emmanuel Sanders (+8000)
  • Ezekiel Elliott (+8000)
  • Larry Fitzgerald (+8000)

The Betting Favorites to Lead the NFL in Receptions

The following wide receivers are considered the odds on favorites to lead the NFL in receptions this season:

Player 2018 Rec 2018 Rank Rec High Career Rec
Michael Thomas 125 1 125 321
DeAndre Hopkins 115 3 115 528
Julio Jones 113 4 136 698
Tyreek Hill 87 15 87 223
Antonio Brown 104 9 136 837
Davante Adams 111 6 111 567

Michael Thomas (+450)

In his third season in the league, Michael Thomas lit the NFL on fire by finishing with the most receptions in the National Football League last year. Thomas ended up with 125 receptions, which was a 21-reception improvement from 2017 when he finished with 104 receptions. In his rookie year (2016), Thomas caught 92 passes. For his career, Michael Thomas is averaging 107 receptions per season. These are staggering numbers, and they certainly solidify his spot as the favorite to lead the NFL in receptions once again.

With that said, there are some concerns for Thomas and his potential to lead the NFL. For starters, this offense is going to feature Alvin Kamara who will be the main weapon. I don’t see the Saints needing to throw as much. Secondly, the passing attack has several receivers that could take some pass attempts from Thomas like a healthy Ginn, Kirkwood, and Smith. In the last 26 years, only Sterling Sharpe has led the league in receptions for two consecutive seasons.

Antonio Brown led the NFL in 2014, but tied with Julio Jones in 2015. So, Sharpe gets the honors of being the last outright leader for two straight years.

DeAndre Hopkins (+600)

Hopkins is one of the best, if not the best receiver in the NFL. He can run the entire route tree, win one-on-one battles, make ridiculous one-handed catches, and is a red zone threat. Last year, he finished with 115 receptions, which was the most in any season of his six-year career. However, he was only third in the league and 10 catches behind Thomas.

Hopkins will make a run toward the top of the NFL in receptions and TD catches, but he will have a better chance at leading the league in receiving yards than receptions, especially with Fuller back.

Julio Jones (+600)

In my opinion, Julio Jones is the best receiver in the NFL. Like Hopkins, he can run any route and win one-on-one battles anywhere on the field. Jones is bigger than Hopkins and is about the same size as Thomas. However, Jones has more speed than Thomas, which makes him a better threat.

In eight seasons, Jones has amassed 698 receptions. He tied Antonio Brown in 2015 for the most receptions with 136. Last year, Jones finished with 113 receptions, which was good for fourth place. He tied with Adam Thielen of the Vikings.

Jones is a legit candidate to lead the league this year. The Falcons are expected to be a better team in 2019, especially with an improved offensive line. With Freeman back to 100% in the backfield, the passing game should thrive even more because defenses will have to respect the run game again. This will open up the field for Jones and Ridley. However, as we know, Jones is still the main man in that passing attack, and I expect him to surpass his total from last year.

Tyreek Hill (+600)

This one is a bit of a head scratcher for me. I believe Hill is highly overvalued especially in a Chiefs offense that has Watkins and Kelce as legit receiving options. Furthermore, Hill’s best numbers were last year when he finished with 87 receptions. That was good for 15th in the NFL. I just don’t see Hill putting up another 30 to 40 more receptions in 2019 with all of the players that the Chiefs can get the ball to in that explosive offense. Stay away from Hill for this NFL prop bet.

Antonio Brown (+800)

As mentioned, Brown was at the top of the NFL in receptions for 2014 and 2015. He has put together six straight seasons of 100+ receptions. Last year, in 15 games, Brown finished with 104 catches, which was good for 9th in the league. He could’ve possibly cracked the Top 5 last year if he played a full season.

My biggest concern with Antonio Brown is not his helmet issue or his frostbitten feet, it’s playing for a new team and a new offense. Brown left the Steelers this offseason after forcing his way out of Pittsburgh. He will now suit up for the Oakland Raiders in a run first offense. Furthermore, he doesn’t have Big Ben throwing him the ball. Instead, he has a talented, but unproven QB in Derek Carr. In fact, the Raiders’ QB is in a make or break season.

Brown’s going to have a tough time cracking 100 receptions for the Raiders this season, so I don’t see him competing for the league lead.

Davante Adams (+800)

Adams quietly put up 111 receptions last year, which was tied for sixth place with JuJu Smith-Schuster. He also did that in just 15 games and throughout a bad season for Green Bay. Adams is the clear-cut number one receiver with the Packers this season, but the team has a new head coach and offensive system. Furthermore, the run game hasn’t established itself as a threat in several years.

The Packers still have one of the best QBs in the league with Aaron Rodgers, but Adams is going to see the opposing defense’s best defender each and every week. With that in mind, I find it hard to believe that Adams is going to lead the NFL with all of these factors working against him. Other than Hill, Adams concerns me the most among the betting favorites.

The Best Receptions Leaders Betting Value

These wide receivers offer betting value based on their current NFL odds, offensive systems, and status as the top receiving threat for their team:

Player 2018 Rec 2018 Rank Rec High Career Rec
JuJu Smith-Schuster 111 6 111 169
Zach Ertz 116 2 116 437
Christian McCaffrey 107 8 107 187
Julian Edelman 74 28 105 499

JuJu Smith-Schuster (+1000)

In only his second season, JuJu finished sixth in the NFL with 111 receptions. More importantly, he made receiver Antonio Brown expendable. JuJu proved that he could be the #1 receiver and is expected to have a huge year in 2019 for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He averaged a little over 10 targets per game last year, and I expect that number to go up some.

I believe that Smith-Schuster could be one of the best receivers in the NFL this season as he will benefit from being the #1 receiver in a high volume passing attack. Pencil JuJu in for at least a Top 5 spot.

Zach Ertz (+1100)

In 2018, Zach Ertz rewrote the record books for receptions by a tight end in a single season with 116 catches. He broke the previous record of 110 receptions by Jason Witten. Ertz broke the record against the Houston Texans two days before Christmas then finished the season with 116 after a three-reception game in the final week of 2018.

Ertz was second in the NFL last year with 116 receptions and offers value at +1100 odds. With a healthy Wentz at QB, I can see this offense being potent this year and Ertz being the main recipient. Don’t be surprised if Ertz finishes in the Top 5 again and pushes for the league lead because in that offense, he’s more of a receiver than a tight end.

Christian McCaffrey (+1200)

In two seasons, McCaffrey has gone from college star to one of the best running backs in the NFL. Last year, he finished with 107 receptions, which broke the previous record of 102 held by Matt Forte. McCaffrey also broke the Panthers’ single season reception mark set by Steve Smith in 2005. Smith, the franchise’s best receiver, had 103 catches that year. Lastly, McCaffrey surpassed his father (Ed McCaffrey) who had a season high of 101 receptions in 2000 with the Broncos.

What also made McCaffrey’s performance last year even more impressive was that he rushed for 1,098 yards as well. Christian is arguably the best pass catching running back out of the backfield. It will be hard to duplicate the numbers from last year, but the Panthers view him as their main weapon outside of QB Cam Newton. Out of all the running backs, McCaffrey is the one with the best chance to lead the NFL in receptions, which hasn’t been done before in the modern era of football.

Julian Edelman (+2200)

It’s been a while since Edelman was at the top of any major receiving category. That’s not because of a lack of skills, but it’s due to missing games from injuries and suspensions. Edelman only played 12 games last year and really just 13 in 2016. In the 2015 season, Edelman played in just nine games. His last season where he was one of the best receivers was in 2013 when he finished with 105 receptions.

Now that Edelman is healthy, and not facing any suspensions, he will be the Patriots’ leading receiver in 2019. He’s one of the only New England receivers with a legitimate connection to Tom Brady and someone that Brady really trusts.

Another reason why I believe that Edelman could contend for most receptions this season is because tight end Rob Gronkowski has retired. In Edelman’s last 16 regular season games without Gronk, Julian tallied 114 catches on 180 targets for 1,374 yards and three TDs. Go ahead and pencil Edelman in the Top 10. Where he finishes will largely depend on how healthy he and Brady remain all year long.

Top Longshots to Lead NFL in Receptions

Larry Fitzgerald (+8000) is a first ballot Hall of Fame player and heading into his 16th season in the league. The 11-time Pro Bowler is the best of the longshots, considering his odds and realistic chance at breaking at least 100 receptions. Fitzgerald has surpassed that mark five times in his career, including three of the last four seasons. The 2018 season was a bust due to a rookie QB and inferior talent. This year, things are expected to be better.

A new head coach with an explosive offensive system should help Fitzgerald’s numbers. So will having a talented franchise QB in Kyler Murray who could have a breakout year as a rookie. If Fitz can get at least 150 targets, then I believe he has a shot to break 100 receptions and contend with the leaders.

Who Will Lead the NFL in Receptions for the 2019 Season?

This will be a close competition all season long. With that said, let’s start eliminating some of the contenders. As we mentioned above, it’s not common for a receiver to lead the league in receptions for two consecutive years. So, let’s eliminate last year’s leader Michael Thomas from this wager. He will have more receivers to compete with on his team and Kamara being the main man.

I don’t see Brown having a great deal of success with the Raiders. I also don’t see Hopkins having more receptions this year than last, which means he will fall short of the league lead. Tyreek Hill might not even break 100 receptions in that Kansas City offense that spreads the ball around to everyone. With a new coach, new offensive system, and no real #2 receiver, Davante Adams will have a hard time getting to the top of this statistical mountain.

As cool as it would be to have McCaffrey or Ertz make history and lead the NFL in receptions, I just don’t see it happening. For me, there are two real options: Julio Jones and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

I think Jones is the best receiver in the NFL and will benefit greatly from an improved offense. JuJu will also benefit as the main receiver now that Brown has left the Steelers. Unlike with Adams in Green Bay, Pittsburgh actually has some talented wide receivers in addition to Smith-Schuster.

We’ve seen what Antonio Brown did with Pittsburgh over the years when he was the main man. JuJu should be able to come close to that. However, until he does, I’m going to take the safer pick and go with Julio Jones. JuJu has the value, but Julio is the safer pick to lead the NFL in receptions. If you are feeling frisky with your money, then bet on both receivers.

The 2019 NFL Receptions Leader: Julio Jones (+600)
Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site.

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