Another tough choice for the AFC West ranking is wide receiver. But unlike running back, it isn’t because of question marks, it’s because every team in the division has some serious talent at the wide receiver position.
Every wide receiver group in the division could probably make an argument that they are the best. Or at least three of them do. But I had the unenviable task of making a decision.
1. Raiders — Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree
Two seasons, two 1000-yard seasons, two Pro Bowls. That’s what Amari Cooper has done already in his young career. He debuted on the NFL Top 100 this year at number 53. His 1153 yards led all AFC West receivers and was 8th in the league. He also led the division with 21 catches of 20 yards or more which was fourth in the league. And he is only getting better.
Crabtree led the division with 8 receiving touchdowns and 56 first downs and was second in the division with 89 catches.
Both Coop and Crabtree (1003) surpassed the 1000-yard mark last season. Of the top four highest graded AFC West receivers by Pro Football Focus, Coop and Crab were both among them. No other team in the division had more than one wide receiver graded that high.
2. Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas
Damn, this was a tough call. Can we go with 1 and 1a? There are very good arguments that Sanders and Thomas could once again lay claim to the best starting duo in the division. Like Coop and Crab, Sanders and Thomas also both surpassed 1000 yards last season. Both were named to the Pro Bowl– the second time for Sanders and fifth straight for Thomas.
They deserve a lot of credit for that accomplishment considering the QB situation in Denver, though it evens out some considering the Broncos lack of weapons otherwise on the offense. They had little choice last season but to get the ball in the hands of these two. When they did get the ball, they were very reliable. Thomas led the division with 90 catches, and Sanders had just one drop on 80 on-target passes.
3. Chargers — Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin/Tyrell Williams/Dontrelle Inman/Mike Williams
If you were to ask what the deepest wide receiver position is, the Chargers would take it for sure. There’s so much talent, it’s nearly impossible to predict who the top two will be once all is said and done. Tyrell Williams burst onto the scene last season in the absence of Keenan Allen. The second year undrafted player out of Western Oregon (!?!) caught 69 passes for 1059 yards.
Now former Cal Bear Keenan Allen rejoins the receiving corps with Benjamin who started 8 games last season and Dontrelle Inman who started all 16 games. Then there’s their rookie first round pick Mike Williams. Recent reports are that he has a back issue that will have him start camp on PUP list, but will not require surgery. When he is added to the mix, it will be an embarrassment of riches for this unit.
4. Chiefs — Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley/Albert Wilson
Tyreek Hill lit up the NFL last season both as a receiver and a return man. Even with just 593 receiving yards, he was the highest rated AFC West receiver by Pro Football Focus and when figuring in his all-around game, he landed at 36 on the NFL Top 100 list. His name should be Tyreek Havoc because that’s what he will do to the rest of the league this year.
Conley and Wilson not so much. The Chiefs cut Jeremy Maclin in a cap move this offseason. He and Hill may have made a formidable pair. Well, as formidable as any wide receivers could be as decoys while Alex Smith throws to tight ends and running backs instead.