Most successful offenses in the National Football league have multiple playmakers as pass catchers. Few teams are able to operate without at least two multi-talented receivers, and those that are able to, rely on elite quarterback play. Though some offenses are blessed with depth beyond two receivers, having two top guys is generally a requirement for offenses to take the next step. Having two receivers who can complement each other gives a quarterback options on the biggest plays of a game, and can usually assure a passing offense never gets completely locked down. With these factors in mind, here are the top wide receiver duos in the National Football League.
1. Steelers – Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster
Antonio Brown is safely in the conversation for best wide receiver in the National Football League, and for what’s it’s worth, would have my vote. What made the Steelers passing offense that much more fun in 2017 was the emergence of rookie Juju Smith-Schuster. Juju broke out for nearly 1,000 yards as a 21 year-old opposite of the elite producer that is Antonio Brown, and showed the potential to become a future all-pro. With mainstay Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, chemistry will not be an issue and the duo should repeat, or possibly outperform what they accomplished last season.
2. Vikings – Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs
Thielen and Diggs were able to put it all together last season, becoming an elite duo despite only average quarterback play. With Kirk Cousins being an upgrade to Case Keenum as a thrower, their production has the potential to spike in 2018. What makes this group so lethal are their premiere route running abilities, and being apart of a scheme that affords them the opportunities of making frequent double moves. They compliment each other and can both win in a variety of ways and areas of the field. There is no reason to think that they cannot continue to develop together and could easily become to top duo next season.
Adam Thielen— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) May 15, 2018
•Outside stem to DB short arm
•Inside fake with pointed toes, hips, shoulders, head/eyes
•Lateral agility + upfield burst
•Awareness to roll and secure catch pic.twitter.com/HjAdOyz1oO
3. Lions – Marvin Jones and Golden Tate
Golden Tate is a ferocious competitor who thrives running intermediate routes and has now been producing 90 reception seasons in the Lions offense for four years. In 2017, his production was matched by counterpart Marvin Jones. Jones has always had elite body control, and entering his prime in his age 27 season and second year working with Quarterback Matthew Stafford, Jones put all of his tools together for the first time. With Stafford back and playing at a consistently high level, the duo of Tate and Jones should continue to thrive as the primary targets in the Lions offense.
Marvin Jones (WR)— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 2, 2018
Release: Stutter release with square hips
Breakpoint: Hesitation at break keeping his arms pumping
Body Control: Adjustment to back shoulder throw and pulls the ball away from DB
Key: Wipes away DB's hands to keep chest plate clean#CompeteFactor pic.twitter.com/efmDCWxAvM
4. Chiefs – Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins
The first duo on the list that have yet to play together, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins may be the most dynamic receiving duo in the NFL. Hill is the speedster deep threat, who has begun to progress as a route runner and is still new to playing the receiver position.
Watkins is the ultra talented former top pick, who will hopefully settle into his role and finally reach the potential he has flashed for a number of years. What makes this duos potential so high is their youth and combination of athletic gifts, but ultimately how they fit with new quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes may have the best arm in the NFL, and splash plays could become the norm in Kansas City with the downfield ability of both Hill and Watkins.
5. Broncos – Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders
Though operating under less than ideal conditions in 2017, the longtime Broncos duo of Sanders and Thomas remain near the top of the league. Though Demaryius Thomas’ production has steadily declined over the past 4 seasons, he was still able to manage 83 receptions and 949 yards in 2017. With an upgrade at quarterback in the form of Case Keenum, Thomas could easily return to being a 1,000 yard producer. Sanders will be returning from an up and down 2017 that saw him battle through a high ankle sprain. However, he is just a year removed from a 1,000 yard season himself, and will also be the beneficiary of the new Broncos signal caller. The Broncos drafted two receivers in the 2018 NFL Draft, and both Thomas and Sanders will be 31 this upcoming season, so their days together may be numbered. However, health pending, they should both be able to produce again in 2018.
Potentially elite duos that come with uncertainty:
1. Giants – Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard
Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the premiere wide receivers in the National Football League, and the Giants have found a complimentary piece in Sterling Shepard. However, both are coming off of injury-riddled 2017 campaigns and Eli Manning has been declining as a quarterback for years now. It’s possible that Eli has one more good season within him, and he has the pieces in Beckham and Shepherd to do so, but there are too many question marks surrounding their situation to assume this duo reaches their potential in 2018.
2. Saints – Michael Thomas and Cameron Meredith
In his first two seasons, Michael Thomas has vaulted himself into the conversation of top 5 wide receiver in all of the NFL with over 2,300 receiving yards. Despite an underwhelming season from the complimentary receivers that New Orleans had in 2017, Thomas played like an elite wideout. Cameron Meredith comes over from Chicago after missing all of 2017 with an injury, but he showed signs of potentially dominating performances as a second-year wide receiver in 2016. In the wide receiver-friendly Saints offense and with Drew Brees under center, there should be enough targets to spread throughout the duo which gives them a potentially elite ceiling.
Michael Thomas - Stretch release to vertical stem, violent hand usage and outside fake to get into CB’s blind spot. Defined In cut to generate separation, hands catch. https://t.co/17A70KWYo8— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) April 24, 2018
3. Browns – Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry
Jarvis Landry was a target machine in Miami, running mostly underneath patterns and collecting receptions. He will pair this skillset with Josh Gordon, the freak-of-nature talent with a full offseason under his belt after returning from suspension during the 2017 season. If the 2013 version of Josh Gordon returns (on the field), and pairs with Landry’s yard after catch ability, they could make for a productive duo for either Tyrod Taylor or Baker Mayfield. Regardless of signal-caller, they will be an upgrade from the quarterbacks that both receivers operated with last season. Additionally, if the Browns find themselves trailing in a lot of games once again, there should be plenty of targets to spread across the two playmakers.
Jarvis Landry - DB w/inside leverage, attack short arm with a dead leg release, press vertical + high arm bar to stay clean. Flatten out to generate separation + work into throwing window— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) April 30, 2018
Going over the middle: secure hands catch, then tuck the ball away from high safeties https://t.co/q5ufxsKywF
Sleeper duo with the potential to emerge:
Bears – Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller
Chicago recognized a need for playmaking receivers to surround developing quarterback Mitch Trubisky with, and as a result went out and signed Robinson and drafted Miller. Robinson missed essentially all of 2017 with an injury after a slightly underwhelming 2016. However, he’s will still only be 25 years old this upcoming season and has the talent that he was able to harness during his 1,400 yards, 14 touchdowns 2015 campaign. Miller was ultra-productive in college and was the most pro-ready wide receiver in the draft, and he comes into the league at the “advanced” age of 23. Projecting as a slot receiver who can moonlight as a Z, he is the perfect compliment to Robinson’s game. As the Bears shift to a more balanced offensive attack, these two could find themselves being the beneficiaries added pass attempts.
Best WR in the Draft. I won’t disappoint. https://t.co/XP1f0ztmGV— Anthony Miller (@AnthonyMiller_3) April 24, 2018