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Ranking NFL divisions by wide receiver talent: NFC West is best thanks to dynamic duos and DeAndre Hopkins

As we all know at this point, passing is king in the modern NFL. That means wide receivers are more important than ever, because teams are getting more of them on the field, more often than ever. Slot receivers are nearly full-time players now, and some teams are even increasing their usage of four-wide sets. 

It’s in that environment that we continue our divisional rankings once again. In the space below, we’re going to dig in on each division’s wide receivers, summing up which group is the best, which is the worst, and all of the rankings in-between. 

8. AFC South

Brown and Jones might actually be the best 1-2 punch in the league once they get on the field together. But beyond the Titans, there is just not a whole lot to work with in this division. Chark is a good player coming off a down season. Shenault is more of a playmaker in theory than in practice so far. The Colts’ wideouts were all behind running back Nyheim Hines in catches last season. The Texans’ group is uninspiring. This is just not an explosive division.

7. AFC North

This is actually a pretty solid group. The Bengals, in particular, have a very strong trio of receivers, assuming that Chase can translate his skill set from college to the pros. But Beckham has injury issues, and the rest of the division outside of him is filled more with “pretty good” talent than any kind of top-end players. Claypool has the potential to be a top-of-the-line guy based on his size and athleticism, but if the Steelers offense looks anything like it did last year, that’s not happening. 

6. AFC West

There are two superstars here in Hill and Allen. Hill is the most explosive wide receiver in the league, and Allen may be its most consistent. There’s some intriguing talent outside of that duo: Williams is a solid deep threat; Sutton showed a lot of potential before his injury; Jeudy could become an Allen-esque player if he cuts down the drops. But there’s not a lot of depth at the wideout spot in this division. The Raiders have one of the thinnest receiving corps in the league. The Chiefs suddenly do not have much beyond Hill, and the Chargers and Broncos have a lot of unproven players beyond their top two guys. 

5. AFC East

I wrestled with moving this division both lower on the list and higher on it. Diggs is the only outright star here, but Parker is a high-quality starter and Davis showed the ability to be the same last year. Plus, Fuller is a potential game-breaker who has consistently raised his quarterback’s ceiling. Crowder is a prototype slot guy. The Patriots finally upgraded their wide receiver room — albeit with guys who are merely solid starters rather than stars. There are just no sub-replacement-level guys here, which makes it a pretty average-ish group in the context of the league. 

4. NFC North

This division is basically the opposite of the AFC East. The Lions probably have the league’s worst wide receiver group. The Bears and Packers have No. 2 and 3 wideouts that are called No. 2 and 3s solely due to the number of snaps they get, not their contributions. But the NFC North has four of the very best wideouts in football, including possibly the best wideout in the league in Adams. Robinson is a superstar whose contributions have been overlooked due to the horrendous quarterback play he’s been saddled with throughout his career. Jefferson just had arguably the best rookie season ever and was named a second-team All-Pro. Thielen is a borderline top 10 guy. The high-end talent here is too much to ignore. 

3. NFC East

The NFC East doesn’t have a foursome to match Adams-Robinson-Thielen-Jefferson, but it does have more in the way of quality starter depth. In addition to a couple guys who are already stars (Cooper and McLaurin), there are at least four additional high-level starters (Gallup, Lamb, Golladay and Samuel). Lamb and Smith have the potential to jump into the discussion among the 20 or so best wideouts in the league. Slayton and Shepard are solid starters and Reagor has great speed. Guys like Kadarius Toney and Dyami Brown might not be starters right away but could pop later in the year. Strong group.

2. NFC South

If Julio Jones were still in this division, it would be No. 1 again. But this is looking like a much thinner group than it was a year ago, when Jones was in Atlanta and Samuel was in Carolina. Still, the Bucs have two stars, one potential game-breaker who is a big question mark, and very strong depth. Ridley is outstanding. Moore and Anderson are very good starters with the potential to be even better than that if they can get better QB play. Thomas brings a combination of volume and efficiency that is nearly unmatched in the league. 

1. NFC West

Man, this group is really damn good. Samuel and Aiyuk are absolute YAC monsters. Hopkins is one of the most unique physical forces in the league. Woods and Kupp are extremely underrated players, guys who can do anything you ask of them on the field. Metcalf might be the next Calvin Johnson. Lockett makes the impossible seem possible due to his combination of speed and chemistry with Russell Wilson. Even supporting guys like Sanu, Jalen Hurd, Kirk, Green, and Van Jefferson bring something to the table. They’re not stars, but they’re not guys who can’t be on the field. 




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