There’s nothing that will kill an NFL fan’s excitement than a great quarterback, a great running game, and then a receiver that can’t catch a cold. Some receivers don’t understand how to run their routes, and others simply have bricks for hands. Take Terrell Owens for example. Many people will view him as an electric play-maker who made defensive backs look silly, but what they forget is his history of dropped passes.Now, this is most likely because Owens was targeted a lot, so what else can we judge a receiver on?
Besides drops, we can look at receptions compared to targets, yards after catch (YAC), touchdowns, and their amount of “big plays.”
The NFL has evolved into a much different league in the new millennium. While a great running game and defense used to be enough to win a Super Bowl, it’s gotten harder and harder to win if you can’t make plays down the field. With all the rule changes in the NFL, the passing game has more opportunities to thrive, so you’d better make it count as an offense.
That being said, we will take a look at the worst starting NFL receiver every season since the year 2000. You may think these are just subjective, but really look at the stats, and let us know your opinion. We should also point out that we won’t merely be looking at receivers with the lowest stats, as some landed on this list more for their incredibly disappointing seasons rather than just being perennially bad.
18. 2000: Terance Mathis
Mathis may have been an All-Pro in his early years, but late in his career, he was on the decline. At the time, he held the record for most receptions by an Atlanta Falcon. He’s second in receiving touchdowns in Atlanta history with 57, and third in receiving yards. But the 2000 season would be his penultimate season as a dirty bird, and the worst season of his career.
The sixth-rounder reeled in less than half his targets, and only had 57 receptions for 679 yards and 5 TDs. This was clearly a huge letdown from his previous four 1,000-yard seasons. Not to mention, Mathis had 11 drops that year. While he may be one of the best Falcons receivers of all-time, he was one of the worst receivers of the 2000 season.
17. 2001: Jeff Graham
Graham’s worst year in the NFL was his last, in 2001, with the San Diego Chargers. The former Ohio State Buckeye reeled in 52 catches for 811 yards and 5 TDs. While that stat looks decent, it’s not conducive of what Graham was capable of performing. The previous two years in sunny southern California, Graham had over 900 yards receiving, and played a pivotal role in the offense. But in the 2001 season, he dropped the ball 14 times, leading the league, in what would end up being his final season in the NFL. Maybe if San Diego held on to their first-overall pick in the draft, and took Mike Vick, Graham would have an electric quarterback to throw to him more. But, they traded the top pick away to Atlanta, and the Chargers finished the season 5-11.
16. 2002: David Boston
David Boston was a speedy receiver who was taken with the 8th overall pick in 1999 by the Arizona Cardinals. The former Ohio State Buckeye played extremely well in his first three-years, gaining over 1,000-yards receiving. But, in 2002, Boston had a down year, and is named our worst receiver of the season.
Coming off a Pro Bowl, Boston only played in eight games in 2002, but still ended up dropping 10 passes. Arizona did not re-sign him the following year, and the Chargers picked him up, then he was traded to the Dolphins after he got in a spat with San Diego’s strength and conditioning coach. After some more off the field issues, including testing positive for steroids, and getting a DUI, Boston was out of the league in 2007.
15. 2003: Az-Zahir Hakim
At first, I felt a little guilty throwing Hakim on this list. He was an integral member of the “Greatest Show on Turf,” being the third-option on the outside behind Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. But, come to find out, in nine seasons in the NFL, Hakim never had more than 750 yards receiving, and was actually pretty mediocre. After his short stint with the Rams, the ex-San Diego State Aztec joined the Detroit Lions, where the spotlight would hopefully shine on him. But, in his second season in Motor City, Hakim only caught 49 balls for 449 yards, and 4 TDs. While he did miss the first two first games of the season coming off knee surgery, maybe it just slowed him down a bit. He was always electric in the return game, but he truly was the worst starting receiver in 2003.
14. 2004: Koren Robinson
Robinson’s story isn’t as much about stats, but more about wasted talent. The Seahawks drafted the North Carolina State receiver with the 9th-overall pick in 2001, and coach Mike Holmgren had high hopes for him. In Robinson’s second season, he put up great numbers, amassing 1,240 yards. But, then came the downfall.
Robinson’s numbers continued to decline, and in 2004, he only played in eight games, gaining less than 500 yards, and dropping 10 balls. Seattle released Robinson that season for violating the NFL substance abuse policy multiple times. Mike Holmgren said he cried when they released Robinson, but knew it had to be done, since he was given so many chances. What a waste of talent and we can now say that Robinson was the worst receiver of the 2004 season.
13. 2005: Greg Lewis
Lewis’s best season, 2005, is also where we rank him the worst. The undrafted free agent out of the University of Illinois slowly worked his way into the Eagles rotation in his first few years in the league. His big moment came in Super Bowl XXXIX, when he caught a 30-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to bring the Eagles within three points. Still, to this day, Lewis is the only Philadelphia receiver that has caught a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
Maybe that catch in the Super Bowl put too many expectations on Lewis the next season. While he had over 100 targets, he only snagged 48 balls for 561 yards for one touchdown. Philadelphia went from Super Bowl contenders, to bottom of the NFC East with a 6-10 record. So much promise, but so much disappointment, sounds typical for a Philadelphia sports team!
12. 2006: Troy Williamson
Remember kids, speed kills, but it’s not everything in the NFL. After Minnesota traded future Hall of Fame receiver, Randy Moss, to the Oakland Raiders in 2004, the Vikings were looking for a deep threat that could take the top of the defense. In 2005, they selected the speedster, Troy Williamson, out the University of South Carolina, with the seventh-overall pick after he ran a 4.32-sec 40-yard dash in the combine.
But, Minnesota realized that although Williamson could get wide open, he couldn’t catch the ball! Later on, he admitted that he had problems with his depth perception, and that’s why he dropped the ball so much. In 2006, he had 37 receptions for 455 yards and no touchdowns. On top of all that, he had 11 drops. Imagine that, for every three catches, he had a drop, and that is why he was the worst starting receiver in 2006.
11. 2007: Darrell Jackson
Jackson had a hell of a career with the Seattle Seahawks. He put up three 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and was integral part of the Seattle’s offense. But, towards the end of his career, “D-Jack” started to lose some of his speed, and was dropping more balls down field. The Seahawks decided to part ways with the former Florida Gator receiver prior to the 2007 season, and received a fourth-round draft pick in return.
With the 49ers, Jackson only caught 46 balls for 497 yards and three touchdowns. While they probably didn’t expect the veteran to perform more than that, it had to be disappointing to watch. Actually, it was so bad, San Francisco put Jackson on waivers that year. Denver claimed him and he only played one more year in the league.
10. 2008: Rashied Davis
Davis has a pretty awesome story about his journey to the NFL. The San Jose State receiver never got much love from the NFL, and joined the Arena Football League with the San Jose SaberCats. After the 2005 AFL season, Davis tried to broaden his horizons and decided to join the NFL. Both local teams, Oakland and San Francisco, passed on Davis, but he was eventually picked up by the Chicago Bears, where he was converted from cornerback to receiver.
He had his best season in 2008, reeling in 35 catches for 445 yards, and two touchdowns. While he wasn’t a full-time starter, and mostly contributed on special teams, Davis wasn’t cut out to be in the NFL. The former AFL champion fizzled out of the league in the next few years, but definitely has a great story to tell!
9. 2009: Ted Ginn Jr.
When it comes to return men, Ginn is one of the best in the game, and that’s probably why he’s still in the league. But when it comes to being a receiver, despite having 4.3-sec speed, Ginn has struggled with actually catching the ball. In his season as worst starting receiver in the NFL, Ginn was tied for fourth in the league in drops with 9, all on only 78 targets. That year, he ended up with 38 receptions for 454 yards and 1 TD (not including special teams). The following season, Miami traded the former Ohio State Buckeye to the San Francisco 49ers.
After bouncing around the league, Ginn found a resurgence in Carolina in the 2015 and 2016 seasons, amassing over 700 yards each year. This year, he’s on the Saints and contributing greatly from the slot position.
8. 2010: Brandon LaFell
To be fair to all you fact-checkers, yes, LaFell only started in two games his rookie year, but you know the craziness of NFL formations. Sometimes stars don’t get a start because a team will come out in a heavy formation to open the game. Ignore that fact, and take a look at LaFell’s numbers in his freshmen campaign in the NFL. He had 38 catches for 468 yards and one TD. Now, you can’t expect much more than that from a third-round pick, but he did have seven drops and no 100+ yards games. Therefore, he was consistently mediocre, and makes our worst receiver of the 2010 season.
After a short stint in New England, LaFell made his way to Cincinnati to complement Pro-Bowler A.J. Green. He has yet to record a 1,000-yard season, but has come close. Maybe if he keeps working at it and Andy Dalton decides to throw a little more accurately, LaFell could pull it off by the end of his career.
7. 2011: Greg Little
It must be bittersweet for a college player to get that phone call on draft day from the Browns. Of course, you’re excited to make money and get to the next level, but then again, you have to play for Cleveland. Reports have even come out that top QB prospect, USC’s Sam Darnold, might even stay an extra year in college if Cleveland has the top pick. That all being said, I think Little fell into this trap.
The Browns took the former North Carolian Tarheel in the second-round in 2011, and he starting contributing right away. While he was the worst starting receiver in the NFL, he still reeled in 61 catches on 119 Targets for 709 yards and 2 TDs. Actually, he finished second among rookies in catches behind A.J. Green. But, sadly, this would be Little’s best season, and the Browns released him in 2014. You have to wonder what could have been if he was on a different team.
6. 2012: T.J. Graham
I understand that we keep throwing rookies in to the “worst receiver of the season” category, but NFL teams shouldn’t just thrust them out there into a starting role every year. Take T.J. Graham for example. Buffalo used their third-round pick to take the speedster out of NC State. He ended up starting 11 games in 2012, hauling in 31 balls for 322 yards and one TD. The problem is that he had a high number of drops (seven) and had zero games of 100-yards. Again, consistently mediocre.
After two years, the Bills decided to part ways with Graham, and he has never found his footing anywhere else in the league. Maybe if Buffalo developed their talent, instead of throwing them into the fire, they would have won at least one playoff game in the past eighteen years!
5. 2013: Darrius Heyward-Bey
Heyward-Bey had tons of promise coming out of college, and was taken with seventh overall pick of the 2009 draft by the Oakland Raiders. Despite a slow start to his career, Heyward-Bey had a breakout season in 2011, almost reaching 1,000-yard and crossing the goal line four times. Unfortunately, the Raiders released him in the 2013 offseason.
So, where would be a good place for the veteran receiver to land? Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, and GM Ryan Grigson, decided to bring in Heyward-Bey on a one-year contract to give Andrew Luck some help on the outside. That wasn’t the case, and Heyward-Bey only reeled in 29 balls on 64 targets, for 309 yards and one touchdown. The former Maryland Terrapin moved on to the Steelers the following year, but was definitely the worst receiver of the 2013 season.
4. 2014: Riley Cooper
Aside from the racist slurs (which we will get into), Cooper had a decent NFL career. He became one of the top targets in Philadelphia during his tenure with the Eagles, but had a down year in 2014. Despite going for over 800 yards and 8 TDs the previous year, Cooper only brought in 55 balls for 577 yards and 3 TDs in the 2014 season.
Now, maybe that’s because he lost a step, but we have a different theory. Since Cooper decided to yell, “I will jump that fence and fight every n****r here” at a Kenny Chesney concert, every cornerback held a grudge and played better against him. It makes complete sense, shut down the racist receiver! Either way, Cooper was the worst starting receiver of 2014.
3. 2015: Brian Hartline
Homecoming for the Ohio State receiver did not turn out as planned. Hartline was killing it down in Miami, hauling in over 1,000-yards in the 2012 and 2013 season. While he had a down year in 2014, only pulling in 39 balls for 474 yards and two TDs, and injuring his PCL in the final game of the year, the Browns still took a chance on him. But like every Browns receiver before him, he did not get the production they anticipated, mainly due to spotty quarterback play.
The Ohio native only started in four games, but played in 12, and accumulated just over 500 yards in receiving. With a quarterback by committee of Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, Austin Davis and Pat Devlin, I think any receiver in Cleveland that year would have been the worst in the league. Unfortunately for Hartline, it was him.
2. 2016: Quincy Enunwa
The Jets looked like they couldn’t get any worse in 2016. Ryan Fitzpatrick fumbled his way out of a starting job, throwing interceptions left and right. Their backup, Bryce Petty, wasn’t much better. On top of all that, their second-round pick, Christian Hackenberg, was so bad in practice, that they wouldn’t even let him take a snap in a regular season game. New York finished with a record of 5-11, but the one bright spot of the season was their big bodied receiver, Quincy Enunwa.
The sixth-round pick out of the University of Nebraska put up over 800 yards and 4 TDs last year. So then why is he the worst receiver in the league? Well, he was all the Jets had, so they just launched it up to him all the time! He had over 100 targets, and despite the numbers, looked like there was room for improvement on the field.
1. 2017: Kenny Britt
Finally, we have made it the worst receiver of 2017, another Browns pass catcher, Kenny Britt. In the offseason, Cleveland signed the former Ram to a four-year, $32.5 million contract. He was supposed to bring veteran leadership into the locker room, and be the Browns top receiver for years to come. Boy, was Cleveland wrong!
So far this year, Britt is on pace for less than 400 receiving yards and less than five touchdowns. Now, some may blame the carousel of QBs that the Browns go through, but for Britt, it doesn’t matter. He has dropped several key passes so far this season and has given up on plays, showing little to no effort. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cleveland tried to deal him or cut him in the offseason.
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