The positional rankings articles continue with Wide Receivers and Tight Ends.
1 Green Bay
Jordy Nelson returned in full force in 2016 after an injury (knee) in 2015. Nelson had 1,257 yards and 14 TDs as Rodgers had exceptional protection. Jordy started slow but got faster and productive. Davante Adams finally stepped up in year 3 of his career with 997 yards and 12 TDs. Can Adams repeat that in a contract year in 2017? Randall Cobb has been regressing some (2015) and battling injuries (2016). Cobb regressed in 2015 and even more with injury in 2016. Randall is still a solid third WR with 610 yard and 4 TDs in 2016. Cobb still has that 800-1,000 yard potential but those productive years are getting farther and farther away. Will Cobb rebound in 2017?
Geronimo Allison (202 yards and 2 TDs) made some plays late in his rookie season and in the playoffs. Trevor Davis (Round 5 2016) has some size and speed and Jeff Janis still has deep ball speed (fluke Hail Mary plays) but is little used due to route running. The Packers drafted DeAngelo Yancey in Round 5 and Malachi Dupre in Round 7 to battle for the depth. Green Bay has good potential with their depth which earns them the best WRs in the North.
The Lions are stacked at the top at receiver with Marvin Jones and Golden Tate. Tate is one of only four WRs with 90+ receptions the last 3 seasons and had a nice 1,000 yard season despite a slow start in 2016. Tate is a YAC machine with good hands. Marvin Jones had a hot start the first 5 games and decent finish in 2016 but disappeared in the middle of the season (though Lions went 8-1 in this time). Jones earned 930 yards at 16.9 YPC (16 20+ plays) with 4 TDS in 15 games on 103 targets. Jones has 1,000-1,200 yard potential as he showed early in Detroit. Detroit really has two number 1 WRs on their roster.
Kenny Golladay was drafted in Round 3 to be the Lions third WR. Golladay is 6’4 and can play outside WR. He can win deep jump balls and runs good routes with great hands. Detroit got a very talented rookie in Round 3. Golladay has 600 yard and 6 TD potential as the third WR. Tate can move to the slot and Golladay can play outside in three WR sets.
Jared Abbrederis, TJ Jones, Jace Billingsley(slot) and Keshawn Martin will be battle for the 4th and 5th WR spots. Abbrederis and Jones have potential and some experience. Abbrederis runs great routes but is oft-injured. All four have special team ability as well. Detroit has average depth but is very strong at the top end.
The Vikings got some unexpected production from Adam Thielen (967 yards and 5 TDs) and they rewarded him with a four year extension. Stefon Diggs dealt with some injuries in his second year but added 903 yards and 3 TDs on 111 targets in 13 games played. Cordarelle Patterson left in free agency and rookie first round pick (2016) Laquan Treadwell did almost nothing. Minnesota added former Cardinals first round pick Michael Floyd but Floyd got in trouble for drinking on his probation after a DUI last year. Rodney Adams was added in Round 5 and has some special team ability. Jarius Wright is an experienced slot but lost playing time in 2016. Staci Cole was drafted in Round 7 and he adds some speed.
The Vikings do have some potential but Floyd must stay out of trouble and Treadwell must step up. Can Thielen repeat his performance from 2016? Minnesota should have an improved offensive line which should help Bradford and the weapons have time to get open. We’ll see if Floyd and Treadwell reach their potential and if Thielen and Diggs remain strong players.
The Bears overhauled their WR core after losing number1 WR Alshon Jeffrey in free agency (Phi) and cutting Eddie Royal. Chicago added Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright and Victor Cruz in free agency. Wright and Cruz have potential in the slot and Wheaton can be a deep threat. Cameron Meredith had a nice 2016 season with Chicago by notching 888 yards and 4 TDS on 96 targets. Kevin White is a former first round pick but missed 28 of 32 games so far in his career. White must stay healthy and live up to being a top 10 pick. The Bears need a new number 1 WR and it has to be White. The Bears are 4th until White proves something. Meredith, Wheaton, Cruz/Wright can be solid number 2 and slot WRS though.
The Lions are stacked at tight end with Eric Ebron, Michael Roberts and Daniel Fells. Ebron is really starting to be a productive player with 711 yards in only 13 games on 86 targets. Ebron only had 2 TDs in 2016 but had 5in 2015 in 13 games. Ebron can make big plays and continues to improve. He must finally play a full 16 game season though to reach his max potential.
Michael Roberts is a rookie red zone threat who can be a decent blocker. Detroit drafted Roberts in Round 4 out of Toledo. Decent is a huge upgrade over last season for Detroit. Daniel Fells is an excellent blocking tight end that should be more of a receiving threat than Matthew Mulligan (8 yards). Cole Wick has potential too despite an injury in 2016 in his rookie year. Detroit only had 45 yards from tight ends two through four during last season; so expect that production to be much higher in 2017 from Roberts and Fells. Ebron has 800-1,000 yard (6-8 TD) potential if he gets the targets during 2017. This is possible with a rookie third WR for Ebron to see more targets. Roberts will be a red zone threat and Fells adds value as a blocker. The Lions have a solid tight end group for 2017.
1B Green Bay
The Packers lost Jared Cook but added a stud in Martellus Bennett. Bennett had 701 yards and 7 TDs on 73 targets and won the Super Bowl with Tom Brady last year. Bennett has been productive for the Cowboys, Giants, Bears and Patriots, despite being outspoken. He will be a playmaker with Aaron Rodgers. Richard Rodgers is an average tight end and regressed with only 262 yards and 2 TDs in 2016. Rodgers should have stepped up with Cook hurt some of the year. Lance Kendricks was a high pick for St. Louis but failed with the Rams. The Rams lacked a QB so Kendricks will benefit from a change of scenery. Kendricks had 499 yards and 2 TDs in 2016 with 88 targets. Bennett can block well but Rodgers and Kendricks struggle in that area. Green Bay has a solid tight end group for 2017.
Kyle Rudolph had a great year and may be the best tight end in the division. Rudolph nabbed 840 yards and 7 TDs on 132 targets. Rudolph finally broke out and was Bradford’s go to option. Bucky Hodges was a day 3 pick for the Vikings. Hodges will replace Rhett Ellison and Hodges can do a little bit of everything in-line, in the slot and in the back field. Kyle Carter and David Morgan have some potential at the third tight end spot. The Vikings get third in the division due to their unproven depth.
The Bears have a decent tight end in Zach Miller but Miller is oft-injured. Miller had 486 yards and 4 TDs in 2016 on 65 targets. Chicago added Dion Sims for 6 million per season from Miami after only 256 yard and 4 TD season on 35 targets. The Bears drafted small school prospect Adam Sheehan in Round 2 of the 2017 draft. Sheehan is an unknown but GM Ryan Pace must see something from the Ashland product. Chicago has potential with some good depth but they aren’t proven tight ends and Miller is hurt way too often.
In the next article, we will look at offensive tackles and interior offensive linemen and summarize the offensive rankings.