NFL News & Analysis

Ranking the NFL’s best wide receivers in the red zone from the 2021 season

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) against the Seattle Seahawks in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

There are multiple factors at play when considering how good an NFL wide receiver is in the red zone — including how well they run routes and the coverage matchup.

Here were the top 25 receivers in the red zone last season, per PFF grading.


1. D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 87.9

Catching 13 of his 20 targets in the red zone last season, Metcalf totaled 125 yards. His nine touchdowns put him in a three-way tie for third-most, and he caught 65.0% of his open targets.

2. Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 84.3

Thielen led the top-25 graded receivers by catching 86.7% of his 15 red-zone targets. He also found the end zone nine times and was among 10 players who caught 100.0% of their catchable targets.

3. Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 83.5

Arguably the NFL's best receiver in 2021 in any category, Kupp led the group of 25 receivers in red-zone targets (38), receptions (27), yards (209), touchdowns (13) and open targets (30). His 27 receptions were higher than 23 of the other 24 receivers’ targets.

4. DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 79.9

While Hopkins’ 61.5% reception rate on his 13 red-zone targets places him at 18th of 25, it’s worth noting that all eight of his receptions resulted in a touchdown. He averaged 11.1 yards per reception, which is the third-most.

5. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers (now Las Vegas Raiders)

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 78.4

Adams caught 18 of his 26 red-zone targets for 110 yards and tied for the second-most touchdowns (10). He averaged only 6.1 yards per reception but caught 76.9% of his 20 open targets.

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6. Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 77.6

The LSU product caught 91.7% of his catchable targets and 71.4% of his open targets for 101 yards and seven touchdowns. Jefferson caught 52.4% of his 21 overall red-zone targets, which ranked 23rd of 25.

7. Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 77.2

If Cooper Kupp’s outlier 2021 season was removed, Renfrow would have the second-most red-zone receiving yards (114). He caught 18 of his 24 targets, 17 of which were “open.” The Raiders’ receiver also hauled in 100.0% of his catchable targets and rounds out the aforementioned three-way tie with nine touchdowns.

8. Braxton Berrios, New York Jets

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 73.9

Ranking last with three other receivers by catching only two touchdowns on red-zone targets, Berrios hauled six of his seven targets. That 85.7% rate is the second-best, behind only Adam Thielen. None of his targets were open, but all were deemed catchable.

9. Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit Lions

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 73.6

While St. Brown surprised the NFL landscape with a solid rookie campaign, his red-zone play was fairly average. He snagged 10 of his 15 targets for 82 yards and four touchdowns. In addition, he caught 90.9% of his catchable targets.

10. DeAndre Carter, Washington Commanders (now Los Angeles Chargers)

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 73.5

Carter snuck onto this list with only three red-zone receptions on four targets — both of which rank as the least of the 25 best-graded receivers in the red zone. Because he saw so few targets, he led the group with an average of 14.7 yards per reception. All three of his catches were touchdowns.

11. Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons (now Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 71.2

Gage snagged nine of his 14 red-zone targets for 91 yards — an average of 10.1 yards per reception. His three touchdowns left something to be desired, however.

12. Ja'Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 71.1

Going 10-of-14 for 87 yards, Chase caught 71.4% of his targets and 90.9% of his catchable targets in the red zone. While his long, after-the-catch touchdowns made highlight reels, he scored only five times when his team was already in the red zone.

T-13. Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 70.4

Diggs’ 19 receptions of his 32 targets both ranked second among the players on this list. Still, he gained only 87 yards for just five touchdowns. He saw an open target 71.9% (23) of the time, and he caught 79.2% of his catchable targets.

T-13. Brandin Cooks, Houston Texans

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 70.4

Nine of Cooks’ 10 red-zone targets were open, and he caught seven for 55 yards. He scored just twice in the red zone, but he is part of the group that caught every catchable target.

15. Elijah Moore, New York Jets

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 70.1

Targeted only eight times, Moore caught five passes in the red zone for 53 yards and four touchdowns. None of his targets were deemed “open,” but he snagged 83.3% of his catchable balls. He averaged a fourth-best 10.6 yards per reception.

16. A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans (now Philadelphia Eagles)

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 69.9

Before he was traded on draft day to Philadelphia, Brown averaged 11.6 yards per reception in the red zone. He caught five of his 11 targets for 58 yards and three touchdowns. His 45.5% completion rate is ranked 25th of the 25 top-graded receivers.

17. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 69.4

Evans, who was targeted 19 times inside the 20-yard line last season, caught 14 passes for a sixth-best 73.7% completion rate. The Bucs’ pass-catcher is tied with Adams for second with 10 touchdowns, which means he scored 71.4% of the time when he caught a pass in the red zone.

T-18. Allen Lazard, Green Bay Packers

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 69.3

Lazard rounds out the Packers receivers on the list, catching eight of his 15 red-zone targets for 73 yards. His seven touchdowns bring Adams and his collective total to 17 red-zone touchdowns. The Iowa State product caught only 66.7% of his catchable targets, which ranked 25th of 25, and he averaged 6.1 yards per reception in the red zone, which ranked 21st.

T-18. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs (now Miami Dolphins)

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 69.3

Usually a speedy downfield option, Hill still caught 16 of his 22 red-zone targets for 101 yards, which tied for sixth-most, and seven touchdowns. He saw an open red-zone target 81.8% of the time — the fourth-highest mark — which means he was a step ahead or further from a defender on 18 of his targets.

T-18. Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams (now Tennessee Titans)

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 69.3

While Kupp garnered a huge target share in the red zone, Woods was still targeted 13 times in that part of the field. He caught nine of those for 66 yards, four touchdowns and an average of 7.3 yards per reception.

21. Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 69.1

Higgins hauled in 77.8% of his catchable targets and snagged seven of his 13 overall red-zone targets for 62 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 8.9 yards per reception inside the 20-yard-line.

22. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 68.7

Lockett was targeted only seven times, which ties for second-fewest among this group, but he turned it into four red-zone receptions for 20 yards and three touchdowns. While he caught just 57.1% of his red-zone passes, he still brought in all of his catchable targets and scored 75% of the time he caught the ball in such situations.

23. Mack Hollins, Miami Dolphins (now Las Vegas Raiders)

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 68.5

The only 2021 Dolphins receiver on the list, Hollins was targeted just eight times in the red zone. He caught four passes for 21 yards and three scores. His 5.3 yards per reception average ranked fourth-worst, but he hauled in 100.0% of his catchable targets.

24. Jamison Crowder, New York Jets (now Buffalo Bills)

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 68.0

Crowder went 9-for-12 in the red zone for 56 yards and two touchdowns, the latter of which was tied for the worst of the group. When factoring in touchdowns per reception — he scored 22.2% of the time he caught the ball — he came in at dead last.

25. Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons

Receiving Grade in Red Zone: 67.8

The Alabama product played in five games last season before missing time with an injury, but he was still targeted 11 times in the red zone. He caught eight such passes for a group-worst 4.1 yards per reception with 33 total yards while finding the end zone twice.


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