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NFC North Grades and Needs: WR

The NFC North Grades and Needs marches forward by reviewing wide receivers. Let’s take a look at the stats, grades and needs.

Green Bay: A

Aaron Rodgers had a great season in 2016 after a mediocre 2015 season (with Nelson hurt). A big reason for the turnaround for Rodgers was the return of Jordy Nelson (and better protection). Nelson was slow to start the season (as expected after an ACL tear) but Nelson looked healthier as the season went on. Jordy finished with 1,257 yards, 14 TDs, 13.0 YPC, 63 % caught on 152 targets (93). Rodgers is a great QB but Rodgers needs Jordy for success based on what happened in 2015.

Davante Adams finally broke out after a sophomore slump. Adams in year 3 had 997 yards and 12 TDs with a 13.3 YPC average. Adams caught 61.9% of his passes. Davonte was an excellent number 2 WR and a red zone threat. This is what was expected of him as a 2nd round pick.

Randall Cobb had a down year based on his standards but a solid year for a number 3/slot WR. Cobb had 610 yards and 4 TDs at 10.2 YPC. Cobb caught 71% of his 84 targets and missed a couple games due to injury. Rodgers had Nelson and Adams to pick up the decrease in Cobb production.

Ty Montgomery had 348 yards on 56 targets. Montgomery switched to RB halfway through the year and should remain a RB next year. He is still a receiving threat and can make big plays.

Geronimo Allison was an undrafted rookie who had a strong finish to the season. Allison had 202 yards and 2 TDs. Jeff Janis had 93 yards and 1 TD on 19 targets. Trevor Davis had 24 yards and 1 TD on 6 targets. Green Bay has three young WRs that can grow and provide depth.

Everyone is under contract for Green Bay for the long term, except Adams. Adams is playing in a contract year. We’ll see if Green Bay pays him early.

Detroit: A-

Detroit lost Calvin Johnson. The national media and Lions haters thought it was the end of the world for Detroit. They were dead wrong. Detroit had better production from its WRs in 2016 than 2015. Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin additions were huge for Detroit in the passing game. Golden Tate rebounded from a down 2015 to have over 1,000 yards. Tate notched 1.077 yards, 4 TDs and 11.8 YPC while leading the league in YAC. Tate had the most Lions targets with 135 and nabbed 91 receptions.

Marvin Jones had an incredible start to the season through five weeks, disappeared in the middle of the season and was solid the rest of the year. Jones had 103 targets but only 51 receptions for 930 yards. However, Jones was a deep threat with 16.9 YPC. Jones nabbed 4 TDs as well. Marvin had his best year of his career with Detroit. Jones matched his 2015 targets that he had with the Bengals but had more yards with Detroit by a good amount. Tate became a number 1 WR and Jones was a very good number 2 WR/pseudo number 1. The only issue with these two WRS is someone should have stepped up with more than four TDs (though Boldin did).

Anquan Boldin was top 5 in the league in first down catches on 3rd down and had 8 TDs on the season. He was a great late pickup by Bob Quinn. Boldin had 95 targets but only 594 yards with a very low 8.7 YPC. Boldin has good hands and can find the open spot but has lost his speed. However, Boldin was big in the red zone and on 3rd down and caught 70.5% of his targets.

Andre Roberts made several huge clutch catches late in games and had some big punt returns. Roberts had 188 yards and 1 TD as the 4th WR. TJ Jones added 93 yards as the 5th WR. Jace Billingsley is a practice squad sensation and productive in the pre-season. Billingsley has a shot to be the future slot WR for Detroit.

The Lions had a drop issue as their weapons were 3rd worst in the league in drop percentage. Tate, Jones and Boldin are normally sure handed but had some issues this season.

Ebron, in 13 games, and Riddick, in 10 games were big threats for Detroit but they are not WRS. Detroit relies on those players more than the 3rd and 4th WR. Detroit needs to re-sign Boldin or upgrade the slot position this offseason. Roberts is also a free agent which opens up the 4th WR spot. Adding a third stud WR is not out of the question. A number one who can beat doubles and win jump balls would be a nightmare for opponents with Tate, Jones, Ebron and Riddick already in the fold. However, Detroit will focus on the offensive line and defense this offseason.

Minnesota Vikings: B-

Adam Thielen came out of nowhere with 967 yards and 5 TDS. Thielen was targeted 92 times and earned 14.0 YPC. Second year player Stefon Diggs had another good season but missed some games with injury. Diggs had 103 targets with 903 yards but only 10.8 YPC with only 3 TDs.

Cordarelle Patterson had 70 targets in a contract year but only 453 yards and 2 TDs. Patterson was a bust but a great kick returner. Charles Johnson had 237 yards on 38 targets. The 2014 sensation hasn’t done much since for Minnesota. Jarius Wright only had 14 targets for 67 yards and had some injuries. Wright had bigger roles in previous years but lost his role to Patterson and Thielen this season. First round pick Laquan Treadwell had 3 targets for 15 yards. I think you would expect more from a first round pick at WR.

Rudolph, McKinnon and Asiata had a decent amount of targets. Rudolph had his best year as a Viking with Sam Bradford.

The Vikings have some talent at WR but lacked the production. Diggs’ injury didn’t help matters nor did the pass blocking for Sam Bradford. The Vikings need to add one better WR to team with Thielen and Diggs. Treadwell was terrible but has a chance to grow.

Chicago Bears: D

Cameron Meredith was the Bears leading receiver. Meredith had 888 yards and 4 TDs on 95 targets. Alshon Jeffrey was in a franchise tag year but was solid at best. Jeffrey was suspended 4 games for drug issues. Jeffrey notched 821 yards and 2 TDs on 95 targets. Jeffrey did have a good 15.8 YPC. Jeffrey is still a good WR but he did not have a good year for the Bears when they needed him the most. Jeffrey hits free agency and we’ll see if the Bears bring him back.

Eddie Royal had an injury and only 43 targets. Royal nabbed 33 of 43 for 369 yards and 2 TDs. Joshua Bellamy had 38 targets for 282 yards and 1 TD. Kevin White had 35 targets for 187 yard and 0 TDs. White was hurt in Week 4 and the injury bug keeps haunting him. White didn’t show much while healthy. Deonte Thompson had 36 targets, 249 yards and 2 TDs. Marques Wilson had only 16 targets and another injury plagued season. The Bears had a WR by committee at 3rd and 4th WR plus had the Jeffrey suspension.

Chicago has big question marks at WR for this offseason. Thompson and Wilson are free agents along with Jeffrey. If they bring Jeffrey back, they still need to upgrade the slot WR too. They should have experience depth at 4th and 5th WR but Bellamy and Royal could be upgraded as well.

Free Agency

http://www.spotrac.com/nfl/free-agents/wide-receiver/

Alshon Jeffrey, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Terrelle Pryor are the best WRs on the market. Boldin, Kendall Wright, and Kenny Stills are good slot options. Terrence Williams is a decent number 2 WR for the Cowboys. Vincent Jackson doesn’t have much left at 34 years old. Kamar Aiken, Robert Woods, Kenny Britt, Brandon Lafell and Michael Floyd also have potential and talent. Tedd Ginn Jr is a deep threat.

Cordarelle Patterson would make a great kick returner and Justin Hunter was a bust as well for the Titans. Andre Roberts and Jeremy Kerley are both back on the market after one year deals. WR help is available in free agency.

Draft

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/prospectrankings/2017/WR

Mike Williams(Clemson), Corey Davis (WMU) and John Ross(Washington) could be first round pick WRs. Curtis Samuel (Ohio State), Dede Westbrook (Colorado), Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington), Juju Smith Schuster (USC) could be good day 2 picks.

If the Vikings, Bears and Lions want to add one WR, they have plenty of options this season. Chicago depends on Jeffrey. Green Bay should be all set besides an Adams extension.