Ranking all 32 NFL receiving corps entering Week 7
Through six weeks of the 2016 NFL season, Mike Renner takes a look at how all 32 receiving corps stack up.
Ranking all 32 NFL receiving corps entering Week 7
With six weeks of the NFL season in the books, it’s time to revisit Pro Football Focus’ ranking of all 32 NFL receiving corps. Entering the season, the Rob Gronkowski-led Patriots owned the No. 1 spot, and Tom Brady’s crew still hangs onto that title heading into Week 7.
For these rankings—and given the position’s ever-increasing role within the passing offense—we’ve included tight ends as part of the receiving corps.
1. New England Patriots (Preseason ranking: 1)
Starters: WR Julian Edelman, WR Chris Hogan, TE Rob Gronkowski, TE Martellus Bennett
If this were solely about wide receivers, the Pats obviously wouldn’t be this high, but throw in the tight ends and there is no group I’d rather have. Gronk and Bennett are currently ranked first and second in yards per route run among tight ends, and have the ability to create matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. There’s no true X-factor receiver in the group, but when you have depth like New England, that’s not necessary.
2. Washington Redskins (3)
Starters: WR Pierre Garçon, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Jamison Crowder, TE Jordan Reed
Washington is another team that can go four deep without any weaknesses. Reed is among the most dynamic tight ends in the NFL, with six broken tackles already on the season, the second most at the position. The three receivers listed above have combined for 923 yards on the year, and have only two total drops between them. If Reed’s concussion issues linger, though, the group could falter.
3. Arizona Cardinals (2)
Starters: WR Larry Fitzgerald, WR Michael Floyd, WR John Brown, TE Jermaine Gresham
They’d likely own the No. 1 spot if Michael Floyd could figure out how to recapture his old form. In a contract year, no less, Floyd has seen his snap counts cut in half over the past three weeks because he simply can’t make any plays. His 40-percent catch rate is the second worst of any starting wideout. They still have Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown, though, the former being PFF’s second-highest-graded receiver currently.
4. Dallas Cowboys (15)
Starters: WR Dez Bryant, WR Terrance Williams, WR Cole Beasley, WR Brice Butler, TE Jason Witten
The emergence of Cole Beasley as an unstoppable slot weapon has really pushed the Cowboys’ receiving corps up our rankings. He currently owns the third-highest receiving grade in the NFL and has caught 86.8 percent of his targets on the season, the best rate in the league. Dez Bryant has been hampered by injury for awhile now, but when he returns, Dallas has so many different options for opposing defenses to account for.
5. Oakland Raiders (18)
Starters: WR Amari Cooper, WR Michael Crabtree, WR Seth Roberts, TE Clive Walford
The Raiders shoot up into the top five with currently the highest-graded one-two punch in the NFL. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are the only teammates to both be featured in the top-15 of our receiver grade rankings at the moment, even if the rest of the corps leaves something to be desired. Cooper has especially raised his level of play in year two, going from a drop rate of 20.7 percent as a rookie to 5.3 this season.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars (4)
Starters: WR Allen Robinson, WR Allen Hurns, WR Marqise Lee, TE Julius Thomas
Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns were the deep-ball kings a season ago, hauling in 32-of-70 targets for 1,131 yards (16.2 yards per target) between the two of them. Those numbers have dropped to 4-of-17 targets for 118 yards (6.9 yards per target) this season. Some of that is on quarterback Blake Bortles, but Hurns and Robinson are currently 39th and 56th out of 56 qualifying receivers in drop rate. The talent is still there, it’s just been a down season so far.
7. Seattle Seahawks (5)
Starters: WR Doug Baldwin, WR Jermaine Kearse, WR Tyler Lockett, TE Jimmy Graham
Doug Baldwin is consistently one of the most efficient receivers in the NFL, with a quarterback rating when targeted this year of 131.9. A season ago he led the entire league with a rating of 142.8. The real key to this receiving corps, though, has been Jimmy Graham’s assimilation. He currently sits at third in the league in yards per route run, and has only one drop on the year.
8. Denver Broncos (7)
Starters: WR Demaryius Thomas, WR Emmanuel Sanders, WR Jordan Norwood, TE Virgil Green
The former top one-two punch in the NFL has taken somewhat of a hit with the inconsistency at quarterback for the Broncos. It also doesn’t help that there’s almost zero production on the roster outside of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Jordan Norwood is 99th out of 102 qualifying receivers with 0.69 yards-per-route-run mark.
9. Atlanta Falcons (17)
Starters: WR Julio Jones, WR Mohamed Sanu, TE Jacob Tamme, TE Levine Toilolo
This is about where having the No. 1 receiver in football and then nothing much to speak of around him gets you in our rankings. Jones ranks first in yards per route run by a mile, at 3.25, although every other receiver or tight end getting meaningful playing time for Atlanta has fallen below-average in that category. Still, what Jones does to opposing defenses is so immensely valuable that the Falcons deserve a spot in the top 10.
10. New York Giants (16)
Starters: WR Odell Beckham Jr., WR Sterling Shepard, WR Victor Cruz, TE Will Tye
Odell Beckham Jr. is the same guy he’s always been, and that’s a top-five receiver. He’s currently in the top 10 for yards per route (2.48), missed tackles (eight), and unfortunately, penalties (five). The receiving corps as a whole definitely has potential to push higher later in the season, but Victor Cruz isn’t near the form he used to be at, and rookie Sterling Shepard is averaging only 3.3 yards per target the last three weeks after a fast start to his pro career.
11. Pittsburgh Steelers (6)
Starters: WR Antonio Brown, WR Sammie Coates, WR Markus Wheaton, WR Eli Rogers, TE Jesse James
The Steelers currently have a fairly similar situation to Atlanta’s setup. After Antonio Brown, there’s not a ton to get excited about. Coates has put up great yardage totals, but he’s also dropped 20.8 percent of his passes on the year. The upcoming return of TE Ladarius Green could infuse some much-needed talent into the unit, but as it stands, Jesse James is dead last in yards per route among starting tight ends.
12. Indianapolis Colts (22)
Starters: WR T.Y. Hilton, WR Donte Moncrief, WR Phillip Dorsett, TE Dwayne Allen
We barely got to see this roster at full strength, as Donte Moncrief went down with a shoulder injury nine snaps into Week 2. His return could transform the Colts’ receiving corps, as it’s been clear that Phillip Dorsett is likely best in a complementary third-receiver role, and not as a No. 2. The speedy second-year player has averaged less than two catches per game since Moncrief went down.
13. Houston Texans (19)
Starters: WR DeAndre Hopkins, WR Will Fuller, WR Jaelen Strong, TE C.J. Fiedorowicz
A couple weeks into the season, this looked like a top-10 unit. Since then, though, we’ve seen the boom-or-bust nature of Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins unable to get anything going downfield. Fuller has three catches on 17 deep targets (throws traveling 20+ yards in the air) to go along with three drops, while Hopkins has two catches on eight deep targets and one drop.
14. Cincinnati Bengals (10)
Starters: WR A.J. Green, WR Brandon LaFell, WR Tyler Boyd, TE Tyler Eifert
Cincinnati is yet another team with a legitimate X-factor receiver and not much else at the moment. TE Tyler Eifert’s return will take some pressure off, but as it stands, the Bengals’ receiving corps comes and goes with A.J. Green. 441 of Green’s 606 yards this season have come in three games, and unsurprisingly, those other three games were all losses. Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd have both graded below-average on the season, and are a far cry from the departed Marvin Jones.
15. Carolina Panthers (14)
Starters: WR Kelvin Benjamin, WR Devin Funchess, WR Ted Ginn, WR Philly Brown, TE Greg Olsen
Greg Olsen continues to be a top-five tight end in the NFL. He hasn’t dropped a ball this year, and his 2.7 yards per route run are fourth-best at the position. After him, though, it gets a little gray. Kelvin Benjamin was supposed to be a boon for this offense in his return off an ACL injury, and that hasn’t been the case. He’s been primarily used as a possession receiver, yet he’s only hauled in 61.7 percent of his targets. After him, second-year receiver Devin Funchess hasn’t made near the strides that were expected of him, and is 88th in yards per route run among qualifying WRs.
16. Detroit Lions (23)
Starters: WR Golden Tate, WR Marvin Jones, WR Anquan Boldin, TE Eric Ebron
The Lions are a team that seem to have three No. 2 receivers at the moment. If you take away the 205-yard Green Bay game from Marvin Jones, you’re left with a mildly-productive receiver with six drops already on the year. The depth, though, is impressive, as Golden Tate has led the league in broken tackles each of the past two seasons, and Eric Ebron is finally showing signs of life with the 17th-best yards-per-route-run mark at the TE position.
17. New Orleans Saints (21)
Starters: WR Brandin Cooks, WR Michael Thomas, WR Willie Snead, TE Coby Fleener
It’s difficult to discern the quality of New Orleans’ receivers, because given the offense they’re in, they are always going to put up volume stats when Drew Brees is throwing for 5,000 yards. The key is looking at efficiency, and so far, their starting trio has been just that. Snead, Cooks, and Thomas rank 21st, 26th, and 39th, respectively, among 102 qualifying receivers in yards per route run.
18. Minnesota Vikings (24)
Starters: WR Stefon Diggs, WR Adam Thielen, WR Charles Johnson, TE Kyle Rudolph
With Stefon Diggs out it’s a different story, but the second-year receiver was dominating through the first four weeks of the season. His 2.8 yards per route run are third-best in the league. In his stead, Adam Thielen has made haste, with a 2.14 yards-per-route-run mark. Combine that with Kyle Rudolph, who is 10th among tight ends in yards per route run, and you have a much-improved receiving corps.
19. Green Bay Packers (8)
Starters: WR Jordy Nelson, WR Davante Adams, WR Randall Cobb, TE Richard Rodgers
It’s time to admit that if Jordy Nelson isn’t a true No. 1 receiver anymore, this receiving corps is below-average. Randall Cobb is still a very solid No. 2, and his 1.46 yards per route from the slot is 10th at the position, but after that, there are few talented options. For a team that uses 11-personnel as much as the Packers do with a third receiver and tight end on the field, they’ve gotten little production from either. Richard Rodgers’ overall grade is 53rd out of 56 tight ends, while Davante Adams is 79th out of 109 qualifying receivers.
20. Miami Dolphins (25)
Starters: WR DeVante Parker, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Kenny Stills, TE Dion Sims
There is obviously a ton of potential here, but as of yet, a lot of it is unrealized. Jarvis Landry is currently the class of slot receivers in the NFL, leading the position with 2.82 yards per route. DeVante Parker has been nothing special, though, grading out slightly above-average and not standing out in any particular area.
21. San Diego Chargers (13)
Starters: WR Dontrelle Inman, WR Tyrell Williams, WR Travis Benjamin, TE Hunter Henry
The Keenan Allen injury is a crushing blow to what looked like the most promising receiving corps the Chargers have had in some time. The emergence of Tyrell Williams and Hunter Henry, though, still make this a solid unit. Henry is fifth in yards per route run among tight ends, and hasn’t dropped a ball so far this year. Travis Benjamin and his speed have also been a welcomed addition, as he’s a nightmare on the shallow cross that San Diego loves to run.
22. Chicago Bears (20)
Starters: WR Alshon Jeffery, WR Cameron Meredith, WR Eddie Royal, TE Zach Miller
The receiving corps that had so much potential after the Bears drafted Kevin White in the top-10 a season ago has never come to fruition. White is once again out for the year, and even though Cameron Meredith has played very well over the past couple of weeks, I’ll hold off touting him highly until we get a bigger sample size. Over that span, Meredith leads the NFL with 27 targets and four missed tackles. If he keeps it up, the Bears will certainly finish the year higher than 22nd.
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9)
Starters: WR Mike Evans, WR Adam Humphries, TE Cameron Brate
This is about the area where we get into receiving corps that I’d classify as problems. With Vincent Jackson done for the season after a torn ACL, its slim-pickings outside of Mike Evans. Cameron Brate and Adam Humprhies are two guys I’m sure many NFL fans hadn’t even heard of prior to the season (or even now), and they are all of a sudden the second and third options for Jameis Winston. Both have graded out right around average in over 200 snaps so far.
24. New York Jets (11)
Starters: WR Brandon Marshall, WR Quincy Enunwa, WR Devin Smith, TE Kellen Davis
It’s been ugly all around for the Jets’ offense, and the receiving corps has to take it’s fair share of the blame. The Jets have had 16 drops on the year, the second-most in the league. Brandon Marshall has been wildly inconsistent, with four drops himself and multiple miscommunications with the quarterback. If there is a silver lining, though, it’s that Quincy Enunwa has exceeded every expectation so far, and that Devin Smith is soon to return from his ACL injury.
25. Cleveland Browns (30)
Starters: WR Terrelle Pryor, WR Andrew Hawkins, WR Ricardo Louis, TE Gary Barnidge
This group would look much, much different with Corey Coleman healthy and Josh Gordon in the facilities. With that pair, in fact, the Browns’ receiving corps could easily be a top-five unit. But as it stands now, it’s basically the Terrelle Pryor show. Andrew Hawkins has never been able to recapture his 2014 magic, and is 89th in yards per route run, while tight end Gary Barnidge has slipped off a little from a season ago and already has three drops.
26. Kansas City Chiefs (28)
Starters: WR Jeremy Maclin, WR Albert Wilson, WR Chris Conley, TE Travis Kelce
Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin aren’t having great years, but both are known quantities at this point. Chris Conley and Albert Wilson, on the other hand, don’t inspire much hope. Interestingly enough, the most effective receiver on the roster has been offensive weapon Tyreek Hill, but he’s far from a finished product and has played just 63 snaps so far.
27. Philadelphia Eagles (29)
Starters: WR Jordan Matthews, WR Nelson Agholor, WR Dorial Green-Beckham, TE Zach Ertz
Jordan Matthews is having a solid season, and is sixth in yards per route run out of the slot, at 2.13, but it’s difficult to rely on a slot player as a No. 1 option. Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor rank 72nd and 74th in yards per route run among WRs, even though rookie Carson Wentz has been one of the most-accurate quarterbacks in the league so far this season.
28. Baltimore Ravens (12)
Starters: WR Steve Smith, WR Kamar Aiken, WR Mike Wallace, WR Breshad Perriman, TE Dennis Pitta
Of any team, the Ravens were probably the most difficult for me to pin down in these rankings. Mike Wallace is a wideout that needs two other quality receivers to take pressure off him and a quarterback that can hit deep for him to excel—and they’re close to having that in Baltimore. Steve Smith can’t play every snap anymore, but when he is on the field, he still has the 14th best yards-per-route-run mark in the NFL. The problem is the next two guys. Kamar Aiken stepped up big after Smith went down a season ago, but he’s since disappeared with the 101st-best yards-per-route-run metric in the NFL. And Breshad Perriman hasn’t been living up to his draft status now that he’s finally healthy, hauling in only 46.4 percent of his targets on the year.
29. Tennessee Titans (27)
Starters: WR Kendall Wright, WR Tajae Sharpe, WR Rishard Matthews, WR Andre Johnson, TE Delanie Walker
I described the Lions earlier as having three No. 2 receivers, but for the Titans, I’d take it one step further and say they have four No. 3 receivers. That might be a tad harsh to Rishard Matthews, who has been the most-productive of the bunch, with 2.22 yards per route, but the rest haven’t shown much of anything. Kendall Wright has played well since his return, but his breakout has been predicted for years now, with no results as of yet.
30. Los Angeles Rams (32)
Starters: WR Kenny Britt, WR Tavon Austin, WR Brian Quick, TE Lance Kendricks
Kenny Britt has never had the luxury of playing with a franchise quarterback, and we may never know where his career could have gone if he did, but I think he’s shown this year that he can be a No. 1 receiver when given the chance. His 2.69 yards per route is the fourth-best mark in the NFL, and he’s hauling in 75 percent of his targets. The problem with the Rams is everyone else. Tavon Austin presents some matchup issues and is nice to have in the screen game, but that’s about it.
31. Buffalo Bills (26)
Starters: WR Robert Woods, WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Walt Powell, TE Charles Clay
After Sammy Watkins was lost for the season, the receiving corps for the Bills has been a wasteland. Marquise Goodwin has the lowest catch rate of anyone in the NFL, at 33.3 percent, and not a single Buffalo receiver is grading out above-average. It’s probably a good thing they’ve been running the ball so much lately.
32. San Francisco 49ers (31)
Starters: WR Torrey Smith, WR Quinton Patton, WR Jeremy Kerley, TE Garrett Celek
On one hand, it’s difficult to rely on traditional stats with the 49ers receivers given what they’ve been trotting out at quarterback, but on the other hand, that is a two-way street. Jeremy Kerley is the only receiver grading out positively, and even he’s had only a 62.2 quarterback rating when targeted. Chip Kelly somehow found a way to go to an even worse receiving corps than the one he had in Philadelphia.