The NFL has evolved into a pass-heavy league over the last decade. Most teams in the league want to have more than one effective receiving option, and a lot of time and resources are spent on these most important skill players. Sometimes however, it doesn’t end up working out. For every great wide receiver in the NFL right now (and there are arguably more than there ever has been at any one time in history), there is one that doesn’t do much on the field to inspire confidence. Yet with the emphasis being on the passing game today, these underwhelming players still have a starting role on their team, and see the field regularly.
So, out of the wide receivers in the league right now, who really is the worst of the worst? While we’re all aware of the playmakers at the position, it’s also important to recognize who isn’t getting it done. These receivers could be on the chopping block soon, because they’ve proven to be a detriment to the offense that they play in. Let’s take a look at some of the league’s most frustratingly bad pass-catchers.
Ranked below are the 15 worst wide receivers in the NFL today.
15. Jermaine Kearse
While his stats are inflated because he plays on a Jets offense that is completely devoid of weapons, Kearse really isn’t very good when it comes down to it. He has speed, no doubt about it, but he isn’t as polished a receiver as many would have hoped. So while he’ll rack up some decent numbers this year as a result of being the Jets’ de facto number one receiver, he’s just a generic burner with the ability to do little else but stretch the field.
Of course, New York will take that, as they really have no room to complain. The Jets’ offense is a mess right now, and Kearse is actually better than most of the other options at their disposal. At least for this year, Kearse will remain a starter on an NFL roster, but that’s going to be a question mark going forward.
14. Torrey Smith
The jury is still out on whether or not Smith can still be a productive NFL receiver. Once very solid while with the Ravens, he struggled heavily with the 49ers over the past few seasons. Early returns with the Eagles this year have been few and far between, and it looks right now like he’ll mainly be used as a field-stretcher who can open up for routes underneath.
The most likely outcome is that Smith is on the downturn of his career, and that he’ll never match his production from his days in Baltimore. The Eagles need to get younger at wide receiver, and provide a compliment to Alshon Jeffery in the form of a more dynamic receiver who can be a go-to target for Carson Wentz over the long haul. Smith won’t get it done if the Eagles are forced to rely on him as a starter past this season.
13. Devin Funchess
The Panthers had high hopes for Funchess when they took him in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft, but he hasn’t lived up to expectations at all. His numbers are nothing more than pedestrian, and he’s never been a top target for Cam Newton in the Carolina offense. It remains to be seen if a change of scenery could help his game at all, but for right now the safe assumption is that it wouldn’t have much of an effect.
So Funchess will likely play out his rookie deal with the Panthers, and then hit the free agent market when they don’t want to resign him. It’s hard to see him being a coveted pass-catching option, even though he’s somehow held onto a starting role in Carolina for the majority of his time there. That will be coming to an end, however.
12. Kendall Wright
While Wright may have done enough in his career to avoid the “bust” label, he still hasn’t been very consistent all things considered, and is a letdown overall, after being taken in the 1st round of the 2012 draft. Despite a good season or two in Tennessee, he wasn’t able to establish consistency, and now he’s getting a shot on a rebuilding Bears team.
Barring some kind of miraculous comeback season, it looks like Wright is going to be treading water in the league soon enough. The Bears are depleted at receiver right now, so Wright is able to maintain a starting job, but next season and onward, that will prove to be a much more difficult task for him. He needs a strong showing in 2017 to remain relevant.
11. Marquise Goodwin
As one of the fastest players in the league, nobody is ever going to question Goodwin’s speed. As a fully-formed receiver though, he’s less appealing. Apparently the 49ers wanted him, though, because they were successful in pursuing him in free agency this offseason, as the Bills let Goodwin walk. He’ll likely end up being a stopgap in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, but for now he’s on the starting roster.
Unfortunately, Goodwin just doesn’t have the size or skill set necessary to be a consistent NFL receiver. He can be used in a gadget role from time to time, but as a pure receiver he’s amongst the bottom of the barrel.
10. John Brown
For a short period of time, it looked like Brown was one of the best young receivers in football. His 2015 season was one of the better ones we’ve seen from a burner wide receiver in quite some time. It seemed as if the Cardinals had found the perfect compliment to Larry Fitzgerald, and that Brown would be a fixture in their passing game for the long-term.
Fast forward several years later, and the former 3rd-round pick is barely hanging onto a limited role in the Arizona offense. He still spends most of his time as a starter in a technical sense, but it seems as if Bruce Arians is favoring the more dynamic J.J. Nelson as the team’s primary deep threat. Brown just hasn’t been consistent when he’s been on the field in recent years, and now it’s starting to show up on the snap counts.
9. Chris Hogan
Don’t be fooled here. Hogan is a mediocre receiver playing in a great offensive system in New England. No doubt that he’ll get increased usage because of Julian Edelman’s season-ending injury that he suffered just before the season started. Hogan has proved that he has limited ability from his many years with the Bills, where he was never able to put it all together.
He had his moments with the Patriots last year, but Bill Belichick and Tom Brady can make any receiver look competent. For now, Hogan should be thanking his lucky stars that he’s able to play on such a good team, because if he was anywhere else, he probably wouldn’t even crack the starting roster. At the very least, he’s shown to be opportunistic when it matters most.
8. Robby Anderson
As mentioned, the Jets offense is in shambles right now, so it’s giving receivers who would otherwise be on the bench (if they were to make a roster at all) legitimate playing time. Anderson went undrafted before the 2016 season, and somehow he’s worked his way into a consistent role on the Jets offense over the past couple of seasons. That’s not saying much, because after the team lost Brandon Marshall, there were hardly, if any, consistent players in the passing game.
But really, he’s just a mediocre NFL talent, and will likely be gone once actual resources are expended on the position. The Jets are in a total rebuild mode, and unless Anderson is able to really pick it up as this season goes on, he’ll probably be on the fringes of the roster at best in 2018.
7. Chris Conley
Alex Smith’s apparent newfound risk-taking hasn’t helped Conley much at all this season. He’s a starting receiver in a system that doesn’t value playmakers on the outside of the field nearly as much as other ones. Conley is an abject disappointment after being selected in the 3rd-round of the 2015 draft. But he’s been able to keep a starting role because of the system that he plays in, not on merit alone.
There’s little chance that he’s resigned by the Chiefs when he’s off his rookie deal after the current season. Whether he gets picked up elsewhere is still a lingering question, as most teams expect actual production out of their wide receivers. Conley’s job is safe for now, but that won’t be a guarantee going forward.
6. Paul Richardson
Not even playing with Russell Wilson has been able to make Richardson into a productive player over his four years in the league. He’s been one of the most startlingly underwhelming players, and as a former 2nd-round pick, this has to be a major concern for the Seahawks. Richardson starts on a receiving corps that has lost some of its biggest contributors over the past couple of seasons. Other than Doug Baldwin, it’s not a very inspiring group.
So Richardson will continue to be on the field, but has little chance of becoming a key figure in the Seattle offense all of a sudden. He’s flatly unproductive, and his career has essentially been a bust up to this point.
5. Mohamed Sanu
It’s been an up-and-down carer so far for Sanu, who has found himself as a starter on the Falcons’ offense. His play wouldn’t be considered that bad, had he not garnered a pretty sizable contract from Atlanta that basically demands he be a consistent threat. However, the problem with Sanu is exactly that; there are games where he just completely disappears, not producing much at all.
Of course, with a receiving corps that has the likes of Julio Jones, Sanu won’t have to carry the full load. But it’s still less-than encouraging that he isn’t able to make an impact, sometimes for games at a time. Sanu isn’t as outright bad as he is overpaid, and streaky as a player in an offense that thrives off of being dynamic.
4. Mike Wallace
If Wallace played as the “good” version of himself every week, he’d be an upper-tier receiver all day long. However, issues with taking plays off, careless mistakes, and a general lack of consistency have plagued Wallace for most of his career up to this point. He can put up some pretty decent counting stats, but they don’t really tell the full story.
There’s a reason why a seemingly productive receiver like Wallace has been on three different teams during his career, and never been resigned to a new contract by an incumbent team. It’s because he’s unreliable in big situations, and doesn’t always give full effort. Ultimately, he’s a player who appears to be better than he really is.
3. Josh Doctson
The Redskins may have a 1st-round bust on their hands with Doctson, who hasn’t lived up to his potential thus far in the NFL. This year, he’s getting full opportunity to start, and he’s been largely anonymous for the start of this season. He’s either not getting open, or he’s not a featured part of the gameplan. Either way, not ideal for a player that had such a valuable resource invested into him.
Doctson may not be holding on to the starting job for very long. He simply isn’t producing, and in a pass-heavy offense like Washington, that’s not going to get it done. Consider him to be on a short leash moving forward. For now, he’s just a very underwhelming starter.
2. Nelson Agholor
Here’s another tale of a former 1st-round pick not living up to expectations. Agholor has been nothing short of horrific during his two seasons in Philly thus far. With the departure of Jordan Matthews, he occupies the starting slot receiver role for the Eagles right now, and there’s been streaky play in the early going of this season. Nothing much has changed, and Agholor remains inconsistent at his very best.
No telling what will become of him after the season. Philly could move on from him if they really wanted to, but the team now needs a consistent slot receiver, so they may need to give Agholor more time to prove himself, in order to make sure they aren’t giving up an in-house solution. For now however, Agholor only projects to be a disappointing receiver, and a poor use of a 1st-round pick.
1. Kenny Stills
Almost miraculously, Stills has been able to convince everyone that he really is a good receiver, and not just a generic deep threat who happens to play on very good offenses. Starting his career with the Saints, he had the assistance of playing with Drew Brees and a great cast of skill players around him to occupy the defense’s attention. It’s more of the same in Miami, and Stills takes advantage of playing with upper-tier offensive personnel.
It’s difficult to estimate how good he’ll be with Jay Cutler under center for the Dolphins now, but like always, he’ll likely slip behind the defense’s busted coverage at times for an easy touchdown. While Stills is very good at stretching the field, he only works in an offense that has other players do most of the heavy lifting. This ha caused him to be overrated in recent years, with many people giving him more credit than he actually deserves.
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