Ranking the NFC North Wide Receiver Rooms For 2020: Depth is the Deciding Factor
All four teams in the NFC North have a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. The Vikings had two of them for the past few years, but with Stefon Diggs being traded to the Bills this offseason, they've rejoined the Packers, Bears, and Lions in having an undisputed go-to player at the top of the depth chart. Davante Adams, Kenny Golladay, Allen Robinson, and Adam Thielen are surefire top-20 receivers in the NFL, and all four have arguments to be included in the top 15, if not higher.
While I do think there's a clear top player among that quartet, the separation between the group is rather small. What that means is that when ranking the division's wide receiver rooms for the 2020 season, depth becomes the main focus. How good is a team's No. 2 option? How much talent do they have behind the top two?
Like I did with the running back position, I'm going to begin this article by ranking the entire receiver group for the four teams. To settle some debates, I'll wrap things up by ranking the division's best individual players at the position.
Previous NFC North position rankings:
- QB Rankings: Kirk Cousins, Aaron Rodgers or Matthew Stafford at No. 1?
- Ranking The NFC North Running Back Rooms For 2020
1. Detroit Lions
Starters: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola (slot)
Depth: Geronimo Allison, Marvin Hall, Quintez Cephus
The Lions are an easy call here. Detroit might be coming off of a 3-12-1 season, but there's no debating that it has the best wide receiver corps in the division.
It starts with Golladay, who led the NFL with 11 receiving touchdowns last season and was third in yards per catch at 18.3. The 2017 third-round pick broke out with a 1,000-yard season in 2018 and followed it up with nearly 1,200 yards last season. The 6'4," 215-pound Golladay is nicknamed "Babytron" for a reason; he's not the same physical specimen that Calvin Johnson was (no one is), but he brings similar strengths to the table. Golladay is a big, physical player who can go up and get the ball, and he also offers sharp route-running ability and poses a threat after the catch. His frame and excellent hands make him an elite weapon for Stafford in the red zone.
What separates the Lions' receivers from the rest of the division is the talent they have to complement Golladay. Jones is a very strong No. 2 option who put up nearly 800 yards last year and was tied for fourth in the league with nine TD catches (four of which came in one game against the Vikings). The veteran is just two years removed from a 2017 season in which he had 1,100 yards. Danny Amendola is 34 years old, but he's still a highly reliable option in the slot who nearly reached his career high in yards in 2019.
If Matthew Stafford stays healthy, D'Andre Swift becomes an immediate star, and tight end T.J. Hockenson breaks out in his second season, this could be a heck of a skill position group.
2. Green Bay Packers
Starters: Davante Adams, Devin Funchess, Allen Lazard
Depth: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jake Kumerow, Equanimeous St. Brown
This is a spoiler for my individual rankings at the end of this article, but Adams is the best wide receiver in the NFC North. In fact, he's a top-five receiver in the entire league (Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, and Tyreek Hill round out my top five). Adams has arguably the best release package in the NFL against press coverage, which allows him to get open against even the game's best corners. He's also an incredible route-runner with great hands who has built a fantastic rapport with Aaron Rodgers. Adams missed a few games last season, which kept him from reaching back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. But with 88.3 yards per game and 18 touchdowns over the last two years, he's unquestionably among the best of the best.
I was very surprised to see the Packers neglect to add a complementary receiver in April's draft. Still, Funchess and Lazard is a fairly solid duo of secondary options. Both players are 6'4" or taller, which should present some matchup problems for opposing secondaries. The Packers acquired Funchess in free agency after injury issues washed away his 2019 season. His best performance came three years ago with the Panthers, when he recorded 840 yards and eight touchdowns. Lazard emerged last year in his second season and is trending upwards.
Adams' star power is the main selling point, but the depth does just enough to land the Packers at No. 2 in what is a very tight competition between Green Bay, Minnesota, and Chicago.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Starters: Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson
Depth: Tajae Sharpe, Bisi Johnson, Chad Beebe, KJ Osborn
If Diggs were still around, the Vikings would be at least one spot higher. It's a testament to the talent of Jefferson that they're not last in these rankings. The No. 22 overall pick out of LSU is a very exciting young player who should help Vikings fans move on from Diggs pretty quickly if he lives up to his potential. His size, speed, and route-running are likely to translate to the NFL right away.
With his good friend Diggs in Buffalo, Thielen is now the unquestioned No. 1 for the first time in his career. Even though he'll turn 30 in August, there's little reason to believe Thielen can't put up a huge season after missing half of last year with a nagging hamstring injury. This is a guy who posted top-five WR numbers across 2017 and 2018 and emerged as a superstar. We know about Thielen's hands and his separation ability, but can he become more of a deep threat in 2020? The Vikings might need that. They also may need him to accommodate Jefferson – who dominated in the slot for LSU last year – by playing on the outside more frequently. It should be fascinating to see how Thielen adjusts to those new challenges and some additional defensive attention.
The Vikings are the only team in the division who used three receivers less than 60 percent of the time last year. They did so on just 25 percent of snaps, by far the lowest mark in the NFL. Whoever wins the WR3 job between Sharpe and Johnson should provide a solid third-down outlet for Kirk Cousins.
4. Chicago Bears
Starters: Allen Robinson, Ted Ginn Jr., Anthony Miller (slot)
Depth: Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley Ridley, Javon Wims
So far, the Bears have come in last in the NFC North at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. Unlike QB and RB, this one was actually quite close; you could make an argument that the Bears should be as high as No. 2 on this ranking. I have them in last because I'm not sure I'm buying Miller as a legitimate second option.
Robinson might get overlooked in a division with Adams, Golladay, and Thielen, but he shouldn't. He is a perpetually underrated star who has suffered the unfortunate fate of spending his entire career catching passes from Blake Bortles and Mitchell Trubisky (AKA Midwest Bortles). Robinson announced his presence to the league with a massive 1,400-yard, 14-touchdown season with the Jaguars in 2015. After a few relatively down years, including one missed to injury, he put up 1,147 yards and seven scores last year in his second season with the Bears. Robinson is a great route-runner with outstanding size, hands, and agility. The only thing he's really missing is elite straight-line speed.
Miller has improved in his two NFL seasons, going from 33 catches for 423 yards as a rookie to 52 for 656 last year. I think he's a strong third option out of the slot, but I don't know if he'll ever be a true No. 2. The Bears' other starter on the outside will likely be Ginn, who is 35 years old and about to play his 14th NFL season. He's still fast and better at playing receiver than Patterson, but Ginn isn't going to scare defensive coordinators like he once did.
Individual NFC North Wide Receiver Rankings
- Davante Adams
- Kenny Golladay
- Adam Thielen
- Allen Robinson
- Marvin Jones Jr.
- Justin Jefferson
- Danny Amendola
- Devin Funchess
- Anthony Miller
- Allen Lazard
- Tedd Ginn Jr.
- Tajae Sharpe
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