Back in 2021, Terry McLaurin was asked whether he deserved to be on the NFL's annual list of top 100 players. His answer: "I think so," before immediately following that up with, "Actually, I know so."
"I'm already one of the top receivers in this league," McLaurin said. "I wouldn't say I'm No. 1 yet, but I'm definitely working to try to be the best. Seventeen's playing hard every play, and you gotta come ready to play, too, because he's gonna bring it."
It's taken a couple of years, but McLaurin has now been included on the list of the league's best players. In the 2023 iteration of the list chosen by NFL players, McLaurin made the first appearance of his career at No. 94.
"That's my guy," said fellow Washington receiver Jahan Dotson. "He's a guy who I feel like he still doesn't get the credit he deserves."
McLaurin might not have the same level of national recognition as other top receivers in the league, but he does rival or exceed them in terms of production, regardless of who is throwing him the ball. Despite catching passes from three different starting quarterbacks, McLaurin set a career high with 1,191 yards, which put him 10th among all receivers in the NFL for the 2022 campaign.
"Ultimate professional," said Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. "Does a hell of a job of showing up to work every single day. You want everybody to be like Terry. Terry works his tail off. He sets an example by his work ethics and what he does. He's also a man of his word."
Dotson said McLaurin makes plays every week, and that was the case once again in his fourth season. It started with the 49-yard touchdown pass he caught against the Jaguars in Week 1, and that led to moments like the 37-yard score he had against the Packers while working against Jaire Alexander.
"If I see him one-on-one and I know I'm getting blitzed, he's getting the ball," said former Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke. "Just give him a shot, because again, he continues to make the plays.
Heinicke was adamant about his trust in McLaurin over the course of his time with the Commanders because of how reliable he was for the quarterback. One of the best examples of that came against the Indianapolis Colts -- the team that McLaurin grew up watching -- when the Commanders were in dire need of an explosive play with 39 seconds left to play.
McLaurin, who has a career contested catch rate of 56.6%, wrestled the ball away from Stephon Gilmore at the 1-yard line, giving the Commanders the opportunity for a game-winning play.
It's a tough choice to make, but that play is the one that stands out the most to Commanders running back Antonio Gibson.
"The game was on the line, and when Heinicke threw it up, I was like, 'Oh yeah, Terry's got it,'" Gibson said. "I don't think you want to doubt him too much on those.
"He's just one of those guys. Consistent, non-stop. One of those guys that plays from start to finish and doesn't come out [of the game] much. When that ball's up in the air, he going to get it."
McLaurin said that a list where the results are a direct reflection of what other players think is "as close to accurate as you can get." The results, therefore, speak for themselves; after four years of putting together steady results, McLaurin has the respect of his NFL peers.
"He's one of those guys that really doesn't have much of a weakness," said Seattle Seahawks safety Julian Love.