KANSAS CITY, MO – DECEMBER 15: Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates with Sammy … [+] Watkins #14 of the Kansas City Chiefs after Watkins 2-pt conversion catch during the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
With free agency and the draft wrapped up and teams’ 90-man rosters mostly set, here are the best and worst receiver depth charts in the National Football League.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs didn’t even have a 1,000-yard receiver last year but the talent and depth (and presence of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce) is overwhelming. Defenses spend so much time fearing Tyreek Hill’s ever-present potential for 80-yard touchdowns that the underneath game becomes easy pickings for Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman. Hardman, a second-round pick last year, figures to see a big boost in production after catching 26 passes as a rookie.
“I don’t think there’s much you can do unless we let the receivers line up 5 yards offsides and go,” Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said of preparing for Hill. “It’s one of the reasons why he has the production that he does because I think you practice all week against it, and all of a sudden you get out there and it’s significantly faster than what you prepared for. I’ve never seen anybody on an NFL football field that fast before. I got a chance to visit the Chiefs when I was out of coaching, went down for OTAs, and it was Tyreek’s rookie year. I was watching the practice, I’m like, ‘Is this a full-speed drill?’ He looks like he was going full speed and everybody else didn’t.”
Runners-up: Talk about dynamic duos. New Orleans added veteran Emmanuel Sanders to unstoppable pass-catching machine Michael Thomas in hopes of getting Drew Brees a second Super Bowl. Tampa Bay has the indomitable Mike Evans and Chris Godwin waiting for Tom Brady. Atlanta features Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley to catch passes from Matt Ryan. The potential is there in Cleveland with Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, though that depends on the mental state of Beckham and the play of quarterback Baker Mayfield. Pittsburgh added second-rounder Chase Claypool to the accomplished group of JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Diontae Johnson.
New York Jets: Worst is a relative term when it comes to NFL receiver corps. It’s a league overflowing with talent. The Jets’ top performer is Jamison Crowder, who is coming off a career-best season of 78 receptions for 833 yards and six touchdowns. That’s good but hardly great. He’s surrounded by first-round busts Breshad Perriman (95 catches in four seasons) and Josh Doctson (81 catches in four seasons) and second-round pick Denzel Mims. Mims is a fantastic talent who surprisingly slid into deep into the second round, but rookie receivers are generally slow to adapt to the NFL game, and their learning curve has only gotten steeper as the coronavirus pandemic has wiped out offseason practices.
“Usually when you call these guys, they’re excited,” Jets GM Joe Douglas said. “Denzel had a real big chip on his shoulder. It was important to him that he’s going to make these teams pay that passed him up. We can’t wait to get that type of competitor, that type of mentality in here.”
Runners-up: In Houston, offseason additions Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb are fine players but have injury histories. Cooks is one his fourth team in seven seasons and has at least five concussions in six NFL seasons. Green Bay (Davante Adams) and Miami (DeVante Parker) lack legit No. 2 options behind their stars, and Minnesota will be counting on a rookie (Justin Jefferson) to support to Adam Thielen.