Ranking Each of the 32 NFL Starting Wide Receiver Corps: From 32 to 1
Ranking Each of the 32 NFL Starting Wide Receiver Corps: From 32 to 1
The 2021 NFL draft was chock full of talent at the wide receiver position and maybe like never before. And the same could be said for big offseason trades involving big-name wideouts. But one thing is certain: the league has never valued top wide receivers more. Seemingly everyday teams are dishing out massive multi-year deals with guarantees well north of $50 million. To say the talk of the town is receivers would not be an over-exaggeration, even in a quarterback-driven league.
With that being said, now seems like the best time to rank and dig a bit into each team's wide receiver group heading into 2022. This involves weighing the fact that a team may or may not have a true number one, who the top two are, and if there's a third guy who slots into a slot or big-play role. There's also a nod to depth and the promise of those aforementioned rookies.
Let's venture together to see who comes out on top.
32. Atlanta Falcons
For purposes of this coming season, we'll set Calvin Ridley and his suspension to the side and consider what's left in Atlanta -- and the finding is that it's not much. Since realizing they would be without their young and budding star receiver, Atlanta added USC's Drake London with their first pick in the draft, but he joins a group (in addition to tight end Kyle Pitts) "headlined" by Auden Tate and Olamide Zaccheus. Zaccheus figures to be the de facto slot guy for Marcus Mariota and company for the simple fact that both London and Tate are prototypical boundary receivers at 6'5" apiece.
They're lacking someone with experience and production, not to mention the route-running precision, to be the go-to over the middle from the receiver position. Pitts might fill that role in part, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Mariota struggle given his unproven and inexperienced cast. While Tate didn't qualify given his low snap total last year, Zaccheus was 85th of 115 receivers in PFF grade. The void of a player like Ridley will be felt and is what ultimately lands them at the bottom of the list.
31. Chicago Bears
The Bears must be trying to sandbag the league on what Justin Fields could be one day. On top of allowing free agent linemen to depart and do little to fill the void, Chicago's done the bare minimum to supply Fields with talent in the receiving game. Allen Robinson also left in free agency, but Darnell Mooney's stuck around. But that's the gist of it.
Outside of Mooney, and his 74.7 PFF grade and 1,000-yard season a year ago, there's not much else. Velus Jones was a third-round selection that didn't boast an impressive profile, particularly for a 25-year-old rookie. He's joined by Equanimeous St. Brown, Dante Pettis, and Byron Pringle, all of whom had promising outlooks on draft night but failed to show they are capable of being anything better than the fourth or fifth guys on any team. It won't be hard for teams to focus Mooney and leave whoever lines opposite to single coverage.
30. Green Bay Packers
Aside from the exception that has been Davante Adams, the Packers have mainly left Aaron Rodgers to his own devices for some time. They've failed to bring in a true number-one or -two receiver through the draft, and with Adams now in Las Vegas, is there anyone that could step up for their Hall of Fame signal-caller? Doubtful.
The biggest thing the Packers did this offseason was draft North Dakota State's Christian Watson to bring in some fresh blood, but as this typically goes with Rodgers the youngster will have to earn his trust. The remainder of the receiver pool is made up of the recently signed Sammy Watkins, as well as Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and second-year player (first-year bust) Amari Rodgers. Among them, only ole reliable -- Cobb -- posted a PFF grade of 70 or more in 2021. A-Rodge will need to turn coal into diamonds once again.
29. Tennessee Titans
In case you've been living under a rock of late, the Titans shipped star wide receiver A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles on draft night. That means that, at least at first glance and by default, offseason acquisition Robert Woods and third-year player Nick Westbrook-Ikhine will serve as the top two receivers for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The third man in the rotation is projected to be rookie Treylon Burks.
The Arkansas product could very well be the team's second- or even most-productive pass-catcher by the time Week 5 or 6 comes around. He was a first-round pick and most recently turned 66 catches into more than 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final collegiate season. As for Westbrook-Ikhine, his 68 grade was 63rd among all receivers in 2021, as he was forced into duty with 38 catches and four touchdowns in place of an oft-injured Julio Jones. That's not bad for what figures to be a second option in a run-first offense, but at the top Woods' uncertainty is around his health. If he's not back in full form after the torn ACL he suffered back in November, it's tough to even imagine this receiving corps being better than the bottom two.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
Staying in the AFC South, the Jaguars might just be neck and neck with the Titans for the worst wide receiver group. Although they shook things up a little and added the likes of Christian Kirk and Zay Jones for oddly high amounts in free agency, Jacksonville -- also equipped with Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault -- is still not above the top five based on what we've seen from them to this point.
All four of the Jags' receivers were 42nd or worse, according to PFF's charting, for the 2021 season. In his time with the Cardinals, Kirk led the way with a stat line of 77 for 982 and 5. Zay was the lesser of the two Jones, finishing with fewer than 550 yards and only one touchdown to Marvin's 832 and four touchdowns. However, the latter was limited to a very inefficient 6.9 yards per target -- the lowest since his rookie year. And as for Shenault, he's merely an afterthought, for now, having acted as a big of a close-to-the-line-of-scrimmage gadget player with no more than 619 receiving yards through two seasons. Yet, there is an outside chance that the 23-year-old is used properly and breakouts under new coach Doug Pederson.
27. New England Patriots
For the most part, Bill Belichick and the Patriots have piecemealed together their receiving corps for the better part of 20-odd years. Since the departure of Tom Brady, the question is whether it's the chicken or the egg, or if we're getting down to it whether the receivers have played poorly or those meant to deliver them the ball has. Mac Jones will be back at quarterback for his second season, but will the receivers prove more productive? Most signs point to the negative.
Jakobi Meyers will return as the team's leading pass-catcher (with 83 receptions on 126 targets), after playing his way to the 33rd-best player grade at his position. Meyers will be re-joined by Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, as well as offseason add Devante Parker. Ranked 21st in 2021, Bourne will again be a nice complementary component, but Agholor will need to do more than catch 37 passes. Parker has the potential to be the Pats' saving grace, as the former Dolphin has flashed the upside of a 1,200-yard receiver (like he was in 2019), kicking off his first of three seasons above a 72 PFF mark. It will be interesting to see what Jones can make of this crew in 2022.
26. Baltimore Ravens
In Baltimore, perceived contract issues led another big-name receiver and former first-round pick -- Marquise "Hollywood" Brown -- to move on elsewhere ahead of the 2022 season. That, and Sammy Watkins' leaving in free agency, has left Baltimore with a thin roster of receivers, now headed by last year's first-rounder Rashod Bateman.
After all, was said and done, Bateman logged more than 600 snaps in his rookie campaign, having earned a 65.2 receiving grade in route to 500-plus yards and 11.2 yards per catch -- despite inconsistency at quarterback without Lamar Jackson. The 22-year-old is joined by Devin Duvernay and Tylan Wallace, each of whom produced at a high level at Big 12 schools but have yet to establish themselves professionally. Duvernay didn't put up good advanced numbers last year as the other deep threat opposite Brown, but he has the speed. And as for Wallace, he has but two catches and six targets in his little time. Baltimore just isn't as worried as other teams about their level of receiver production (they have Mark Andrews at tight end).
25. Cleveland Browns
No more Odell Beckham Jr., and no more Jarvis Landry. What does that mean for the new-look Browns and their receivers? It all starts with the March acquisition of Amari Cooper. The former Cowboy will become Cleveland's de facto wide receiver one with all the experience and production at his back. And though Cooper was held out of two games and at times limited due to injury last year, he was 40th among receivers in PFF grade (73.0) and garnered more than 100 targets for 865 yards and eight touchdowns.
Aside from Cooper, the Browns will have to make do between small-sample size and unproven quantities in Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz, and rookie David Bell. Peoples-Jones was an unimpressive 73 among receivers in his elevated time last season, while Schwartz (then a rookie) lined up in limited spots, had 10 catches on 23 targets on a 17.2 average depth of target (aDOT). He's likely to remain the long-ball threat, so it will come down to DPJ and Bell to be the second receiver opposite Cooper. With a young breakout age and experience under his belt at Purdue, Bell figures to draw starts after the first few weeks of the season if not sooner. But that's not a combination anywhere near scary enough for defenses to key on the Browns' receivers over the elite run game built up by Kevin Stefanski and company.
24. Indianapolis Colts
This offseason, the Colts decided to go in a different direction behind center and trade for Matt Ryan. Who will he be throwing to come September? Michael Pittman is the only player who's put together a worthwhile production profile to this point. After a very OK rookie year in Indy, the 24-year-old started all 17 games on his way to more than 1,000 yards and 6 touchdowns on an improved 9.8 aDOT. His PFF grade? A 78 (79.9 receiving) which positions him 20th of all wideouts.
That's a great number one to have for a guy like Ryan, but what about the secondary option or a slot/burner over the middle of the field? Rookie Alec Pierce -- a 6'3" product out of Cincinnati -- is my favorite to surprise as a rookie. He had a 95th percentile speed score and showed that he can get it done down the field. As for "the others", that's made up of Ashton Dulin and Parris Campbell, who boast some explosivity in different ways but aren't likely to turn into peak T.Y. Hilton anytime soon. There are a few worse but many more better-receiving units around the league.
23. Houston Texans
Believe it or not, in a vacuum, Houston might possess the AFC South's best set of wide receivers, and it all starts with Brandin Cooks. For the lack of praise Cooks gets in national circles, the dude has flat-out killed at every stop of his career. At 28 years old, he's put together six 1,000-yard campaigns (in eight years) with no fewer than five touchdowns in the same number of seasons. Cooks was 25th in PFF grade last year -- despite a rookie at quarterback -- and has been inside the top 25 in three of four. Expect his efficiency and counting stats to rise with better quarterback play in 2022.
Cooks is most of what's to like about the Texans' receivers, but elsewhere they'll rely on second-year-pro Nico Collins as well as Chris Conley and rookie John Metchie. In his first season, the big-bodied Collins converted 60 targets into 33 catches, 446 yards, and a PFF grade of 65.6. He showed some promise with his skillset, and he fits a role Houston needs, but Conley has the experience (seven years) and Metchie has the upside (more than 2,000 receiving yards in his last two years at Alabama) to round out the host of others hauling in passes from Davis Mills.
22. New York Giants
The Giants' wideouts are one of those unique groups that offer both massive risk and nice upside. 2021 didn't go so well, as the then recently signed Kenny Golladay combined with Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton to miss 24 contests. But going back to 2019, Golladay had proven himself a number-one receiver with nearly 1,200 yards, 11 touchdowns, and a 79.9 PFF grade (17th in the NFL). And as for Toney, before getting injured in the first-round selection he had earned a 74.4 receiving grade to the tune of 420 yards, including 5.8 after catch per reception.
Shepard and Slayton should in all likelihood be the third and fourth receivers and fill the short-yardage slot and field-stretching roles, respectively. Before last season, Shepard was inside the top 25 in player grade, and even in a year where Slayton fell outside the top 100 in grade, he had a 13.3 aDOT. The inconsistencies will be there, but if the four can remain relatively healthy it could mean a turnaround for Daniel Jones and the Giants' offense. It would also require an upward adjustment in the ranks for next year.
21. Detroit Lions
Going into 2021, you could have argued that the Lions owned one of the two or three worst wide receiver rooms in football. It was full of fizzled-out players who had since moved on from other teams, along with the addition of rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown, who was considered a positive change though many considered the USC product a reach at the time. The season played out almost as expected, but he impressed with 90 catches and more than 900 yards. Late in the year, he enjoyed a six-game run in which he accounted for more than 8 catches and 110 yards per game, altogether for 5 touchdowns.
Since that streak, St. Brown has been surrounded by free-agent add D.J. Chark and rookie Jameson Williams. Chark is a larger, veteran target, while Williams will take time to get back to 100% health. But when the latter is at full strength, he's expected to be an immediate impact-maker. The 21-year-old possesses 4.3 40 speed and had 19.9 yards per reception (93rd percentile) in his monster year at Alabama. If he's all the football community thinks he is, the Lions will climb these ranks as the season progresses.
20. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers could quickly be caught by a team like the Lions, and though some of that might come down to how solid (if it is solid at all) the quarterback play is, it also hinges on the improvement of pieces not named DJ Moore. In spite of the inconsistent players behind center, the 25-year-old has strung together three straight 1,000-yard seasons, and PFF ranks of 11th, 24th, and 26th in that span. He's an elite receiver with top-10 talent at the position, but what else do they have to offer?
We know what Robby Anderson offers, presenting a speedy threat downfield and a guy who can be a 1,000-yard receiver as a number two -- a feat he accomplished a year before last. However, even he isn't a steady performer, and it is only more unproven for him. Terrace Marshall came with a lot of hope as a second-rounder last year, but he didn't play in four games and was limited to 138 yards and a 57% catch rate. He has to bring a lot more if he's going to be relied on as a second or third receiver in the Carolina offense.
19. New Orleans Saints
Staying in the NFC South, the Saints come into 2022 as a true boom-or-bust receiving corps. After four straight 1,000-yard seasons with Drew Brees throwing him pinpoint passes, Michael Thomas has only played seven games since the start of 2020, having missed all of 2021 due to injury. He's set to return from injury, but at 29 and on the heels of multiple surgeries, it's hard to tell if he'll be a shell of what he once was. If he returns to form, he could be the number-one Jameis Winston and company needs.
In the case that Thomas isn't back to form, rookie Chris Olave could be the go-to guy in year one. The former Ohio State Buckeye was the 11th overall selection in the draft after he amassed 32 touchdowns in his final three seasons in Columbus. In addition to Olave, recent addition Jarvis Landry could operate as the third guy in three-receiver sets, overtaking holdovers and downfield targets Tre'Quan Smith and Marquez Callaway. However, Landry's PFF grade was 68th among receivers compared to Callaway's 54th last year, as the 29-year-old dealt with injuries. Assuming he's healthy, he could very well go back to the top 25 wideouts (by PFF's ranks) he was in six of the previous seven seasons.
18. Dallas Cowboys
At full health, Dallas' top three pass-catchers were a force to be reckoned with in 2020, when Ceedee Lamb shared the field with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Gallup and Lamb are both back, but Cooper's moved on, leaving a void in the three-receiver groupings Kellen Moore and the offense like to deploy. That expands to a two-receiver void if you consider Gallup's ongoing recovery from injury.
Lamb and Gallup were eighth and 37th in 2021, according to PFF grade, and they are just as good as any mid-tier duo. After that, though, it will be a mix of James Washington (previously of Pittsburgh) and rookie Jalen Tolbert -- a third-round pick from South Alabama. Washington has failed to hit a 70 grade in his career, and over the last two seasons, he's rated 91st and 111th. As for Tolbert, he eclipsed 1,400 yards and averaged 19 yards per catch in his final collegiate campaign, and his college dominator rating placed him among the 96th percentile. Unless Tolbert surprises early, Dallas has fallen to a middle-of-the-road group that will be partially held up by the production of Dalton Schultz at tight end.
17. New York Jets
In a shocking turn of events, the Jets have trimmed some fat at receiver only to upgrade the group through the draft. Joining Corey Davis, Elijah Moore and Braxton Berrios is Ohio State product Garrett Wilson, who went 10th overall in the draft following one great season -- his junior year -- in the Big Ten (70 catches, 1,058 yards, and 12 touchdowns).
Wilson is lined up to be a first-year producer, alongside Moore and Davis in three-receiver sets. While Berrios was efficient in his spurts in the slot a season ago, he's going to cede those opportunities to Wilson and Moore. Moore looked great in his debut season, playing to a 71.2 player grade with 538 yards on 43 receptions. And to round out the group, Davis has proven a solid contributor. He struggled in only nine games last year, but he was 10th in PFF charting in 2020, and he brings a much-needed veteran presence to a young group. Zach Wilson has the raw weapons he needs to get his NFL career on track in year two.
16. Kansas City Chiefs
A few months ago, if you were asked to look at the Chiefs' receiving corps absent their jerseys, you might not be able to identify what team they play for. You might even believe you've stumbled upon a random group of receivers working out together in the offseason. It would be impossible to think that the following would be Patrick Mahomes' receiver room: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman, Skyy Moore, and Justyn Ross.
After the departure of Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Demarcus Robinson, Hardman's the lone carryover, and he's failed to show he can be anything other than a big-play threat participating in 30-40% of snaps. Smith-Schuster and Valdes-Scantling figure to be the one and two, featuring JuJu on short-yardage and MVS as the guy who will open things up over the top. The two rookies, Moore and Ross, have totally different stories, but both were productive in college and have the skillsets to be in the rotation opposite Mahomes. Prior to hitting a run of injuries, Ross had more than 1,800 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns across his first two years at Clemson. He could surprise and give this group a great combination in four-wide formations.
15. Arizona Cardinals
Unlike other teams with receiving groups that could be boom or bust, or those that could look a lot different after training camp, the Cardinals will quite literally be different during versus after the first six weeks. That's the period of time Kyler Murray will be without his favorite target, Deandre Hopkins, who was suspended for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. In that timeframe, more responsibility will fall on A.J. Green, Rondale Moore, and draft night acquisition Hollywood Brown.
Through that first chunk of the year, Brown could be both the deep threat and go-to guy in all areas. Last year's 68.6 PFF grade was his lowest through three seasons, but he's proven to be a producer in what's been a run-first offense. Moore, in his rookie season, was 49th among receivers in grade as he hauled in 54 balls and averaged 8.1 yards after catch per reception. He'll need to do more, especially if Green is more of a 50% snap rate guy in three-receiver sets. When all is said and done, though, Arizona's wideouts should be a top-10 group with Hopkins in the lineup.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh's been a hub for great receiving corps in recent years, and with JuJu Smith-Schuster now elsewhere that will lead to a passing of the guard of sorts. While Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool remain, they'll now be joined by rookies George Pickens and Calvin Austin -- the team's second-and fourth-round selections.
Johnson and Claypool were the league's 39th- and 65th-ranked receivers, respectively, and should benefit from a more youthful and live arm than that of Ben Roethlisberger. Pickens has impressed since the start of the draft process and was once the top overall prospect at his position. He and his 6'3" frame could take time from Claypool and do more in the red zone, whereas Austin -- a 5'9" slot archetype -- could contribute in four-wide formations given his experience at 23 years old.
13. Washington Commanders
Terry McLaurin just got paid, and rightfully so. Despite a lot of inconsistent quarterback play in Washington, the 26-year-old has managed back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with PFF grades of 85.7, 78.5, and 78.3 (18th) in his first three years. He'll serve as the clear number one for new signal-caller Carson Wentz, but how the playing time behind him shakes out depends on a number of things.
For starters, Curtis Samuel might not be relied on again due to his injury problems and lack of availability. If he's able to be the 2020 version of himself, there's a chance he is the second guy or at least the slot or gadget player that sees 70%-plus of snaps. He'll be challenged by a second-year Dyami Brown, who was seldom used and was in the bottom 10 in PFF grade. The promise is there for the speedy receiver, but he could find himself pigeonholed between Samuel and rookie Jahan Dotson. The Penn State product rose to be the 16th overall selection thanks in part to a 90th percentile college dominator rating and a skillset comparable to Tyler Lockett. He's the player that could surprise with his level of value and push Washington beyond this ranking by the season's end.
12. San Francisco 49ers
Obviously, this all hinges upon the status of Deebo Samuel, who could be sent to a different team by the start of the year. But if Samuel were to depart San Francisco, it would be a big upgrade for whatever team adds him, and all that tells us is how good he really is. In 2021, the 26-year-old had a true breakout season, finishing third in player grade among receivers, including an 85.3 grade on his 59 carries. Even if he were to stay and take on less of the rushing workload, there's no telling what Samuel could do as a full-time wideout given his size and speed combination.
On the opposite side, Brandon Aiyuk got off to a slow start after seemingly landing in Kyle Shanahan's doghouse before he enjoyed a top-30 season behind totals of 56 catches, 826 yards, and five touchdowns. Speedsters Marcus Johnson and Ray-Ray McLoud are the only semblance of depth behind the top two, but Samuel's presence is enough to have them this high regardless.
11. Denver Broncos
The Broncos, in true contrast to teams like the Browns and Niners, are full to the brim with valuable receiver depth. Among the candidates to be Russell Wilson's new favorite receiver in his new home are projected starters Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy. The two were 45 and 56th in PFF grade, respectively, last year, but the talent is there, and they're joined by Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler.
Patrick shocked with the highest grade among them last year, and that on-field play resulted in 734 yards and five touchdowns on 85 targets. He's another big body to hit downfield, which is something Wilson loves to do with high frequency. And Hamler fits the mold of an inside, close-to-the-line slot, and screen-play guy. The 22-year-old was limited to three games last year, however, in 2020 he impressed in a limited sample. If he's the number four, you feel good about going either three- or four-receiver looks when Wilson and company need to air it out.
10. Seattle Seahawks
Wilson's former team, the Seahawks, now have questions at the quarterback position, but they are still among the best at receiver. The longer-tenured Tyler Lockett has made a living off of Russell Wilson bombs and a unique connection that has led to four straight seasons inside PFF's top 30 at the position. Last year saw him come close to 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns on a 14.6 aDOT despite inconsistent play behind center.
Five years the junior to Lockett, DK Metcalf has proven himself a do-it-all wideout, capable of both taking short passes through would-be tacklers and taking the top off of the defense. He's fresh off a season in which he turned 129 targets into 967 yards and a dozen scores. He was the 14th-best receiver by PFF's ratings, so the duo of him and Lockett is enough to overcome the sheer lack of depth behind them.
9. Buffalo Bills
Full stop -- Stefon Diggs is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and he shouldn't be slept on as someone who can be the single-best at his position on any given week. Ranked 12th by player grade last year, the 28-year-old has been inside the top 25 in every professional season and has now accumulated 100 catches in three of the last four seasons.
Surrounding Diggs is Gabriel Davis and Jamison Crowder, the latter of whom figures to step into the Cole Beasley role in the slot. If not Crowder, Isaiah McKenzie might be the short-yardage target or share that role along with him. The two are good at exactly that. Davis, now with 13 touchdowns over the last two years, has shown what he is capable of in spurts, including 242 yards and five touchdowns in Buffalo's playoff run. Josh Allen will be quite alright with that kind of weaponry.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are the guys in Minnesota. On one hand, Thielen is ole reliable, and on the other Jefferson is the hot new car that's now considered top of the line across the industry. Thielen's had double-digit touchdowns in two straight years, yet in that same time, Jefferson's accounted for north of 3,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. PFF charted the 23-year-old fourth in all of the league.
Kirk Cousins' dynamic duo is one of the very best, and even K.J. Osborn has proven a worthy third wheel in the passing game. The former fifth-round pick came onto the scene last year, making nine starts and hauling in 50 catches for 655 yards and seven touchdowns. It's hard to say he was a flash in the pan with that type of production.
7. Miami Dolphins
Going into the offseason, the Dolphins knew what they had in the uber-talented Jaylen Waddle. But they weren't complacent with what they had, going out to sign former Cowboy Cedrick Wilson to join the group. If that was newsworthy, though, the acquisition of Tyreek Hill blew the roof off of the place. The six-time Pro Bowler signed for big money but brings with him a dynamic that is unmatched anywhere else in the NFL.
Given the trade of Devante Parker, Hill and Waddle will be followed by Wilson, Preston Williams, and Trent Sherfield. All three have served meaningful roles in the past, but it's all about the top two. While Hill was eighth in PFF grade, Waddle was 16th in his rookie season in Miami.
6. Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders have gone from being a tight-end first team behind Darren Waller to a team with a true number one and one of the league's best slot receivers. Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow were second and 17th in PFF grade last year, with Adams doing his usual thing in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers. The 29-year-old posted a career-best 123 catches for 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has 10 or more touchdowns in five of the last six seasons, and while he's in a new location it would be a shock if he didn't keep producing at this All-Pro level.
Renfrow isn't as proven, but he's been a tactical route-runner all over the field for Derek Carr. He followed up decent first and second seasons with 103 catches, 1,038 yards, and nine touchdowns in 2021. He improved his catch rate by more than 8% and provided a 120.6 passer rating as a pass-catcher. Does it even matter if Demarcus Robinson is the most relevant name behind Adams and Renfrow?
5. Philadelphia Eagles
A.J. Brown was brought on board in a blockbuster move on draft night, changing and improving the complexity of the Eagles' once nonexistent receiver group. The Ole Miss product was limited in part due to injury last year in Tennessee, but he was still fifth in grade with his on-field execution. In the two years prior, the production was consistent, exceeding 1,000 yards with at least eight touchdowns in two consecutive seasons.
Devonta Smith didn't enjoy the Justin Jefferson-type season many were clamoring for in his rookie year, but the promise is there. The 23-year-old went for more than 900 yards on a 13.9 aDOT and excelled with two drops on 104 targets. The top two are obvious, but as is the number three guy -- the lesser-known Quez Watkins. Watkins fulfilled the deep-ball spot in route to 647 yards via 10.1 yards per target. He's a great complement to the all-around talents that are Brown and Smith.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The provision on this is that Chris Godwin needs to be healthy for Tampa to be a top-four receiver grouping. He'll be working his way back from injury to start the year, but the big offseason payday suggests that he'll be back to form. And what that means is a trio of he, Mike Evans, and Russell Gage. In the 14 games Godwin did play, he yielded 1,100 yards with 6.8 yards after catch per reception on a massive 98 catches.
Evans was only 30th in PFF grade in 2021, yet he benefited from Tom Brady to the tune of an eighth straight 1,000-yard season. He finished with a career-high 14 touchdowns in yet another Pro Bowl year. In the slot, it will be Russell Gage, especially to start the year in place of Godwin. Over the last two years in Atlanta, the 26-year-old has more than 1,500 yards between them, and his PFF grades have rated 29th and 31st. The Tom Brady factor might be holding this crew back from being higher than number three.
3. Los Angeles Chargers
Keenan Allen and Mike Williams were neck and neck in their efficiency this past year. Both were in the top 25 in player grade, and between the two of them, they combined for nearly 2,300 yards and 15 touchdowns. Allen had another Pro Bowl year, and though many are expecting a downturn in his age-30 season, he has the type of tactical game to make it happen for another year or two.
In addition to Allen and Williams, Josh Palmer and Jalen Guyton project as the third and fourth options for Justin Herbert and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. Palmer played on just 38% of snaps last year compared to Guyton's 51% snap rate, but following a nice rookie year, it sounds like Palmer's headed for the third spot in 11 personnel. He can be a bigger slot or cede that to Allen and operate outside. Either way, the Chargers should continue to get the most out of their stud receivers.
2. Los Angeles Rams
Cooper Kupp is one of the best, and the best at what he does on the inside. In 2021, prior to this summer's record-breaking deal, he came up just 53 yards short of 2,000 in a year in which he finished as the only receiver with a receiving grade of at least 93. His excellence was unmatched as he led his team to a Super Bowl victory. What's more to say?
The Rams' most intriguing receiver spot is that opposite Allen Robinson, the team's offseason acquisition. He's set to slide into the Odell Beckham spot, but where does he stand in terms of health and potential? A-Rob was 66th in grade last year with Justin Fields throwing him the ball, but you'd expect that to climb with Matthew Stafford. Plus, he has had three top-30 seasons in the three years prior. Throw in Van Jefferson and Tutu Atwell, and you have a receiving corps with proven production and rising potential at all levels.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
There's no argument. After seeing what Ja'Marr Chase did in his rookie season to prove the player he is going to be, the Cincinnati Bengals are home to the best receiving group in football. At the age of 21, the number-five overall pick burst onto the pro level with more than 1,400 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 11.4 yards per target. He ended the year with the seventh-best PFF grade to show for it all.
Chase is now the clear alpha there, but he's joined by Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. On the outside, Higgins was the ninth-best receiver thanks to more than 1,000 yards, six touchdowns, and a far-improved drop rate. Inside, Boyd was an OK 48th but still managed a 71% catch rate for 828 yards and five touchdowns on a lower aDOT. With all three under 27 and on the receiving end of a young star's arm, they could remain at the top for quite some time.
Brett Oswalt has been writing about sports for five years, has covered everything from the NBA to College Football DFS, and previously served as an editor at numberFire. He is a Senior Workforce Planning Analyst at Highmark by day, and an avid sports fan and girl-dad by night. He resides in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, Marley, daughter, Aria, and goldendoodle, Braun.