Everyone knows by now that the NFL is a passing league. In case you needed a reminder, you got one over the last week or so with the whole running back contract saga.
Obviously, quarterbacks are the most important figures in passing attacks. But play-callers, offensive lines, and pass-catchers obviously play a significant role as well. We're here today to talk about that last group, as we're going to rank the NFL's eight divisions by which has the best collection of wide receiver talent,for each of the past few years.
Without further ado...
8. NFC South
|Falcons||Drake London||Mack Hollins||Scotty Miller||Penny Hart|
|Panthers||DJ Chark||Adam Thielen||Terrace Marshall||Jonathan Mingo|
|Saints||Chris Olave||Michael Thomas||Rashid Shaheed||Tre'Quan Smith|
|Buccaneers||Mike Evans||Chris Godwin||Russell Gage||Trey Palmer|
If this were a few years ago, when Adam Thielen was still in his prime, before Chris Godwin had torn his ACL, and before Michael Thomas began experiencing persistent injury issues, the NFC South would rank a lot higher. But it's not a few years ago, and anyway, there is not much depth beyond the top few guys here. London and Olave give hope for the future because they looked like immediate stars, but by the time they rise near the top of the position (assuming that happens), guys like Evans and Godwin might fall off.
7. AFC South
|Texans||Nico Collins||Robert Woods||John Metchie||Tank Dell|
|Colts||Michael Pittman||Alec Pierce||Isaiah McKenzie||Josh Downs|
|Jaguars||Calvin Ridley||Christian Kirk||Zay Jones||Jamal Agnew|
|Titans||DeAndre Hopkins||Treylon Burks||Kyle Phillips||Nick Westbrook-Ikhine|
The Titans' recent Hopkins signing nudged the AFC South out of last place here. Combined with the Jaguars' midseason addition of Calvin Ridley last year, Christian Kirk's breakout in Jacksonville, and the selections of Downs and Dell in this year's draft, and there has actually been an infusion of talent here for the first time in a while. If Burks can take a step while working across from Hopkins and if Collins can do the same as C.J. Stroud's No. 1 receiver, maybe this group can move up again next year.
6. NFC North
Justin Jefferson may well be the best receiver in football. But beyond him, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and D.J. Moore, there just isn't much in the way of proven talent here. There's hope for future stars in Addison, Williams, and Watson, while Mooney and Osborn have flashed rotational capabilities and Jones was pretty damn good at the height of his career. Still, this is not an especially deep group.
5. AFC North
Chase-Higgins-Boyd is probably be the league's top receiver trio. But beyond the Bengals, there is a whole lot of inconsistency and questions marks in this division. Cooper is excellent and coming off an excellent season. But Bateman is seemingly always injured. Beckham is coming off his second ACL tear. Johnson has been plagued by drops and inconsistency, Pickens disappointed as a rookie, Robinson has looked washed for two years now, Peoples-Jones has only occasionally looked like a starting-caliber receiver, and Moore has yet to capitalize on his talent. So, we had to keep this division in the bottom half of the league.
4. AFC West
If there were any remaining Adams doubters, he silenced them all last season, putting up the same caliber of numbers with Derek Carr throwing him the ball as he did with Aaron Rodgers. Allen and Williams form one of the league's better 1-2 punches... when they're actually on the field. Meyers has been underrated because he came from a low-volume passing offense in New England. The Broncos' wideouts disappointed last season, Toney is seemingly always injured (and is yet again), MVS is inconsistent, and Moore didn't have the best rookie year. But there is a pretty deep group of top talent here, and Toney, Jeudy, Sutton, Johnston, and Mims give hope for potential breakouts.
3. NFC East
Lamb and Brown are full-fledged stars, clearly two of the seven or eight best receivers in the league. Smith is nipping at their heels, and if McLaurin ever gets to play with a good quarterback, more people will believe he should be in that type of conversation as well. Cooks has managed good receiving lines even while playing with poor quarterbacks the past couple years in Houston and Gallup should be better in his second season post-ACL tear. Hodgins stepped into a real role last year and looked capable of being a starter, while Slayton, Shepard, and Samuel have all been that caliber of player at times. If Dotson takes a step forward and Tolbert lives up to what the Cowboys hoped he could be, this division could ascend even further.
2. NFC West
|Cardinals||Marquise Brown||Rondale Moore||Greg Dortch||Michael Wilson|
|Rams||Cooper Kupp||Van Jefferson||Ben Skowronek||Puka Nacua|
|Seahawks||DK Metcalf||Tyler Lockett||Jaxon Smith-Njigba||Dee Eskridge|
|49ers||Deebo Samuel||Brandon Aiyuk||Jauan Jennings||Danny Gray|
Whew, boy. Look at the star power here. It's hard to compete with Kupp, Metcalf, Lockett, Samuel, and Aiyuk. Add Brown to that group, plus a strong rookie in JSN and intriguing mid-to-late-round picks in Michael Wilson and Puka Nacua, and it's hard to place the NFC West any lower on this list -- even if the No. 3 and 4 receivers on each of these teams mostly either haven't proven much or have proven to be mostly just rotational players.
1. AFC East
Diggs and Hill are easy top-five wideouts right now. Waddle is one of the most electrifying threats in the league. Wilson was a star as a rookie whenever anyone other than Zach Wilson was at quarterback. Davis didn't take a significant step forward last season, but part of that was due to injury. Lazard, Hardman, Davis, JuJu, Parker, Bourne, Harty, Berrios, and Wilson have all been average or better starters at various times throughout their careers. It feels at least somewhat odd for this division to have taken over the top spot when it was recently down near the bottom, but when you have an influx of talent like the AFC East has had over the past three years or so, that'll tend to happen.