The current state of NFL wide receivers may go down in history as the most dynamic time for the position in the history of the sport. Elite-level talents at receiver are everywhere you look in the league right now, and the pass-heavy offensive philosophies that have developed in the last 20 years have only increased statistics and big plays. While wide receiver is in a sort of renaissance period right now, that doesn’t mean that having a good, or even great one will guarantee victory for an NFL team. As such, many talented players at the position will be left without a Super Bowl-victory on their career resume, or even playoff wins to begin with.
As per usual, there is likely going to be a lot of shakeup during this offseason period, and the transactions that occur for each team are going to determine the trajectory they are on for the future. This in turn affects the starting receivers for each team, and their chances of making a deep playoff run in the near future. Some are more fortunate than others, but all of them will be collectively holding their breath during the offseason, hoping that their front office initiates transactions that will be an asset to their Super Bowl chances, not hinder them.
Ranked below are seven starting wide receivers who will win the Super Bowl in their career, and eight who won’t.
15. WON’T: DeSean Jackson
While Jackson is a free agent during the offseason, it’s unlikely that a contending team will shell out the money necessary to land the 30-year-old deep threat. He still possesses elite speed, and doesn’t seem to have lost a step, but this kind of player typically goes to a rebuilding or mid-level team, not one on the cusp of a deep playoff run. Jackson could find himself paired up with a young QB like Carson Wentz in a return to Philadelphia next year, but the Eagles are probably still a couple years away from being a true playoff threat, and Jackson probably won’t be on the roster at that point. He’s certainly had a great career, but it looks as though D-Jax is going to fall short of the ultimate goal, no matter where he may end up for the 2017 season.
14. WILL: T.Y. Hilton
The Colts currently have several quality options at receiver, but it is undeniably Hilton who has emerged as the most dynamic target for Andrew Luck. He had a bounce-back year in 2016, and is truly one of the most feared skill players in the league at the moment. There’s still a lot to like about Luck and the Colts, if they can spend some resources to make the defense a more formidable unit in the offseason. They’ve mad the playoffs before under Luck with sub-par aspects of their team, and they can do it again in 2017. Hilton figures to be a big part of that equation, and if he’s able to stay with Luck for the majority of his career, it wouldn’t be surprising for him win a Super Bowl somewhere down the line. Hilton is that kind of a game breaker, and has a quarterback who can air it out with the best of them.
13. WON’T: A.J. Green
Green is another elite talent at the receiver position, but unfortunately for him, the Bengals are an absolute mess right now, from the long-term status of head coach Marvin Lewis, to many of the positions on the field. Green figures to be on the roster for the foreseeable future, but it isn’t a very good right now, and his chances of ever gaining a Super Bowl victory are well in doubt. He certainly isn’t old (29 when next season begins), but it’s safe to say that time is running out for his pursuit of a title. With only a few more peak years left, the Bengals seem to be trending downward, and that isn’t good news. All things considered, Green is unlikely to win a title during his career, unless he packs up and moves out of Cincy. That’s still possibility, but not an imminent one at the moment.
12. WILL: Brandin Cooks
Cooks is one of the most underrated young talents in the league right now, and he’s producing even when intermingled with the crowded Saints receiving corps. There’s been rumblings that he might be on his was out of New Orleans, but at the same time he may want to play out there to see the end of Drew Brees’ legendary career. No matter what his decision, Cooks is going to get a huge payday in a year or two from somebody, and be the main focal point of an offense in search of a title. Even going into his fourth year in the league, he’s still absurdly young at age 23, and will be able to transform into the kind of game breaker that a contending team will covet. Cooks is the type of player that every title-winning team needs, and he’ll find a landing spot for his talent in the near future.
11. WON’T: DeAndre Hopkins
It’s tough to get a grasp on exactly what Hopkins’ lack of consistency means in the grand scheme of things. He’s certainly a talented receiver, but after a down year in 2016, it’s fair to wonder if he’s really one of the league’s elite players. Then again, the Texans offense had plenty of turnover last offseason, so maybe Hopkins shouldn’t take the majority of the blame. Either way, there are real questions concerning Hopkins and his ability to carry an offense. It’s unlikely he’ll see any Super Bowl appearances in Houston, but is there any team close to being a contender that would try to acquire him? It’s up in the air right now, and Hopkins will have to pony up some nice statistics in 2017 if he wants to remain considered an upper-tier receiver in the league. For right now, we’ll leave him out of any championship-level estimations.
10. WILL: Antonio Brown
Whether Brown’s future is in Pittsburgh, or with a new team via a trade, he’s going to make a significant impact on the offensive side of the ball. His talent is that elite, that almost any given season he’s on the field, the team in question will be in the playoffs. The status of Ben Roethlisberger’s career is in limbo right now, but if he were able to carve out two or three more years for himself in the league, and the Steelers were able to retain AB, odds would say that they would at least appear in a Super Bowl. Especially with an improving young defense in tow, the Steelers could hoist the Lombardi Trophy once again, and Brown would receive a fitting accolade to include on his career resume. Not a foregone conclusion this will happen with everything up in the air with the quarterback position, but Brown has that type of talent to finally get Pittsburgh over the hump.
9. WON’T: Kelvin Benjamin
The 2016 season was Benjamin’s first since his rookie year in 2014, and he yet again put up good, not great numbers as the Panthers top receiving target. While he’s undoubtedly a good talent and still has time to improve his game, it remains to be seen if he’s the kind of player that can carry an offense in tandem with Cam Newton, to a substantial playoff run. When the Panthers made the Super Bowl a couple of years ago, they were without the services of Benjamin for the entire season. Now, they have him back, but a considerably worse defense, that may be losing some players in free agency during this offseason. Pretty safe bet to expect the Panthers out of Super Bowl contention until they prove that 2015 wasn’t a fluke, and likewise to keep expectations tempered for Benjamin in 2017.
8. WILL: Julio Jones
While the Falcons may have suffered a heartbreaking Super Bowl loss this year, there’s little reason to expect that they can’t compete for one again in 2017. Their young defense will only get better, their running game should remain intact, and the tandem of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will continue to be a force of nature. Jones is arguably the best receiver in the league right now. When he isn’t hurt, he’s simply unable to be contained for an entire game. With such a presence on their roster, no one should be counting Atlanta out of another Super Bowl run, especially in an NFC that is going through a bit of an identity crisis recently. Odds are pretty good for Jones that he will eventually get his ring, and it could happen as soon as next season. One of the most elite talents in the league right now at any position.
7. WON’T: Dez Bryant
In the past several seasons, Bryant has struggled with some injuries, and been trying to find out where he fits on this new-age Cowboys team, with their new offensive identity. He’s still been productive, though not quite at the level he was during his prime, in which he was a top-five receiver in the NFL. It’s tough to estimate the Cowboys playoff outlook over the next few seasons when Bryant will still be there, but most signs point to Dez never seeing the Lombardi Trophy first-hand. The Cowboys have a penchant in recent history for being a different team during the postseason than the regular season, and on top of that they have a troublesome situation with the salary cap at the moment, and will likely lose some keys starters on both sides of the ball. Bryant will still have several more years of quality production, but it won’t be enough to get Dallas over the hump.
6. WILL: Mike Evans
As far as breakout seasons go, Evans’ 2016 campaign cemented him as an elite NFL receiver, and it comes at the perfect time for the Buccaneers. They have a young franchise quarterback in Jameis Winston, and a rapidly improving defense. Evans is their offensive focal point, and is one of the most targeted receivers in the league. This is a team on the brink, and could be making a playoff push as soon as next season. Even if the Bucs fizzle out at some point next season, Evans is still below the age of 25, and figures to be in tandem with Winston for a long, long time. With that outlook, Evans and the Bucs will probably win one Super Bowl along the line, even if it doesn’t come for the next couple of seasons. One of the best young talents in the league, and one that could even post more staggering numbers next season.
5. WON’T: Alshon Jeffery
Jeffery is going to get a huge payday during the upcoming free agency period, and it’s unquestionable whether it’s going to be worth it for any team that ends up signing him. Between a fairly extensive injury history, as well as a recent four-game suspension last season, Jeffery has some significant red flags to his name. There’s no denying his talent, but is he really the kind of big-time free agent piece that can put a team over the edge? Instead, he may be more likely to produce quality numbers, but have a myriad of issues off the field that will hinder the team when it matters most. Whichever scenario ends up materializing, it’s difficult to peg Jeffery in as a Super Bowl champion any time soon, as much of a wild card as he’s proven to be.
4. WILL: Odell Beckham Jr.
Whether or not you like his antics, Beckham has proven himself to be an elite receiver, and the kind of player that can instantly take over a game. He’s a home run threat from anywhere on the field, anytime he touches the ball. While the Giants lack a quality offensive line or decent running game, they have time to fix these issues and get Beckham the help he needs in time for a big playoff push. Of course, franchise quarterback Eli Manning will have to be replaced in the next few seasons, but this is something that actually may help Beckham more than it hurts. The scary thing is, Beckham hasn’t even hit his statistical prime yet, and he’s producing some of the most eye-popping numbers in the game today. Production like this is the kind that helps win Super Bowls, and it’s likely that Beckham will get at least one before his career is over.
3. WON’T: Brandon Marshall
Marshall is on the outskirts of his career right now, and despite a long run of excellent play at wide receiver, it’s unlikely that he’ll be on a title-winning team before his time is up. In fact, it’s no guarantee that he’ll be back with the Jets next year, so his future really is up in the air at the moment. Unless he signs with a juggernaut team, he’s probably too old to really make the kind of game-breaking difference that he once did. This one simply comes down to age, and Marshall isn’t in the kind of position to be carrying a team. If he signs with a new team, it’ll likely be a middle of the pack one, that won’t be making a championship run next season. Marshall’s had an astounding career, but he’ll be missing one achievement on his resume that every NFL player covets.
2. WILL: Amari Cooper
Had Derek Carr not suffered a devastating season-ending injury just before the playoffs began in 2016, Cooper may have already had a Super Bowl to his name. Instead, the Raiders were swiftly eliminated from the playoffs with rookie Connor Cook getting the start, and they’ll have to wait another year before seeing what their new-look team can really do in a playoff setting. Really though, the Raiders are so well constructed as a roster that it’s difficult to bet against Cooper getting at least one Super Bowl throughout his career, which is going last another 8-10 years. Without question, the Raiders are a true threat right now as long as they have Carr under center, and Cooper is the focal point of a lethal offense that could be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy as soon as next year.
1. WON’T: Larry Fitzgerald
It’s been a storied and legendary career for Fitzgerald, but with the state of Cardinals right now, a Super Bowl victory just isn’t going to happen. There are too many emerging teams in the NFC right now, and the Cardinals have some significant issues to rectify in the offseason if they even want to have a chance. Outside of a Super Bowl-appearance in the 2008 season, Fitzgerald’s best chance at one came during 2015, when the Cardinals had one of the best offenses in the league. After coming up short that time around, it’s hard to see him ever even getting back to one to begin with. Fitzgerald is one of the greatest receivers in NFL history when it’s all said and done, but he won’t be adding a Super Bowl victory to his resume, though it remains an incredible one.
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