In today’s fast-paced, air-based NFL, what better way to thrive than to boast two explosive and production weapons on the perimeter?
We saw the success of both Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins on Cincinnati’s road to Super Bowl LVI (while Cooper Kupp gobbled up every target and catch for the champion Rams), and we have seen a number of teams attempt to attack and improve the position this summer.
The Dolphins and Raiders went all-out to acquire Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams, despite boasting 100-catch wideouts last season in Jaylen Waddle and Hunter Renfrow. The Eagles added AJ Brown to 2021 10th overall pick DeVonta Smith.
In a similar fashion, many of this year’s top draft picks at wide receiver – Garrett Wilson (now paired with Elijah Moore), Chris Olave (Michael Thomas) and Jahan Dotson (Terry McLaurin) – will provide their new quarterbacks with outstanding options on the outside.
So, which duos are the best and why?
Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals
We mentioned Cincinnati’s deadly duo above, and it’s clear they are the gold standard when it comes to young, productive, and exciting wideouts.
Chase put up 84 catches, 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2019 for college team LSU and despite sitting out a season, was still picked fifth overall in the 2021 NFL Draft and proceeded to produce 81 catches, 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first year as a pro.
Higgins, meanwhile, increased his output in all three years at Clemson, and did the same in his second season as a pro in 2022. He has secured 141 receptions, 1,999 yards and 12 touchdowns in two years, not including his two TDs in Super Bowl LVI.
With Joe Burrow at the helm for the foreseeable future, Chase and Higgins have the chance to be something special.
Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins
What do you get when you put two outstanding speedster wideouts on the same team? A lot of pressure on their quarterback to spread the wealth – and all eyes will be on third-year QB Tua Tagovailoa to perform and produce for Miami.
He arguably couldn’t have a better pair of players to throw to, however. Waddle established himself as a go-to target in his rookie campaign, finishing with a 104-1,095-6 line after being selected sixth overall last summer.
For Hill, Miami gave up a first-round pick, a second, two fourths and a sixth – then they made him the highest-paid receiver in the league. While Waddle is the short-to-mid-range possession target, Hill has spent six years with Kansas City proving himself as one of the best deep threats in the NFL.
They will be a tricky duo to stop, but only if Tagovailoa can make the most of their talents.
Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas joined Miami in giving up a haul to add an All-Pro player to an existing possession target. To acquire Adams, it took a first and second-round pick, another league-high contract (at the time), and likely a little coaxing from his college best buddy and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
Whether Adams can match his Green Bay numbers or not remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt the five-time Pro Bowler and scorer of 29 touchdowns over the past two seasons will revolutionise the Las Vegas offense.
But we should not overlook Renfrow, who went from 2019 fifth-round pick and middling producer in his first two seasons, to 103-1,038-9 and a Pro Bowl appearance in 2021. Carr could be in for a strong season spreading the ball to these two.
AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles
Just like in Miami, much of the discussion around Philadelphia’s wideouts will depend on how well quarterback Jalen Hurts progresses in his second year as the starter and third year in the league. But in talent alone, they could be special.
Brown (6-foot-1, 226 pounds) is big-bodied, a yards-after-the-catch creator and touchdown-scorer. He posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to start his career before suffering injuries and dropping off last season in Tennessee before Philadelphia sent their first-round pick for his services this summer.
Smith (6-foot-0, 170) is slim, smooth and silky. He wins with his route-running, turning defenders inside out and making some of the most impressive catches in traffic you will see. In 2020 he was the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since 1991 so there’s no doubting his credentials, and expectations in Philly are big.
Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
One on side, you have arguably the best receiver in the league in Jefferson, who broke records in his 2020 rookie campaign, managing 88 catches, 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns before going on to better those numbers last year with 108-1,616-10. He is always open, he catches everything, and is aiming to be the first player ever to hit 2,000 yards in one season.
On the other side, Thielen has been one of the most consistent options for the Vikings since breaking out in 2016 after being undrafted in 2013. He’s racked up 464 catches, 5,966 yards and 49 TDs – all in Minnesota – including 24 scores in the last two seasons.
These two can be unstoppable on their day.
Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Finally in the spotlight, Tom Brady’s terrifying twosome in Tampa Bay. The first option is Evans, whose career consistency simply cannot be matched. He has achieved over 1,000 yards in eight straight seasons – every single year he has been in the NFL. At 6-foot-5 and 231 pounds with breakaway speed, he is the definition of an ‘alpha’ receiver.
But Brady has two alphas on the outside, as Godwin has had two 1,000-yard seasons in the last three, and would be a top option in plenty of offenses around the league. The only caveat to this duo featuring on this list right now is that Godwin is only just returning to practice after suffering an ACL injury in November of last season.
The best of the rest
Within a matter of weeks, Allen Robinson could re-establish himself as one of the league’s best wideouts and if that is the case, he and Cooper Kupp could possibly be an even scarier duo than any listed above.
NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks argues Keenan Allen and Mike Williams of the Los Angeles Chargers are the top tandem in the league, as they provide the perfect combination of short and long options for QB Justin Herbert.
If Russell Wilson was still in Seattle, would we expect DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to continue their fantastic production?
All in all, the tandem at the top is likely to fluctuate all season but there are many pairs to get excited about right now. Who would you call the NFL’s best receiving duo right now?