Perhaps now more than any other time in the history of the NFL, we're seeing elite wide receivers all over the league. The transition to a passing game on the offensive side of the ball over the last 15 years or so has meant that receivers are now at a premium, and every team in the league is searching for the best. This was exhibited as recently as the NFL Draft, where three wide receivers were taken in the first 10 picks. The position is at a premium right now, and there is an abundance of talent to be had.
So, which ones will excel for the 2017 season, and rack up big numbers? Inevitably, we're going to see new stars emerge, and old ones regress, along with the receivers who will continue their high quality of play. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that we could be anticipating one of the best seasons ever for the wide receiver position in 2017. Let's take a look at which ones are going to have a big season, and which ones will fall just short of a really good year.
Ranked below are 8 wide receivers that will have 1,000 yard seasons in 2017, and 7 that will fall short.
15 Amari Cooper (Will)
Having established himself as one of the best receivers in the game over the past two years, Cooper looks to have his best season yet in 2017. The Raiders are going to be a high-powered offense, and he is the main target on the receiving corps. He can run both deep and intermediate routes with effectiveness, and is easily going to be Derek Carr's favorite target.
While Cooper may not lead the league in receiving yards this season, he's one of the safest picks to get at least 1,000 yards for the year. Consistency is the name of his game, and there's little question that he'll finish as one of the top receivers in the league. The Raiders have high hopes for next year, and Cooper is a major part of the equation.
14 Kenny Stills (Won't)
Stills signed a hefty contract in the offseason that brought him back to the Dolphins, but will he end up being worth the money? He's mainly a deep threat, and if opposing secondaries are able to take away that aspect of his game, he'll suffer tremendously. Additionally, how will he fare when he has to compete for targets with Jarvis Landry and DaVante Parker?
So while Stills may be a big play threat, that's really one of the only tricks up his sleeve. He'll be good for some highlight reel plays this year, but he's not the kind of receiver that's going to notch 1,000 yards, all things considered. Consider him a marginal player on the Dolphins offense with some upside.
13 Mike Williams (Will)
The Chargers went all in with their 1st round pick, and decided to get Philip Rivers one more certified elite receiver before he retires. Williams was one of the most highly-touted receivers in this year's draft coming out of Clemson, and he should immediately be slotted at the top of the depth chart.
With an elite quarterback in Rivers throwing him the ball, Williams will be able to use his size and catch radius to his advantage, and begin his NFL career with a truly great season. There's just enough weapons on the Chargers' offense to take some of the pressure off of him, but he's still going to see the majority of the targets on the receiving corps. Watch for Williams to break out, and establish himself as one of the best young players in the league right away.
12 Corey Davis (Won't)
Unfortunately, Davis will be starting his NFL career in a less-than-ideal situation. The Titans are not a passing-oriented team, and he'll have to carve out a niche for himself in an offense that doesn't have many great skill players, and a quarterback in Marcus Mariota who isn't used to throwing to good receivers to begin with.
Will this ruin Davis' career? Unlikely, but it will effect him for the 2017 season, when he'll be in the developmental stages of his career. Coming from a smaller school in Western Michigan, combined with the fact that he was the 5th-overall pick in this year's draft, means that he'll have to acclimate to a variety of things very quickly. This could mean a down rookie year for him, but he'll eventually rebound to a productive career.
11 Brandin Cooks (Will)
The Patriots gave up some draft resources for Cooks this offseason, and it's probably going to prove to be a good decision. We've seen Tom Brady excel with and without elite receivers on the Patriots roster, and it hasn't made too much of a difference in the level of success the team has seen. Well, Cooks is firmly entrenched into the "elite" category, so it can't hurt to have him on the roster.
There's little doubt that Cooks will be in store for his best season in the NFL thus far. He'll easily surpass the 1,000 yard mark, and should be one of the premier receivers in the AFC. The Patriots looked primed for another Super Bowl push, and Cooks will be an integral part of the offense this upcoming season.
10 Dez Bryant (Won't)
No question that Bryant is one of the best receivers in recent memory, but he's getting older, and a drop off has to be expected at some point. He's struggled with some injuries the past few years, and it's safe to say that his best, elite seasons are behind him now. The Cowboys are now a run-first team with the likes of Zeke Elliott, and Bryant is no longer the most important part of the offense.
This isn't to say that he won't turn a productive season, but considering him an automatic for 1,000 yards is a stretch anymore. If the falloff doesn't come during 2017, it will come soon, and eventually Dallas will have to manufacture another go-to receiver on their roster. Bryant is a great player, but will inevitably suffer a decrease in his statistics due to a run-heavy offense, and Dax Prescott's willingness to spread the ball around.
9 Odell Beckham Jr. (Will)
One of the most obvious choices on this list, Beckham is simply a juggernaut of a wide receiver. Perhaps the most dynamic player in the game today, he's set the league on fire during his three seasons, and he may not have even hit his peak yet. It's a frightening proposition to opposing secondaries, but Beckham may end up having his best season yet, and easily surpass the 1,000-yard mark.
Eli Manning probably only has a few years left as a starting quarterback, but it won't matter who is throwing OBJ the ball. Beckham excels at so many different kinds of routes that he can adapt his game to the skill set of the quarterback. He's a lock for elite production, and perhaps the best overall receiver in the league.
8 John Ross (Won't)
With the 9th-overall pick in the draft this year, the Bengals shockingly landed speedster John Ross out of Washington. While the pick certainly was a surprise, it's not hard to see how Ross fits in the Cincinnati offense, and how he'll be able to contribute right away. Still, that doesn't mean that he's due for a monster season right out of the gate, as there are several things holding him back.
He possesses great speed, but getting off the line in the NFL and in college are two different things entirely. Then, there's the issue of his injury history, which still remains to be seen how it will handle itself at the next level. A year or two down the line, the tandem of Ross and A.J. Green could be something dangerous to witness, but it's going to take some time to establish itself, and be wholly effective.
7 T.Y. Hilton (Will)
Andrew Luck was able to turn in a full season last year, and when he does so, Hilton is going to put up some great numbers. He's firmly entrenched as Luck's favorite overall target, and will continue his dominance in 2017. Hilton is a quality deep threat, or can burn defenses underneath; he's a complete player, who's a key piece to the Colts' offense.
All in all, Hilton actually may be slightly underrated. He doesn't get the press that Beckham, Julio Jones and Antonio Brown get, but he's nearly on their level, if not already there. Expect big things from him this season, and for Luck to throw to him early and often in every game. With any luck, he'll finally get the credit he deserves from the NFL world after another strong showing.
6 Kelvin Benjamin (Won't)
There are still many questions about Benjamin's game, and some of them have been unanswered for a long time. Does he only show up in garbage time? Is he really a true number 1 receiver? There's reason to believe that he's not all he's cracked up to be, and while he'll likely have a decent season, it's not a certainty that he'll hit the 1,000-yard mark.
The Panthers made a surprise move in the draft, and took two versatile running back/slot receiver combos in Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel. This could mean that they're shaking up some schematic elements of their offense, and that the wide receiver position will have less of an impact than it did previously. This wouldn't bode well for Benjamin, who is used to being the top target on the team.
5 Alshon Jeffery (Will)
Jeffery has struggled with a combination of injuries and a PED suspension for the past 2 years, but should have a bounce back campaign for the Eagles in 2017. He provides an elite receiver for Carson Wentz, and gives him a top target that he knows he'll be able to rely on. If he can stay on the field, Jeffery's performance will be one of the tops in the league.
He has the potential to stay with the Eagles for a long time, and work in tandem with Wentz for the rest of his career. If all goes according to plan in 2017, this will begin to come to fruition, and Jeffery will turn in a campaign that is worthy of a true number 1 receiver, and provide Philly with a true threat on the outside.
4 DeSean Jackson (Won't)
There's no doubt that working with a big-armed quarterback in Jameis Winston will mean that D-Jax gets his in the upcoming season, he may not put up the eye-popping statistics that some may predict. There's a good chance that his elite speed is used just as much as a decoy in order to get the likes of Mike Evans and O.J. Howard open underneath.
Jackson signed a multi-year deal with the Buccaneers for a reason, so he's definitely going to be used plentifully. The difference is, he won't be asked to carry an offense like he has during other times in his career, and should be able to use his speed as an all-around asset, not just on the long-ball as the only viable form of offense. He'll have a solid, but not great statistical season, and miss out on 1,000 yards.
3 Antonio Brown (Will)
There may not be a more dynamic receiver in the game right now, and Brown will look to have likely one more elite season with Ben Roethlisberger throwing him the ball. The Steelers have an extremely effective offensive system that has worked for years now, and while Brown is slowly getting up there in age, it's not reasonable to expect a drop-off this season.
After Roethlisberger retires, anything can happen, but for now Brown will continue to prove that he's one of the best players in the league. Consider 1,200 yards or so as the absolute floor for him this year, and his ceiling could be perhaps the best year of his career. He's truly one of the game's elite, and will continue to prove it for at least the next year.
2 Allen Robinson (Won't)
It's starting to appear as if Robinson's excellent 2015 season was nothing more than an anomaly. In his other two, he failed to even come close to 1,000 receiving yards, and with even more new players on the Jacksonville offense, it wouldn't be surprising to see him fall out of favor entirely. Some may place the blame on Blake Bortles, who may or may not end up being their franchise quarterback of the future, but that's diverting the issue.
Indeed, it was with Bortles that Robinson had his successful season a couple of years ago, where he caught 1,400 receiving yards. This year, he likely won't get close to that number, and may not hit 1,000 yards at all. Consider Robinson to have another down year, and for another Jaguars receiver to replace him on the depth chart. He's been trending downhill for a while, and there's little reason to expect an improvement now.
1 Julio Jones (Will)
It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Jones is the best receiver in football right now. His efforts last season were a large reason why the Falcons went on such a run to make the Super Bowl in the first place, and Jones turned in a monster year. With everybody set to return on the Falcons' offense, there's no reason to expect that he won't do it again.
Regardless of his team's success, there's no question that Jones has been a top receiver in the league for three to four years. There is no weakness to his game, as he always makes use of an unparalleled skill set. That will show itself again next season, and he'll be near the top of most statistical receiving categories yet again, hoping to spur Atlanta on another deep playoff run, to make up for the disappointment suffered after their Super Bowl loss to the Patriots.
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