Up first in wide receiver depth chart reviews is the AFC East. It is a division of uncertainty at the receiver position. Buffalo has an established core with the best wide receiver in the division. But after the reigning AFC East champions, it gets messy. The Dolphins have talent, but it is unknown how the targets will be split up. New England may have one of the worst units in all of football, but they made some additions to try and improve. And finally, the New York Jets, who have been the laughing stock of the division, but arguably now have the most talented group of receivers relative to their peers. Keep reading below to see a preview of each team’s wide receiver room, along with my projections for each player.
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AFC Wide Receiver Breakdown
The Buffalo Bills are looking to take the next step after winning the AFC East in 2020, and Josh Allen has plenty of talent to throw to. Stefon Diggs is the unquestioned leader of the Bills receiving corps. Diggs led all of football with 127 receptions and 1,535 receiving yards. Perhaps most impressive about Diggs’s totals was his insane 76.5% catch-percentage on 166 targets. League average catch percentage was closer to 65%, and Diggs was 10% better while leading football in receptions and receiving yards. He isn’t only the number one receiver on his own team, he could be the number one receiver in football.
Cole Beasley is the quiet, yet steady anchor in the slot. Beasley has been in Buffalo for two seasons, accumulating over 100 targets in each. He has finished as a WR3 in both seasons in Buffalo, and there is no reason to believe he can’t repeat for a third. Going around WR42 in early ADP, Beasley is as safe a pick in that range as there is.
Perhaps the most intriguing receiver on the team is Gabriel Davis. The second-year former 4th-round pick finished second on the team with seven touchdowns. That is a great number for a rookie. It is even more astounding he did it on 35 catches. With his target share likely to increase following the departure of John Brown, Davis is one of the best late-round targets in all of football.
#1 – Stefon Diggs
2021 Projection: 115 receptions / 1,423 yds / 9 TD’s
#2 – Cole Beasley
2021 Projection: 75 receptions / 876 yds / 4 TD’s
#3 – Gabriel Davis
2021 Projection: 46 receptions / 715 yds / 8 TD’s
#4 – Emmanuel Sanders
2021 Projection: 41 receptions / 485 yds / 2 TD’s
#5 – Isaiah McKenzie
2021 Projection: 29 receptions / 277 yds / 3 TD’s / 9 carries / 45 yds
The Miami Dolphins are one of the most exciting young teams in all of football. They have accumulated first-round pick after first-round pick, and have stockpiled talent on their roster. However, when a team is young and looking to transition to the next level, it creates uncertainty at positions. Insert the wide receiver unit, and there is a lot of unknowns.
DeVante Parker has been the teams leading receiver for two seasons now. Naturally, one would assume he will continue that trend heading into 2021. However, Miami acquired two talented receivers in the off-season. Parker didn’t have much competition for targets those two seasons. Smart money projects him as the primary receiver, but don’t be surprised to see either of the following receivers take over the primary role.
Will Fuller comes over from the Texans having established himself as one of the most explosive receivers in all of football. Although Fuller has suffered injury after injury, he did make it through 2020 without suffering one. The bad news, he was suspended six games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He will miss the first game of the season, so the evasive “perfect attendance” will once again slip by Fuller. When he is on the field, Fuller will be a weapon for Tua Tagovailoa. If it all clicks with his new team, WR1 upside is attainable.
Miami set out to find a playmaker in the 2021 draft, and that they did. Jaylen Waddle was selected in the top 10 by Miami, and he’s perhaps the most explosive prospect the NFL has seen since Tyreek Hill. Another positive for Waddle is the fact he will be rejoining his college quarterback in Tagovailoa. The familiarity will undoubtedly give Waddle an advantage over his counterparts. The range of outcomes is vast. He could disappoint, similar to ex-teammate Henry Ruggs’s 2020 campaign, or he could quickly take over lead wide receiver duties on his way to a top 20 finish at the position. Either way, Waddle is an exciting selection in the late rounds.
#1 – DeVante Parker
2021 Projection: 66 receptions / 914 yds / 6 TD’s
#2 – Will Fuller
2021 Projection: 59 receptions / 856 yds / 6 TD’s
#3 – Jaylen Waddle
2021 Projection: 64 receptions / 820 yds / 5 TD’s
#4 – Lynn Bowden Jr.
2021 Projection: 40 receptions / 354 yds / 1 TD / 19 rushes / 93 yds / 1 TD
#5 – Preston Williams
2021 Projection: 22 receptions / 349 yds / 1 TD
New England Patriots
*Inset nauseated fave emoji*. Joking aside, this is one of the least exciting passing offenses in all of football. First, Cam Newton has not been the Cam Newton of old. Second, this wide receiver unit is lacking any superstar talent. Likely to lead the way are two new acquisitions. Nelson Agholor comes over from the Las Vegas Raiders after rejuvenating his career. In 2020, the former first-round pick caught 48 passes for 896 yards and eight touchdowns. He will need Cam Newton to show more deep ball accuracy to come close to those numbers in 2021.
Kendrick Bourne is an interesting player. Whenever he received opportunities in San Francisco, he performed well. He set his career-high in receiving yards last season, hauling in 49 catches for 667 yards. He will look to surpass that as an every-down receiver for the Patriots. Jakobi Meyers is well-liked by the team, and he should be the primary slot receiver. He led New England in targets, receptions, and yards in 2020. However, he did not find the end zone. Meyers could lead this team in targets once again, but it may not matter with a poor passing game.
#1 – Nelson Agholor
2021 Projection: 56 receptions / 811 yds / 6 TD’s
#2 – Kendrick Bourne
2021 Projection: 48 receptions / 613 yds / 4 TD’s
#3 – Jakobi Meyers
2021 Projection: 43 receptions / 532 yds / 3 TD’s
#4 – N’Keal Harry
2021 Projection: 30 receptions / 322 yds / 2 TD’s
#5 – Gunner Olszewski
2021 Projection: No projections currently
New York Jets
If the New York Jets fail under their new regime, it isn’t for the lack of trying. They went from lacking skill players to having dangerous weapons seemingly overnight. It is currently unknown who will receive a majority of the targets, but the smart money is on veterans Corey Davis and Jamison Crowder.
The saying goes “follow the money”, and if you do, Corey Davis will be given a hefty workload. After signing him to a 3-year, $37,500,000 contract, Davis became the 20th highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL (per season). For a player who has only had one good season, that is telling what the staff thinks about the former first-rounder. He should be Zach Wilson’s primary downfield target.
Jamison Crowder has led the team in targets for two years, and a third isn’t out of question. Everyone will point to the amount of money New York can save by cutting Crowder, but they have cap space, and they don’t have much veteran talent at the position. Whether or not Crowder remains with the Jets likely depends on how ready the team believes 2nd-round pick Elijah Moore is. The Ole Miss product was viewed by many as a sure-fire 1st-round talent, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him usurp Crowder’s role in 2021. If Moore does win the job, do not miss the opportunity to draft him.
Denzel Mims is another 2nd-round pick who will look to break out in his second season. Despite an injury-plagued first year, Mims showed some signs of being a playmaker. He averaged 15.5 yards per catch, which is a huge number. Paired with Corey Davis, the Jets have two large, freakish athletes on the outside.
#1 – Corey Davis
2021 Projection: 68 receptions / 943 yds / 5 TD’s
#2 – Jamison Crowder
2021 Projection: 63 receptions / 731 yds / 5 TD’s
#3 – Denzel Mims
2021 Projection: 43 receptions / 641 yds / 4 TD’s
#4 – Elijah Moore
2021 Projection: 44 receptions / 521 yds / 2 TD’s
#5 – Keelan Cole
2021 Projection: 29 receptions / 410 yds / 2 TD’s
The NFL season is not as far away as you think. Get a head start with Mick Ciallela’s 2021 Fantasy Football Rankings!
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