During a recent appearance on the “Million Dollaz Worth Of Game” podcast, Los Angeles Rams All-Pro corner and outspoken defensive stalwart Jalen Ramsey listed off his three toughest wideouts to cover man-to-man in all of football. His list was of no surprise in that each pass-catcher touts an elite individual skill set that has resulted in them being among the top wide receivers in the game.
- DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
- Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns
- Julio Jones, Tennessee Titans
So, that got us thinking. While each of the three talents on Ramsey’s list is a surefire superstar in their own unique way, who truly are the three toughest wideouts to cover in the game today if we were to poll every defensive back and coordinator the league has to offer? With all things considered, including production, ability to stay healthy, and schematic versatility, here are a few of football’s most dominant pass-catchers and what makes them just so difficult to cover.
Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
If you think Hill is just a vertical nine-ball threat, turn on the film and revisit your stance on the Chiefs’ WR1. While his elite, world-class burst often leaves opposing coordinators with their hands on their heads with zero idea on how to counter his ability, Hill has developed into a dynamic wideout with a well-rounded skill set to work at all three levels of the defense; which makes him impossible to cover.
At 5-foot-10, by no means does he offer the vertical stature or dominant physical prowess as Hopkins or Jones, but Hill’s ability to stop and start at any point in his route, and his relationship with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, makes it a daunting task to attempt to limit Hill each Sunday. Coupled with the creativity of Andy Reid, where the Super Bowl-winning head coach is a master at getting the rock in Hill’s hands, it's easy to see why Hill has been named a Pro Bowler in each of his first five seasons, along with three All-Pro selections.
Hill’s ability on the outside is rarely matched with man-to-man coverage, often drawing multiple eyes to counter his game-breaking speed. While many wideouts can compete toe-to-toe with Hill from a pure production point of view, his aggregate impact on defenses is matched by none in football.
DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
You remember as a kid when you’d hop into a neighborhood pickup game and there would be the kid that was older than everyone else, five or six inches taller than anyone there, and could jump out of the gym? That’s Hopkins in a vacuum.
A high-powered combination of elite strength, body control, and an ability to win nearly every 50-50 ball thrown his way, Hopkins has developed into a complete superstar from the moment he arrived onto the NFL scene back in 2013.
I mean, are you kidding?
Molded similarly to Calvin Johnson, Hopkins won’t blow you away with his 4.50 40-yard dash speed, but his game quickness and burst in and out of routes, whether he’s working toward the hashes or the sideline, makes it a tough ask to keep the three-time All-Pro in check. Add in his glue-like hands and ability to high-point the football, and you can see why he’s accrued 37 total touchdowns with more than 1,100 receiving yards in each of the last four seasons.
Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
Whether it’s a 10-yard slant or a simple curl, Diggs’ route-running embarrasses corners week in and week out. What looks to be a post-corner is not. What looks to be a shallow crosser is quickly flipped. Diggs is a magician in his route-running who deserves much more credit than he has received. Following an inconsistent start to his career in Minnesota, Diggs’ game took a massive leap last fall in Buffalo, totaling an absurd 127 receptions, the sixth-highest total ever in one season.
The clear top target for the Bills, Diggs constantly has all eyes centered on him but innately finds his way into open space to create throwing windows for Josh Allen. Whether the defense is in man or zone, Diggs has no issue proving his dominance as one of football’s toughest covers. An artist when it comes to the intricacies of playing the receiver position, Diggs is a name that should be at the top of every list when discussing the NFL’s most unguardable pass-catchers.