05 Apr

Texans atop list after Stefon Diggs trade

Quarterback will always be the NFL’s most valuable position, but a great group of wide receivers can help a signal-caller take his game to the next level.

Following the addition of four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Stefon Diggs to the Houston Texans, it makes to do a recalibration of the league’s top wide receiver trios ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft. Some of the grading criteria here is based on previous production as well as what the trio could do as a group going forward. Here is our current top 12, but this list could certainly change following the conclusion of the draft later this month.

This Titans group is one of the more recently assembled ones on this list with Tennessee outbidding its AFC South-rival Jacksonville Jaguars to procure Ridley’s services for the price of four years and $92 million with $46.98 million fully guaranteed. He returned to NFL action last season after a full-season suspension for gambling in 2022, and Ridley bounced back by leading Jacksonville in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Hopkins producing over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns on 75 catches at age 31 is incredibly impressive given the rotating door at quarterback in Nashville this past season with an injured Ryan Tannehill, rookie Will Levis and Malik Willis all throwing passes. Speaking of injuries, Burks has played just 22 games in two seasons, failing to live up to his first-round draft status. However, a return to the slot — where he balled out in college — instead of lining up out wide — where he has predominantly lined up so far in the NFL — could help him take the next step.

A case can be made for Lamb being the best wide receiver in the 2023 season. He led the league in catches while ranking second in receiving yards and third in receiving touchdowns. Only 2023 Offensive Player of the Year Christian McCaffrey (2,023) had more yards from scrimmage than Lamb (1,862) last season, and Lamb’s 14 touchdowns from scrimmage also paced all wide receivers as well in 2023. Eight of Lamb’s 12 receiving touchdowns came in the red zone, tied for the most in the entire NFL.

Cooks’ eight touchdown catches were tied for the eighth most in the league last season, and six of them came in the red zone, tied for the fifth most in the NFL. He also came up clutch for the Cowboys, hauling in late touchdown grabs on the road against the Chargers and the Dolphins. Cooks’ biggest component of his game is his speed, so it will be interesting to see how well he maintains that trait at age 31 in 2024.

Tolbert was a third-round pick two years ago, and he was the best of not-ideal options as Dallas’ WR3. How much further he could develop is unknown as 2023 was really his first season receiving legitimate playtime.

Puka Nacua, who was a fifth-round rookie in 2023, broke the NFL’s rookie catches (105) and receiving yards (1,486) records by essentially morphing into a second ultra-reliable option for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Nacua lined up predominantly on the outside of the line of scrimmage while Cooper Kupp does much of his work out of the slot and over the middle of the field.

Kupp himself has been plagued by injuries the last two seasons after his historic 2021 campaign in which he won Offensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP, but playing alongside Nacua could allow for a revival in his thirties since defenses won’t be solely focused on him anymore.

Atwell took his game up a notch with Kupp not fully healthy, nearly doubling his career receiving yards output and more than doubling his career receiving touchdowns production. He’ll turn 25 in October, and playing alongside Kupp and Nacua will give him opportunities to make plays against lesser defenders.

How great is Justin Jefferson? Well, his career average of 98.3 receiving yards per game is the best in NFL history, and in 2023 he became only the third player in NFL history to total 1,000 or more receiving yards while playing 10 or fewer games in a season. Jefferson joined Chargers wide receiver Wes Chandler (1982) and Rams wide receiver Jim Benton (1945) as the only others to accomplish that feat.

Jefferson’s 2023 output is even more incredible considering Kirk Cousins was lost early in the year with a torn Achilles. Addison, meanwhile, became just the third rookie in Minnesota history to have 10 receiving touchdowns in their debut season joining Sammy White and Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss.

Minnesota is currently thin at WR3 after K.J. Osborn’s departure to the New England Patriots, which is why they aren’t higher on this list.

The Seahawks are ranked as highly as they are on the strength of their trio. Metcalf is one of just six players with 900 or more receiving yards in each of his first five seasons, joining Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Mike Evans, A.J. Green and Terry McLaurin.

Metcalf also registered the third-highest percentage of his catches that went for either a first down or a touchdown in 2023 (78.8%). Lockett took a step back, seeing his four-season streak of having over 1,000 yards come to an end in 2023, but Smith-Njigba finished the second half of his rookie year strong. This group can continue to ascend on the strength of Metcalf and Smith-Njigba’s development.

Mike Evans is coming off one of his best seasons ever, co-leading the NFL in receiving touchdowns (13) along with Tyreek Hill while ranking ninth in the league in receiving yards (1,255). He has recorded over 1,000 receiving yards in all 10 of NFL seasons, and if he does so again in 2024, he will tie the GOAT Jerry Rice for the longest streak of 1,000-yard seasons in NFL history.

Godwin recorded his third 1,000-yard season in a row and fourth in the last five years while feasting out of the slot. Trey Palmer didn’t dominate as a rookie, but his game-sealing 56-yard catch-and-run touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC wild card round could be a sign of things to come.

Only one trio on this list has multiple players who totaled 1,200 or more receiving yards in 2023: the Chicago Bears. Moore’s 1,364 receiving yards rank as the fourth most in a single season in Bears history and the sixth most in the league, and Allen is coming off recording a career-high 108 catches, the sixth most in the NFL last season.

Both should benefit from lining up alongside another WR1-caliber talent while catching patches from soon-to-be first overall pick quarterback Caleb Williams. This group’s ranking is being held back by 2023 fourth-round rookie Tyler Scott’s meager production in a run-heavy offense.

Only two players have more receiving yards than Brown (2,952) since he joined the Eagles in 2022: CeeDee Lamb (3,108) and Tyreek Hill (3,509). That’s it. The two top single-season receiving yards totals in Philadelphia both belong to Brown for his 2022 (1,496) and 2023 (1,456) campaigns.

DeVonta Smith is ascending, totaling over 900 yards in all three seasons as well as over 1,000 in each of the last two. The Eagles’ No. 3 receiver spot has been a role they have been unable to solidify over the past few years, but perhaps more help arrives in the draft later this month.

Brandon Aiyuk was quietly dominant in 2023. He led the NFL with 81.3% of his catches resulting in either a first down or a touchdown. He averaged the second-most yards per catch in the league (17.9) while totaling the seventh-most receiving yards in the NFL (1,342). He is in a contract dispute at the moment, and he deserves every penny.

No wide receiver is more dangerous after the catch than Deebo Samuel as evidenced by his 8.8 yards-after-catch average, the highest among all NFL wideouts. Jennings almost won Super Bowl MVP as he became the second player in Super Bowl history to throw and catch a touchdown in the Big Game, joining Nick Foles (2017 season).

Each of the Bengals’ Big Three — quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins — suffered through injuries last season. When all three are right physically, they are one of the scariest offenses in football.

Better health in 2024 is almost assured based on regression to the mean, and their trio could improve if they are able to bring Tyler Boyd back. He remains a free agent at the moment.

Tyreek Hill led the NFL in receiving yards while co-leading the league in receiving touchdowns along with Mike Evans. Naturally, he, of course, also led the league in yards per route run (3.9).

In a slight step back for Waddle, who missed three games with injuries, he totaled over 1,000 yards and 14.1 yards per catch. Not bad. Waddle and Hill, who missed one game with a leg injury, can produce even bigger seasons going forward. Braxton Berrios was more of a gadget guy/returner than he was a receiver for Miami in 2023. He may have a bigger role with some roster attrition this offseason. Or perhaps the Dolphins draft a new WR3.

Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl cornerback Trevon Diggs said it best when news broke that his older brother Stefon, a four-time Pro Bowl selection and 2020 first-team All-Pro, was being traded to the Houston: The Texans have three players who could be the top receiver on their own teams.

3 #1’s is crazy 😒..

— TRE SEVEN (@TrevonDiggs) April 3, 2024
Diggs leads the NFL in catches across the last four seasons (445) since he became a Buffalo Bill in 2020. Collins totaled the eighth-most receiving yards in the league last season while averaging 3.1 yards per route run, tied for the second most in the NFL with Brandon Aiyuk. He trailed only Tyreek Hill’s league-leading 3.9 yards-per-route-run average.

Dell’s seven receiving touchdowns through the first 13 weeks of the season were tied for the fifth most in the entire league before he went down with a season-ending fibula injury that occurred while he was blocking on a goal line run. Both he and Collins are age 25 or younger. With his return to health and Diggs’ arrival, the Texans enter 2024 as the league’s most dangerous trio of wideouts.

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