Ranking all 32 NFL receiving corps
Gordon McGuinness and the PFF analysis team rank every NFL receiving corps, with wide receivers and tight ends included.
Ranking all 32 NFL receiving corps
[Editor’s note: This article was originally published on July 13, 2016, and updated on Sept. 5, 2016, to reflect changes in receiving corps due to injuries, roster moves, etc.]
Every team needs playmakers to create big-impact moments, be it catching a 40-yard pass downfield, or taking a quick screen and making three defenders miss. Playmakers at wide receiver and tight end come in different shapes and sizes, with some players capable of out-muscling opposing defenders, and others just too tricky to bring down. Some teams are in better shape than others at both positions, though, with the best teams even having starting-quality players in part-time roles on their depth chart.
With that in mind, check out PFF’s ranking of every group of wide receivers and tight ends in the league.
1. New England Patriots
Projected starters: WR Julian Edelman, WR Chris Hogan, WR Danny Amendola, TE Rob Gronkowski
Key depth: WR Malcolm Mitchell, TE Martellus Bennett, TE Clay Harbor
Key stat: Rob Gronkowski finished as PFF’s highest-graded TE in every season in which he played 800+ snaps.
The Patriots may lack that true No. 1 wide receiver, but they don’t need one when they have Rob Gronkowski at tight end. One of the most-dominant players in the NFL, Gronkowski earned the highest receiving grade—and was tied for the highest run-blocking grade—among players at his position last season. At wide receiver, Julian Edelman earned the 15th-highest overall grade at the position in 2015, averaging 2.07 yards per route run from the slot, the sixth-best mark in the league. Keep an eye on rookie Malcolm Mitchell at wide receiver and Martellus Bennett (Bears) at tight end in 2016; Mitchell graded well in his final season at Georgia after injury threatened to ruin his career, while Bennett earned the 21st-highest overall grade among tight ends in 2015.
(PFF Fantasy Insight: Pat Thorman says Hogan is the top New England receiver to own in fantasy after Edelman. Dan Schneier has plenty of reason to keep an eye on the reports surrounding Martellus Bennett in training camp. As it stands, Gronkowski is — of course — the No. 1 tight end in our staff consensus rankings, with Bennett 19th. Edelman is our No. 20 receiver, with no other New England receivers inside our top 70.)
2. Arizona Cardinals
Projected starters: WR Larry Fitzgerald, WR Michael Floyd, WR John Brown, TE Darren Fells
Key depth: WR Jaron Brown, WR J.J. Nelson, TE Jermaine Gresham, TE Troy Niklas
Key stat: Larry Fitzgerald has recorded the same number of drops (18) in the past six seasons as Raiders WR Amari Cooper had as a rookie.
Larry Fitzgerald has been one of the most-consistent players in the league since PFF began grading in 2007; he has graded positively every year, and dropped just 29 of the 874 catchable passes thrown his way in that span. Last season, he dropped just three of the 112 catchable passes thrown his way, giving him the third-best drop rate among players at the position. John Brown was tied for 27th among wide receivers in terms of his overall grade last year, on his way to the first 1,000-yard season of his young career. With Michael Floyd as the 24th-highest-graded receiver last season, the Cardinals boast three of the top-27 wide receivers in football from 2015.
3. Washington Redskins
Projected starters: WR Pierre Garçon, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Jamison Crowder, TE Jordan Reed
Key depth: WR Josh Doctson, WR Ryan Grant, WR Rashad Ross, TE Vernon Davis, TE Niles Paul
Key stat: No TE averaged more yards per route run than Jordan Reed last season, at 2.45.
The Redskins might not have what the Arizona Cardinals possess, but Washington can boast three of the top-43-graded wide receivers from the 2015 season in Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson, and Jamison Crowder. Amazingly, the unit looks to be even better in 2016 with the addition of first-round draft pick Josh Doctson (TCU). Owning the highest receiving grade in the 2016 NFL draft class, Doctson has the potential to develop into one of the best receivers in the league, and Washington doesn’t even need much from him in year one. That doesn’t even factor in arguably their best receiver in tight end Jordan Reed, who earned the third-highest receiving grade at the position in 2015, behind only Rob Gronkowski and Greg Olsen.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Projected starters: WR Allen Robinson, WR Allen Hurns, WR Marqise Lee, TE Julius Thomas
Key depth: WR Rashad Greene, WR Bryan Walters, TE Marcedes Lewis
Key stat: Allen Robinson’s 672 yards on passes 20 yards or more downfield were the most in the NFL last season.
A 2014 second-round draft pick out of Penn State, Allen Robinson is on the cusp of becoming one of the top receivers in football. He lacked a little bit of consistency in 2015, and dropped eight of the 88 catchable passes thrown his way, but still finished the year with 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Averaging 17.5 yards per reception, he and Blake Bortles have grown together into one of the top young quarterback-receiver combos in the league. No. 2 receiver Allen Hurns wasn’t quite as dominant at times, but did drop just three of the 67 catchable passes thrown his way, picking up 1,030 receiving yards and scoring 10 touchdowns. They need tight end Julius Thomas to return to the form he showed with the Denver Broncos after a tough first season in Jacksonville, but this unit is a big part of the reason why many think the Jaguars can improve on their 2015 win total in 2016.
5. Seattle Seahawks
Projected starters: WR Doug Baldwin, WR Jermaine Kearse, WR Tyler Lockett, TE Jimmy Graham
Key depth: WR Paul Richardson, TE Luke Willson, TE Nick Vannett
Key stat: Doug Baldwin led all NFL wide receivers with 1,007 yards from the slot last season.
Doug Baldwin has developed massively over the past three seasons, and is finally starting to get the credit he deserves as one of the best receivers in the NFL. Seventh at the position in terms of overall grade in 2015, Baldwin forced 18 missed tackles on 78 receptions a year ago, the seventh-highest total among wide receivers in 2015. He’s joined by the talented Tyler Lockett, who had one of the most impressive seasons of any 2015 rookie last year. 32nd in overall grade among WRs, Lockett averaged 13.0 yards per reception and scored six touchdowns a year ago. One key for the Seahawks’ offense will be getting the most out of tight end Jimmy Graham in 2016. Graham graded well last year, but his 605 receiving yards and two touchdowns were the second-lowest and lowest totals, respectively, in his career so far. At 6-feet-6, Graham has been one of the best red-zone weapons in the NFL in his career, and can help the Seahawks out massively in that regard if they use him correctly.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
Projected starters: WR Antonio Brown, WR Markus Wheaton, TE Ladarius Green (to begin year on PUP)
Key depth: WR Sammie Coates, WR Eli Rodgers, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR Demarcus Ayers, TE Jesse James
Key stat: Antonio Brown’s 2.89 yards per route run were the second-most in the league in 2015.
He’s not 6-foot-5, but Antonio Brown is the best receiver in football right now. Including the playoffs, Brown has racked up 3,768 yards over the past two seasons, an incredible total before you even consider that he created a lot of those yards himself, forcing 43 missed tackles as a receiver in that span. The concern for the Steelers is that, outside of Brown, they do lack standouts at the position. Big-play threat Martavis Bryant is suspended, while Darrius Heyward-Bey graded negatively again a year ago. Markus Wheaton can help out here, though, averaging 17.0 yards per reception and finishing 2015 with the 48th-highest overall grade at the position. At TE, Ladarius Green arrives from San Diego with high expectations after being the 16th-highest-graded tight end in football a year ago, scoring four touchdowns and picking up 429 yards as a receiver.
7. Denver Broncos
Projected starters: WR Demaryius Thomas, WR Emmanuel Sanders, TE Virgil Green
Key depth: WR Jordan Norwood, WR Bennie Fowler, WR Cody Latimer, TE Jeff Heuerman
Key stat: In Demaryius Thomas (2.20) and Emmanuel Sanders (2.10), the Broncos had two of the top-12 receivers in terms of yards per route run last season.
With Peyton Manning struggling in the final season of his Hall-of-Fame-worthy career, the Broncos’ receivers did what they could to help him out, as the team went on to win the Super Bowl behind an incredible defense. With Trevor Siemian set to be Denver’s starting quarterback when the season opens, they’ll need to do the same again. Demaryius Thomas must rebound from a year that saw him drop 14 passes, scoring just six touchdowns compared to 12 in 2014. He did force 20 missed tackles (including the playoffs), so he is still capable of hurting opposing defenses with the ball in his hands. Emmanuel Sanders just needs to follow up a solid second season in Denver that saw him earn the 13th-highest overall grade among receivers. Sanders has been targeted 155 times in each of the past two seasons (including the playoffs), and has the potential to be the Broncos’ best receiver again in 2016.
8. Green Bay Packers
Projected starters: WR Jordy Nelson, WR Davante Adams, WR Randall Cobb, TE Jared Cook
Key depth: WR Jared Abbrederis, WR Jeff Janis, WR Ty Montgomery, TE Richard Rodgers
Key stat: Jordy Nelson’s 2014 yards per route run average of 2.66 would have been good enough for third-best in the league last year.
It certainly didn’t help the Packers that Jordy Nelson missed all of the 2015 season, but getting him back on track can ignite their offense once again. Nelson racked up 1,519 yards in 2014, and more importantly, with teams focussing on him, Randall Cobb was able to exploit matchups in space. With teams able to focus more on Cobb last year, it meant less favorable matchups, which pushed Cobb towards his lowest-graded season as a receiver since entering the league. Cobb didn’t play well, either, dropping 12 of the 94 catchable passes thrown his way in 2015; we have seen how dynamic he can be, however, with 20 forced missed tackles in 2014, so there’s no reason to think he can’t get back there. One player to watch is tight end Jared Cook. He has never really fulfilled his pro potential, but has been a solid outlet as a receiving TE throughout his career, and now gets to play with one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Projected starters: WR Vincent Jackson, WR Mike Evans, WR Louis Murphy, TE Cameron Brate
Key depth: WR Evan Spencer, WR Russell Shepard, WR Adam Humphries, TE Luke Stocker, TE Brandon Myers, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Key stat: Both Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson averaged more than 16.0 yards per catch in 2015.
As quarterback Jameis Winston grows, his ability to throw the ball to two big, talented receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans should be huge for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offense. 19th and 23rd in terms of 2015 overall grades, respectively, Evans and Jackson have impressed in consecutive seasons. Jackson struggled with injury in 2015, catching just 33 passes, but averaged 16.5 yards per reception to make the most of his targets. Evans averaged 16.3 yards per reception himself, racking up 1,206 yards in his second NFL season. He’ll want to improve on finding the end zone more in 2016—he recorded 12 touchdowns in 2014, but just three last season. Dropped passes is another area that Evans needs to mend, with 15 drops from 89 catchable targets in 2015. If he can fix those issues, he can really impress in 2016.
10. Cincinnati Bengals
Projected starters: WR A.J. Green, WR Brandon LaFell, WR Tyler Boyd, TE Tyler Eifert
Key depth: WR Cody Core, WR James Wright, TE Tyler Kroft
Key stat: Bengals QBs recorded an NFL passer rating of 121.2 on throws to A.J. Green in 2015, the second-best mark in the NFL.
The Bengals lost their second and third receivers in Mohamed Sanu (Falcons) and Marvin Jones (Lions) this offseason, but still have one of the best receivers in all of football in A.J. Green. He was fourth among WRs in overall grade last year, with 1,297 yards and 10 touchdowns in the regular season, constructing his highest-graded season since entering the league. A complete wide receiver, he averaged 15.0 yards per reception and dropped just three of the catchable passes thrown his way (postseason included) in 2015. The “X-factor” among this group is TE Tyler Eifert. The third-highest-graded tight end in the NFL last season, Eifert has developed into one of the best receivers in the game when healthy. “When healthy” is the key phrase, though, with Eifert struggling with injury late in the 2015 season, missing almost all of the 2014 season, and potentially missing the start of the 2016 season. If he is on the field, he can be a huge red-zone weapon for the Bengals.
11. New York Jets
Projected starters: WR Brandon Marshall, WR Eric Decker, WR Devin Smith, TE Kellen Davis
Key depth: WR Quincy Enuwa, WR Charone Peake, WR Jalin Marshall
Key stat: The 26 combined touchdowns between Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker were the most by a WR duo in 2015.
Ranked 16th and 22nd in 2015 overall grades, respectively, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker combined for 2,529 yards and 26 touchdowns a year ago. Both still have room to improve, too, with 19 dropped passes between the pair in 2015. A name to watch here, particularly in the second half of 2016, is former Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith. Smith suffered a punctured lung in training camp last year, and then tore his ACL late in his rookie season, but led the 2015 wide receiver class in terms of yards on passes traveling 20+ yards downfield. If Marshall and Decker can repeat (or better) their 2015 levels, and Smith can make an impact in the second half of the season, this could be one of the most dynamic receiving corps in the league.
12. Baltimore Ravens
Projected starters: WR Steve Smith, WR Kamar Aiken, WR Mike Wallace, TE Crockett Gilmore
Key depth: WR Breshad Perriman, WR Chris Moore, TE Maxx Williams, TE Dennis Pitta
Key stat: Last season, Steve Smith forced 12 missed tackles on 46 receptions before suffering a season-ending injury in Week 8.
There are a lot of “ifs” when it comes to the Ravens’ wide receivers and tight ends, and on paper, they are arguably the most boom-or-bust position group in the entire league. Steve Smith was incredible before an achilles injury ended his 2015 season, forcing 12 missed tackles on just 46 receptions. In his absence, Kamar Aiken really stepped up, posting the ninth-best receiving grade among wide receivers from Week 8 through the end of the season. We’ve yet to see Breshad Perriman in the NFL, and another injury may delay his debut into the 2016 season, but what we saw in college shows that he should at least make opposing cornerbacks nervous with his raw speed. At tight end, Crockett Gilmore and Maxx Williams showed potential last year, while Dennis Pitta was once one of the best receiving TEs from the slot before two hip injuries set him on the long road to recovery. If these players can’t bounce back from injury, the Ravens could be in trouble; if they can, however, Baltimore’s receiving corps should open some eyes in 2016.
13. San Diego Chargers
Projected starters: WR Keenan Allen, WR Travis Benjamin, TE Antonio Gates
Key depth: WR Dontrelle Inman, WR Tyrell Williams, TE Hunter Henry
Key stat: Last season, Keenan Allen’s 2.16 yards per route run ranked 11th in the league at the time of his injury (Week 8).
Keenan Allen was on pace for the highest receiving-yardage total of his three-year career before a kidney injury wrecked his season in Week 8. That didn’t stop the Chargers from handing him a contract extension, though, and it’s hard to blame them, given his potential. Allen has forced 35 missed tackles on 223 receptions so far in his career, and figures to be the Chargers’ top wide receiver for most of the next decade—provided he can stay healthy. San Diego did make some improvements around him, though, adding former Cleveland Browns deep-threat Travis Benjamin early in free agency. Benjamin notched eight receptions for 363 yards and four touchdowns on passes traveling 20+ yards downfield last season, despite the Browns’ issues at quarterback; that deep-threat ability will fit in well with San Diego. With tight end Antonio Gates getting up there in years, they added his long-term replacement in Hunter Henry (Arkansas). Owning the highest receiving grade of all college TEs a year ago, Henry can make an impact for the Chargers in year one.
14. Carolina Panthers
Projected starters: WR Kelvin Benjamin, WR Devin Funchess, WR Ted Ginn, TE Greg Olsen
Key depth: WR Corey Brown, TE Ed Dickson
Key stat: Greg Olsen averaged 2.24 yards per route run last season, third-most among NFL TEs.
The Carolina Panthers were one win away from heading into this season as defending Super Bowl champions, and they did that with top receiver Kelvin Benjamin missing the entire year due to injury. A huge target at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Benjamin had 11 touchdowns—but dropped 12 passes—as a rookie in 2014. Getting him back on the field, and seeing the step forward you would expect, should be huge for the Panthers’ offense. Devin Funchess was solid as a rookie, though his eight drops from 44 catchable targets is concerning given his struggles in college, but at 6-foot-4, 233 pounds, he is another huge target for Cam Newton. The Panthers’ best receiver, though, is at tight end, with Olsen making up for his struggles as a blocker by standing out as one of the best receiving TEs in the NFL. He dropped just four of the 81 catchable passes thrown his way in the 2015 regular season, racking up 1,104 yards—second-most only to Gronkowski at the position.
15. Dallas Cowboys
Projected starters: WR Dez Bryant, WR Terrance Williams, WR Cole Beasley, TE Jason Witten
Key depth: WR Brice Butler, TE Gavin Escobar
Key stat: During the 2014 season, Cowboys QBs recorded an NFL passer rating of 121.2 when throwing to Dez Bryant, the fourth-best mark in the league that year.
An injury-filled 2015 season was likely not the follow-up Dez Bryant imagined after his incredible 2014 campaign. Given that 2015 was the only season since entering the league in which he has graded negatively as a receiver, there is no reason to think Bryant can’t get back to the form that saw him score 16 regular-season touchdowns in 2014. At tight end, Jason Witten is another player trying to put a disappointing season behind him. 2015 brought his lowest-graded season since PFF began grading (2007) and, despite being the second-highest graded tight end in 2014, there will be some concern that, at 34 years old, he won’t regain that form again.
16. New York Giants
Projected starters: WR Odell Beckham Jr., WR Sterling Shepard, WR Victor Cruz, TE Larry Donnell
Key depth: WR Dwayne Harris, TE Jerell Adams
Key stat: In terms of yards per route run, Odell Beckham Jr. has ranked third among WRs in both of his first two pro seasons.
The debacle against Josh Norman and the Carolina Panthers aside, Odell Beckham Jr. was even more impressive in his second season in the league than he was as a rookie, with 13 touchdowns, 13 missed tackles forced, and just four dropped passes. In fact, he has now dropped just six of the 193 catchable passes thrown his way since entering the league. The addition of Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma)—PFF’s highest-graded overall receiver in college a year ago—is a big help, and he can make an impact from the slot immediately in the NFL. Shepard’s 3.19 yards per route run from the slot were the third-most in the FBS a year ago, something that will help the Giants right away.
17. Atlanta Falcons
Projected starters: WR Julio Jones, WR Mohamed Sanu, WR Justin Hardy, TE Jacob Tamme
Key depth: WR Eric Weems, TE Levine Toilolo, WR Aldrick Robinson, TE Austin Hooper
Key stat: Julio Jones is the only starting NFL wide receiver since 2013 to average more than 3.0 yards per route run in a season.
At the top of Atlanta’s depth chart, Julio Jones is as good as any receiver in the NFL outside of Antonio Brown. Second only to Brown last season with an overall grade of 96.0, Jones has developed into an incredibly well-rounded receiver, with the ability to hurt opposing defenses both down the field and by making people miss at the line of scrimmage. He’s forced 36 missed tackles on 240 receptions over the past two seasons, and will continue to be one of the top targets in the NFL for the foreseeable future. Outside of him, though, there are question marks. The Falcons signed Mohamed Sanu to a fairly sizeable contract, and he has dropped 16 of the past 111 catchable passes thrown his way. Justin Hardy failed to have a single game last year where he produced 40 yards as a receiver, so there’s a lot of improvement needed from him to add something to the offense. At tight end, Jacob Tamme struggled as a run-blocker last season, but is at least a reliable receiver, with just one drop from the 60 catchable passes thrown his way in 2015.
18. Oakland Raiders
Projected starters: WR Amari Cooper, WR Michael Crabtree, WR Andre Holmes, TE Lee Smith
Key depth: WR Seth Roberts, TE Mychal Rivera, TE Clive Walford
Key stat: Amari Cooper’s drop rate of 20.0 was the worst of any wide receiver in the NFL last season.
Amari Cooper’s rookie season was, in part, exactly what we expected from him, though he also provided some negative surprises. He forced 14 missed tackles on 72 receptions as he skipped past defensive backs on his way to a 1,070-yard rookie campaign. He also dropped 18 passes, though, more than any other receiver in the NFL. Drops weren’t an issue for him at Alabama, so he needs to get that under control if he is to develop into the top-tier NFL receiver he is likely capable of becoming. At tight end, Walford had a solid—if unspectacular—rookie season, scoring three touchdowns and racking up 329 yards. He’ll be expected to make a bigger impact in his second season, but there were at least positive flashes there in year one.
19. Houston Texans
Projected starters: WR DeAndre Hopkins, WR Will Fuller, TE C.J. Fiedorowicz
Key depth: WR Jaelen Strong, WR Braxton Miller, WR Keith Mumphrey, TE Ryan Griffin
Key stat: DeAndre Hopkins has dropped just 11 of 256 catchable passes thrown his way over the past three seasons.
We weren’t big fans of the Will Fuller pick, with the former Notre Dame wide receiver dropping 10 of the 72 catchable passes thrown his way a season ago. That being said, he is a true deep threat, racking up 708 yards and 10 touchdowns on passes thrown 20+ yards downfield last year, and won’t be expected to be the No. 1 receiver in Houston. That title belongs to DeAndre Hopkins, the sixth-highest-graded receiver in 2015, and the player who racked up 1,590 yards and 11 touchdowns (postseason included). He’s developed into one of the top receivers in the game, improving every single season as a pro; the question now is, how much better can he get? Tight end is still a concern, with Fiedorowicz grabbing just 17 receptions last season, and just 22 overall since entering the NFL in 2014. With that knowledge, the wide receivers will need to carry the Texans’ passing game.
20. Chicago Bears
Projected starters: WR Alshon Jeffery, WR Kevin White, WR Eddie Royal, TE Zach Miller
Key depth: WR Deonte Thompson, TE Rob Housler, TE Khari Lee
Key stat: Alshon Jeffery’s 2.87 yards per route run were the fourth-most in the league last season, albeit on a smaller sample-size, with just 281 routes run.
Much will be expected from Kevin White in his first healthy pro season after missing all of his rookie year due to injury. His 1,447 receiving yards at West Virginia (2014) were the third-most by a rookie heading into the NFL last season, and how he responds in 2016 might play a large role in whether or not the Chicago Bears sign Alshon Jeffery to a long-term deal. Jeffery was outstanding when healthy last season, dropping just two of the 56 catchable passes thrown his way. At tight end, Zach Miller was one of the surprises of the 2015 season, forcing 11 missed tackles and scoring five touchdowns on just 34 receptions.
21. New Orleans Saints
Projected starters: WR Brandin Cooks, WR Michael Thomas, WR Willie Snead, TE Coby Fleener
Key depth: WR Brandon Coleman, TE Josh Hill
Key stat: No Saints WR averaged more than 1.93 yards per route run last season.
This group has seen plenty of departures in recent years, with Kenny Stills traded to the Miami Dolphins and Jimmy Graham now catching passes from Russell Wilson in Seattle. The Saints have looked to replace them, though, with Brandin Cooks impressive in his second pro season. Dropping just six of the 143 passes thrown his way over the past two years, Cooks has proven to be a reliable option for Drew Brees, as well as a scoring threat, grabbing nine touchdowns a year ago. New Orleans drafted Ohio State’s Michael Thomas in the second round of this year’s NFL draft, and added tight end Coby Fleener through free agency. At 6-foot-6, and despite failing to meet expectations in Indianapolis, the Saints will be expecting Fleener to be the replacement for Jimmy Graham in the red zone in 2016.
22. Indianapolis Colts
Projected starters: WR Ty Hilton, WR Donte Moncrief, WR Phillip Dorsett, TE Dwayne Allen
Key depth: WR Quan Bray, TE Erik Swoope, TE Jack Doyle
Key stat: T.Y. Hilton’s 426 receiving yards on passes traveling 20+ yards downfield was good for 11th-best last season.
A former third-round draft pick who checks in at 5-foot-9, T.Y. Hilton has claimed the role of No. 1 receiver in Indianapolis with four impressive seasons since entering the league. He added some consistency last year, dropping just three of the 72 catchable passes thrown his way, and the hope will be that he can continue to keep that up going forward. Phillip Dorsett was a disappointment as a rookie, missing time through injury and making just 18 receptions. At tight end, the Colts have shown their faith in Dwayne Allen, who has missed a lot of time due to injury over the past three seasons, and is coming off his lowest-graded year yet; Indianapolis is obviously hopeful that he can, at some point in 2016, regain the rookie-year form that saw him grade very well as a run-blocker and rack up 572 yards as a receiver.
23. Detroit Lions
Projected starters: WR Golden Tate, WR Marvin Jones, WR Anquan Boldin, TE Eric Ebron
Key depth: WR T.J. Jones, WR Corey Fuller
Key stat: Golden Tate’s 30 missed tackles forced last season were the most of any receiver in the league since Brandon Marshall forced 39 in 2007.
The loss of Calvin Johnson definitely hurts this unit, despite what Matthew Stafford said earlier this offseason. That type of receiver doesn’t come along often, and there’s something to be admired about the fact that the Lions didn’t try to force another big receiver into the mix. Instead, they appear content with free-agent addition Marvin Jones. Jones forced 12 missed tackles for the Bengals last year, good enough to be tied for 16th among wide receivers. Who came in at No. 1? That would be current Detroit Lion Golden Tate, who forced a ridiculous 30 missed tackles from 90 receptions. The concern for the Lions is at tight end, where Eric Ebron has yet to grade positively as a receiver.
24. Minnesota Vikings
Projected starters: WR Stefon Diggs, WR Laquon Treadwell, WR Charles Johnson, TE Kyle Rudolph
Key depth: WR Jarius Wright, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Adam Theilen, TE MyCole Pruitt, TE Rhett Ellison, TE David Morgan II
Key stat: Stefon Diggs caught all six catchable passes of 20 yards or more downfield thrown his way last season.
The Vikings have two first-round wide receivers on their roster right now, but their best receiver was drafted in the fifth round a year ago. Stefon Diggs was tied for 25th in terms of overall grade among wide receivers, coming off a 52-catch, 720-yard regular season. Forcing 13 missed tackles, the Vikings will be hoping for even more in 2016. First-round draft pick Laquon Treadwell should help them out in the short-passing game, excelling on slant routes in college, and forcing 17 missed tackles on 82 receptions in his final year at Ole Miss. At tight end, Kyle Rudolph hasn’t quite developed into the complete package many had hoped for, but he has a solid pair of hands, dropping just 13 of the 199 catchable passes thrown his way in his five-year career.
25. Miami Dolphins
Projected starters: WR DeVante Parker, WR Jarvis Landry, WR Kenny Stills, TE Jordan Cameron
Key depth: WR Leonte Carroo, WR Jakeem Grant, TE Dion Sims
Key stat: Rookie Leonte Carroo (Rutgers) dropped just two of the 96 catchable passes thrown his way over the past two seasons.
The Dolphins’ wide receiver and tight end group has a lot of potential, it’s just that, outside of Jarvis Landry, we’ve yet to see it fulfilled. Landry is one of the NFL’s top receivers in space, forcing 28 missed tackles on 110 receptions a year ago. DeVante Parker is a player we were very high on coming into the draft last year, and we saw flashes of how good he can be in the final five weeks of the season after injury slowed him down earlier in the year. Showing he can be very dangerous with the ball in his hands, Parker forced seven missed tackles on just 26 receptions. Tight end Jordan Cameron was a disappointment in his first season in Miami, but is two seasons removed from an 80-catch campaign in Cleveland. If Cameron can replicate his impressive 2013 season, and Parker can continue the momentum of his strong 2015 finish, this is a unit much better than their current 25th ranking.
26. Buffalo Bills
Projected starters: WR Sammy Watkins, WR Robert Woods, WR Marquise Goodwin, TE Charles Clay
Key depth: WR Greg Salas, WR Walt Powell, TE Jim Dray, TE Nick O’Leary
Key stat: Charles Clay tied for the league-lead among tight ends with 16 missed tackles forced last season.
Right now, injury might be the only thing keeping Sammy Watkins from pushing himself into the NFL’s top-tier of wide receivers. Averaging 17.5 yards per catch in his second year in the league, he has now racked up 2,029 yards as a receiver since entering the NFL. Reports about his recovery from offseason foot surgery are good, but the rest of the Bills’ receivers leave a lot to be desired. Robert Woods has never really improved since entering the league, and with four dropped passes from 51 catchable, is coming off his lowest-graded season as a receiver. Charles Clay is one to watch at tight end, with 16 missed tackles on 51 receptions a year ago, tied for the most at the position.
27. Tennessee Titans
Projected starters: WR Kendall Wright, WR Tajae Sharpe, WR Rishard Matthews, TE Delanie Walker
Key depth: WR Harry Douglas, WR Marc Mariani, TE Anthony Fasano
Key stat: Delanie Walker’s receiving 1,088 yards were third-most among NFL tight ends last season.
Delanie Walker is the star of the show for the Titans here, with the second-highest overall grade among NFL tight ends last season. He was one of the three players tied with Charles Clay for the most missed tackles forced at the position, with 16, and was third in receiving yards being Rob Gronkowski and Greg Olsen. The Titans do need someone to step up at receiver, though. Kendall Wright has shown flashes in the past, but didn’t impress last year, and it wound up being rookie Dorial Green-Beckham who led their wide receivers with 549 yards (Green-Beckham now with Eagles).
28. Kansas City Chiefs
Projected starters: WR Jeremy Maclin, WR Albert Wilson, WR Chris Conley, TE Travis Kelce
Key depth: WR Tyreek Hill, WR De’Anthony Thomas, TE James O’Shaughnessy, TE Demetrius Harris
Key stat: Jeremy Maclin has dropped just two passes over the past two seasons.
Kansas City is another team that can make the case for having its best receiver at the tight end position, with Travis Kelce also tied for the league-lead in missed tackles forced (with Delanie Walker, Charles Clay, and Jordan Reed) last season. Kelce graded negatively as a run-blocker in 2015 after impressing in that role as a rookie, but did score five touchdowns and made a bigger impact as a receiver. At wide receiver, Maclin’s first season in Kansas City was a success. Showing off an outstanding pair of hands, he dropped just a single pass for the second year in a row, giving him just two drops from the past 179 catchable passes thrown his way. Chris Conley is someone they will be hoping can improve and make a big impact in year two; the former Georgia Bulldog caught just 23 passes for 241 yards (postseason included) as a rookie.
29. Philadelphia Eagles
Projected starters: WR Jordan Matthews, WR Nelson Agholor, WR Josh Huff, TE Zach Ertz
Key depth: WR Dorial Green-Beckham, WR Josh Huff, TE Brent Celek
Key stat: Rookie Nelson Agholor was the lowest-graded wide receiver in the entire NFL last season.
The Eagles boast two of the top-19 tight ends in terms of 2015 overall grade, with both Zach Ertz and Brent Celek making an impact. Celek had the more reliable hands, with no drops from 27 catchable passes, while Ertz recorded 75 catches for 853 yards, but dropped seven passes. At wide receiver, Nelson Agholor really needs to improve in a hurry. His rookie season was a disaster, dropping four of the 27 catchable passes thrown his way, and putting up just 283 yards. With 85 receptions for 997 yards, Jordan Matthews is the team’s top receiver at this point, but didn’t wow anyone in 2015.
30. Cleveland Browns
Projected starters: WR Corey Coleman, WR Terrelle Pryor, WR Andrew Hawkins, TE Gary Barnidge
Key depth: WR Ricardo Louis, WR Rashard Higgins, WR Jordan Payton, TE Seth DeValve
Key stat: Corey Coleman averaged 3.97 yards per route run in his final season at Baylor, the second-highest mark in the 2016 draft class.
The Cleveland Browns added PFF’s top receiver in this draft class in Baylor’s Corey Coleman. Coleman’s 3.97 yards per route run were second-best among wide receivers in this draft class, and they doubled up by adding Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins, who was third, at 3.45. There is a heavy reliance on rookies on the depth chart, but Andrew Hawkins’ 2014 season, in which he forced 11 missed tackles on 63 receptions, at least points to the potential that he can be a veteran who can make an impact. At tight end, the hope will be that Gary Barnidge can continue what he started last season. For his career, he has 1,646 receiving yards, but 1,043 came a year ago, along with nine of the 12 touchdowns he has scored to date.
31. San Francisco 49ers
Projected starters: WR Torrey Smith, WR Quinton Patton, WR Aaron Burbridge, TE Vance McDonald
Key depth: WR Jeremy Kerley, WR Rod Streater, TE Garrett Celek
Key stat: 49ers QBs recorded an NFL passer rating of 116.9 on throws to Torrey Smith in 2015.
Like much of the 49ers’ offensive roster, San Francisco isn’t in a great position here. Torrey Smith is the best of the bunch, and it will be interesting to see how new head coach Chip Kelly utilizes him coming off the lowest-graded season and worst receiving-yardage total of Smith’s five-year career. Dropping 16 of the past 103 catchable passes thrown his way isn’t a great sign, but his 6.8 yards after the catch average from a year ago is something that should fit in the new offense. At tight end, Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek combined for 512 yards in 2015, but look for that to change if the usage of Brent Celek and Zach Ertz in Kelly’s final season in Philadelphia is anything to go by.
32. Los Angeles Rams
Projected starters: WR Kenny Britt, WR Tavon Austin, WR Brian Quick, TE Lance Kendricks
Key depth: WR Pharoh Cooper, WR Mike Thomas, WR Marquez Bradley, TE Cory Hakrey, TE Tyler Higbee
Key stat: Tavon Austin has graded higher as a runner than as a receiver every single season since entering the league.
This isn’t an ideal welcome to Los Angeles for Jared Goff (California), with—in our opinion—the lowest-ranked group of wide receivers and tight ends in the NFL waiting for him. Lance Kendricks dropped four of the 29 catchable passes thrown his way last season, and doesn’t look ready to be the team’s top tight end, so it may not be long before Tyler Higbee (Western Kentucky), who had the fifth-highest receiving grade among tight ends in college a year ago, takes his spot in the starting line up. At wide receiver, Tavon Austin has graded higher as a runner than as a receiver in every season since entering the league. He can make people miss in space, though, forcing 19 missed tackles on 52 receptions, and 14 on 52 carries a year ago. Kenny Britt is the default top receiver on this roster, but had more drops (five) than touchdowns (three) a year ago.
Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.