With the NFL season right around the corner, it’s always fun to look at depth charts and see which teams rank the best at certain positions.
And what position is more fun and exciting than wide receiver?
When it comes to pass-catchers, they provide the most excitement to the game. Whether it’s Odell Beckham Jr. amazing the crowd with pregame catches, to A.J. Green flying past every cornerback he matches up against, to Julio Jones dominating on a weekly basis, having a top-flight wide receiver is vital to success in today’s NFL. While it's not everything, it sure does help matters.
On the flip side, however, slacking in the wide receiver department could be detrimental to a club. Having a less than stellar crop of wide receivers could hurt the development of a young quarterback. It could also make a defense focus solely on the run game which could shut down a team’s offense and could also make a team ineffective altogether. Just look at teams like the Rams last season.
Some teams are fortunate to have high-quality wide receivers on the roster, while others aren’t as fortunate. Let’s take a look at the best 10 and worst 10 wide receiver corps in the NFL.
20 Worst — Carolina Panthers (Benjamin, Funchess)
Last season was a difficult one for the Carolina Panthers, as the team finished in last place in the NFC South with a 6-10 record. While the team was expected to make another deep playoff run like the season prior, both the offense and defense took a step back. Cam Newtown has new weapons at his disposal — most notably first-round pick Christian McCaffrey — but the team could still use some help in the wide receiver department.
The Panthers will retain both of their outside starters in Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. Benjamin lived up to his hype after returning from a torn ACL but Funchess regressed in his second pro season. After the top pair, the Panthers have little depth at the position; Curtis Samuel represents the highest upside in the slot but as a rookie expectations must be tempered. The potential for success is there, but to start 2017, there are questions that need to be answered.
19 Best — Denver Broncos (Thomas, Sanders, Latimer)
Like the Carolina Panthers, the Denver Broncos didn't have the season they wanted in 2016. While there was an expected regression as the young Trevor Siemian took over for future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning, the campaign was still a disappointing one. One positive, however, was the duo of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, as they ranked at the top of all wide receiver rankings, including receptions, yards, and touchdowns.
Again, like the Panthers, the Broncos' quality of pass-catchers drops off a bit. While they don't have any big names, Cody Latimer played very well when on the field and could be a valuable asset moving forward. While Siemian isn't much of a gunslinger, he will have his options on the field. If he can get the ball to his receivers, there is no doubt they'll put up numbers.
18 Worst — Los Angeles Chargers (Williams, Allen)
The Chargers may be heading to Los Angeles this season but they're still struggling to acquire top-tier wide receivers for the successful-yet-aging Philip Rivers. Ever since they drafted the franchise quarterback, he's been blessed with a Hall of Fame tight end (Antonio Gates) and running back (LaDainian Tomlinson); but he's had little help outside of the hash marks.
The front office did their best during the NFL Draft, as they selected Mike Williams with the seventh overall pick. Williams had team highs in receptions (98), yards (1361), and touchdowns (11) for Clemson, the National Champions. In addition to Williams, the Chargers also have Keenan Allen — who's recovering from a torn ACL — and Travis Benjamin, who had a career year in 2016 but looks to be an anomaly. The upside is definitely there but it may take some time to see all of the talents mesh together.
17 Best — Seattle Seahawks (Kearse, Baldwin, Lockett)
From the time Russell Wilson took the reigns at quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, they've been a contender. In the beginning stages of their most recent run, the Pete Carroll-led football team was run-heavy, as Marshawn Lynch was the bell cow and heart and soul of the team. But when Beast Mode retired, Carroll went with an aerial attack — and Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and Tyler Lockett were the primary weapons.
The trio doesn't have size on their side but are mismatch nightmares with speed, route-running, and jumping ability as Baldwin had a breakout campaign, Kearse was a strong option opposite of him and Lockett has the necessary tools to be the quintessential slot receiver. With Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, and C.J. Prosise on the roster, the run game will return — but the Seahawks will be just fine with the receivers that they have.
16 Worst — Tennessee Titans (Davis, Matthews, Sharpe)
When it comes to young teams on the rise, the Tennessee Titans are definitely one of them. With a franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota not even in his prime, the offense — which also has one of the better running backs in the NFL in DeMarco Murray — will be one to watch. One thing that may hold them back, however, are the wide receivers on the roster.
Similar to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Titans will be relying on their first round draft pick — Corey Davis — to emerge as their top target. While his presence on the field will help Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe, it's hard to rely on a first-year player to make a game-changing impact. If all goes right, the Titans will eventually be on the other side of this list — but that'll have to wait until their young core proves their worth.
15 Best — Jacksonville Jaguars (Hurns, Robinson, Lee)
Like the Tennessee Titans, the Jacksonville Jaguars are another team on the rise. And if Tom Coughlin can work the magic that he did with the New York Giants, success may be on the horizon sooner rather than later. While the defense has gotten some high praise, the receivers will play a big role in that as well.
The trio of Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Marqise Lee were impressive in 2016 as they all had strong levels of success. Robinson was the best, as he led the Jaguars in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, while Lee posted the best YAC mark. While Hurns regressed, it's expected the youngster will rebound in 2017. Quarterback Blake Bortles may still be a question mark but the presence of running back Leonard Fournette could open up the passing game even further.
14 Worst — Buffalo Bills (Watkins, Jones, Holmes)
The Buffalo Bills appear to be a team in flux on a yearly basis. While they have a potential franchise quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, the weapons that he has are less than flattering. Sure, LeSean McCoy continues to make tacklers miss every Sunday but it's the wide receivers that underwhelm.
Sammy Watkins was projected as one of the best players in his draft class. While he's shown glimpses of greatness, he's yet to do it on a consistent basis. That, combined with injury issues, made the organization decline his fifth-year option. The Bills also lost their top two receiving threats (Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin) to free agency, thus leaving rookie Zay Jones and free agent signee Andre Holmes to pick up the slack.
13 Best — Cincinnati Bengals (Green, Lafell, Ross)
When you have one of the best wide receivers in the entire NFL on your roster, you're going to rank on the positive side of things. And since A.J. Green catches passes from Andy Dalton every Sunday, it's no surprise to see where the Cincinnati Bengals rank. Despite suffering a torn hamstring in Week 11, he still posted 66 receptions and 964 receiving yards.
Fortunately for the Bengals, they have more than just Green on the depth chart. Brandon LaFell stepped up after the injury to Green and led the team in touchdown receptions with six. In addition to the duo, the organization also drafted speedster John Ross in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft and he's expected to take the reigns in the slot. It remains to be seen how Green returns from injury, if LaFell can capitalize on his success and if Ross can excel in his first season as a pro but their ceiling is as high as anyones.
12 Worst — San Francisco 49ers (Garcon, Goodwin, Kerley)
Next season doesn't look to be too kind for the San Francisco 49ers. While they're doing their best to revitalize their defense, their offense is still a mess — and that's putting it kindly. Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley are expected to compete for the starting role and neither man possesses much upside. What makes it worse is their depth chart at wide receiver, as there isn't much upside at that position, either.
The 49ers signed both Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin to free agent contracts. While both men had a strong 2016 campaign, they also caught passes from much better quarterbacks, so it remains to be seen how they'll respond to Hoyer or Barkley. Jeremy Kerley remains on the roster, but he hasn't looked like the player many expected him to be. It looks like it's going to be a rough season for the 49ers, and it's hard to imagine the receivers helping the matter.
11 Best — Green Bay Packers (Nelson, Adams, Cobb)
Similar to the New England Patriots (we'll get to them a bit later), it always appears that the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers get the best out of their wide receivers, no matter who is catching the ball. But even though that may be the case, their trio of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams are one of the best in football, as they've all played at an elite level in the past.
The trio ranked in the top three of all wide receiver categories for the Packers, as they combined for 30 touchdowns, 232 receptions, and 2,864 yards. The only things holding the team back in terms of the ranking is due to the fact that both Nelson and Cobb are both older and have injury concerns while Parker is still developing into a true threat. Either way, if they're on the field, the Packers will have one of the best offenses in football.
10 Worst — Cleveland Browns (Britt, Coleman)
The Cleveland Browns are finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel; after acquiring a number of early draft picks during the 2017 NFL Draft, they addressed a number of key positions while also bringing in a much-needed infusion of young talent. Once position, however, that still remains a mystery is wide receiver.
The organization has high hopes for Corey Coleman, a player they selected in the first round during last year's draft frenzy. While a broken hand hindered his season, he did show signs of a future top receiver. From there, however, the team signed Kenny Britt to replace Terrelle Pryor, a move that looks bad on paper and has little depth after that. It's going to be hard for the Browns to compete in 2017 and one reason behind their struggles could very well be their depth at the position.
9 Best — Dallas Cowboys (Bryant, Williams, Beasley)
The way the Dallas Cowboys are positioned, they're going to be a force to be reckoned with in the present and the future. While their youth at quarterback and running back and their monstrosity of an offensive line are seen as their greatest positives, don't sleep on their crop of wide receivers.
Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley comfortable sit atop the depth chart — and that's for a reason. When healthy, Bryant is arguably the top wide receiver in the NFL, as he's a threat any time he lines up. Williams, meanwhile, is top-notch possession receiver while Beasley excels running through the middle of the field from the slot. Sure, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will steal the headlines — but if the Cowboys succeed, the receivers will play a big part in it.
8 Worst — New York Jets (Decker, Enunwa, Peake, Stewart)
The 2017 season may be an ugly one for the New York Jets. During the 2017 NFL Draft, they addressed safety in both the first and second rounds, which shows that they're focusing on their defense. While revamping that side of the ball is a necessity, so is doing so with the offense — and as it stands, it doesn't look like they'll put up a ton of points next season.
When it comes to wide receiver, they're hurting for sure. Eric Decker struggled as a number one receiver, and that's what he'll be tasked to do in 2017 (on top of returning from injury). Quincy Enunwa showed flashes of prowess in 2016 but needs to add consistency to his game. On top of that, both Charone Peake and ArDarius Stewart have upside but are extremely young. When you couple that with a question mark at quarterback, it could be a long season for Gang Green.
7 Best — Oakland Raiders (Cooper, Crabtree, Roberts)
In 2016, the Oakland Raiders burst onto the scene as one of the top teams in football. Although injuries didn't work in their favor, their roster is full of youth, putting them in position to compete for a Super Bowl for the foreseeable future. Their offense is viewed as their strength, as Derek Carr is on his way to elite status while the addition of Marshawn Lynch will add a new dynamic to the run game. But their pass-catchers are as good as any position on the roster.
Amari Cooper is well on his way to being one of the top receivers in football, and many believe he's already in that conversation. Michael Crabtree revitalized his career once he put on the silver and black and has been someone who can go up and catch the football at a high point. Add in the underrated Seth Roberts, and the depth the Raiders have at wide receiver is amongst the best in football.
6 6: Worst — Los Angeles Rams (Woods, Austin, Thomas)
When the Los Angeles Rams decided to make Jared Goff their future at quarterback, many questioned why. Not because Goff didn't have upside but the organization had to give up such a hefty price to move up and take him first overall in the 2016 NFL Draft. When you invest in a player in such a way, it's expected you'll do anything to help him succeed. That's why it's even more surprising they haven't brought in much help at wide receiver.
Tavon Austin has the physical tools to excel as a slot receiver but has yet to put it all together at the NFL level. The Rams acquired Robert Woods in free agency but he remains an enigma until he can replicate his numbers from 2016 on a consistent basis. Outside of the pair, the depth chart runs thin, thus making it tough to imagine Goff making positive strides in 2017.
5 Best — Atlanta Falcons (Jones, Sanu, Gabriel)
Although the Atlanta Falcons blew a seemingly insurmountable lead in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots, one massive positive that came out of their playoff run was just how good their crop of wide receivers are. Fortunately for quarterback Matt Ryan, he has a number of high-quality targets at his disposal.
No one can argue that Julio Jones is one of the best receivers in football. His size and speed are unmatched and he catches almost everything thrown his way. Mohamed Sanu signed a lucrative free agent deal last offseason and lived up to the hype in 2016 and Taylor Gabriel emerged as a potential star from the slot. With youth on their side, the group of wide receivers that the Falcons have could be dominant for years to come.
4 Worst — Baltimore Ravens (Wallace, Perriman)
The Baltimore Ravens tend to play well even when many believe they'll struggle. And while the organization has hardly given Joe Flacco a serious crop of talents at wide receiver, having steady veterans like Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith Sr. on the roster will rub off on the rest of the pass-catchers. But with Smith retired, this season will be different — and not in a positive way.
Mike Wallace hasn't been the same since he left the Pittsburgh Steelers years ago and is currently positioned as the top receiver on the team. While he still is a valuable piece, his talents don't translate to a number one. At the same time, injuries and ineffectiveness has hindered former first-round pick Breshad Perriman's growth while little depth hurts as well.
3 Best — New England Patriots (Cooks, Edelman, Hogan, Amendola)
As stated in the Green Bay Packers' section, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots seem to turn every receiver they get their hands on into a valuable weapon in their offense. That situation rings true year in and year out — but in 2017, their crop of wide receivers is as good as its ever been.
Julian Edelman continues to be the standard-bearer at the slot receiver position as he's excelled in that role for a number of years. Outcasts from other teams, both Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola turned into valuable weapons throughout the 2016 campaign. And after trading for the young and impressive Brandin Cooks, the Patriots are the definition of the saying, "the rich get richer." They may not be big in size, but their talents are as impressive as it gets.
2 Worst — Chicago Bears (White, Wright, Meredith, Wheaton)
Similar to the Los Angeles Rams, the Chicago Bears have two inexperienced quarterbacks on the roster as Mike Glennon has been largely relegated to backup duties throughout his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while Mitchell Trubisky was their first-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. But no matter who wins the competition out of Training Camp, they won't have many options to throw to in 2017.
Similar to Breshad Perriman, Kevin White has the ability to be a top receiver but can't stay on the field. Although Alshon Jeffery jettisoned out of town, the organization failed to bring in any reinforcements, as Cameron Meredith, Markus Wheaton, and Kendall Wright follow him on the depth chart. Not only does that group fail to impress but it's easy to say they're the worst crop of wide receivers on any NFL roster.
1 Best — New York Giants (OBJ, Marshall, Shepard)
After speaking about the worst, now let's focus on the best. Throughout their most recent runs to the Super Bowl, the New York Giants were seen as a team predicated on tough football, as defense and a strong running game were their focal points. But once Ben McAdoo came to town, the passing game took precedence over everything — and in 2017, they'll have their best group of receivers the organization has ever seen.
Odell Beckham Jr. is not so arguably the top wide receiver in the NFL, as he can do anything on the field. Sterling Shepard burst onto the scene in his rookie campaign last season and looks to be one of the top players in the slot for years to come. In what can only be seen as greed, the Giants went out and signed Brandon Marshall who adds a big body to the roster while also making him possibly the best number two receiver in the game. The offensive line may still be a question mark but Eli Manning has plenty of weapons to excel in 2017.
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