The AFC had the top two receivers for both yardage and receptions in the NFL last year with Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas, but Thomas isn’t pleased with his contract.
The Colts have a similar situation with their leading receiver last year, T.Y. Hilton, but they added talent to complement his abilities, helping their receiving corps.
Here are the top 10 receiver situations in the AFC, but some of them either aren’t that deep or have questions at the top:
Depth: Andre Caldwell, Cody Latimer, Jordan Norwood, Bennie Fowler, Isaiah Burse
The top position on our ranking comes with a major asterisk – can the Broncos and Thomas find common ground on a contract after slapping the franchise tag on him? While he says he won’t report to training camp without an extension, he’s likely to show up for the regular season after a 1,619-yard season, second-best in the league last year. Combined with Sanders, who had 1,404 yards, fifth in the NFL, that’s a deadly combination for Peyton Manning.
Depth: Sammie Coates, Martavis Bryant, C.J. Goodwin, Darius Heyward-Bey
Brown was the best receiver in the league last year, whether measured by receptions (129) or yards (1,698), and was tied for second with 13 touchdowns. Wheaton added 644 yards, and if the saying about receivers hitting their stride in their third NFL season holds true, bigger things should be in store for Wheaton as defenses concentrate on not allowing Big Brown the Double Crown.
Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton
Depth: Donte Moncrief, Vincent Brown, Duron Carter, Griff Whalen, Ryan Lankford
Like the Broncos, the Colts are flush with accomplished receivers. T.Y. Hilton says he isn’t going to rock the baby with his own contract negotiations, like Demaryius Thomas is apparently ready to do in Denver. Hilton has 2,428 yards receiving over the last two years, with a career-high 1,345 last year. While Hilton is 5-foot-9, the acquisition of the 6-foot-3 Andre Johnson gives the Colts an imposing one-two punch, even if Johnson will turn 34 years old in July. Moncrief also offers solid depth.
A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu
Depth: Marvin Jones, Brandon Tate, Denarius Moore, Cobi Hamilton
Missing three games in 2014, A.J. Green had the least productive season of his four-year career, but he still managed a healthy 1,041 yards, 20th in the NFL. Paired with Sanu, who had 56 catches for 790 yards, Marvin Jones, who is returning from a foot injury that sidelined him all last year, and Brandon Tate, there is a lot of carryover with the Bengals.
DeAndre Hopkins, Cecil Shorts
Depth: Jaelen Strong, Damaris Johnson, Nate Washington, Keshawn Martin
Hopkins had the first of what should be many 1,000-yard receiving seasons in his career, catching 76 passes for 1,210 yards and six touchdowns in 2014. Now he also has two solid receivers in his position grouping with Shorts, who might finally crack 1,000 yards in his first season away from Jacksonville, and highly touted rookie Strong. Can Brian Hoyer, also in his first season in Houston, take advantage of a well-rounded receiving corps?
Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker
Depth: Jeremy Kerley, Devin Smith, DeVier Posey, T.J. Graham
Granted, Brandon Marshall didn’t even crack the NFL’s top 50 last year in receiving yards and it was the first time in the last eight years he hasn’t reached the 1,000-yard mark, but he can still be a dangerous weapon if the Jets can settle their quarterback situation before Marshall implodes. Maybe Marshall can take some pressure off Decker, who is probably better served as a No. 2 option, and Devin Smith could be a lightning-fast surprise to some fans. But here is the short version of the Jets passing game: the receivers appear up to par, even if the quarterback position isn’t.
Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods
Depth: Percy Harvin, Chris Hogan, Marquise Goodwin, Deonte Thompson, Marcus Easley
As a rookie, Watkins came up 18 yards shy of 1,000 yards receiving, but his immense potential showed. Woods continued to ascend in his second season, and the precise route-runner should continue to be a strong complement to Watkins. Harvin, who has had trouble sticking with one team since his trade to Seattle in 2013, could be a dangerous, versatile weapon in three-receiver sets if he can find a stable home in Buffalo, but he is on his fourth team in four seasons. With veteran Matt Cassel offering a more experienced diagnosis of defenses and LeSean McCoy keeping defenses worried about the running game, the Bills’ passing game should be better in 2015 than the No. 26 ranking they showed in 2014.
Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker
Depth: Greg Jennings, Rishard Matthews, Matt Hazel, Michael Preston
The Dolphins will have a dramatically different look at receiver this year, having given up on Mike Wallace and trading him to the Minnesota Vikings. Instead, Miami put their deep-threat faith in up-and-coming Kenny Stills, who had 63 catches for 921 yards for the New Orleans Saints last year, and DeVante Parker, a big-bodied threat from Louisville whom they selected in the first round of the draft. Greg Jennings is a good foot for the shorter, more precise routes needed in the Dolphins offense.
Malcom Floyd, Keenan Allen
Depth: Jacoby Jones, Austin Pettis, Dontrelle Inman
Floyd finished 39th in receiving yards with 856 in 2014 and Allen was 48th with 783. Floyd offers more of a deep threat while Allen is the solid route-runner underneath. Jones’ strength was in the return game, but he was clearly being phased out in Baltimore and will be looking to return to a significant reserve role with the Chargers. Pettis gives the Chargers further depth.
Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman
Depth: Danny Amendola, Brian Tyms, Matthew Slater, Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson
There is plenty of uncertainty in New England’s passing game this year. QB Tom Brady is slated for a four-game suspension and LaFell was spotted with a walking boot at organized team activities. The Patriots still have Julian Edelman, who had 972 yards last year, and, of course, Rob Gronkowski at tight end offers a unique pass-catching weapon, but the wide receiver corps specifically is neither deep nor that impressive, especially without Brady.
AFC’s top 10 WR situations for 2015
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