When it’s all said and done, Tom Brady may very well go down as the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. His career isn’t just filled with unbelievable stats and incredible performances; it’s loaded with those little moments that tend to separate the great players from the legendary ones. The truly remarkable thing about the career of Tom Brady is that he’s managed to put together a Hall of Fame resume with the help of very few Hall of Fame receivers. Bill Belichick’s style of coaching and team building means that the Patriots rarely go out of their way to make those big name acquisitions most fans beg to see in the offseason.
While Brady would no doubt love to add a select few big name receivers to his arsenal, the years of working under Belichick’s regime has earned him a reputation as a quarterback that loves to work with a specific type of receiver. Whether or not that reputation is completely earned or not, there’s no doubt that there’s a type of receiver that Brady wants to work with and a type that he doesn’t do well with at all. These are the top eight wide receivers Tom Brady would love to have and seven he would hate.
15 Love: Amari Cooper
This is actually a tougher call than you might think it would be. In short order, Amari Cooper has proven to be one of the top pure receiving talents in the NFL. Even when the Raiders are not at their best, Cooper is always good for an incredible play or two. That means that Tom Brady would love to have him, right? Well, probably.
Cooper’s talents would not go to waste should he jump ship to the New England Patriots, but it’s worth noting that many of the stats he accumulates are the result of him being the only show in town. There’s an argument to be made that he wouldn’t put up the same numbers on a Brady-led offense, but his overall talent would win the day here.
14 Hate: DeAndre Hopkins
DeAndre Hopkins is similar to Amari Cooper in a lot of ways. Both are obviously talented, both are young, and both boast some of the best big play abilities in the league. Yet, DeAndre Hopkins possesses some of the qualities that might slightly affect his compatibility with Brady. First off, he’s a bigger guy than Cooper is, but he doesn’t possess quite the same physical assertion that makes him a red zone nightmare. There’s also the matter of his numbers.
As impressive as DeAndre has been so far despite the fact that he hasn’t worked with a great QB, he’s largely been a yards monster that has only posted over 10 touchdowns and 100 receptions once. Again, Brady could drive those numbers up, but he’s not the kind of QB that’s just looking for someone to bomb the ball to.
13 Love: Jarvis Landry
Jarvis Landry is one of a few names on this list that might not immediately jump to mind when you think of the receivers that most quarterbacks would love to have. The important word there, of course, is most. Landry doesn’t enjoy quite the same level of fame that certain receivers do, but his numbers don’t lie. He’s the kind of receiver that will almost always make that big play downfield at some point in the game, but his specialty is maximizing the targets he does get.
With 603 yards after the catch and an impressive 7.1 yards per catch this year alone, Landry is one of the few guys that can turn three catches anywhere on the field into a game-breaking performance. For a guy that loves to spread the ball like Brady does, Landry would be a godsend.
12 Hate: DeSean Jackson
Everything that applies to why Brady and Hopkins might not work can be applied to Brady and Jackson, then turned up to 11. Since he entered the league, DeSean Jackson has established a reputation as one of the fastest and most exciting players in the league. There are times when he jets down the field with such ease that make you swear he’s the best receiver in the league. He isn’t. The reason he isn’t is because Jackson needs that big play. He tends to either have a monster game or just disappear from the field entirely. There are receivers in the league who do that better than Jackson and Brady doesn’t really seem to gravitate towards that type of player, especially if they are not the best.
11 Love: Travis Kelce
The worst thing you can say about Travis Kelce is that he’s not Rob Gronkowski. For as much hate as the Kansas City Chiefs receive for being a “boring” team with a “nonexistent” offense, they’ve quietly rostered the second best tight end in the league for years now. Kelce is not only a 100 + reception annual contender, but he has been known to make the big play even if it isn’t necessarily his style. If push came to shove, you could call him a mini-Gronk, even though the two do have slightly different skill sets. The fact that you would even compare him to Gronk who, in case you didn’t know, has become one of Brady favorite receivers ever really does sell just how fruitful this relationship would be.
10 Hate: Brandin Cooks
Brandin Cooks is a very interesting receiver. Everyone thought that he would immediately become Drew Brees' favorite target when he was drafted by the Saints in 2014, but Cooks put up a real dud of a rookie outing in which he failed to eclipse 600 receiving yards. Things have been steadily improving since then, and we’re really all starting to get to see just what it is that made Saints fans so excited about this guy. That said, he’s a real do or die type receiver. Cooks tends to either give you a 150 yard game with three touchdowns or a 60 yard game with zero scores.
That inconsistency isn’t just a problem in the fantasy world, it’s a problem for a guy like Tom Brady that’s not going to give Cooks the same volume of passes that Brees does and needs to know he’s going to be making the most of all of them.
9 Love: Doug Baldwin
Doug Baldwin is the quietest beast in the league. Much like Kelce, his great misfortune is that he plays on a team that isn’t really known for their dynamic offense. It’s why some people are shocked to learn that Baldwin has amassed 92 catches, 1,084 yards, and seven touchdowns this season (through Week 16). He’s not a huge downfield threat, but he’s capable of running perfect routes across nearly every play type that you can dream up and is a near mortal lock to catch the ball if you can get it near him. Brady tends to gravitate towards receivers like this, but nobody on the current Patriots roster – with the exception of Gronk – comes even close to being able to do what Baldwin can do with that skillset.
8 Hate: Mike Evans
Mike Evans is a monster disguised as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' number one receiver. Just about everyone believed that he was going to be a great receiver, and Evans has spent every down of his young career proving those believers right. In 2016, he has amassed 1,200-plus yards, 11 touchdowns, and 91 receptions (through Week 16). From downfield bombs to clutch red zone tosses, the kid can catch anything.
There’s one number that jumps out as a negative, though, as it relates to a hypothetical relationship with Tom Brady. With only 182 yards after the catch, Evans is a guy that needs you to get him the ball where he is going to go down. That’s not a killer, but it would mean that Brady would need to adjust his game to focus on Evans.
7 Love: T.Y. Hilton
T.Y. Hilton isn’t just the stealth pick of fantasy football experts who want to wait a few picks before selecting their number one receiver; he’s rapidly becoming one of the most dangerous forces in the league. Since his rookie season, Hilton has eclipsed over 1,000 yards each year and is currently enjoying his greatest season yet. The thing that’s most impressive about Hilton, and the quality that would make him an ideal part of the Patriots’ offense, is his versatility. When Andrew Luck needs someone to take over and exploit a weak corner, T.Y. Hilton is that guy. When Luck needs someone to open up the middle of the field by snagging 10 catches, Hilton is that guy. He’s not just an ideal receiver for Brady; he’s an ideal receiver for everyone.
6 Hate: Demaryius Thomas
Demaryius Thomas is, admittedly, a controversial choice for this list. On the surface, there’s nothing about him that necessarily jumps out as a deal breaker in regards to how he may get along with Tom Brady. In fact, Thomas’ ability to flourish with Peyton Manning under center seems to form a pretty good argument that he would continue to do the same under a Brady administration.
Brady and Manning are not the same quarterback, though. Brady is a guy that likes to get his 400 yards by finding the open man while Manning will enable his most talented weapons to force the issue. Thomas is also a little more prone to fumbling than your average star receiver, and he doesn’t possess the same game breaking ability that some of the league’s best do.
5 Love: Antonio Brown
It feels like we have to constantly remind ourselves how great Antonio Brown is. Just when you think that Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite receiver has had a career year, he comes out and has a season like this one in which he either leads or almost leads in every meaningful statistical category. Do you know what the most impressive part about Antonio Brown’s game is, though? It’s that you have to remind yourself every year that he is that good because Brown prefers to simply leave it all on the field. He has the 'play first, talk never' attitude that have made the Patriots the franchise that they have been under the quarterback leadership of Tom Brady. If Brady had a guy like Brown, he might never lose another game.
4 Hate: Julio Jones
Julio Jones is arguably the greatest receiver in the National Football League. If you’ve only ever watched the guy’s highlight videos, you’re missing out on one of the most entertaining complete shows in the NFL. As the centerpiece of the prolific Atlanta Falcons’ passing attack, Jones has managed to destroy nearly every team he has come across. How would he do as the star receiver of the New England Patriots, though? Opinions will vary on the subject, but a glance at Jones’ numbers reveals that he is a big catch guy. Randy Moss proved that a big catch guy can work on the Patriots, and Jones is on Moss’ level at the moment, but as Chad Johnson proved, not every big play receiver is immediately a match for Tom Brady. Brady might need to feed the beast a little too much for Jones to work as well on the Patriots.
3 Love: Jordy Nelson
Jordy Nelson is a New England Patriot that plays on the Green Bay Packers. The Green Bay Packers, under the reign of Aaron Rodgers, have successfully emulated the “wear ‘em down” style of offense that Brady has perfected. Aaron Rodgers isn’t afraid to light you up if you let him, but he’d rather wear your confidence down to a nub by completing 8-12 yard passes all night. Nelson is the ultimate tool in such an offense. You simply have to account for his ability to catch the ball anywhere on the field which drives defenses nuts because they have to stretch themselves so thin just to put up a fight. Even then, Nelson is talented enough to break even the best of coverages. If Green Bay is ever stupid enough to let him go while Brady is still in the league, he is New England bound.
2 Hate: Odell Beckham Jr.
The next person to deny the skills of Odell Beckham Jr. will be the first. Beckham is closer to a custom created video game character than he is an actual football player. He’s the NFL’s human highlight reel and the one player that a coach would triple team on any given night just to pay him the respect that he deserves. There’s no way Tom Brady would ever be able to work with him, though.
While Beckham isn’t quite as big of a diva receiver as some of the receivers that have preceded him, he can still be a bit of a pain from time to time. If Beckham’s frustrations always came from a desire to win, there’s a possibility that Brady could overlook them. That’s not the case, though.
1 Love: Larry Fitzgerald
For some time now, fans have speculated whether or not Larry Fitzgerald will decide to end his career as a member of the New England Patriots. The idea is that Fitzgerald has given his time, skills, and body to the Arizona Cardinals and deserves to win a championship at some point in his career. While there’s no better place than New England to get that done, many also recognize that Larry Fitzgerald is the prototypical star New England receiver. He’s never selfish, he runs perfect routes, he can still separate himself from the league’s best corners, and somehow, he’s always open in the endzone.
When Fitzgerald isn’t doing crazy things with the football in the air, he’s finding a way to contribute to the play in some other way. In another life, he would have been Brady’s career best friend.