It’s a passing league; we say that all the time, right? And with that notion comes the talk of quarterbacks.
Quarterbacks run the headlines. They get the glory. When the ball leaves their hands, we hold our breath to see if it’s completed, and if it is, the camera is right back on them. But what about the hands that reel those passes in? What about the insane generation of wide receiver talent we’ve seen over the last 10 years come to the forefront as this passing league expands each year?
This article is about recognizing some of those receivers, specifically a handful of duos in the NFL that stand above the rest. For as good as a quarterback can make your team, it makes everything a heck of a lot easier and more exciting when you have talented players on the receiving end.
With so many great combinations to choose from around the league, here is a look at my top five receiver duos who could lead the league in receiving entering the 2021 regular season.
5. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp (Los Angeles Rams)
Kupp and Woods were already a great duo before this offseason got underway. With Jared Goff as their quarterback, both receivers posted more than 900 receiving yards last season and they were both 1,000-yard receivers the year before. Much of that goes on the shoulders of Sean McVay, their head coach and offensive guru, who is still in place.
Goff is no longer there, and in his place stands the talented gunslinger Matthew Stafford. Stafford will likely be a key catalyst for an aerial onslaught in Los Angeles this upcoming season. Kupp and Woods are poised to be on the receiving end of that. I expect another 1,000-yard season from both of them, which will certainly put this duo in the conversation for most receiving yards in the league in 2021.
4. Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb (Dallas Cowboys)
Before he went down with a devastating injury, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was on a record-breaking pace in terms of passing yards in a season. If you subtract the 166 passing yards he had in his fifth game of the year where he got hurt, Prescott had thrown for 1,690 yards in four games. Multiply that times four to equal out a full season and we get an on-pace average of 6,760 passing yards in 16 games. That’s more than 1,000 yards over Peyton Manning’s single-season record of 5,477 passing yards in 2013.
Now, do I expect Prescott to throw for 6,000 yards this upcoming season? No. But I did see a ton of growth from Prescott as a passer before he got hurt, and if he plays a full season in 2021, Cooper and Lamb are without a doubt going to be over the 1,000-yard mark each.
3. A.J. Brown and Julio Jones (Tennessee Titans)
On paper, you have to love what Jones going to the Titans presents. Over the last two seasons, no quarterback in the NFL has had a higher EPA/play (Expected Points Added per play) average than Ryan Tannehill. That metric basically says that not only has Tannehill been aggressive, but he has been efficient. Now you throw Jones into that mix along with Brown and this could be an unstoppable combination.
The only aspect of this situation that could hold them back is regression from Tannehill via their change in offensive coordinator. Arthur Smith was the offensive coordinator during Tannehill’s best years, and now he is off as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
2. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Talent-wise, one could argue there is not a better combination of wide receivers in the NFL than Godwin and Evans. There are many lists in which these two receivers are in the top 10 of receivers around the league individually. Yet somehow they wear the same colors and the same jersey for the same team—go figure it’s the reigning Super Bowl champs.
Godwin hauled in 1,333 receiving yards two years ago in just 14 games, and Mike Evans, well, he’s never had a single season in his seven-year career in which he’s failed to be a 1,000-yard receiver (an NFL record to start his career). The biggest element of this duo not being at the very top of my list is because the Buccaneers defense is so good and their commitment to being balanced on offense is so strong that there just might not be as many opportunities for them to put up monster numbers as there might be for the duo at No. 1 on the list.
1. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs)
If your first reaction to this is, “woah, woah, woah. Kelce is not a wide receiver” you might technically be right. Kelce is listed as a tight end on the roster. However, in 2020, as he was second in the NFL with more than 1,400 receiving yards, he lined up as a slot or outside receiver 482 times compared to just 388 as an in-line tight end.
Technicalities aside, Hill and Kelce are still the duo poised for the most yards. Their offense is all gas at all times, and they run their offense through the air. With Patrick Mahomes as their quarterback, these two have to be No. 1 on this list as two of the best (if not the best) at their positions when it comes to racking up both yards and points.
Honorable Mention: Adam Theilen and Justin Jefferson (Minnesota Vikings), D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett (Seattle Seahawks)