Whether old-school fans like it or not, football today is a passing game more than a running game. Of course, teams with great running backs make a lot of use of them in tight spots and to open up opportunities for play actions, but all we need to do is look where the money is, and it becomes easy to figure out that the quarterback is more than ever the heart of a football team.
Taking that into account, football fans of teams that don’t have franchise quarterbacks usually spend their summers hoping that their team will either sign a great quarterback or get their hands on a great prospect. But with all the lights on the quarterbacks, some people forget that no matter how good a guy is at passing the ball, if you don’t have the right receiving corps to make the quarterback shine, you are going to be doomed to the same place year after year. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck and even Aaron Rodgers need to have some talent out wide so they can show off their passing skills to the world.
In respect to those receiving corps and the attention they should get every summer, we have separated a list with the top eight NFL wide receivers who will catch for more than 1,000 yards with their new team, and seven who will not reach that mark. And remember that no matter how good a running back or a quarterback your team might have, these here are some of the guys who could make a difference between taking your team to the Super Bowl or blemishing the legacy of a superstar quarterback.
15. Will: Terrelle Pryor – Washington Redskins
This guy took a page straight out of the Julian Edelman handbook on how to go from being a quarterback to become a star wide receiver. After failing as a quarterback in Oakland, Pryor did the same thing as Edelman and became a wide receiver. Little did anybody know how good he would become. In one season as a starter in Cleveland, this guy was targeted 140 times, had a catch percentage of 55 percent and tallied 1,007 receiving yards.
All of those numbers happened while Pryor was playing in Cleveland. Just try to imagine what this guy is going to do if he manages to come out of the Washington Redskins’ training camp as a top receiving option for Kirk Cousins. We can’t wait to see what next season has in store for this guy.
14. Won’t: Markus Wheaton – Chicago Bears
Markus Wheaton is a good wide receiver, but don’t expect much more from him. With guys like Victor Cruz, Cameron Meredith and Kevin White all ahead of him in the pecking order, Wheaton will most likely be used as a slot receiver, which will do him no wonders in the department of trying to reach 1,000 yards in a season. At just 26 years old, he had a couple of good seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he still seems far from being a number one option wide receiver.
Nevertheless, he seems to be worth good money for the Bears since they signed him to a two-year contract worth $11 million. Then again, until training camp, you can never guess if this could be a guy to fit in well with rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky out of North Carolina.
13. Will: Alshon Jeffery – Philadelphia Eagles
If anything would surprise us here, it would be if Alshon Jeffery didn’t reach 1,000 yards in this next season with the Philadelphia Eagles. This is a guy who in five seasons with the Chicago Bears, aside from his rookie season, was always on pace to surpass the 1,000 yard per season mark. He reached that milestone twice in 2013 and 2014. As a matter fact, in 2013 he finished this season with 1,421 yards. The only problem here is that over the past two seasons Jeffery has not played all 16 games in either of them.
But fresh air from Philadelphia could be what this 27-year-old receiver out of South Carolina needs. Of course, the $9.5 million contract he signed for the 2017 season also won’t hurt.
12. Won’t: Robert Woods – Los Angeles Rams
Robert Woods was a pretty good receiver in Buffalo. He spent most of his four seasons with the Bills as a starter but was still pretty far from reaching the 1,000 yard milestone in a season. The closest he ever got was in 2014 when he started 15 out of the 16 games for the Bills and finished the year with 699 receiving yards.
Now, he signed a five-year contract worth $34 million with the Los Angeles Rams to be a starter and perhaps even a star receiver next to Tavon Austin. Still, it is pretty tough to imagine that he will manage to reach 1,000 yards having to share targets with Austin and also considering that the one throwing the passes to these two will most likely be 23-year-old Jared Goff.
11. Will: Kamar Aiken – Indianapolis Colts
Kamar Aiken has been steadily improving during his five-year career in the NFL. What this guy needs is a chance to show what he’s got. Just take a look at how his 2015 season with the Baltimore Ravens went when he was given an opportunity to be a starter. Aiken finished this season with 944 yards and five touchdowns with a catch rate of 59.1 percent, which is not that bad considering that Donte Moncrief, the guy with whom he will be competing for a starting spot in Indianapolis, finished last season with a 53.6 percent catch rate with Andrew Luck as his quarterback.
We will need to wait and see how the Colts’ training camp goes, but if Aiken manages to earn the right to start alongside TY Hilton, he could very well tally more than 1,000 yards this season. Remember, his quarterback will be Andrew Luck.
10. Won’t: Kenny Britt – Cleveland Browns
After eight seasons in the league, just last year Kenny Britt finally managed to surpass the 1,000 yards in a season mark. Unfortunately for him, it is tough to imagine him being able to repeat last year’s feat once he starts wearing a Cleveland Browns uniform. He will be a starter; there is little doubt about that considering the Browns signed him to a four-year contract worth $32.5 million. The problem for Britt will be that he is going to be the center of attention for any defense playing against the Browns next season. The other likely starter in Cleveland is sophomore Cory Coleman, who in his rookie season managed to pull in just 45.2 percent of the passes targeted for him. So yeah, the money is good, but life is not going to be easy for Kenny Britt in Cleveland.
9. Will: DeSean Jackson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DeSean Jackson is a great wide receiver. It doesn’t matter how much people try to hate on this guy, he is a performer, and he has got the numbers to prove his worth. In nine years in the league, Jackson has put up more than 1,000 receiving yards in five different seasons, including his last season with the Washington Redskins. Tampa Bay certainly agrees with our definition of Jackson, as they just signed him to a three-year contract worth $33.5 million.
The thing is that Jackson might be a perfect fit for these young Bucs. Jameis Winston is still improving, and despite the 18 interceptions he threw last season, he has become more accurate and led his team to a winning record. With these two combined with Mike Evans on the other side, who by the way has tallied more than 1,000 receiving yards in all of his three seasons in the NFL, the Buccaneers could surprise a lot of people this year. But one of the surprises won’t be Jackson putting up 1,000 receiving yards because that is already a given.
8. Won’t: Russell Shepard – Carolina Panthers
Shepard is a guy who has been steadily improving since he arrived in the league. Even as a backup option, 2016 was his best year yet with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as he managed to receive for 341 yards and score a pair of touchdowns with a catch percentage of 57.5 percent. Still, as humble as those numbers seem they were enough to prompt the Carolina Panthers to offer this guy a three-year deal worth $10 million.
First, we have to see how training camp will go in Carolina, but if he manages to compete well in comparison to Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess, Shepard should get more touches than he did in Tampa Bay. However, it probably won’t be enough for him to reach 1,000 yards.
7. Will: Michael Floyd – Minnesota Vikings
This is a pretty big gamble we are willing to take. With guys like Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen fighting for a spot in the Minnesota Vikings’ starting lineup, it will be no walk in the park for Michael Floyd to earn the starting gig. It will all come down to what happens during training camp. But if Floyd can prove he can be a consistent performer and catch the passes of whoever comes out on top of was seems like will be an exciting battle for the starting quarterback spot in Minnesota, he will be halfway towards the goal of reaching 1000 receiving yards.
Even with the departure of Adrian Peterson, Minnesota’s offense is packed with young talent especially in the wide receiver position. So even though he would often be the focal point for defenses, Floyd would still have enough freedom to be the playmaker the Vikings hope he will be.
6. Won’t: Andre Roberts – Atlanta Falcons
Playing last season with the Lions wasn’t easy for Andre Roberts. Even though he played all 16 games, Roberts was only targeted 25 times and caught for 188 yards. Despite that bad year, he had a few good seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and even the Washington Redskins. At least the Falcons think he’s good enough to pay him $1.8 million for next season. So the question will be how high he’s going to be able to get within Atlanta’s receiving corps.
The number one spot is out of the question since Julio Jones is there, but there is no reason to believe Roberts wouldn’t be able to compete with Mohammed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel for the number two spot in the Falcons’ offense. Still, with that much depth on the team, it is hard imagining anybody other than Jones receiving for more than 1,000 yards.
5. Will: Brandon Marshall – New York Giants
The New York Giants signed Brandon Marshall to be the guy to take away some of the weight off Odell Beckham Jr.’s back. It is crazy to imagine that a 24-year-old kid managed to survive in the NFL while being targeted 169 times, but somehow Odell managed to do just that surviving all the hits that came with those receptions and still scored 10 touchdowns to go along with 1367 receiving yards. But if that went on for much longer, there is no telling how long this kid’s career would last. Then enters Brandon Marshall.
Marshall is one of the most reliable receivers in the league and has already eight seasons of more than 1,000 yards on his resume. Put all that together with his vast experience in the NFL, and he is the perfect guy to draw defenses away while making plays and opening up opportunities for Beckham.
4. Won’t: Torrey Smith – Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia’s quarterback Carson Wentz is young, but he is good. With a talent like him on the roster last season, the Eagles realized they were missing weapons that would allow this kid to show what he’s got. And that is just what they did this summer, by acquiring Torrey Smith along with Alshon Jeffery. While we talked about Jeffery, the argument for Smith is a bit different. He will provide Wentz and the Eagles with a vertical threat they needed so much last season. The problem is that his catching percentage went down dramatically last season with San Francisco. Smith finished last season only catching 40.8 percent of the passes targeted at him.
Hopefully, for Philly fans, he will prove us wrong and put up way more than 1,000 yards, but in order to do that with a young quarterback, he will need to be a lot more consistent in catching those deep balls.
3. Will: Ted Ginn Jr. – New Orleans Saints
He has been in the NFL for a decade, but the time has finally come for Ted Ginn Jr. to reach the milestone of 1,000 yards in one season. The reason for that? Well, he is going to be receiving passes from none other than Drew Brees.
It is almost scary how powerful the Saints offense is on paper. With Drew Brees under center, Adrian Peterson at the running back spot, and Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn out wide, defenses are not going to know what to do half of the time. Just last season Brees put up more than 5,200 yards with a weaker offense. Would anyone dare claim that both of his starting wide receivers will not reach 1,000 receiving yards? That is just crazy talk.
2. Won’t: Pierre Garcon – San Francisco 49ers
Pierre Garcon is not only a great wide receiver; he is an extremely reliable one. Just last season with the Washington Redskins, he caught 69.3 percent of the passes that were thrown his way and tallied 1,041 yards for the season. It was good enough to get him a five-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers worth $47.5 million.
With all those factors added up, it would be easy to believe that Garcon was bound for another season with more than 1,000 receiving yards. The only problem with this assumption is that his starting quarterback will most likely be Brian Hoyer, who is not even close to being a reliable quarterback. Don’t get us wrong, he could do it, but Garcon will need a good deal of luck to go along with some amazing catches to reach 1,000 this year.
1. Will: Victor Cruz – Chicago Bears
No signing should have Chicago Bears’ fans as excited as when the team announced Victor Cruz was coming to town. This has all the traits of a redemption story. A team that has hit rock bottom and finished last season with a 3-13 record and a receiver who started his career with all the hype in the world, but who has been slowing down over the past few years. Put that together with the possibility of a rookie quarterback quickly becoming a starter in Mitchell Trubisky, and we have all the ingredients for a great movie. All that is left to do is for these guys to go on the field and prove to the world that the Bears are back.
But in all seriousness, it will depend a lot on who takes the starting quarterback job, but we should all be damned if Victor Cruz is not going to come into this season as hungry as he was when he was 25 years old and tallied 1,536 receiving yards with the New York Giants.
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