The NFL season is finally upon us, and with all the stories around the league, it’s shaping up to be one of the best seasons in recent memory, and with so much young talent emerging, there are going to be some fantastic games around the league all season long. While every position on the field is important, there is none more crucial than the QB position, and finding a player at that position can completely change the fortunes of a franchise. A QB needs help to look good, however, and his protection is quite important, but without anyone to throw the ball too, they can’t succeed.
The following article is going to look at the QB-WR dynamic, as we rate each teams QB and #1 WR combination from worst all the way to the best.
32 Josh McCown / Jermaine Kearse – New York Jets
The New York Jets aren’t looking good for the upcoming season, and while there are plenty of positives to look at on the defensive side of the ball, their skill position talent on the offensive side is looking as miserable as an NFL team could possibly look. This past offseason, the team got rid of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, and unfortunately lost the dynamic Quincy Enunwa to injury for the year, and that leaves Jermaine Kearse, a receiver they got in a deal with Sheldon Richardson going to the Seahawks as the number one WR.While that may not be too bad with a great QB in charge, their QB ranks are just as disappointing. The battle is between veteran Josh McCown and two young guys in Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, and while some fans would have liked the young players been given a chance, the Jets went with the journeyman McCown in what is bound to be a disappointing season.
31 Mike Glennon / Kevin White – Chicago Bears
Just a few years ago, the Bears-Packers rivalry was one of the hottest in all of American sports, as both teams were in playoff contention every year, but with Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and the majority of their elite defense gone, the Chicago Bears now find themselves in the cellar of the NFC, and it shows in their skill position depth chart. With young gun Mitchell Trubisky having a fantastic showing in the pre-season, it may not be long before Glennon is dethroned as the starter in Chicago, and while the organization may want to give Trubisky more time to develop, it seems that it’s only a matter of time. Unfortunately for the Bears, they lost breakout star Cameron Meredith for the entire season due to injury, which leaves young stud Kevin White as the #1 receiver. While he’s definitely got the talent, he is way too young and inexperienced to be in that role, showing how much this team may struggle this season.
Editor's Note: Kevin White is out for the season... again.
30 Brian Hoyer / Pierre Garcon – San Francisco 49ers
Ever since losing in the Super Bowl to the Baltimore Ravens, the San Francisco 49ers have gone down hill, and while the defense may be on a quick rebuild after taking both Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster, the offense is definitely going to struggle with Brian Hoyer and Pierre Garcon as their best duo. Playing in the division alongside the Seahawks and Cardinals definitely won’t help that rebuild, because the three teams alongside them have scary defense, so with a class of young, unproven receivers alongside the over-the-hill Pierre Garcon, they will most certainly not do well. As far as Hoyer goes, he is a serviceable QB that will likely lead the team well, but without enough talent around him, especially from the WR position, he and this team just won’t succeed.
29 DeShone Kizer / Corey Coleman – Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns have been a joke in the NFL for quite some time now unfortunately, but with Hue Jackson at the helm and a seemingly positive plan from the front office, it looks like they could be in for a successful run soon, especially if 2017 2nd-round pick DeShone Kizer improves on the promise he’s already shown. A high-profile pick out of Baylor, Corey Coleman looks like the real deal too, and if the Browns can continue to draft well and build on their core, the duo of Kizer and Coleman could be one to watch for the future, and Kizer may break the spell of different QBs played by the Browns over the last few decades. Let’s not get too excited after the Browns great preseason, but if these two and the entire team develop the way they’re expected too, this could be the time the Browns finally turn it around.
28 Jared Goff / Sammy Watkins – Los Angeles Rams
There have been few #1 overall picks who have garnered more criticism than the LA Rams' Jared Goff in the history of the NFL, and after he sat for the beginning of the 2016 season, the team has gone all-in on him, but he has struggled so far in his career. Not everyone, especially #1 picks, produce straight away (look at Alex Smith from 2005, it took years for him to become the player he is today), so he still has time to live up to his potential, but for this season, it looks like he will struggle, despite the new LA team picking up superstar receiver Sammy Watkins in the offseason. Overall, I think Goff will show why he was taken with that first pick, as he certainly has shown flashes of that promise, but for this year, these two don’t deserve to be any higher on this list.
27 Sam Bradford / Stefon Diggs – Minnesota Vikings
After losing Teddy Bridgewater early in the preseason a year ago, the Minnesota Vikings were scrambling to find their QB, and after trading for former #1 overall pick Sam Bradford, he had a fantastic year, which quite frankly no one saw coming. But with no big names on the outside, the Vikings duo come in on this list very low down. The team is always going to be in games due to their great defense led by star safety Harrison Smith, but with Diggs and not much else on the offensive side of the ball, this team may truly struggle to win a lot of those close games. Bradford’s game is all about short, quick, decisive throws, so he won’t struggle too much without a great #1 receiver, but it will come back to hurt this team in the long run.
26 Tyrod Taylor / Jordan Matthews – Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills have been one of the NFL’s more inconsistent teams over the last few years, and their lack of QB development may be one of those problems, and while Tyrod Taylor has all the talent in the world, he just can’t seem to put it together, despite being given all the chances in the world to succeed by the Bills organization. The WR situation has just recently changed for Buffalo too, as they got rid of potential superstar Sammy Watkins and brought in Eagles receiver Jordan Matthews, who has the potential to be one of the best receivers in the game. However, neither of them are close to putting it together at the moment. With the Patriots, Jets and Dolphins all having some fairly good defenses, this offense may struggle just a bit, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if these two could build some chemistry and become quite a good duo.
25 Blake Bortles / Allen Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars
After a fairly impressive rookie and sophomore season, it seemed that Blake Bortles was ready to break out as one of the NFL’s next big stars, but he has struggled with turnovers since that point, and a team that should be playoff-ready because of their defense and weapons on offense is being held back due to little development from him. With that being said, the AFC South is wide open this year, with four talented, yet unproven teams fighting for the #1 spot, and with their incredibly talented defense, the Jaguars will be close to taking out that title, but Bortles has to be much better. Overall, I believe that he has the talent and the right mind set, and will be the QB that takes this team deep in the playoffs, but until he proves it, he’s just a talented QB with some fantastic WRs, and that doesn’t facilitate a higher spot on this list.
24 Tom Savage / DeAndre Hopkins – Houston Texans
The Houston Texans should be one of the biggest and most dominant contenders to the Super Bowl year in, year out, but the team has struggled to find a QB to lead this team, and this year it’s no different with Tom Savage winning the job over rookie DeShaun Watson. The only reason these two are so high on this list is because of how talented DeAndre Hopkins is. With this dominant defense led by JJ Watt, this team could be the best in the league, and they will likely end up winning the AFC South because of this, but they somehow can’t find a QB, and that will come back to hurt them in the playoffs, and may hurt them even more when it comes to contract negotiations with superstar DeAndre Hopkins. It won’t be long until the rookie Watson out of Clemson takes over the job, but until that point, this offense will have its severe limitations.
Editor's Note: Tom Savage has already been replaced by Deshaun Watson as the starting QB.
23 Jay Cutler / DeVante Parker – Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins have been building a great core for several years, but after a devastating injury ended the season of Ryan Tannehill, coach Adam Gase reached out to his former QB Jay Cutler, and while he has had his best seasons under Gase, he is still quite rusty, so he and DeVante Parker come in fairly low on our list. If Cutler can find his rhythm and form from prior seasons, this may be an offense to watch, as Parker, Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills all offer him fantastic threats down the field, but at this point, their chemistry isn’t proven enough to climb this list. With the Bills and Jets likely struggling in the 2017 season, the Dolphins have a very good chance of battling for the AFC Wild Card, but for right now, this duo simply doesn’t deserve to be any higher on our list.
22 Trevor Siemian / Demaryius Thomas – Denver Broncos
It’s widely recognized that the AFC West is probably the toughest division in the entire NFL, because each team has a very deep roster full of talented guys, but the biggest weakness for the Denver Broncos is at the QB position, and that may hold them back from returning to the Super Bowl, and it may even cost them a spot in the playoffs. When they made that Super Bowl run from a few years ago, they were lucky enough to have Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game under center, but now they’ve got young Trevor Siemian in that spot. While that spot may be Paxton Lynch's soon, third-year QB Siemian is just holding on for now. With the might of the Broncos' D, Trevor doesn’t have to do much to help them win ball games, because the fact is he just isn’t good enough to carry a game himself, and it’s likely we see a QB change before the end of the year.
21 Alex Smith / Tyreek Hill – Kansas City Chiefs
Alex Smith has been in the NFL for 12 years, and after struggling for quite some time because of continued turnover in head coaches, he improved under Jim Harbaugh and became one of the better game managers in the NFL. Despite a monster week in the NFL season opener, he remains nothing more than a decent game manager. Although he's enjoyed fairly good team success during his time in Kansas City, Smith hasn’t proved over an extended period that he can truly trouble NFL-level defenses, and with no true #1 WR on the team, they find themselves quite low on the list. This team is going to do great things, especially if Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill can continue to make big, unconventional plays, but as a true combination, these two don’t really belong any higher on this list.
20 Marcus Mariota / Rishard Matthews – Tennessee Titans
Coming into the 2013 NFL Draft, all the talk was about the decision the Bucs had to make between Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, but after the former Oregon QB and Heisman Trophy winner fell to Tennessee at #2, they aren’t complaining, as he has improved each and every year on his way to becoming the team leader. This Titans team finally looks like turning around years of struggles too, and have built their strength on defense and the ground game, so having Rishard Matthews as a #1 may look bad on pape., But with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry on the ground, they don’t need a huge receiver on the outside. It would help them be put higher on this list, but their team is put together really well, and with Eric Decker and Cory Davis also on the outside, this team could be very dangerous in all phases of the game in 2017.
19 Carson Wentz / Alshon Jeffery – Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles have struggled to find their starting QB since Donovan McNabb, but last year they took a chance on Carson Wentz, and it looks like it's paying off. And by acquiring the Bears stud WR Alshon Jeffery this offseason, it looks like this offense could be even more dangerous in 2017. Wentz is still very young, but he has basically every tool that he needs to succeed, and with the Eagles getting better year by year, the young QB from North Dakota State University could be the next big QB in the NFL. I doubt the team is going to win the division this year, especially with the talent the Giants and Cowboys have on their roster, but they need to keep building the team the way they are, and if this duo can succeed the way we think, they could be one of the best in the NFL given a few years of chemistry.
18 Joe Flacco / Mike Wallace – Baltimore Ravens
Several years ago when the Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, it looked like Joe Flacco was going to take his game to the next level, but with some health issues and inconsistent play, he has stayed in the middle of the road among NFL quarterbacks, and that’s not changing in 2017. Losing legendary Steve Smith Sr. in the offseason doesn’t help, and it looks like the Ravens might struggle a bit on offense, and that’s exemplified with Mike Wallace listed as #1 on the WR depth chart. The Ravens are also in a very tough division in the AFC North, and will likely win with defense if they are to return to the NFL playoffs, because they do seem a little lacking on the offensive side of the ball.
17 Carson Palmer / Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals
Several years ago, the duo of Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald would easily be cracking the top 10, but after some injury-riddled seasons for Palmer and both men aging quite a bit, they are slipping down the list. But with one last shot at the Super Bowl with the Cardinals, expect these two to have a great year nonetheless. The Cardinals don’t have a clear successor to Palmer, but it’s clear they are going to have to move on from him in the very near future. Still, when these two are at their best, they are still two of the more impressive players at their position in the NFL. Fitzgerald may go down as one of the best receivers to ever play the game, but at this point in his career, he struggles to put together consistent, dominant performances, and while you could put them higher on the list for their reputations, this seems about the right spot to have them.
16 Russell Wilson / Doug Baldwin – Seattle Seahawks
Coming out of the 2012 draft, everyone had their eyes on the five QBs taken in the first round, but five years later, the standout has easily been the young Russell Wilson who was taken in the 3rd round, who has been selected to the Pro Bowl and taken the Seahawks to two Super Bowls, including one victory. With the Legion of Boom looking better than ever, especially after acquiring Sheldon Richardson, this team could be in the Super Bowl for the third time with this core, and with Wilson improving year by year, the offense could potentially be just as dangerous. Neither Wilson nor Baldwin will be considered top 5-10 players at their position, but together they make a dynamic combo, and with their running game being stacked with talent, this team will likely be competing for a shot at the Lombardi Trophy come February.
15 Kirk Cousins / Terrelle Pryor – Washington Redskins
After the 2012 draft, it looked like the Washington Redskins had found their QB of the future, and they had, but unfortunately for the red-hot rookie Robert Griffin III, it was his backup Kirk Cousins, as he has proved ever since he took over the starting role that he is one of the best QBs in the entire NFL, and he looks set to repeat that offensive output in 2017. With breakout star and former QB Terrelle Pryor on the outside, these two could become one of the most dynamic duo’s in the entire league, and with Josh Doctson, Jordan Reed and Jameson Crowder also available to throw the ball too, this team could be very dangerous. The NFC East is going to be the best division in football this year, so I don’t believe that they will make the playoffs, but they are going to be a very fun team to watch in 2017.
14 Philip Rivers / Keenan Allen – Los Angeles Chargers
For years now, Philip Rivers has been one of the best QBs in the NFL, but due to the very average team that San Diego, and now Los Angeles has put around him, he hasn’t had the success of guys like Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger who were drafted the same year as him. But if there’s ever a time for Rivers to make a dent in the AFC Playoffs, this is the year. With Keenan Allen on the outside to offer another threat for this offense, this team will be very competitive in the very tough AFC West, and with Allen, Antonio Gates and Melvin Gordon, they might very well just surprise everyone. Rivers has had a fantastic career, and this is the year that he should finally experience some success, because he really needs to be respected as what he is, one of the elite QB’s in the game today. If Allen wasn’t injured for the entirety of the 2016 season, these guys would be much higher on the list.
13 Dak Prescott / Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys
When the Dallas Cowboys lost Tony Romo in the pre season to injury a year ago, it looked like they may have been in a bit of trouble, but with a breakout combination of rookie stars Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the team was the story of the NFL, and despite Elliott being suspended the first six games of this upcoming season, the team looks in great shape, mostly because of its O-Line and great QB play. Although Dez Bryant is certainly aging, and is one of the more injury-prone star receivers in the league, he is still incredibly dangerous when healthy. If Prescott can adjust to his second year in the league, these two could put up monster years. Dak no doubt is going to be one of the best QBs in the league for some time to come, so expect him to climb lists like this as his career goes on. But due to his inexperience, this year he comes in at 13.
12 Matthew Stafford / Golden Tate – Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford just became the highest paid player in the history of the NFL, and while we can argue all day whether he deserves it or not, he certainly had a fantastic 2016, and with Golden Tate and an improved running game in 2017, it looks like he could be ready for the best year of his career. The Lions, as always will have very tough competition with the Packers and Vikings look to build on a strong 2016, but with an improved ground game and the confident, clutch Stafford in charge, this team could be quite dangerous. Unfortunately Golden Tate doesn’t compare to having Calvin Johnson on the outside, but if the two continue their great chemistry, they should both have fantastic years.
11 Cam Newton / Kelvin Benjamin – Carolina Panthers
Just two short years ago, the Carolina Panthers were the hottest team in sports when they reached their first Super Bowl in 15 years, and that was on the back of dynamic QB Cam Newton, and even after major struggles on offense just a season ago, Cam and his #1 receiver, the breakout star Kelvin Benjamin, should be back to their normal selves this upcoming season. With Newton, when healthy, the Panthers have the most dynamic QB in NFL history, as he can air it out like anyone, or run better than some backs in the NFL, which is a scary combination, so to have a huge threat like Benjamin out the outside is a great combination. I believe that Tampa Bay and Atlanta will both finish above the Panthers this year, but after such a horrible season in 2016, a great season from these two will be a step in the right direction to getting back to the Super Bowl.
10 Andrew Luck / T.Y. Hilton – Indianapolis Colts
The 2012 QB draft class was hailed as one of the best of all time, and five years later that is holding up, as Russell Wilson has already competed in two Super Bowls, with one victory under his belt, but the biggest name in that class is without a doubt Andrew Luck, who has all the talent in the world. But if he can’t be protected, he may not have the success he truly deserves. With T.Y Hilton on the outside, this offense has a chance to be as dangerous as any in the league, but Luck has been hit a ridiculous amount over the past few years, leading to trouble staying healthy. (He is, in fact, expected to be out until October following his most recent injury.) In terms of pure talent alone, these guys could be much higher, but their lack of playing time together lately hurts them, but once Luck puts together a strong season, expect the Colts to be dominant.
9 Jameis Winston / Mike Evans – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been struggling for a few years, but with young Jameis Winston under center, this team has been transformed, and it looks like they are poised for a breakout season in 2017, and while their running game and defense is great, the team success will definitely come on the back of their high-powered passing game. With DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard taking some of the attention away from Mike Evans, he may put together a MONSTER year, and with Winston continuing to grow and develop as a player and a leader, this could be the year that they solidify themselves as a Super Bowl contender and as absolute superstars in the NFL.
8 Drew Brees / Michael Thomas – New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have been running the most high-powered offense in the NFL for quite some time, but without a defense, they’ve struggled to reach the playoffs for several seasons now, but this list is about QB/WR tandems, not whole teams. Despite trading away Brandin Cooks this offseason, it’s unlikely to slow down the legendary Brees. While Thomas is definitely still developing as a number one target, Brees’ incredibly precision and accuracy will make that process much easier. Don’t expect the Saints to be making the playoffs in the upcoming year, especially in such a deep division, but these two will no doubt put up some great numbers.
7 Andy Dalton / AJ Green – Cincinnati Bengals
Despite their incredible lack of success in the postseason, the Cincinnati Bengals are again poised to have a great season, and that comes on the back of the talented Andy Dalton, and the almost unstoppable AJ Green. While I don’t believe this will be the year for them to break out in the postseason, it’s again a chance for these two to prove themselves as one of the best combos in the game. With a tough, tough division they play in, it will again get tougher, and the seat below Dalton and his head coach Marvin Lewis will be red-hot by season’s end, but this doesn’t mean that these two won’t put up great numbers. You may dispute this, as a lack of playoff success truly hurts the respect fans give the Bengals organization, but in talent and production alone during the regular season, these two are fantastic together.
6 Derek Carr / Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders
This AC/DC connection is something that we are going to see for years and years to come, and it could send the Oakland Raiders all the way to the Super Bowl, so one day you should expect to see them coming in at #1 on this list, but due to the fact that these two haven’t proven themselves as a consistent force over time, they come in at number 6. With Carr coming back from a severe leg injury that cost him his playoffs last year, it may take some time before they get back to their electric best, but once they do, AFC West, and AFC as a whole beware. They could arguably be over our next duo, but after that injury to Carr, it’s going to take a bit of time to get that connection back, but once they do, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if it carried the legendary Raiders back to the Super Bowl.
5 Eli Manning / Odell Beckham Jr. – New York Giants
Some people might disagree with putting these two so high, as Eli Manning has a tendency to be inconsistent and turn the ball over quite a bit, but he is a fantastic player, and alongside Odell Beckham Jr. who is the fastest rising star in all of American sports, they could be incredibly dynamic in this upcoming season. As if Odell Beckham wasn’t dangerous enough already, but the Giants have added both Brandon Marshall and young TE Evan Engram, which will allow less attention to be paid to Odell, and that will help him become more consistent. With the Giants D looking great too, these two could be in for a hell of a year. The Giants have a lot of tough competition in the NFC East, and they may not come home with a division title, but you can bet that these two are going to have fantastic individual years.
4 Matt Ryan / Julio Jones – Atlanta Falcons
A season ago, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones had a phenomenal season, and unfortunately for the Falcons, they blew a massive lead in the Super Bowl, and that may overshadow just how fantastic they were throughout the regular season, but it truly was a season for the history books. Julio is arguably the most dangerous deep threat in the entire NFL, and with a gunslinger like Matt Ryan under center, the two work perfectly together. While the team may struggle to replicate their success from a year ago, these two will again shine. Matty Ice will attempt to show why he is an elite QB in the NFL, and if he can go close to improving on last year's performances, combined with Jones they could be much higher on this list next year (maybe even all the way to #1).
3 Ben Roethlisberger / Antonio Brown – Pittsburgh Steelers
Coming in at number 3 is Big Ben and AB84, and unlike the rating of our next two pairings, this high rating is because of the WR, not the QB, as Antonio Brown is arguably the best and most consistent wideout in the game, and he has been for quite some time. You can argue that Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham or even AJ Green are better, but no one performs on such a consistent basis like Antonio Brown, and he’s been doing that for quite some time with an often injured starting QB. With Roethlisberger coming to the end of his career, this could be their last appearance so high on a list such as this one, but when he’s healthy, he is one of the best in the game, so expect an extra motivated Steelers team this year, with perhaps their last shot at a Super Bowl with Big Ben at the helm.
2 Tom Brady / Brandin Cooks – New England Patriots
You can argue it all day long, but after their performance in Super Bowl XI, it’s widely accepted now that Tom Brady is the greatest QB to ever play the game, and although he continues to age, he is playing at an elite level still, and while he comes in at number 2 on this list, I wouldn’t bet against them repeating their feat from a year ago. Unfortunately for New England and their title defense hopes, they lost Julian Edleman for the season during the preseason, but like Bill Belichick always manages to do, he made a great trade early in the offseason for Brandin Cooks who is poised to breakout as an NFL superstar. With Rob Gronkowski as a threat in the middle you can’t help but pay attention too, Cooks will have plenty of big play opportunities throughout the season, and if he can improve in the Patriots system like we expect, he may be considered one of the best in the game by seasons end.
1 Aaron Rodgers / Jordy Nelson – Green Bay Packers
You could chop and change the top 3 entries on this list, and most NFL fans would understand, but at the end of the day, Aaron Rodgers is the best regular season QB in the game today, and after the Patriots lost Julian Edleman for the season, it just made sense for the Rodgers-Nelson combo to take out the #1 spot on the list. Rodgers has been the best of the best for quite some time now, and with his #1 target healthy again, this team will be very dangerous, especially with Randall Cobb and the addition of Martellus Bennett. But at the end of the day, it’s Nelson that Rodgers will look for in crunch time. Sure, the Patriots may win the Super Bowl again because their team is deeper than the Packers squad, but in terms of production from these two positions, no one will match the Rodgers-Nelson connection.
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