The acquisition of A.J. Brown still reverberates through the Eagles’ locker room, and it certainly had a ripple effect throughout the NFC East.
With one deft draft night move, GM Howie Roseman shifted the balance of power to Philadelphia when it comes to the wide receiver position.
“I’m like yeah, man,” said cornerback Darius Slay earlier this month about the trade for Brown. “Just knowing the offseason and seeing how it is and the talk, you know everybody kept saying we need a bigger receiver, a physical one. And we found a perfect match. He’s a great guy. I ended up playing against him probably once and his film, he’s aggressive, finishes the catches, runs through tackles.
“He’s like a running back when he gets the ball in his hand. He makes all the contested catches. People look at him like he’s big and slow. On film, I’ve never seen him get run down yet. So that’s exciting, I’m expecting big plays from him.”
Here’s is a look at the three starting receivers for each team, ranking the group from worst to first:
4 – GIANTS
Perhaps new head coach Brian Daboll will help get something out of a unit that was an utter disappointment in 2021.
Injuries didn’t do this group any favors, either.
They’re starting threesome combined for one touchdown. One.
Kenny Golladay was given a four-year, $72 million contract in free agency, with $40M in guarantees, then went out and laid a goose egg. On 76 targets, he had just 37 receptions for 521 yards. He was the only one who stayed relatively healthy, but that didn’t seem to matter. His lack of production was inexcusable – even with the ineptitude of former coach Joe Judge and still-inconsistent quarterback Daniel Jones.
Rookie Kadarius Toney had trouble staying healthy but even when he was – 10 games worth – he managed just 420 yards. At least he had more receptions than Golladay with 39.
Slot Sterling Shepard may be the best of the bunch, but he played just seven games. He produced in those games, however, with 36 receptions and 366 yards. He was the only one in the group who found the end zone.
3 – COMMANDERS
The group starts with Terry McLaurin, and that’s a fine place to start. Trouble is, it may end with McLaurin, too.
Like the Giants, the Commanders were undone a bit by an injury to slot Curtis Samuel, who played just five games and had six catches for 27 yards. When healthy, Samuel proved to be dangerous in Carolina with 54 receptions, 627 yards, and six touchdowns in 2020 and 77-851-3 in 2019.
Washington gave their new quarterback Carson Wentz a new weapon, selecting Penn State’s Jahan Dotson 16th overall last month.
Dotson is a burner and could end up being a perfect complement to McLaurin, but as is the case with any rookie, it must be proven on the field and until it is, there’s no way the Commanders can be ranked any higher than third.
2 – COWBOYS
CeeDee Lamb is a star in the making, without question. On 120 targets last year, he made 79 catches for 1,102 yards and six touchdowns. Get used to those numbers.
The trouble with putting the Cowboys first in these rankings is they lost a big piece in Amari Cooper, who was traded to the Browns in the offseason. Cooper was targeted 104 times and had 68 grabs for 865 yards and eight TDs.
That’s going to leave a mark, even though the Cowboys did well in retaining Michael Gallup. Three days before free agency began, Dallas gave their new No. 2 a five-year deal for $62M. You could argue that’s too much, especially with Lamb entering into the third year of his rookie contract and will soon be in line looking to break the bank with a new deal.
Dallas, though, had little choice. It couldn’t afford to lose both Cooper and Gallup.
In the slot, the Cowboys signed James Washington, a pedestrian pass-catcher who hasn’t caught more than 30 passes in the last two seasons.
1 – EAGLES
The A.J. Brown gives the Eagles two No. 1 receivers. It may be too early to think of DeVonta Smith as a No. 1 but the Eagles said after the season that he has the skills to be ad he did nothing to prove that thinking wrong with a strong rookie season.
The Eagles are the only team in the division with two No. 1s, but that is not the only reason they sit atop the division's WR rankings.
Quez Watkins had a breakout season in Year 2, albeit a quiet one, but his 43 catches for 647 yards were more than any slot or No. 2 WR in the division.
The trio is also younger than any of the other threesomes, which stands to reason that it will only get better, too.
Finally, the top five receivers in the division:
1 - A.J. Brown
2 – CeeDee Lamb
3 – Terry McLaurin
4 – DeVonta Smith
5 – Michael Gallup
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Fan Nation Eagles Today and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglesmaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.