Yes, quarterbacks do and should get an immense amount of credit for being able to make plays all over the field while being under constant duress. Yet, for how essential the position of the quarterback is to the success of an NFL team, this in no way diminishes the tremendous importance of having talented wide receivers that can both make incredible plays while bailing out their passers when they make a mistake. Although the top free agent receivers may be considered less than exceptional by some, there are several that are actually quite versatile and effective when it comes to going off for big chunks of yardage to sway the momentum and ultimately the outcome of a given contest. For any NFL franchises that are looking for prolific deep wideouts that can make plays quickly and often, look no further than these ten confident and capable pass catchers.
10. Taylor Gabriel
Averaging 11.5 yards per reception last season, Taylor Gabriel effectively used his speed and hands to make plays downfield. Despite his diminutive stature (5’8″), Gabriel is fantastic at creating separation from opposing defensive backs, a skill that has and will continue to serve him well with whatever team he suits up for next season.
9. Kendall Wright
Although the veteran receiver only caught one touchdown pass in 2017, Kendall Wright’s lack of production was more the result of playing for a bad team with a rookie quarterback rather than his supposedly diminished skills. With a contested catch rate of 76.5% (2nd amongst receivers), Wright is both highly physical and adept at catching the 50-50 balls, which will allow him to be a coveted receiving option for any team that likes to chuck the ball downfield.
8. John Brown
While John Brown has had issues with dropping balls during his career, his tremendous speed and quickness have allowed him to be fairly successful in the NFL (14.2 yards per reception). Combined with the fact that Brown is highly effective on special teams as a returner and the explosive albeit somewhat inconsistent receiver could be valuable in more ways than one for a team that is willing to take a chance on him.
7. Mike Wallace
Even at age 31, Mike Wallace is still a dangerous and capable receiving threat thanks to his deep pass catching abilities (14.4 yards per reception) while being able to go the distance after catching the ball. He may not be a number one option anymore, but Wallace is still too agile and athletic for a team that is devoid of receiving playmakers to pass on him.
6. Paul Richardson
Talk about a player that had a career year at the best possible time. Setting career highs in receiving yards (703), receiving touchdowns (6) and receptions (44), Paul Richardson proved to be invaluable for his quarterback in Russell Wilson who was constantly under pressure. Although his hands are not the best, Richardson is a strong route runner and is especially potent when he is in the red zone.
5. Terrelle Pryor
Sure, it would be easy to dismiss Terrelle Pryor as a one-hit wonder receiver given the disappointing season he had with the Washington Redskins. However, when you consider that the quarterback turned wide receiver was able to be highly productive with the Cleveland Browns two years ago (caught over 1,000 receiving yards in 2016) and it becomes clear that this athletic playmaker absolutely deserves another chance to prove what he is made of.
4. Marqise Lee
Although Marqise Lee has usually been a second or third wide receiver throughout his career, the humble yet effective pass catcher played well in the absence of both Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson throughout most of the season. Averaging 12.5 yards per reception, Lee was a dangerous deep threat target that could easily be a go-to target in an offense that likes to work the ball downfield.
3. Sammy Watkins
While injuries have held back Sammy Watkins from being the elite playmaker he is capable of consistently, he flourished in the high-octane offense of the Los Angeles Rams last season. Although he only brought in 593 receiving yards in 2017, Watkins was highly effective and reliable as an endzone target (eight receiving touchdowns). Helping Jared Goff reach a quarterback rating of 115.9 when the ball was thrown his way (5th in the NFL), Watkins constantly proved that he still has all of the abilities needed to be a number one wideout in the NFL.
2. Allen Robinson
Although Robinson played in just one game last season, the elite pass-catcher has been practically unstoppable when healthy. If the young and highly athletic receiver can go to a team that has even just a decent passer, he could easily match if not surpass the exceptional numbers he put up three years ago during the 2015 season (1,400 receiving yards, 14 touchdowns).
1. Jarvis Landry
Despite having to catch passes from the apathetic and below average quarterback that is Jay Cutler, Jarvis Landry still managed to look like a superstar that was never afraid to shoulder most of the weight of his team’s offense. Amassing 112 receptions in 2017 to go along with nine receiving touchdowns (both career highs), Landry was incredibly productive and reliable. At 25 years of age, Landry is still in the middle of his prime and could be much more productive with a quarterback that has both the tremendous arm strength and accuracy to get the ball in his vicinity.