The NFL's top 10 receiving corps by PFF rating
Our quest to find the top 10 units at each position group continues; this time looking at the receivers. There is plenty of debate to who the best receiver is, or the best receiver duos. It’s great to have an all-star receiver, but if they are facing a team with an all-star cornerback or two, then the quarterback also needs to rely on their third and fourth options.
Here is our ranking of the top 10 receiving corps in the NFL, accounting for the top three receivers as well as the top receiving tight end.
1. Indianapolis Colts (79.0 average PFF rating for starter)
The Colts hit a home run with Andrew Luck in the 2012 draft, and followed it up with an impressive collection of pass-catchers in Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen and T.Y. Hilton. At this point all of them should be at their prime. Even though Andre Johnson isn’t the player he once was, he still graded out as an average receiver in 2014 — which is an upgrade over what they had in Reggie Wayne. Finally, when Luck threw at third wide receiver Donte Moncrief last year, he had an NFL passer rating of 122.0 — which was sixth-best of all NFL receivers, and took place during Moncrief’s rookie year. While no single player is among the best at his position, the Colts have weapons all over the field.
2. Dallas Cowboys (78.9)
There are only six teams in the league who have both a wide receiver and tight end with PFF ratings above 80. The only one with a pair both above 83 are the Cowboys with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten — and both are above 87. While Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley aren’t big names, they aren’t liabilities to the team, either. Williams averaged 18.3 yards per catch last year with only three drops. Beasley had only one drop, and forced 11 missed tackles.
3. Denver Broncos (78.3)
The Broncos are a receiving group that keeps getting better. Last year, the addition of Emmanuel Sanders gave them arguably the best one-two punch at wide receiver in the NFL. They are the only team with both starting wide receivers with a PFF rating above 84. They added Owen Daniels in free agency, who is one of five tight ends to receive a positive receiving grade each of the last four years. The rest of that list? Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. This leaves the only unknown as Cody Latimer, who had just 37 snaps as a rookie.
4. New York Giants (77.6)
Having the best wide receiver in football certainly helps a team on a list like this, but the Giants also have a nice surrounding cast for Odell Beckham Jr. Rueben Randle forced 13 missed tackles on his catches last year, which was 10th-best for all wide receivers. He was also very consistent, with no fumbles and just four drops. Victor Cruz returns as the Giants’ slot receiver, after ranking seventh in the NFL from that position in our yards per route run metric (before his injury). Throw in tight end Larry Donnell, who is a poor blocker but an average receiver, and you have a strong group of targets.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (77.0)
Headlining the Steelers receivers is Antonio Brown, who was our highest-graded WR last year. Even though Martavis Bryant was the Steelers’ third wide receiver, Martavis Bryant had the third-highest yards per route run average among 90 qualifying receivers – a sign of just how efficient he was as a rookie. Heath Miller and Markus Wheaton round out the group, and they are both average players at their positions. Most teams experience some change from one year to another in their receiving unit, but this is one team that will look exactly the same.
6. San Diego Chargers (76.7)
Few teams are as experienced at the receiver position as the Chargers, and what they perhaps lack in excitement they make up for in dependability. Tight end Antonio Gates is no longer playing at an All Pro level, but his drop rate was second-best for tight ends last year. Receiver Malcom Floyd isn’t a household name, but he hauled in 13 deep passes, which was tied for sixth-most in the league last year. Stevie Johnson had a relatively quiet year for the 49ers, but his yards per route run average was 16th-best among receivers. He will make a nice addition to this receiving corps. That just leaves Keenan Allen, who will continue to draw opposing teams’ best coverages.
7. New England Patriots (76.6)
If this were just a list rating the wide receiver groups, the Patriots wouldn’t be nearly this high. However, this includes tight ends, and having the best tight end in the game in Rob Gronkowski certainly helps. He was far and away our No. 1-graded TE last season both overall and as a receiver. Having Julian Edelman also helps the group. From Week 9 on, when Edelman was targeted, the Patriots had an NFL passer rating of 119.3, which was fourth-best for the 30 receivers with the most targets over that span. Brandon LaFell was also a pleasant surprise, with nine touchdowns and 13 forced missed tackles.
8. Arizona Cardinals (76.4)
Now that Larry Fitzgerald is about to celebrate his 32nd birthday, the Cardinals don’t have one clear No. 1 wide receiver, but they have more depth than most teams. Michael Floyd had 482 deep receiving yards and five deep touchdowns which were both among the top eight for wide receivers. John Brown had 696 receiving yards, which was second-most of all receivers who were third on the depth chart last year.
9. Kansas City Chiefs (76.2)
A year ago the Chiefs would have been much lower on this list. Since then they had Travis Kelce emerge as one of the best tight ends in the NFL. He ranked No. 2 in the league among tight ends in yards per route run, just behind Rob Gronkowski. In free agency they added Jeremy Maclin, who had the lowest drop rate among all wide receivers last season at 1.16. Rookies both De’Anthony Thomas and Albert Wilson played decently on small sample sizes last season, and should help make the group look better than it has in the past.
10. Seattle Seahawks (76.0)
The Seahawks round out the top 10 thanks to a deep receiving core of adequate receivers as well as the addition of Jimmy Graham, who is a season removed from being our top-graded receiving tight end. WR Doug Baldwin has the right combination of sure hands and ability to make defenders miss. Over his last 15 games he dropped only one pass, and forced eight missed tackles after the catch. After a 100-yard performance in the Super Bowl, Chris Matthews should begin this year as the Seahawks’ third receiver. Even though it didn’t factor into these rankings, high draft picks Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett will also compete for playing time and make the group better in the future.