The NFL sure has changed over the years. The days of ground and pound are mostly gone. Rarely do we see teams line up a running back behind the quarterback and just pound the ball down other teams throats.
As a replacement, we have seen many teams trend toward pass happy offenses. Can you blame these teams? With the way the rules are, it is very hard for defensive backs to cover wide receivers. It seems like more holding and pass interference penalties are being called every year. To be fair, the change in offenses is not all about the rules. We are also seeing a ridiculous amount of play-makers at the wide-out position. If you have great receivers coupled with strict rules for defenders, why not use that to your advantage?
With that being said, I think we will continue to see pass first offenses in 2017. Much like 2016, we will see some wide receivers put up spectacular numbers. I think there will be a couple of changes at the top in terms of yardage production, but for the most part many of the dominant players from last year will remain dominant. This article will predict the top 15 wide receivers in terms of yardage for 2017.
15 Allen Robinson - 1,100 yards
There is no doubting Allen Robinson had an off year last year. He failed to record a 1000 yard season after registering over 1400 receiving yards the year before. When I watch Robinson play, I have seen enough talent to know that he will bounce back in 2017. You do not record 1,400 yards in one season without being a very good player. Also, remember Robinson is still only 23 years old. There is still lots of room for Robinson to improve and he has not even reached his physical prime yet.
Another important factor for Robinson is that I am expecting him to have much better quarterback play next season. I believe Blake Bortles will bounce back next year and as a result, Robinson will have a much better season.
14 Terrelle Pryor - 1,111 yards
Terrelle Pryor is a very talented athlete. He was able to collect over 1,000 yards playing for the Cleveland Browns last season. Just think about that for a second. In his first year as a wide receiver, Pryor was able to put up these type of numbers playing with what seemed like a different quarterback each week with the brutal Cleveland Browns. Now, Pryor is playing with a very talented quarterback in Kirk Cousins. Cousins will most definitely help Pryor have an even better year in 2017.
The other factor that cannot be overlooked is that Cousins lost two major weapons in Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. That could mean more targets for Pryor, which will obviously result in greater numbers. If Jordan Reed gets hurt as well, than Pryor for sure will have great numbers.
13 Doug Baldwin - 1,192 yards
There is no question that Doug Baldwin is Russell Wilson's favourite target. Baldwin is also by far the best wide receiver the Seattle Seahawks have. Baldwin also plays with an edge that I really enjoy watching. You can just tell Baldwin was not highly touted out of college by watching him play with that chip on his shoulder.
Additionally, I think that Wilson is still a developing quarterback and I also think he raises his game next year, and as a result, Baldwin will have improved numbers. Also do not forget, the Seahawks should have a much better offensive line in 2017, giving Wilson more time to pick teams apart. Overall, I expect Baldwin to continue his outstanding production in the slot, mixed with the occasional deep catch. Unless the Seahawks o-line is historically bad again, expect improvement here.
12 Michael Thomas - 1,197 yards
Michael Thomas had an outstanding rookie season in 2016, compiling over 1,000 yards receiving. Also, remember it took him a while to get integrated in the offense, so most of his damage was done in the later parts of the year. Thomas is not the fastest receiver, but he is going to be a great possession receiver and red zone threat. He is very good at running intermediate routes and winning jump balls with his physicality. There were some moments in 2016 where he made me say wow, who is this guy. I expect this momentum to continue and Thomas should have a great sophomore year playing with Drew Brees.
Overall, the New Orleans Saints must have a ton of confidence in Thomas if they were willing to trade Brandin Cooks away. Time will tell if this confidence is justified. As for me, I am not so sure.
11 Jarvis Landry - 1,210 yards
After taking somewhat of a step back last season statistically, I expect Jarvis Landry to set new career highs in 2017. This will be his second year in Adam Gase's system and Landry will be much more comfortable, as will quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Additionally, with the emergence of DeVante Parker, I am expecting Landry to have more room to operate in the middle of the field and get ton of yards after the catch.
Overall, one other major factor we cannot forget about Landry is that he is in a contract year. Typically, players bring a little extra something during their contract year so that they can get paid in the offseason. Landry will want to take advantage of this and in total, I am expecting Landry to bring in over 100 catches for over 1,200 yards.
10 Amari Cooper - 1,211 yards
We have seen Amari Cooper show glimpses of greatness on many different occasions. Cooper has shown that he can run the deep route, catch short passes and turn them into big gains, and he can also be effective in the intermediate range. It is not hard to see why he was so highly touted coming out of college.
Thus far, Coopers biggest problem has been consistency. There have been games where Cooper explodes and racks up the yardage, but there are also have been too many games where Cooper has one or two catches for minimal yardage and you do not even know he is playing. However, I dismiss this problem because Cooper is still very young. Overall, Cooper is going to be one of the games best wide receivers for a long time.
9 Dez Bryant - 1,240 yards
Some people may think that I am overrating Dez Bryant, but I think he will return to his true, dominant form in 2017. Bryant has battled nagging injuries the last couple of seasons and that can be a major explanation in his declining production.
However, I am betting on Bryant staying healthy next season. When Bryant is healthy, he is easily one of the games top wide receivers. From deep ball to fighting for 50-50 balls, Bryant is a physical specimen that can take over a game at any given time. Finally, I also expect Bryant and Dak Prescott to have an improved chemistry in year two together and the results will show in Bryant's numbers. He will get back over the 1,000 yard receiving mark and be throwing up a lot of "X's."
8 A.J. Green - 1,260 yards
If not for injury, A.J. Green would have six straight seasons over 1,000 yards (he had about 970 last year in 10 games). That is consistency right there and do not expect 2017 to be any different. Like many of the other top receivers discussed in this article, Green is a versatile receiver. He can run a variety of routes and produces no matter who is playing along side him.
Overall, Green is one of the easier wide receivers to cheer for in the NFL, because he is not a "diva receiver," like many others. Never do you see Green in the news for negative reasons like fellow receivers Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr, Brandon Marshall, etc. Consider the fact that Green has also played his whole career for the underachieving Bengals, and he deserves major props.
7 Brandin Cooks - 1,292 yards
I had some initial hesitation about listing Brandin Cooks this high on the list. This is not because he is a poor wide receiver by any means, but more so because of the team he plays for. Every week the New England Patriots seem to have a different hero and as a result, I was not sure how Cooks' individual statistics will be.
However, I remembered there are reports that Cooks will be used in the slot quite a bit in New England. Historically, this position racks up yardage in the Patriots system. Look at Troy Brown, Wes Welker, and Julian Edelman. Add in the fact that Cooks will be used to take the top off of defenses and he could be in for a big year production wise, because remember, Tom Brady has an improved deep ball.
6 Jordy Nelson - 1,300 yards
I was so impressed with Jordy Nelson last year. I expected him to be a step slow all year because of his ACL injury, as typically, it takes most skill position players two years to return to their dominant form, but this was not the case with Nelson. After a slow start to the year, Nelson caught fire and made me wonder if he even had a previous injury. He was back to catching tons of touchdown passes and accumulating many yards in the lethal Packers offense.
Overall, it was unfortunate for the Packers that Nelson played with broken ribs in their playoff loss against Atlanta, or else I think the game could have gone a lot differently. Nonetheless, expect more dominance from Nelson and Aaron Rodgers next season.
5 Mike Evans - 1,340 yards
At first thought, I wondered if Mike Evans will suffer a decline in production in 2017 due to the addition of DeSean Jackson. Acquiring Jackson would mean less targets for Evans and as a result, he would not have the same numbers.
However, while the less targets may be true, I now expect Evans to have more efficient numbers. He probably will not have the most targets anymore, but his catch percentage will be much better. Remember, last season Evans had a tremendous amount of targets and even had to come out games for extended amounts of times due to being fatigued. I do not expect this to be the case anymore with a legitimate number two like Jackson beside him.
Overall, Jackson will force safeties to help on his side, opening up the other side of the field for Evans. Look for Evans to be dominant on intermediate routes all year long.
4 T.Y. Hilton - 1,380 yards
T.Y. Hilton was one of the few bright spots for the Indianapolis Colts in the 2016 season. Hilton had a phenomenal season by setting career highs in yards and catches. In total, Hilton finished first in receiving yards with 1,448. While, I do not expect him to produce at the same level in 2017, he will still be a top three receiver in terms of yardage.
Hilton provides a security blanket for Andrew Luck. Anytime he needs a play, Luck looks towards Hilton and can you really blame him? Even though he may be undersized, Hilton had tremendous heart, great speed, and he is capable of running a variety of routes. Overall, Hilton's numbers may be down a tad next season, but as a reward, his team will be much better.
3 Odell Beckham Jr - 1,421 yards
Odell Beckham Jr will benefit greatly from the addition of Brandon Marshall. I expect Beckham Jr and Marshall to be a dominant one two punch all season. Teams will no longer be able to double or even triple team Beckham Jr, unless they are okay with Marshall or even Sterling Shepard having a relatively easy time.
Even without the addition of Marshall, we all know how talented Beckham Jr is. Beckham Jr has the ability to take a five yard pass and turn it into an 80 yard touchdown at any given time. This is a trait I have never seen from a wideout before. Additionally, Beckham is still young and will continue to improve. The next step is for Beckham Jr/ to work on his emotions and sometimes poor attitude, then he will truly be unstoppable.
2 Antonio Brown - 1,479 yards
Antonio Brown was a distraction to his team with the Facebook Live incident. As a result, I expect Brown to come out next season extra motivated. He will want to show everyone he is not a bad teammate, and his play on the field will make everyone forget the bad things from 2016.
Speaking of on the field, Brown had a bit of down year last year. I blame a lot of this on the fact that Brown did not have a true number two wide receiver to play with. Teams loaded up on Brown, which is something they cannot do next year with the return of Martavis Bryant and with the expected improvement of Eli Rogers. Overall, look for Brown to have a better year next year in terms of yardage.
1 Julio Jones - 1,501 yards
After the Super Bowl in 2016, my respect for Julio Jones went up even more. While he did not have over 100 yards receiving like we are used to seeing, he made some tough, contested catches. We know New England likes to take away a team's best option, but Jones still showed up and played well. Add in the fact that he played through a large part of the season with a toe injury, there is not many bad things to say about Jones.
Remember how I wrote about AJ Green and how he is not a "diva receiver." You can apply the same to Jones. Overall, I expect Jones to return healthy next season and look better than ever before. Unfortunately for him and Falcons fans, I do not think they will get back to the Super Bowl. That is a story for another day though.
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