Ranking the best NFL catches of 2023 season: Top receptions

ByMatt Bowen ESPN logo
Sunday, December 24, 2023

Wondering how a highlight-reel catch stacks up against the best of the year? We have you covered, ranking every incredible reception of the 2023 NFL season. That means all of the top one-handed grabs, diving snags, toe-tapping chunk plays and ridiculous circus catches are all in one place, stacked up against each other.

We will update this ranking each weekend as receivers, tight ends and running backs haul in passes with flair. But who ranks No. 1 right now?

1. Garrett Wilson, New York Jets

Game: Week 1 vs. Bills (fourth quarter, 4:55)

On a red zone fade ball from Zach Wilson to Garrett Wilson, we see really tight coverage from Buffalo's Tre'Davious White. It's how you teach it. But the catch? Just ridiculous stuff. Excellent body control, great focus and elite ball skills to finish here for Wilson, who tied the score with the TD, setting up the Jets to eventually win in overtime. Wow.

2. Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams

Game: Week 7 vs. Steelers (third quarter, 11:50)

We see play-action on first down here for the Rams, a staple in Sean McVay's system. Nacua releases vertically off the motion to set up a tight-window throw. Quarterback Matthew Stafford drives it there ... and watch Nacua climb the ladder to make this grab, with the safety closing on the ball. You're going to feel this hit. But Nacua still secures the catch and finds a way to stick the feet on the boundary. It's a big-time play for the rookie.

3. Jake Bobo, Seattle Seahawks

Game: Week 7 vs. Cardinals (second quarter, 4:47)

Bobo has to play through contact on this end-zone throw from quarterback Geno Smith. It's a phone booth fight on the boundary with the defensive backs. Bobo gets his eyes back to locate and secures the catch. But what stands out is the way Bobo finds a way to get his feet down in-bounds. It's a ridiculous finish on a 50-50 ball.

4. Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

Game: Week 16 vs. Lions (fourth quarter, 1:24)

Jefferson made one of the best catches of the year in a late-game situation, bringing down a jump-ball throw from quarterback Nick Mullens. With the safety driving top down and the cornerback sinking to the catch point, Jefferson went above the rim on this one. He high-pointed the ball, absorbed the contact and finished. It's big-time stuff from one of the league's best receivers.

5. A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles

Game: Week 8 at Commanders (second quarter, 0:38)

With the ball in the high red zone and the Commanders showing man coverage, Jalen Hurts threw up a back-shoulder fade to Brown. Look at the body control to adjust and the one-handed stab to secure the catch. It's an excellent finish against tight coverage to get six.

6. Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints

Game: Week 10 at Vikings (third quarter, 5:30)

With Olave running a fade route, quarterback Jameis Winston throws this ball to the back pylon. It gives us a contested catch situation, as Olave secures this ball away from his frame and still has the focus to get both feet down in a restricted area. That's a top-five grab on the season.

7. CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys

Game: Week 10 vs. Giants (first quarter, 13:08)

This is a staple seam route for Lamb, releasing up the numbers, with the defender playing to the bottom hip in coverage. That's why quarterback Dak Prescott puts this throw out front, with Lamb extending the left arm and snatching this pass with one hand.

8. George Pickens, Pittsburgh Steelers

Game: Week 16 vs. Bengals (second quarter, 1:08)

On a perimeter in a one-on-one situation, Pickens had vertical separation to win over the top on a 9 route. This ball should be delivered to the upfield shoulder, but with a throw short from Mason Rudolph into the boundary, Pickens had to adjust. You see strong hands at the catch point -- keeping the ball away from his body -- and the awareness to get both feet down in tight quarters. You have to survive the ground and secure the catch here, too. Put it in Pickens' highlight tape.

9. Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears

Game: Week 9 at Saints (first quarter, 11:27)

With the ball in the high red zone, the Bears dialed-up the tight end "leak" concept to take an end shot to Kmet. It's a contested-catch situation here, with safety Tyrann Mathieu over the top of the route. But watch Kmet go to get this ball and make an outstanding fingertip grab. And he somehow manages to finish the catch through to the ground.

10. Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns

Game: Week 6 vs. 49ers (third quarter, 14:05)

In a one-on-one boundary matchup on a fade route, Cooper played above the rim here on the finish. He high-points the ball and manages to get his feet down in bounds. It's a big-time play.

11. Zay Jones, Jacksonville Jaguars

Game: Week 1 at Colts (second quarter, 4:56)

Jones created separation in the high red zone with a double-move, but it's the finish that stood out. He went full extension to get hands on this one, securing the catch and getting a knee down -- on an absolute dime from quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

12. Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints

Game: Week 2 at Panthers (third quarter, 7:22)

On a straight go route, Olave had his right arm pinned by Panthers cornerback CJ Henderson in coverage and had to extend his left hand. He locates the ball, keeps the play alive and secures the catch for a 42-yard gain. It's incredible focus on a downfield contested play -- and a big-time throw from Derek Carr, too, as he targets the up-field shoulder of his receiver and cuts it loose.

13. Evan Engram, Jacksonville Jaguars

Game: Week 6 vs. Colts (second quarter, 12:51)

This is a hole-shot throw for Lawrence, with Engram flexed out wide against Cover 2. Jacksonville finds the void and puts the ball into the boundary here, as Engram adjusts and finishes with a one-handed grab in front of the deep-half safety.

14. Calvin Ridley, Jacksonville Jaguars

Game: Week 2 vs. Chiefs (second quarter, 0:20)

We see a nice fade route into the boundary, and a one-on-one matchup for Ridley. The receiver adjusts and tracks this ball to make the play on the back shoulder. And how about those strong hands to finish here?