This offseason has seen the movement of several star wide receivers around the NFL, and it will be fun to see the impact that the trades of Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, and A.J. Brown have on their respective offenses. Pass-catching is one of the most important aspects of any team’s success in the NFL, and this article will focus on the best groups of wide receivers and tight ends in the league today. Running backs are not included in the overall rankings, although a nod was given to the teams that will rely heavily on the position in their passing game.
*Advanced metrics are from Pro Football Focus (PFF), Football Outsiders, and Sharp Football
#1: Cincinnati Bengals
Starters: WR Ja’Marr Chase, WR Tee Higgins, WR Tyler Boyd, TE Hayden Hurst
Key Additions: TE Hayden Hurst
Key Departures: TE C.J. Uzomah
Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins were the best wide receiver duo in the NFL last season as they were both inside the top six for passer rating when targeted, and they combined for 155 catches for 2,546 yards and 19 touchdowns in the regular season. Chase had eight touchdowns on deep passes, the most in the NFL, and Higgins had 42 yards per reception on deep passes, the third-most in the league. They are only 22 and 23 years old, respectively, and could be even better this upcoming season. Joining them is Tyler Boyd, an incredibly reliable slot receiver who had just one drop on 105 targets last year. Hayden Hurst isn’t the big-play threat that C.J. Uzomah was in this offense, but he has reliable hands and solid route-running to round out one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL.
Remember that time Ja'Marr Chase had a 72 yard house call against the Chiefs?
Yeah, me too 🤗pic.twitter.com/nI3lq7fxIz
— The Game Day NFL (@TheGameDayNFL) June 3, 2022
#2: San Francisco 49ers
Starters: WR Deebo Samuel, WR Brandon Aiyuk, WR Jauan Jennings, TE George Kittle
Key Additions: WR Danny Gray, WR Ray-Ray McCloud
Key Departures: N/A
The 49ers’ offense was held back by Jimmy Garoppolo’s lack of ability to push the ball downfield and his turnover-prone play, but they were kept afloat by one of the best pass-catching corps in the NFL. Deebo Samuel had a sensational season as a first-team All-Pro wideout. Samuel was by far PFF’s highest-graded wide receiver on screen passes and also led the NFL in yards per route run (26.71) on deep passes (20+ yards downfield). Brandon Aiyuk joined Samuel inside the top six for explosive pass play rate, which is impressive despite poor play from Garoppolo. Aiyuk was on pace for over 1,100 receiving yards over the final ten games of the season. George Kittle, meanwhile, was PFF’s top-graded tight end in pass-catching and is one of the most dynamic weapons at his position. Rookie Danny Gray and veteran Ray-Ray McCloud help add depth to this group, along with Jauan Jennings.
#3: Las Vegas Raiders
Starters: WR Davante Adams, WR Hunter Renfrow, WR Demarcus Robinson, TE Darren Waller
Key Additions: WR Davante Adams, WR Demarcus Robinson
Key Departures: WR Bryan Edwards
Davante Adams is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and he has a First-Team All-Pro nomination in each of the last two seasons with 265 catches for 3,150 yards and 31 touchdowns over that span. Hunter Renfrow had a superb 2021 season with 490 yards after the catch, which ranked ninth in the NFL. When targeted, he also ranked third with a 119.6 passer rating and had the third-lowest drop rate at 2.6% (min. 100 targets). Darren Waller had a rough 2021 season as he dealt with knee and back injuries and a stint on the COVID-19 list, and he’ll be looking to return to his pristine 2020 form when he was PFF’s second-ranked tight end in receiving grades behind only Travis Kelce. Demarcus Robinson and Keelan Cole round out this receiving corps as downfield threats, and overall, this figures to be one of the most dynamic pass-catching groups in football this year.
#4: Miami Dolphins
Starters: WR Tyreek Hill, WR Jaylen Waddle, WR Cedrick Wilson, TE Mike Gesicki
Key Additions: WR Tyreek Hill, WR Cedrick Wilson
Key Departures: WR DeVante Parker, WR Will Fuller
In a short period, the Dolphins have gone from one of the worst pass-catching groups to one of the best to help support Tua Tagovailoa. Jaylen Waddle had a phenomenal rookie season as he broke the record for receptions (104) in a single season by a rookie. He also ranked second in the NFL with a 70.6% contested catch rate as he dominated at the point of attack. Tyreek Hill is arguably the most dynamic offensive weapon in the NFL, and he has 1,500+ receiving yards in three of the last four seasons. Hill has ranked inside the top-12 of DYAR every year since 2017. Cedrick Wilson adds even more speed to the group, and while he took 90% of his snaps from the slot last year, he has inside-out versatility. Mike Gesicki is set to play on a franchise tag, and he’s another dynamic threat out of the slot. It will be fascinating to see new head coach Mike McDaniel put these receivers to work.
#5: Los Angeles Rams
Starters: WR Cooper Kupp, WR Allen Robinson, WR Van Jefferson, TE Tyler Higbee
Key Additions: WR Allen Robinson
Key Departures: WR Robert Woods, WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Cooper Kupp’s 2021 season will go down as one of the best of all time for the wide receiver position, no matter how you attempt to quantify it. It’s unlikely he will win the triple crown again after being just the fourth receiver of all time to do so last season. Still, it’s impossible to consider anyone else the best receiver in football for the time being after his absurd 178 catches for 2,425 yards and 22 touchdowns throughout the regular season and playoffs. Allen Robinson joins Kupp in the Rams’ offense with the opportunity to catch passes from Matthew Stafford, the best quarterback he’s ever played with. Robinson needs a bounceback after his worst career season to date, but he ranked fifth among receivers on PFF in 2020. Van Jefferson’s efficiency in 2021 wasn’t anything to write home about, but he’s a solid deep-ball player who fits the offense well. Tyler Higbee is a steady if unspectacular presence at the tight end, and he rounds out one of the best receiving corps in football.
Matthew Stafford to Cooper Kupp after his no-look pass: "That might be the best no-looker we got all year."
The chemistry these two built in just one season is truly incredible.
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) February 15, 2022
#6: Philadelphia Eagles
Starters: WR A.J. Brown, WR DeVonta Smith, WR Jalen Reagor, TE Dallas Goedert
Key Additions: WR A.J. Brown
Key Departures: N/A
As the Eagles attempt to figure out if Jalen Hurts is their long-term quarterback, they made an aggressive trade for A.J. Brown, who graded as the fourth-best pass-catcher among receivers last season per PFF. Brown ranked fifth with a career-high 2.72 yards per route run last year. DeVonta Smith had a solid rookie season, and the former Heisman winner should improve in his second year as he develops more chemistry with Hurts. Jalen Reagor rightfully has the bust label now, and it doesn’t help that he was drafted one pick before Justin Jefferson. Reagor has just 65 catches for 697 yards through two years. Dallas Goedert was PFF’s third-graded tight end last year, and he ranked second among tight ends with 2.35 yards per route run despite a majority of his snaps coming from the in-line position. Goedert also ranked second with a 127.4 passer rating when targeted, and he rounds out one of the best top-three groups on this list.
#7: Buffalo Bills
Starters: WR Stefon Diggs, WR Gabriel Davis, WR Jamison Crowder, TE Dawson Knox
Key Additions: WR Jamison Crowder, WR Khalil Shakir
Key Departures: WR Cole Beasley
Stefon Diggs remains one of the best receivers in the NFL, but his 2021 season wasn’t quite as good as his debut campaign in Buffalo when he posted over 1,800 yards. Still, Diggs is one of the best route-runners in the NFL with elite three-level production. Gabriel Davis was PFF’s 9th-ranked wide receiver against man coverage last year, and he also ranked second in the NFL with a 76.9% contested catch rate. Davis also had a 22% explosive pass play rate last year, the highest in the NFL, and could be set for a significant breakout in his third year. When targeted, Dawson Knox is coming off a great year with nine touchdowns and a 127.8 passer rating, the highest among tight ends (min. 70 targets). Jamison Crowder and Khalil Shakir help replace Cole Beasley’s slot production with exciting gadget player Isaiah McKenzie. The Bills get a big boost for the incredible depth in this group.
#8: Los Angeles Chargers
Starters: WR Keenan Allen, WR Mike Williams, WR Jalen Guyton, TE Gerald Everett
Key Additions: TE Gerald Everett
Key Departures: TE Jared Cook
Keenan Allen played a career-high 62.6% of his snaps out of the slot in the Chargers’ new offense last year, and he responded with a career-high 106 catches for 1,138 yards and six touchdowns. He was PFF’s fifth-highest graded slot receiver. Mike Williams was used much more as a consistent part of the offense last year, with 122 targets by far a career-high, and he responded with 1.97 yards per route run which ranked 15th in the NFL. Jalen Guyton ranked 101st out of 115 eligible receivers on PFF last year, and the Chargers lack a consistent third wide receiver. Gerald Everett isn’t the elite seam-bursting athlete he was drafted to be, but he can be a valuable addition to the passing offense. Austin Ekeler isn’t included in this article, but he had 70 catches last year and should continue be a reliable outlet for Justin Herbert this year.
#9: Minnesota Vikings
Starters: WR Justin Jefferson, WR Adam Thielen, WR K.J. Osborn, TE Irv Smith Jr.
Key Additions: WR Albert Wilson
Key Departures: TE Tyler Conklin
Justin Jefferson’s 3,016 receiving yards through his first two seasons are the most since the NFL-AFL merger in 1966, and it’s not hyperbole to call him the most talented wideout in the NFL at the age of 22. Jefferson had the third-best PFF pass-catching grade among receivers last season and has already made two All-Pro teams. Adam Thielen is starting to lose a step in his career, but he was as surehanded as ever, with a 77.9% catch rate and just a 2.9% drop rate last season. He also has 24 touchdowns in the previous two years. K.J. Osborn is also coming off a solid rookie season, playing primarily out of the slot. Irv Smith Jr. is the big X-factor for this group as he works his way back from a meniscus injury. In 2020, Smith Jr. was the fourth-ranked tight end in passer rating when targeted.
Throw it to Justin Jefferson every play
— PFF (@PFF) November 21, 2021
#10: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Starters: WR Mike Evans, WR Chris Godwin, WR Russell Gage, TE Cameron Brate
Key Additions: WR Russell Gage
Key Departures: WR Antonio Brown, TE Rob Gronkowski, TE O.J. Howard
Tom Brady has had some excellent receiving weapons since arriving in Tampa Bay, but this team is in transition in that regard. Chris Godwin is a dominant YAC player who ranked fifth in the NFL with 588 yards after the catch last year, but he will miss at least the first part of the season with his torn ACL. Antonio Brown is no longer with the team after ranking fourth in the NFL with 2.79 yards per route run before his departure (min. 45 targets). Mike Evans will be heavily relied upon again this year as perhaps the most underrated receiver in the NFL. He has eight straight seasons of 1,000+ yards and ranked second in the NFL last year with a 128.5 passer rating when targeted. Russell Gage was added in free agency to help mitigate Godwin’s injury and Brown’s departure. The Bucs are also unclear with their tight end position after O.J. Howard joined the Bills, and Rob Gronkowski is not yet signed to the roster.
#11: Seattle Seahawks
Starters: WR DK Metcalf, WR Tyler Lockett, WR Freddie Swain, TE Noah Fant
Key Additions: TE Noah Fant
Key Departures: TE Gerald Everett
There arguably hasn’t been a more productive receiver duo in the NFL over the last few years than DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Since being drafted in 2019, Metcalf has 3,170 yards and 29 touchdowns in three seasons. In 2020, he ranked fifth in the NFL in DYAR (defense-adjusted yards over replacement). Lockett was one of the most efficient deep-ball receivers in the league last season, with a 51.3% catch rate (4th), 18.97 yards per route run (2nd), and a 21% explosive play rate (3rd). Whether or not Drew Lock or Geno Smith has the arm to get the ball to Metcalf and Lockett downfield is another story entirely. Freddie Swain only had 25 catches for 343 yards last year, and there are several more productive WR3s in the NFL. However, Noah Fant should provide a significant upgrade at tight end, and he boosts the team’s intermediate and red-zone receiving game.
#12: Dallas Cowboys
Starters: WR CeeDee Lamb, WR Michael Gallup, WR Jalen Tolbert, TE Dalton Schultz
Key Additions: WR Jalen Tolbert, WR James Washington
Key Departures: WR Amari Cooper, WR Cedrick Wilson
The loss of Amari Cooper looms large for the Cowboys’ receiving corps, particularly with questions as to how soon Michael Gallup will be fully recovered from his late-season ACL tear. Dallas will be heavily reliant on CeeDee Lamb to have a massive third-year breakout in the interim. Lamb ranked third in NFL last year with a 70% contested catch rate, but he needs to cut down on the drops – his 9.1% rate ranked third (min. 100 targets). Still, Lamb has a chance to break into the superstar tier of receivers this season. When targeted last year, Dalton Schultz had a 122.1 passer rating, the second-highest among tight ends. Michael Gallup is a serviceable #2 option who had 1,107 yards in just 14 games in 2019. Jalen Tolbert is a dark horse in this group to make a significant impact as a highly productive collegiate deep-ball specialist.
#13: Denver Broncos
Starters: WR Courtland Sutton, WR Jerry Jeudy, WR Tim Patrick, TE Albert Okwuegbunam
Key Additions: N/A
Key Departures: TE Noah Fant
The Broncos had a ready-made group of skill-position talent for Russell Wilson, and their new quarterback should help this group achieve new heights. Cortland Sutton has dealt with injuries the last two years, but in 2019 he had over 1,100 yards and six touchdowns to rank as PFF’s tenth-best receiver despite catching passes from Joe Flacco and Drew Lock. Jerry Jeudy has also been held back by poor quarterback play, but Wilson should unlock his route-running expertise and shifty athleticism. Tim Patrick quietly has over 1,400 yards and 11 total touchdowns over the last two seasons. The trade away of Noah Fant is significant for this offense, but there are great reasons to be optimistic for Albert Okwuegbunam, who ranked second among tight ends with at least 30 targets last season with an 82.5% catch rate. Keep an eye out for KJ Hamler, who is also working his way back from a torn ACL and has game-breaking 4.27 speed.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) March 8, 2020
#14: Arizona Cardinals
Starters: WR Marquise Brown, WR DeAndre Hopkins, WR Rondale Moore, TE Zach Ertz
Key Additions: WR Marquise Brown
Key Departures: WR Christian Kirk
The Cardinals made an aggressive move to acquire Marquise Brown on draft day this year. Interestingly, Brown is coming off his first 1,000-yard campaign, but it was also his first season where he was lower than 1.8 yards per route run. His 1.61 yards per route run ranked just 50th in the NFL. The suspension of DeAndre Hopkins looms large as he had the highest passer rating when targeted last year (141.4), and the Arizona offense was significantly less effective when he was injured last season. Rondale Moore could be set to make a more significant impact, but his 1.3 aDOT as a rookie was laughably low – only one other receiver was under 5. After his trade from the Eagles, Zach Ertz made a significant impact as he caught 74 passes for 763 yards and five touchdowns. Rookie Trey McBride joins him in a solid tight end tandem, but this pass-catching corps could struggle without Hopkins.
#15: New Orleans Saints
Starters: WR Michael Thomas, WR Chris Olave, WR Jarvis Landry, TE Adam Trautman
Key Additions: WR Chris Olave, WR Jarvis Landry
Key Departures: N/A
Michael Thomas was a two-time First-Team All-Pro wide receiver who broke the single-season record with 149 catches in 2019. Since that remarkable season, he has just 40 catches in two years as he missed all of last season. Hopes are high for a return to health, but it’s challenging to know what to expect from him this season. Rookie Chris Olave provides a significant upgrade with his refined route-running and downfield speed, and it wouldn’t shock me if he leads all rookie receivers in catches. Jarvis Landry had limited production last year with just 52 catches for 570 yards and two touchdowns, but he was one of the more productive slot receivers in the NFL in 2020 with a top-12 finish in catch rate and yards per route run. Deonte Harty provides an explosive big-play threat. Adam Trautman, Taysom Hill, and Juwan Johnson will split time at tight end. Overall, this receiving group should be much better than last season, especially if Thomas returns to health.
#16: Washington Commanders
Starters: WR Terry McLaurin, WR Jahan Dotson, WR Curtis Samuel, TE Logan Thomas
Key Additions: WR Jahan Dotson
Key Departures: TE Ricky Seals-Jones
The Commanders have a sneaky-good group here. Terry McLaurin has averaged over 1,000 yards per season in his three years in the NFL despite catching passes from seven different quarterbacks. He had just a 2.5% drop rate last year, the second-lowest of receivers with 100+ targets. McLaurin’s hold-out looms over this team, but I’m assuming he’ll be on the field for them this season. Jahan Dotson has exciting potential with his smooth route-running and natural hands at the catch point. Curtis Samuel caught just six passes for 27 yards in five appearances last year as he struggled through muscle injuries. Still, his speed and versatility significantly boost the offense when he’s healthy. Logan Thomas is also coming off an ACL injury, but he was a big-time producer in 2020 with 72 catches for 670 yards and six touchdowns. Dyami Brown and Cam Sims are young receivers who provide depth and upside.
This catch by Terry McLaurin back in Week 1 against the Chargers has to be the Catch of the Year. Talk about body control and hand-eye coordination pic.twitter.com/gHCp1iHS0y
— Cyrus Eshaghoff (@CyrusEshaghoff) January 12, 2022
#17: Pittsburgh Steelers
Starters: WR Diontae Johnson, WR Chase Claypool, WR George Pickens, TE Pat Freiermuth
Key Additions: WR George Pickens
Key Departures: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
In recent years, the Steelers have done a solid job of drafting and developing pass-catching talent. Diontae Johnson ranked fourth in the NFL in targets last year but wasn’t efficient as he ranked outside the top-25 in yards per route run and just 48th in passer rating when targeted. Chase Claypool didn’t have the breakout year many hoped for, as his 56.4% catch rate ranked as the second-worst among receivers with 100+ targets. Pat Freiermuth had a solid rookie season as he ranked 12th among tight ends with 60 catches for 497 yards and seven touchdowns. George Pickens has future alpha X-receiver upside, and I love his ability to dominate at the catch point and make catches away from his body look easy. It would be unfair not to at least mention that running back Najee Harris ranked second on the team with 74 catches last year. This is a talented group, but Pittsburgh doesn’t have any superstar pass-catchers to speak of.
#18: New England Patriots
Starters: WR DeVante Parker, WR Kendrick Bourne, WR Jakobi Meyers, TE Hunter Henry
Key Additions: WR DeVante Parker, WR Tyquan Thornton
Key Departures: N/A
Kendrick Bourne’s overwhelming success analytically in 2021 was one of the bigger surprises in the research process for this article. Bourne had the second-highest catch rate in the NFL last year at 82.7% (min. 100 targets), and he ranked first in Football Outsiders’ DVOA for wide receivers. Jakobi Meyers was also very productive with a 69% contested-catch rate, the fourth-highest in the league. DeVante Parker is coming off a rough final season in Miami, but he provides a big-bodied X-receiver presence for the Patriots. Tyquan Thornton is an electric athlete with 4.28 speed. Hunter Henry had a tremendous first season in New England with nine touchdowns and no drops on 74 targets. Jonnu Smith wasn’t as involved in pass-catching, but he’s capable as a short-area athlete and screen target. This offense may not have a true alpha 1,000-yard wideout, but the depth is solid, and the amalgamation of skill-sets is impressive.
#19: Kansas City Chiefs
Starters: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR Skyy Moore, TE Travis Kelce
Key Additions: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR Skyy Moore
Key Departures: WR Tyreek Hill, WR Demarcus Robinson
The loss of Tyreek Hill looms large for Kansas City as they lead the NFL in vacated targets and air yards. The team’s projected top three wide receivers were not on the team last year, and one is a rookie, Skyy Moore. Skyy Moore’s profile is tantalizing with his polished release package, route-running, natural hands, and shifty YAC ability. JuJu Smith-Schuster’s career has gone off the rails in the past few years after having over 1,400 yards in 2018, but perhaps he will regain his form in Kansas City. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a dynamic downfield receiver who ranked 24th and 12th in the last two years in explosive pass plays. Of course, Travis Kelce will anchor this entire group, but he took a small step back last year to finish as the fifth-ranked pass-catching tight end on PFF, and it’s fair to wonder if he can still produce at the same elite level as he’s set to turn 33 years old.
#20: Cleveland Browns
Starters: WR Amari Cooper, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR David Bell, TE David Njoku
Key Additions: WR Amari Cooper, WR David Bell
Key Departures: WR Jarvis Landry, WR Rashard Higgins, TE Austin Hooper
The Browns’ pass-catching group is quietly very overmatched, and the lack of depth here is a concerning aspect of their offense. Amari Cooper was acquired via trade and will be given all the targets he can handle this year. Last year, Cooper had a career-worst 1.63 yards per route run and finished with under 1,000 yards, but he also ranked inside the top ten for passer rating when targeted (min. 45 targets). Donovan Peoples-Jones is a tremendous deep threat, with the second-highest explosive pass-play rate at 21% last year. David Bell’s poor athletic measurables caused his draft slide, but his consistent hands and polished route-running will help him make an immediate impact. David Njoku was given a significant extension with $28 million guaranteed. He could wind up the second-most targeted player in this offense after ranking as PFF’s 11th-best tight end last season. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Browns add a veteran to this group.
#21: New York Jets
Starters: WR Elijah Moore, WR Garrett Wilson, WR Corey Davis, TE C.J. Uzomah
Key Additions: WR Garrett Wilson, TE C.J. Uzomah
Key Departures: WR Jamison Crowder, TE Ryan Griffin
The Jets spent their second of three first-round picks on Garrett Wilson to form one of the highest-upside young receiver tandems in the NFL with Elijah Moore. Wilson is a YAC master with excellent verticality and agility to make contested catches. As his route-running and release package get more polished, his upside is immense. Moore came on strong towards the end of his rookie season, and his eight catches for 141 yards and a touchdown in Week 11 against Miami’s Xavien Howard and Byron Jones was incredibly impressive. Corey Davis is one of the better WR3s in the NFL, and he ranked as PFF’s eighth-best receiver in 2020. The Jets made a considerable effort to remedy their poor tight end group over the offseason, with C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin, and rookie Jeremy Ruckert joining the team. Uzomah’s 2021 career year was mainly due to the attention Cincinnati’s receivers draw, but he’s a solid receiving weapon. This receiving group is on the come up – can Zach Wilson take advantage?
#22: Detroit Lions
Starters: WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR Jameson Williams, WR D.J. Chark, TE T.J. Hockenson
Key Additions: WR Jameson Williams, WR D.J. Chark
Key Departures: N/A
Amon-Ra St. Brown’s closing stretch to his rookie season was the stuff of legends, as his final six games saw him produce a 17-game pace of 144 catches for 1,586 yards and 14 touchdowns. St. Brown had the lowest drop rate in the NFL among receivers, with at least 100 targets at just 2.2%. It’s unlikely St. Brown replicates that stretch of success over a larger sample size, especially with the viability of the rest of this group. Rookie Jameson Williams has massive upside with game-breaking speed once he gets on the field. D.J. Chark provides a more consistent vertical threat than any of the team’s other wide receivers did last year. T.J. Hockenson missed that closing stretch to last season, but he caught everything in sight last year with just a 1.6% drop rate and a 78.6% contested-catch success rate that led all tight ends with at least ten such targets.
Jared Goff to Amon-Ra St. Brown for the #Lions win 🔥
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) December 5, 2021
#23: Green Bay Packers
Starters: WR Allen Lazard, WR Christian Watson, WR Sammy Watkins, TE Robert Tonyan
Key Additions: WR Christian Watson, WR Romeo Doubs, WR Sammy Watkins
Key Departures: WR Davante Adams, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling
The departure of Davante Adams from the Green Bay offense is difficult to quantify, and it will be a fascinating litmus test to see how the team is affected by the loss of the two-time reigning First-Team All-Pro wideout. Allen Lazard profiles as the top wideout for now, and he ranked fifth in DVOA among wide receivers last year, but he’s probably not a high-volume alpha receiver. Rookie Christian Watson has intriguing upside, but he lacks polish in route-running and beating press coverage. Romeo Doubs might be the more pro-ready of the two rookies for the Packers. Robert Tonyan wasn’t as great in 2021 as he was in 2020 when he scored 11 touchdowns and ranked second in passer rating when targeted among tight ends, but he’ll have an uptick in target share this year. The Packers will also be heavily reliant on their running backs in the passing game.
#24: Atlanta Falcons
Starters: WR Drake London, WR Bryan Edwards, WR Olamide Zaccheaus, TE Kyle Pitts, WR/RB Cordarelle Patterson
Key Additions: WR Drake London, WR Bryan Edwards
Key Departures: WR Russell Gage, WR Calvin Ridley (suspended), TE Hayden Hurst
The Falcons traded away Julio Jones last year with every intention of Calvin Ridley being their WR1 of the future, but his year-long suspension throws a wrench into those plans. Drake London will immediately become the team’s top wide receiver, and his contested-catch mastery and savvy route-running should see him produce right away. Kyle Pitts should also continue to improve after becoming the second rookie tight end to top 1,000 yards since Hall of Famer Mike Ditka in 1961. However, London is 20 years old, and Pitts is just 21. Cordarelle Patterson had over 1,100 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns last year. Atlanta reportedly plans to use him more as a receiver than a running back this season. Bryan Edwards ranked seventh in explosive pass play rate at 17% last year, and he has his fair share of fans across the league, but the depth and overall inexperience of this group hold back their ranking.
#25: Jacksonville Jaguars
Starters: WR Christian Kirk, WR Marvin Jones, WR Zay Jones, TE Evan Engram
Key Additions: WR Christian Kirk, WR Zay Jones, TE Evan Engram
Key Departures: WR D.J. Chark
The Jaguars handed Christian Kirk a massive contract in free agency and drew heavy criticism for it, but Kirk should have a breakout year as the WR1 in Jacksonville. Last season, he ranked ninth in DYAR and should benefit from a more creative play-caller in Doug Pederson than Kliff Kingsbury. Marvin Jones turned 32 this offseason and isn’t the same big-play threat he used to be in Detroit, but he’s a capable WR2. Jones had 73 catches for 832 yards and four touchdowns last year. Zay Jones was also brought in this offseason to compete with Laviska Shenault Jr. for the WR3 spot in the offense. Jones was deemed expendable with the Raiders, but his deep-ball production after Henry Ruggs’ departure was significant for their offense last season. Jacksonville gave Evan Engram a one-year prove-it deal, and there is still some untapped potential in his game. Jacksonville still has a below-average receiving group, but there’s enough here for Trevor Lawrence to take a step forward.
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) October 20, 2020
#26: Chicago Bears
Starters: WR Darnell Mooney, WR Byron Pringle, WR Velus Jones Jr., TE Cole Kmet
Key Additions: WR Byron Pringle, WR Velus Jones Jr.
Key Departures: WR Allen Robinson, TE Jimmy Graham
The Bears have taken a ton of criticism for not supporting Justin Fields adequately with pass-catching talent, but this group is underrated. Darnell Mooney ranked inside the top in the NFL with 49 first downs last year, and he ranked 20th in missed tackles forced. Byron Pringle quietly had an excellent season as he ranked second in DVOA among WRs and 17th in DYAR. Pringle caught 54 passes for 650 yards and eight touchdowns last year. The Bears have been criticized for drafting Velus Jones Jr. due to his age, but he had a 4.31-second 40, the fourth-fastest at the combine, and graded in the 100th percentile in separation. Pringle and Jones provide more speed, separation, and yards after the catch to the offense. Cole Kmet could be set for a breakout year after catching 60 passes for 612 yards last season, and it’s hard to imagine him coming down with no touchdowns again.
#27: Carolina Panthers
Starters: WR D.J. Moore, WR Robby Anderson, WR Terrace Marshall Jr., TE Tommy Tremble
Key Additions: WR Rashard Higgins
Key Departures: N/A
By all accounts, Robby Anderson was bad in 2021 by all accounts – his 50.5% catch rate was the third-lowest among receivers with 45+ targets, and he averaged just 0.83 yards per route run, the third-lowest rate in the same way sample. Terrace Marshall Jr. had just 17 catches for 138 yards as a rookie, but if he can take a step forward, he might be able to unseat Robby Anderson as the team’s WR2. However, D.J. Moore will continue to siphon a massive target share. Despite enduring some of the worst quarterback play in the NFL, Moore has over 1,100 yards in each of the last three seasons and was worth every bit of the extension he signed this offseason. Tommy Tremble had just 20 catches for 180 yards and a score as a rookie, but he’s the projected starter over Ian Thomas this season. If Christian McCaffrey can stay healthy this year, he completely changes the profile of this passing offense, but running backs weren’t included in this article.
#28: Baltimore Ravens
Starters: WR Rashod Bateman, WR Devin Duvernay, TE Mark Andrews, TE Nick Boyle
Key Additions: N/A
Key Departures: WR Marquise Brown, WR Sammy Watkins
The Ravens traded away Marquise Brown this offseason, which inherently limits this group’s viability after he went for over 1,000 yards last year. Expectations are high for Rashod Bateman in his second season, but he had just 1.26 yards per route run as a rookie, the 19th lowest rate among receivers with at least 40 targets. Devin Duvernay had the lowest rate of explosive pass plays last year at just 2%, and he has just 473 yards through his first two seasons. I’m including two tight ends here as Baltimore will likely play more 12 personnel (two tight ends and two wide receivers) than most teams this year, but a veteran should be added at wideout. Mark Andrews will shoulder a heavy burden this season after a massive career year with 107 catches for 1,361 yards and nine touchdowns, but the Ravens’ passing offense doesn’t figure to be a significant strength.
Not a day goes by where I don’t question how this Rashod Bateman catch and run wasn’t called a touchdown.
— Nic Mason (@British_Raven19) April 22, 2022
#29: Indianapolis Colts
Starters: WR Michael Pittman Jr., WR Alec Pierce, WR Parris Campbell, TE Mo Alie-Cox
Key Additions: WR Alec Pierce
Key Departures: WR T.Y. Hilton, WR Zach Pascal, TE Jack Doyle
Michael Pittman Jr. broke through in his sophomore season with his first 1,000-yard campaign, and his efficiency metrics improved overall. Pittman had some absurd contested-catch highlights, and he ranked fifth in the NFL with a 64.3% catch rate in contested situations. Parris Campbell has sadly only played 15 games in three years, and while the Colts are holding out hope that he can stay healthy this year, it’s difficult to bank on significant production from him. Rookie Alec Pierce was one of my favorite Day 2 prospects at his position with his excellent body control and verticality at the catch point. Pierce tested with elite athleticism and could make a significant impact this year. Mo Alie-Cox has never topped 400 yards in his four years in the NFL, but he will be relied on more heavily after Jack Doyle’s retirement. This receiving room lacks depth and proven production outside of Pittman Jr., and it could hold back the offense overall.
#30: Houston Texans
Starters: WR Brandin Cooks, WR John Metchie III, WR Nico Collins, TE Brevin Jordan
Key Additions: WR John Metchie III
Key Departures: WR Danny Amendola, TE Jordan Akins
Prolonged success at the wide receiver position isn’t typically associated with playing for different teams. Still, Brandin Cooks has 1,000+ yards in six of the last seven seasons despite playing for four different teams over that stretch. Cooks’ consistency with different quarterbacks and offensive systems is incredible. This year, he’ll be joined by rookie John Metchie III, a route-running technician who is incredibly crafty after the catch. Metchie is reportedly ahead of schedule in his ACL recovery. Second-year wideout Nico Collins will also look to build on a solid debut campaign with 33 catches for 446 yards and a score. Last year, Brevin Jordan only saw 28 targets in his rookie season, but there are reasons for optimism with his athletic profile, red-zone success, and YAC proficiency. Overall, this receiving group lacks proven talent and consistent producers outside of Brandin Cooks, but Houston has high-upside young prospects.
#31: New York Giants
Starters: WR Kenny Golladay, WR Kadarius Toney, WR Sterling Shepard, TE Ricky Seals-Jones
Key Additions: WR Wan’Dale Robinson, TE Ricky Seals-Jones
Key Departures: TE Evan Engram
Kadarius Toney is a fascinating evaluation as he finished last season as one of only five rookie receivers to average 2+ yards per route run in the previous five seasons. He ranked 11th in the NFL among receivers with 2.14 yards per route run. However, trade rumors and the draft selection of Wan’Dale Robinson have led to speculation that he has already fallen out of favor with the new regime. Toney has every opportunity for a big second-year breakout with Sterling Shepard recovering from an Achilles injury and Kenny Golladay being ineffective last season. Golladay had just 1.23 yards per route run, the third-lowest among receivers with 70+ targets, and a 49.3% catch rate, the lowest in the same sample. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will be able to use Toney and Robinson, two athletic, versatile receivers, in very creative ways, and Golladay’s massive contract may not keep him from falling out of the sphere of the offense.
#32: Tennessee Titans
Starters: WR Robert Woods, WR Treylon Burks, WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, TE Austin Hooper
Key Additions: WR Robert Woods, WR Treylon Burks, TE Austin Hooper
Key Departures: WR A.J. Brown, WR Julio Jones, TE Anthony Firkser
The loss of A.J. Brown looms large over the Titans’ franchise, and this pass-catching corps will take a massive step back in the wake of that move. Tennessee drafted Treylon Burks with the first-round pick they got in the Brown trade, but it would be a mistake to expect him to be as productive as Brown, at least right away. Burks will be primarily utilized in the slot to avoid press coverage and use his size and speed in a YAC-heavy role. Robert Woods will be hoping to regain his form from earlier in his Rams’ career when he had 1,120 yards per season over four years. Nick Westbrook-Ikhine led Tennessee receivers last year in passer rating when targeted. Austin Hooper was relegated in the Cleveland offense last year, and it’s hard to be overly excited about him as a receiver.
OH MY TREYLON BURKS 👀 👀
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) May 26, 2022