Ranking all of the NFL receiving corps

NFL rosters are essentially set until training camps open later this month. In the meantime, USA TODAY Sports has analyzed each team's depth chart and is ranking units throughout the league. 

Today's positional group: Pass catchers

1. New York Giants: Odell Beckham Jr. has never had fewer than 90 catches, 1,300 yards or 10 TDs in a season. The hype is more than justified. Fellow WR Sterling Shepard caught 65 passes and scored eight times as a rookie. Now mix in WR Brandon Marshall, a red zone force who's basically a tight end, along with first-round TE Evan Engram, who's basically a wideout given 4.4 speed that probably makes him the fastest guy in the bunch. This aerial assault could be unrelenting.

2. Green Bay Packers: Jordy Nelson's 13 yards per catch were his fewest since 2010, a nitpick considering he had a league-high 14 TD grabs a year removed from an ACL tear. Davante Adams surpassed Randall Cobb as Aaron Rodgers' second-favorite target, though that calculus could shift with the signing of TE Martellus Bennett.

3. New England Patriots: Brandin Cooks can score any time he touches the ball. He's the latest ingredient to a pick-your-poison recipe that still consists of shifty Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola and long man Chris Hogan, whose 17.9 yards per catch led the AFC in 2016. And if TE Rob Gronkowski really is fully recovered from back surgery? Tom Brady could post numbers to rival his 2007 MVP season.

4. Atlanta Falcons: Did you know — Julio Jones' career average of 96.3 receiving yards per game is tops in NFL history, and more than 20 yards better than Jerry Rice? That's partially a function of the modern game but also indicative of why Jones is currently the gold standard at wideout and a threat to be the first 2,000-yard receiver. Mohamed Sanu and slot supreme Taylor Gabriel aren't mere understudies, and Matt Ryan predicts a sophomore surge from TE Austin Hooper.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers: Antonio Brown eyes a fifth consecutive 100-catch season. But he'll have to share more, and that's not a bad thing. Martavis Bryant's return from suspension is expected to have tremendous impact given 18% of his 76 career catches resulted in a TD. Sammie Coates can get deep, while second rounder JuJu Smith-Schuster is highly physical. WR Eli Rogers and TE Jesse James are also factors.

6. Dallas Cowboys: Fully healthy and adapted to Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant should revert to all-pro form, especially with defenses geared to stop Dallas' running game. Cole Beasley was the club's leading receiver last year, and TE Jason Witten just keeps on tickin'.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Don't expect Mike Evans to lead the league in targets now that DeSean Jackson and first-round TE O.J. Howard have arrived. All three present unique matchup problems — Jameis Winston can't stop gushing about Howard — and the third-year quarterback should quickly learn how to leverage his expanded menu. Cameron Brate, a solid tight end in his own right, and slot WR Adam Humphries will contribute, too.

8. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green seems recovered from last year's hamstring tear. First rounder John Ross brings 4.2 speed and crisp route running, while Tyler Eifert is a premier tight end. But ... the latter two are recovering from major offseason surgeries.

9. Oakland Raiders: Even with room to improve, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are about as good as any wideout duo. New TE Jared Cook should have a field day operating underneath.

10. Seattle Seahawks: This offense will likely prevent TE Jimmy Graham from being the force he once was, but he still rebounded from a serious knee injury to have a strong second year in Seattle (65 receptions, 923 yards). Doug Baldwin deservedly remains Russell Wilson's preferred target, and Tyler Lockett or Paul Richardson could make a claim for the No. 2 receiver post.

11. Los Angeles Chargers: They've got the potentially dominant guy who's finally healthy (Keenan Allen); the first rounder who should be a red zone monster (Mike Williams); the speed merchant (Travis Benjamin); and backups who embraced their opportunities last year (Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman). One of the all-time great tight ends (Antonio Gates) remains along with his very capable successor (Hunter Henry).

12. Miami Dolphins: Jarvis Landry could be the next Hines Ward. Kenny Stills strikes fear into deep safeties. If DeVante Parker puts it all together, this could be one of the league's scariest trios. And TE Julius Thomas should benefit from returning to Adam Gase's offense.

13. New Orleans Saints: WR Michael Thomas led 2016 rookies with 92 grabs, 1,137 yards and nine TDs but must now master the No. 1 role after the Brandin Cooks trade. WR Willie Snead and TE Coby Fleener should see a lot of balls and maybe more room to operate with WR Ted Ginn stretching defenses. 

14. Denver Broncos: WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders each surpassed 1,000 yards last year despite their raw quarterbacks. They'll have more impact as the passers develop. Depth is a problem.

15. Minnesota Vikings: Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen have matured into reliable starters. High expectations remain for 2016 first rounder Laquon Treadwell, who had one catch as a rookie. TE Kyle Rudolph is solid.

16. Indianapolis Colts: T.Y. Hilton's 1,448 receiving yards paced the NFL. Injuries limited Donte Moncrief last year, and former first rounder Phillip Dorsett has yet to bloom. TEs Jack Doyle and Erik Swoope are full of promise.

17. Carolina Panthers: TE Greg Olsen is Cam Newton's go-to guy, and that won't change until power forward WRs Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess become more trusted rebounders. That process could be expedited by more quick-hitting passes as the offense evolves with rookies like WR Curtis Samuel and RB Christian McCaffrey, who could man the slot regularly.

18. Arizona Cardinals: After snatching a league-best 107 passes in 2016, WR Larry Fitzgerald, 33, continues to look as if he can play forever ... and the Cards may need him to if John Brown can't stay on the field.

19. Tennessee Titans: The Terrell Owens comparisons are silly, but first rounder Corey Davis looks made to order for an offense that was only lacking a bona fide No. 1 receiver. Eric Decker and Rishard Matthews should complement Davis nicely as he settles in. TE Delanie Walker has been a Pro Bowler the past two seasons.

20. Philadelphia Eagles: Alshon Jeffery takes over as the top dog, allowing WR Jordan Matthews and TE Zach Ertz to resume more natural complementary roles. All of them will benefit from Torrey Smith's ability to take the top off a secondary.

21. Washington Redskins: The first team to lose two 1,000-yard receivers (DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon) in one offseason, they're hoping the arrival of Terrelle Pryor, development of Jamison Crowder and dominance of TE Jordan Reed can sustain the league's No. 2 passing offense.

22. Detroit Lions: Golden Tate is a tough customer, leading NFC receivers with 588 yards after the catch. But WR Marvin Jones couldn't maintain his hot start to last season, and TE Eric Ebron still doesn't consistently change games.

23. Jacksonville Jaguars: The good news was Marqise Lee's growth after two disappointing years. But injuries and Blake Bortles' regression limited WRs Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns a year after both posted 1,000 yards. 

24. Kansas City Chiefs: Travis Kelce is probably the most dangerous tight end in the league not named Gronk, and his 1,125 receiving yards in 2016 were most at the position. But the Chiefs took a calculated risk dumping Jeremy Maclin, believing Tyreek Hill is ready to be their No. 1 receiver. Hill is decidedly more explosive, yet only averaged 9.7 yards per catch as a rookie. 

25. Baltimore Ravens: Pretty nice when a player of Maclin's caliber falls into your lap in June. But the Ravens weren't barren at wideout, even after Steve Smith's retirement. Mike Wallace quietly had a 1,000-yard season, while Breshad Perriman had a nice second half. The bigger question is tight end after Dennis Pitta's unfortunate demise.

26. Houston Texans: As gifted as DeAndre Hopkins is, he may again be collateral damage amid ongoing growing pains under center. Will Fuller had an uneven rookie season. TEs C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin combined for 100 grabs and 1,000 yards.

27. Buffalo Bills: Even if WR Sammy Watkins is healthy and productive in a contract year, they're still thin and inexperienced.

28. Chicago Bears: Cameron Meredith was a pleasant surprise, but is he a No. 1 receiver? For that matter, is Kevin White, the seventh overall pick in 2015? Otherwise, the Bears are relying on a crew of castoffs.

29. San Francisco 49ers: They signed Pierre Garcon to be the possession guy and Marquise Goodwin to be the speed guy. Throw in slot man Jeremy Kerley, and maybe they can do damage in new coach Kyle Shanahan's attacking scheme.

30. Cleveland Browns: The loss of Terrelle Pryor is mystifying given what he could've meant to the club's young passers. The Browns signed Kenny Britt, fresh off his first 1,000-yard campaign, instead and will hope for the best from WR Corey Coleman and TE David Njoku.

31. Los Angeles Rams: So much is contingent on QB Jared Goff's development. Still, Tavon Austin has given little indication he'll ever be a top receiver. Robert Woods is in the same boat, while rookie Cooper Kupp hopes to prove he's got a higher ceiling.

32. New York Jets: Quincy Enunwa is the new No. 1 receiver after approaching 1,000 yards last year. But how will he cope amid newfound attention and absence of Brandon Marshall? The Jets haven't had an impact tight end since Dustin Keller.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment