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AFC East Position Power Rankings: Wide Receiver

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Where does each team in the AFC East stack up at the wide receiver position?

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The AFC East has essentially been run by the same team for over 15 years. The New England Patriots have dominated the division season after season, riding on the success of the most prolific quarterback this league has ever known and a head coach who always seems to be three steps ahead of the rest of the NFL.

That being said, each team in the division, the Patriots, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, and our Miami Dolphins, have their strengths and weaknesses. Over the offseason, I’ll be giving an overview of each team at each position, and ranking them according to skill and depth. Today, we review the wide receivers.

4) New York Jets

Roster:

Robby Anderson

Quincy Enunwa

Charone Peake

Lucky Whitehead

Jalin Marshall

Miles White

Marquess Wilson

Deshon Foxx

Frankie Hammond

Chris Harper

ArDarius Stewart (R)

Chad Hansen (R)

Gabe Marks (R)

Surprise, surprise. The Jets occupy the bottom spot in our power rankings once again: although this time, not by a large margin behind our number 3 team. The Jets certainly do have some talent on the roster in Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, and Charone Peake. The team also recently picked up the ironically unlucky Lucky Whitehead, who was falsely accused of theft and jettisoned from the Dallas Cowboys. Whitehead’s speed and kick return acumen can absolutely help out the woebegone Jets in their quest to win at least a few games this season.

New York also drafted ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen to add to a passing game that lost talented veterans in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker this offseason. Stewart enters the league with a reputation of being a complete receiver. Scouts noted his run-after-catch ability, as well as his propensity for catching the deep ball as traits that should immediately help whichever team was going to draft him, in this case, the Jets. Hansen, while a little bit less of an athlete than his draft day counterpart, has the size and toughness to come up with contested catches over opposing cornerbacks. Stewart and Hansen should compete immediately for depth spots on the roster, while even pushing to move ahead of Peake and Anderson into the starting lineup.

3) Buffalo Bills

Roster:

Sammy Watkins

Brandon Tate

Andre Holmes

Corey Brown

Jeremy Butler

Rod Streater

Rashad Ross

Walter Powell

Dezmin Lewis

Zay Jones (R)

Brandon Reilly (R)

Daikiel Shorts (R)

The Buffalo Bills had a big problem at wide receiver as free agency kicked off. The team lost both Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin to the Rams and 49ers respectively, stripping the roster of two of its most productive wideouts.

However, Buffalo still boasts a star in Sammy Watkins who, should he finally remain healthy, has the ability to be a top tier wideout in the NFL. Watkins has posted over 15.0 yards per catch in each of his three seasons and recorded over 1,000 yards on top of 9 touchdowns in just 13 games back in 2015. Last season, he struggled to get off the ground due to a nagging foot injury. The Bills are banking on that injury being fully healed in order for Watkins to anchor their wide receiver unit.

Behind Watkins sit speed demon and resident kick returner demon Brandon Tate, big-man and chain mover Andre Holmes, and former Carolina Panther Corey Brown. None of the three have ever been full-time starters in their career, yet all will likely compete for the number 2 and 3 wide receiver positions with rookie Zay Jones.

The Bills drafted Jones, one of the most complete wide receivers in this year’s draft class, in the second round of the draft. As one of the most productive college football wide receivers of all-time (Jones holds the record for most receptions in a career and in a single season), Buffalo fans have high hopes for the prolific pass catcher. What Jones will need to show is that he can use his technique and larger frame to make up for his lack of top end speed against opposing defenses. He has gained a reputation as an extremely hard worker with good character and even better effort. He’ll have to put those traits to use to maintain success in the NFL. If he does, he can absolutely come away with Buffalo’s number 2 receiver spot by the start of the regular season.

2) Miami Dolphins

Roster:

Jarvis Landry

DeVante Parker

Kenny Stills

Leonte Carroo

Jakeem Grant

Mitch Mathews

Rashawn Scott (PUP)

Isaiah Ford (R)

Jordan Westerkamp (R)

Drew Morgan (R)

Francis Owusu (R)

Damore'ea Stringfellow (R)

Malcolm Lewis (R)

I know this placement is going to get some flak because the Dolphins truly have one of the best, if not the best pass catching trio in the NFL. Landry, Parker, and Stills make up an incredibly well rounded group containing the most competitive and hard charging slot receiver in the league, a big bodied athletic nightmare for cornerbacks, and a reliable speedster on the perimeter.

However, what forced me to place the Dolphins behind their division rival Patriots is Miami’s lack of depth behind their impressive trio. As of this moment, there is no one on the roster who I see as a reliable fourth string receiver who can come in and play up to the caliber of Landry, Parker, and Stills without the offense missing a beat. As you will read below, the Patriots have far greater depth at the position.

Leonte Carroo certainly has potential, and the Dolphins believe he can be that guy who’s ready to come off the bench, but he certainly didn’t show it last season, reportedly because he couldn’t get a good enough handle on the offense. Jakeem Grant’s slight frame and ball security problems give me concerns about his ability to be a reliable contributor on offense despite Adam Gase’s insistence that the team wants him more involved on that side of the ball. And Rashawn Scott has yet to record a regular season reception. While there are some intriguing undrafted rookies who have a shot at grabbing a back-end roster spot, there’s no one on the team who has done anything to instill confidence about their ability to be a reliable starting option if an emergency necessitated their contribution.

1) New England Patriots

Roster:

Julian Edelman

Brandin Cooks

Malcolm Mitchell

Chris Hogan

Danny Amendola

Matthew Slater

Tony Washington

Devin Lucien

K.J. Maye

Austin Carr (R)

Cody Hollister (R)

The Patriots simply have one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL, with five wide receivers who are capable of starting for the team. It’s understandable that some will say the success of the unit is heavily reliant on Tom Brady, and that’s a fair statement in some regard, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that on game day, these receivers are seen consistently getting open, hauling in very impressive catches, and making productive plays after the catch. Julian Edelman is a perfect example of that fact.

Edelman recorded one of his most productive seasons ever this past year, accumulating 98 receptions for over 1,100 yards. As the Patriots’ resident slot receiver, Edelman is regularly targeted over the middle of the field on crucial third downs, and his ability to evade tacklers and gain extra yardage after the catch is rivaled by few in the league (namely Jarvis Landry). Behind him on the depth chart sits Danny Amendola, a practical clone of Edelman himself in terms of receiving traits and skills. Both are consistent threats in the slot and provide extra weaponry in the return game.

Malcolm Mitchell seems to be a budding star in the making capable of working both over the middle and on the outside. After being taken in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, he worked his way up to becoming a regular contributor by the end of the season for New England. He totaled over 400 yards on top of 4 touchdowns in limited work last year and seemed to build up a chemistry with Brady. If that carries over into 2017, Mitchell should continue to make a name for himself around the league.

Topping off this unit are deep threats Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan. Cooks proved to be one of the most dangerous receivers in the league over three years in New Orleans. He totaled over 1,100 yards in each of his past two seasons as a one of the fastest receivers in the league. He was a consistent weapon on the outside who routinely beat corners with his blazing speed, yet he also proved to be efficient in the slot, where he regularly made big plays out of short passes. Hogan was no slacker last season either. Coming over from the division rival Buffalo Bills, Hogan tied DeSean Jackson to pace the league in yards per reception (17.9), coming in just ahead of Stills (17.3). Opposing defenses will have a lot of difficulty covering both Cooks and Hogan on the perimeter this season.

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