The NFL is becoming more and more of a passing league; statistics bear this theory out, as numbers continue to rise for quarterbacks and receivers, while dropping for running backs. Thus, it’s becoming increasingly important to have skill position players who can excel in this brand of football.
Obviously, the quarterback is the most vital person on the roster. Without one, a team has no chance, which is why even marginal signal callers are getting $100 million contracts.
But the guys catching the football are also important. The right group of receivers – wideouts and tight ends – can make a QB’s job a whole lot easier by making tough catches, producing yards after the ball is in their hands and getting open.
With that notion in mind, the editors at cover32 gathered to assemble this week’s Power Rankings, rating each NFL team’s receiving corps from one to 32. Here are the results:
1. Chicago Bears – On the outside, the Bears boast perhaps the game’s best wide receiver tandem in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. And Martellus Bennett has blossomed into an elite pass-catching tight end. Jay Cutler has a lot to work with.
2. Detroit Lions – When a team boasts the best wide receiver in the NFL, a guy who can change the complexion of a game all by himself, they’ll score well. Put Golden Tate and rookie Eric Ebron with Calvin Johnson and it’s a loaded roster.
3. Denver Broncos – Demaryius Thomas is an elite receiver, Wes Welker can still get it done in the slot and Emmanuel Sanders gives the Broncos a deep threat. Plus, tight end Julius Thomas was last season’s breakout star.
4. San Francisco 49ers – Sorry, Richard Sherman, but your assessment of the Niners receivers is way off. Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and newcomer Stevie Johnson are electric, while Vernon Davis is a top-three tight end in all of football.
5. Indianapolis Colts – When it comes to a trio of wide receivers, Andrew Luck has one of the best in the league to work with, assuming Reggie Wayne bounces back from his injury. T.Y. Hilton is a rising star, while Hakeem Nicks is a good addition.
6. Green Bay Packers – Free agency and injuries have depleted the Packers once-loaded receiving corps, but they still boast two very good weapons for Aaron Rodgers in wideouts Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.
7. Dallas Cowboys – Yes, Dez Bryant is a bit of a head case, but the guy is über-talented, in the conversation for the best receiver in the NFL. The Cowboys could use more alongside him, although tight end Jason Witten is still going strong.
8. New Orleans Saints – Jimmy Graham is the best pass-catching tight end in football, which helps Drew Brees a ton. Marques Colston is their best wideout, although he’s fading. Perhaps rookie Brandin Cooks can provide a spark.
9. Atlanta Falcons – The guys hauling in passes from Matt Ryan take a little bit of a step backwards this year, due to the retirement of tight end Tony Gonzalez and the fact that Julio Jones isn’t sure when he’ll be back from a broken foot.
10. Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green is among the best wideouts in the NFL, which boasts the Bengals overall score. Alongside him, it’s just a bunch of guys, while tight end Jermaine Gresham seemed to regress a bit last year.
11. New York Giants – Despite a down year in 2013, Victor Cruz is still an elite receiver. Rueben Randle, Mario Manningham and rookie Odell Beckham, Jr. can be solid contributors, as well. But the Giants need some playmaking ability at tight end.
12. Philadelphia Eagles – Losing Desean Jackson certainly hurt, but Jeremy Maclin can fill that void if healthy. Riley Cooper had a breakout year in 2013, while the tight end duo of Brent Celek and Zach Ertz gives Nick Foles an interesting dynamic.
13. Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens have an underrated crew, which improved this offseason with the signing of veteran Steve Smith. Torrey Smith has blazing speed, Jacoby Jones can make big plays and tight end Dennis Pitta is a solid safety valve.
14. Miami Dolphins – Mike Wallace was somewhat disappointing during his first year in Miami, but he’s a game breaker. Brian Hartline is a steady, possession guy. And Charles Clay emerged as a bona fide star at tight end. It’s a good group.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars – There’s more to work with in Jacksonville than people think, as wideouts Ace Sanders and Cecil Shorts are decent, as is tight end Marcedes Lewis. Throw in rookies Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson and it’s a solid group.
16. Cleveland Browns – The Browns could be feast or famine, depending on what ultimately happens with Josh Gordon. He and tight end Jordan Cameron are two bright, young talents. But if Gordon is suspended, it’s slim pickings in Cleveland.