2024 NFL Power Rankings - Bottom-Five Pass-Catching Groups In The NFL (2024)

2024 NFL Power Rankings - Bottom-Five Pass-Catching Groups In The NFL (1)

Some NFL teams are lucky to have a strong unit of receivers. Others not so much.

The league has steadily evolved into a passing league with teams often deploying three wide receiver sets. An elite quarterback unlocks an offense but the playmakers take an average offense and bring it to another level.

Teams without skilled pass-catchers often struggle to move the football because of the one-dimensional nature of an offense. It's no surprise that the teams listed below are perceived to be among the league's worst offenses heading into the 2024 season.

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5. Pittsburgh Steelers

George Pickens and his first 1,000-yard season are keeping the Pittsburgh Steelers afloat because the rest of the depth chart hasn't proven itself at the NFL level.

The Steelers traded away Diontae Johnson in the offseason, allowing Pickens to cement his status as the alpha wide receiver in Pittsburgh. But it opened up a noticeable hole in the depth chart. Roman Wilson, Calvin Austin III,Van Jefferson, Scotty Miller, and Quez Watkins are the candidates to fill that void. Austin is the only one in that group that donned black and yellow last season. The rest of the group consists of a third-round rookie and three outcasts. In other words, there won't be elite competition in the running for the WR2 spot.

Wilson cemented his status as a top-100 pick during the predraft process and the Steelers have a lengthy history of drafting good wide receivers late in NFL Drafts. He'll be the favorite to line up opposite of Pickens the most often, but he'll have to battle through rookie mistakes to make that a reality.

The real second option in Pittsburgh may be tight end Pat Freiermuth. Injuries limited the former second-round pick to 12 games last season and he never got on the same page with quarterback Kenny Pickett, resulting in career-worst marks across the board. Although his reputation has slipped, Freiermuth has shown his ability to get open (98 targets in 2022) and as a red- zone threat (seven scores in 2021).

Pat Freiermuth Set for New Expansive Role in Arthur Smith Offense

"And he's had a lot of great tight ends. And early on. It's been two days, and early on, just seeing the flexibility where I can line up. It's been awesome."https://t.co/eji8U8REJk

— Steelers Now (@PghSteelersNow) May 27, 2024

4. New York Giants

Darius Slayton, Darren Waller, and Wan’Dale Robinson led the Giants in receiving in 2023. First-round pick Malik Nabers will immediately become the top receiving option for Big Blue.

Waller, a big name in fantasy football circles, has only played a fraction of regular-season games in the last three seasons. The 31-year-old has found the end zone six times in three seasons, including just once last year, along with 52 catches for 552 yards. Retirement is reportedly weighing on his mind. If he calls it a career, third-year professional Daniel Bellinger and rookie fourth-round pick Theo Johnson will have to pick up the slack.

Slayton has almost, by default, been the team’s leading receiver for three of the last four seasons. He’s averaged roughly 45 yards per game in each of those three campaigns. There was a time in that window when Slayton was firmly on the roster bubble. Robinson plays nearly three-quarters of his snaps from the slot, operating almost exclusively as a short-area receiver with a 5.3 average depth of target. Through his first season, Jalin Hyatt also appeared to be a one-dimensional wideout, although his strength lies in the deep-ball variety. Although it was a small sample size, Hyatt led the league in average depth of target (21 yards). Veteran Allen Robinson was added to the roster in the offseason.

Thankfully for Giants fans, Nabers can do everything Slayton, Robinson, Hyatt, and Robinson bring to the table. It’s a unit that’s improving but Nabers will have to show his stuff on an NFL field before the group can move out of the cellar.

3. Denver Broncos

Courtland Sutton may have finished with double-digit touchdowns in 2023 but only secured 59 receptions for 772 yards. That’s an unsustainable 0.63 touchdown rate. His previous career best is 0.38. The point is that Sutton is a fine receiver whose fantasy football numbers are inflated by his scoring prowess. His other receiving metrics don’t stack up as well.

And yet, the Broncos will go into training camp with Sutton as their bona fide top option. Former first-round pick Jerry Jeudy was shipped to Cleveland, opening the door for more snaps for sophom*ore Marvin Mims Jr. Mims, however, did not catch more than three passes in any game last season and was being outsnapped by Brandon Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey at the end of the season.

Lil'Jordan with a big run after the catch for the TD!

📺: #LACvsDEN on CBS
📱: Stream on #NFLPlus https://t.co/sFjqko01pD pic.twitter.com/2vDYUGM8bR

— NFL (@NFL) December 31, 2023

Tim Patrick, who hasn’t played in two years due to separate ACL and Achilles tears, is striving to return to the lineup. Josh Reynolds was brought over from Detroit and will provide a solid, but not spectacular veteran presence in the wide receiver room. Rookie Troy Franklin, a fourth-round pick who some mocked as a first-rounder, reunites with his college quarterback, Bo Nix. They are interesting names, but not enough to move the needle.

At tight end, Greg Dulcich showed flashes during his rookie campaign but injuries hampered him in both of his two seasons. He suited up in just two games in 2023 and already missed OTAs with a foot ailment. At least the Broncos employ three running backs who excel in the receiving game, although there’s a non-zero chance that Samaje Perine doesn't make the final roster. Javonte Williams and Jaleel McLaughlin will provide Nix a safety outlet in his rookie season.

2. Los Angeles Chargers

Goodbye, Keenan Allen. So long, Mike Williams. Sayonara, Austin Ekeler. Arrivederci, Gerald Everett.

320 Chargers targets are vacated from last season (and that number would be even higher if not for the early season-ending injury to Williams). The receivers are being replaced by Quentin Johnston, who experienced a disaster of a first season, and rookie second-round pick Ladd McConkey. The latter moved up draft boards through the predraft process after a look at his advanced analytics (4.27 yards per route run versus zone) and NFL Combine performance (4.39-second 40-yard dash time).

Joshua Palmer remains with the Chargers. Last season's second-leading receiver (581 yards) has a chance to finish first this year if Johnston doesn't take a step up and McConkey deals with rookie struggles. However, entering his fourth season, Palmer hasn't shown the skills needed to be a first or second option in any offense.

Instead of running it back with Ekeler, the Chargers brought on former Baltimore Ravens Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins. Ekeler has been one of the most dynamic pass-catching threats out of the backfield in recent seasons. The newbies in Los Angeles have career-high marks of 12 and 18 receptions, respectively.

1. New England Patriots

Last offseason, the Carolina front office claimed that it didn’t need to surround Bryce Young with talented receivers because of the way he read the field. He endured a horrendous rookie season and the Panthers have since course-corrected (although they still barely escaped this list). While probably not as intentional as Carolina, the Patriots are doing no favors for third overall pick Drake Maye in his debut campaign.

Like the Panthers of 2023, the Patriots invested a second-round pick into the position. The University of Washington's Ja'Lynn Polk will have dozens of chances to climb the depth chart in his rookie season. The 37th overall selection doesn't possess game-breaking speed but used his hands and NFL-ready body to finish his final collegiate season with 69 catches, 1,159 yards, and nine touchdowns, all second on the team to ninth overall pick Rome Odunze.

Still, there's a not-so-quiet camp on social media that believes that fourth-round pick Javon Baker is the better wide receiver of the duo. Baker recorded 52 catches, 1,139 yards, and seven touchdowns in his final year at UCF and similarly has excellent body control and a big frame to secure his receptions.

He's ready to make plays down the field in New England.@MoveTheSticks shows off what Javon Baker brings to the @Patriots ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/PF0dU70qL2

— NFL (@NFL) May 17, 2024

While both Polk and Baker have the potential to turn into solid NFL wideouts, depending on rookies to lead the team in receptions and yards isn't a winning recipe. That's where Kendrick Bourne, JuJu Smith-Schuster, K.J. Osborn, and Demario Douglas come in. Douglas led that group (only Osborn didn't play for New England last season) with 561 yards. The presumptive WR1, Bourne, suffered a torn ACL in October. He was, at least, on pace for a career-best year.

There won't be a lot of clamoring for New England wide receivers in fantasy drafts this summer. Tight end Hunter Henry, while an above-average red-zone threat, doesn't keep defensive coaches up at night. Running back Antonio Gibson is an excellent receiver out of the backfield but doesn't do enough to prevent the Patriots from finishing at the bottom of the rankings.

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