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Ultimate 2021 NFL Wide Receiver Bracket: The Sweet 16 pass-catchers still alive in our social tournament

Who is the ultimate NFL wide receiver?

That is the question we hope to answer with a social experiment happening now on CBS Sports’ official Instagram account. It’s called the Ultimate 2021 NFL Wide Receiver Bracket, and it started with 32 of the best pass catchers in the NFL today. The first round of voting has since trimmed the field to just 16 receivers. Votes are cast in the CBS Sports Instagram Story, with each Instagram account having the ability to cast one vote. Here are the receivers going head-to-head in the Sweet 16, followed by some takeaways from the first round of voting:

DK Metcalf vs. Chris Godwin

Tyreek Hill vs. Justin Jefferson

Michael Thomas vs. Allen Robinson

A.J. Brown vs. Mike Evans

Amari Cooper vs. Davante Adams

Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Julio Jones

Terry McLaurin vs. DeAndre Hopkins

Calvin Ridley vs. Stefon Diggs

(Note: Receivers were not seeded entering the tournament)

First-Round Takeaways…

The biggest blowout

Stefon Diggs (95%) vs. Robert Woods (5%)

This was a tough draw for Los Angeles Rams WR Robert Woods. Not only is he a guy who has struggled to establish himself as a true No. 1 receiver throughout his career, but he went up against an absolute stud in Stefon Diggs. Diggs is coming off his first season with the Buffalo Bills, and he led the NFL in both catches (127) and receiving yards (1,535). While 2020 was viewed as a breakout campaign for Diggs, there’s reason to believe 2021 will be even better. Diggs will have a full year of experience working with quarterback Josh Allen under his belt, and we may have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Allen can do in this league. If Diggs had a season with double-digit touchdown catches on his résumé, he’d be a much bigger favorite to wipe the whole bracket. He has that much momentum.

The closest matchup

Keenan Allen (50%) vs. Michael Thomas (50%)

This matchup was as close as it can get. Keenan Allen is a very solid receiver who has stayed relatively healthy as of late and managed to make four straight Pro Bowls. Michael Thomas, on the other hand, was the most prolific pass catcher in the NFL (in terms of receptions) until he got hurt last season. A year ago, Thomas probably would have dominated this matchup. His injury-plagued 2020 campaign, combined with the online criticism he faces for his route tree (Instagram commenters know him as “Slant Boy”), brought this matchup with Allen to a dead heat. Ultimately, Thomas edged out Allen by less than 500 total votes (55,671 to 55,223).

The juiciest matchup

Odell Beckham Jr. (51%) vs. Kenny Golladay (49%)

While most of the first-round matchups were completely random pairings, this one had an extra layer of intrigue. That’s because Kenny Golladay, formerly of the Detroit Lions, signed a lucrative contract with the New York Giants this offseason. The Giants, of course, are still trying to fill an All-Pro-sized hole at receiver — a hole that’s been there ever since the trade that sent Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns two years ago. Despite losing more than half of last season to a torn ACL, Beckham managed to just barely edge out Golladay in this poll. Bad news for any Giants fans hoping Golladay will be the next OBJ.

The youngest WR to advance

Justin Jefferson (21 years old)

Jefferson was only a rookie last season, but he put up 1,400 receiving yards in his first year with the Minnesota Vikings. The first-round draft pick out of LSU garnered 90% of the fan vote in his first-round matchup with Brandin Cooks, a veteran currently with the Houston Texans.

The oldest WR to advance

Julio Jones (32 years old)

The name “Julio” has been in the conversation for best receiver in the NFL ever since Calvin Johnson retired, and it’s clear that name still has some shine entering the 2021 season. The longtime Atlanta Falcons receiver took a formidable 93% of the fan vote in his first-round matchup with Robby Anderson of the Carolina Panthers.