With free agency approaching as the 2016 NFL offseason kicks into full gear, we’re taking a look at how top-tier impending free agents rank at some of the hottest positions. This time, a thin group of wide receivers.
1. Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals: The 26-year-old had a career-high 816 receiving yards despite being part of a crowded receiving corps in Cincy. And he had 10 touchdown catches back in 2013. The former fifth-round pick could be in for a breakout season in a new setting.
2. Rishard Matthews, Miami Dolphins: In limited action, Matthews caught more than 70 percent of the passes thrown his way and averaged a solid 60.2 yards per game in a breakout fourth season with Miami. At the age of 26, he should have a chance to compete for a starting job somewhere.
3. Rueben Randle, New York Giants: The 2012 second-round pick is flying under the radar after averaging 782 yards and six touchdowns the last three seasons. His cumulative numbers took a hit in some areas last year but when you look a little deeper you see that Randle might actually have shown signs of improvement (substantially better catch rate, more touchdowns, fewer drops).
4. Travis Benjamin, Cleveland Browns: He caught only 54.4 percent of the passes thrown his way, but the explosive 26-year-old still had a major breakout season with a career-high 68 catches for a career-high 966 yards and a career-high five touchdowns. Imagine what he could do with a consistent quarterback within a real offense?
5. Jermaine Kearse, Seattle Seahawks: He caught 72.1 percent of the passes thrown his way, which was one of the highest rated in football. The 26-year-old also hit new career highs in terms of catches (49), yards (685) and touchdowns (five).
6. Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati Bengals: The 26-year-old caught 67.3 percent of the passes thrown his way but didn’t score a single touchdown in limited action behind Jones and A.J. Green. Still, he had a big 2014 season and he’s a versatile weapon who should get a chance at a No. 2 role.
7. James Jones, Green Bay Packers: After being neglected on last year’s market, Jones signed with the Packers and caught 50 passes for 890 yards and eight touchdowns. But how much of that was based on his circumstances with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and Jordy Nelson hurt? The 31-year-old caught only 50.5 percent of the passes he was targeted on.
8. Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons (released): The 34-year-old’s numbers have taken a dive in recent years, but White did catch a solid 64 percent of the passes thrown his way last year, dropping just two. It’s also clear he wasn’t happy in Atlanta. Maybe a new setting will give him a chance to get back into the 1,000-yard range.