Sal's AFC East position battles: Wide receiver

June 07, 2019 - 8:48 am
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Last weekend, I randomly asked my Twitter audience to rank 1-4 each AFC East team's overall wide receivers. I tweeted out a screenshot of each team's units and just watched the replies come in, and boy did they come in. Of course, most of my followers are Buffalo Bills fans, so there was definitely bias in some responses. But, overall, I thought most replies were thoughtful and interesting. They were all over the place as far as ranking the four teams, which I expected, because it really is tough to put these groups in order. A lot of people saw other responses and replied to them and some of the debates got pretty interesting.

Of course these rankings are not only subjective, but also open to interpretation on what the reader is looking for. Some went with just the top players who will most likely make the roster. Others went with who had the best one or two guys.

Here's the original tweet:

Feel free to reply yourself if you haven't already, as well as take a look at some of the responses and jump in the thread to debate someone else.

Now, here are my rankings and breakdown:

1.) New England Patriots

There's almost no way, even purposely trying to avoid it, that having Tom Brady as the quarterback in New England doesn't impact this wide receiver group, and thus, these rankings. But he is and they are better for it. Especially Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman, who really is their WR1, even if he does it out of the slot. He's Brady's go-to guy and incredibly productive. I liked N'Keal Harry as the best wideout of this past draft and the Patriots grabbed him with the No. 32 overall pick. He'll be a big part of what they do. The X-factor for this group is Demaryius Thomas. He's been one of the best receivers in football for most of the last seven years, but is 31-years-old and coming off a torn Achilles. Dontrelle Inman is just three years removed from an 800-yard season with the Los Angeles Chargers. He and Phillip Dorsett can both be valuable players when used right, and Brady usually knows how to use guys right.

2.) Buffalo Bills

What a difference a year makes. If I did this piece last year at this time, or even during the season, there's no doubt the Bills would have the fourth group, maybe even No. 32 overall in the league. But then Robert Foster suddenly emerged as a true weapon, and even maybe an eventual NFL No. 1 wideout. Over every team's final seven games last season, Foster ranked, among NFL wide receivers: 11th in receiving yards (511); third in yards per-reception (20.22); and third in yards per-target (14.60). The team added speedster John Brown to pair with him, as well as one of the best slot receivers in the league in Cole Beasley. After a very inconsistent rookie year, Zay Jones had a solid season, collecting 56 passes for 652 yards. Isaiah McKenzie was a nice addition to add speed last year. He and Ray-Ray McCloud will push for roster spots.

3.) New York Jets

I actually like the Jets' top-three receivers a lot, but after that there's a huge drop-off. Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, and Jamison Crowder in the slot are a very good, solid trio. There is opportunity and potential for a few guys after them to play big roles and open some eyes, but as it stands, it looks like Deonte Thompson might be the most reliable one, until someone steps up. Josh Bellamy (14 catches last year), Charone Peake (two catches last year), and J.J. Jones (no catches last year) are the other most-likely candidates to be in the top-four. Add in Chris Herndon at tight end and Le'Veon Bell at running back and the Jets might have the best overall pass-catchers in the division, but this article is strictly about wide receivers and it looks like there are far too many questions beyond their top-three.

4.) Miami Dolphins

First, the Dolphins only have nine wide receivers on their current roster. That's a little strange. Every other team in this division has at least 12 right now. Of course, quantity doesn't equal quality, but it certainly would help here. DeVante Parker is a huge X-factor, but trending in the wrong direction. After a solid second season, the former first round pick has had a serious decline the last two years and has had trouble staying healthy. Kenny Stills can still run and play, but after him and Parker, who is catching passes from the wideout spot? Jakeem Grant has mainly been a return man in the NFL. He's caught 34 total passes over the last two years for Miami. Brice Butler has never caught more than 21 passes in a single season. Albert Wilson may be that next guy, but he's a pretty run-of-the-mill middle of the pack wide receiver on most teams.

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