Consistency is the battle cry among the top receiving corps in the NFC for 2015.
While some of the best receiving corps in the conference, like the Packers, return their top three, others, like the Giants and the Falcons, have added pieces – either through the return of injured players or free agency.
Four of the top six receivers for yardage last year were in the AFC, but the NFC quickly makes up ground after that, boasting nine of the top 15 receivers.
Here are the best receiving units in the NFC this year:
Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb
Depth: Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis, Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis
Nelson and Cobb are right there with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as the best receiving duos in the league. Nelson was fourth in the NFL last year with 1,519 yards on 98 catches and 13 touchdowns, and Cobb was 11th with 1,287 yards on 91 catches and 12 touchdowns. Simply put, defenses can’t key on one and single the other or Aaron Rodgers will have his way. Adams is emerging as a legitimate threat and Ty Montgomery was a nice addition in the draft.
Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr.
Depth: Rueben Randle, Dwayne Harris, Corey Washington, Parker Preston
Whether Cruz returns to form or not this season after a patella tendon tear last year, the Giants have a deep stable of receivers to lend to patience with that situation. Beckham had an incredible rookie season with 1,305 yards, 91 catches and 12 touchdowns, and Randle proved a very capable No. 2 with 71 catches for 938 yards. Dwayne Harris is also a solid No. 3, so if Cruz returns to form at some point, it could be one of the deepest receiving corps in the league.
Roddy White, Julio Jones
Depth: Leonard Hankerson, Devin Hester, Justin Hardy
If our ranking was based solely on the starters, the Falcons would have the best in the league. It doesn’t get much better than Jones, who was third in the league with 1,593 yards and 104 catches opposite White, who was 29th with 921 yards on 80 receptions. Depth is decent with Leonard Hankerson, but it falls off after that.
Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White
Depth: Marquess Wilson, Marc Mariani, Josh Bellamy
Brandon Marshall had the bigger name outside of Chicago, but Jeffery has been the better, more consistent receiver the last two years, allowing the Bears to move away from Marshall with full confidence in Jeffery, who has had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. At 6-foot-3, 216 pounds, he is an imposing target, but the Bears didn’t stop there. They drafted Kevin White, who has the same build – 6-3 and 215 – with speed to get deep. It should provide one of the best up-and-coming units in the NFL and start a new chapter of receiver respect for the Bears.
Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams
Depth: Cole Beasley, Devin Street, A.J. Jenkins
In his fifth season in the NFL, Bryant is living up to the hype, scoring more touchdowns each of the last three years, with a 1,320-yard, 16-touchdown season in 2014. His touchdowns led all NFL receivers and his yardage was eighth. Williams doesn’t see as many passes thrown his way as the oft-targeted Bryant, but Williams has lived up to his billing as a deep threat, averaging 16.8 yards in his two-year career. Beasley is a solid third option, too.
Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson
Depth: Louis Murphy, Kenny Bell, Russell Shepard
While many teams have a dominant No. 1 receiver, the Bucs have excellent balance with two 1,000-yard receivers in their arsenal. Evans had 1,051 yards, averaged 15.5 yards per catch and produced 12 touchdowns. Jackson was nearly his equal, gaining 1,002 yards, a 14.3-yard average and 12 touchdowns. The question now is whether the Bucs finally have a long-term solution at quarterback with rookie Jameis Winston. If he can prove to be worthy of the No. 1 overall draft pick, Tampa Bay should finally emerge as a contender in the NFC South and improve dramatically from their 25th-ranked passing offense in 2014.
Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate
Depth: Jeremy Ross, Corey Fuller, Ryan Broyles, Lance Moore
The Lions receiving game in 2014 was extremely productive at the top with Tate and Johnson both producing 1,000-yard seasons. But after that, there was very little production. Tate had a breakout year in his first season in Detroit, catching 99 passes for 1,331 yards and four touchdowns. Johnson wasn’t far behind with 71 receptions for 1,077 yards and eight touchdowns. However, no one else had more than 320 yards receiving, leaving them thin if either of the top two struggle with injuries.
Mike Wallace, Charles Johnson
Depth: Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen
Wallace appears to be a classic example of a square peg not fitting in a round hole. He is a deep threat, but the Dolphins weren’t looking for someone to go deep often. His yards-per-catch fell to 12.8 yards during his two seasons in Miami and he’s looking to reestablish his biggest asset, speed, in Norv Turner’s offense. Johnson emerged in the second half of the 2014 as a legitimate starter after overtaking Patterson on the depth chart. There are still questions about how it will all come together with so much turnover, but the Vikings have a relatively deep receiving corps with Patterson, Wright and rookie Diggs in reserve.
Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks
Depth: Josh Morgan, Nick Toon
Colston continues to be solid, if no longer elite. But, despite playing in all 16 games last year, Colston didn’t break the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year after doing that six of the seven previous seasons. Now 32 years old, the question is how much he has left. Fortunately for the Saints, Cooks has proved to be an effective quick man, but they will miss the emerging Kenny Stills, who led the team with 931 yards last year before being dealt to the Dolphins.
Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
Depth: John Brown, Jaron Brown, J.J. Nelson, Brittan Golden
It’s been three straight seasons without 1,000 yards receiving for Fitzgerald after establishing himself as one of the league’s premier receivers, and now he turns 32 before the start of the season. Is it him slowing down or a shaky quarterback situation? Fortunately for the Cardinals, Floyd is emerging as Arizona’s top target and Josh Brown is a very solid No. 3. Fitzgerald is still their top target, but Floyd and Brown appear to be the new wave in the desert.
NFC’s top 10 WR situations for 2015
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