Breakout wide receivers in the NFL are easily the most difficult position to predict. Teams usually have at least six receivers on roster, and it is a position heavily dependent on the quarterback position. We’ve seen receivers breakout with great quarterbacks like Julian Edelman in 2013 with the G.O.A.T. himself at quarterback, while Terrelle Pryor broke out with the likes of Cody Kessler, Josh McCown, and RG-Knee at quarterback last year. Few can claim that they predicted either Edelman or Pryor’s breakout seasons, but here is my best stab at predicting 2017’s new superstars at the receiver positions.
Note: Let’s keep the rookie’s out of it, and focus on NFL players looking to make a big jump this season.
Originally I had Donte Moncrief slotted here, but with the news breaking that Andrew Luck may be out nearly half the season, it is hard for me to truly believe he could break 1,000 yards or threaten double digit touchdowns. In true hypocritical fashion, I replace him with Quincy Enunwa who has the worst quarterback talent in the NFL. The difference? Enunwa may be the only true threat from the wide receiver or tight end positions on the New York Jets. Secondaries will laugh at the likes of Robby Anderson, Charone Peake, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. In fact, the only skill players with real starting talent on this offense are Bilal Powell and Quincy Enunwa (Don’t give me Matt Forte). Enunwa will be a target monster with Brandon Marshall or Eric Decker now out of town, and he will own most of their redzone targets. Even with the atrocity quarterback unit of Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenburg, I fully expect over 1,000 yards and possibly double digit touchdowns from the California native.
Quick Bold Prediction: Rookie Chad Hansen will be the number two receiver by season’s end. He’s a technically sound receiver with screen-popping athletic play.
Now, I’ve obviously shown in previous articles that I’m a huge fan of Kirk Cousins in 2017. In fact, I think Cousins will be an out-of-nowhere MVP candidate similar to Matt Ryan and Cam Newton the past couple of seasons. His most underrated weapon is Jamison Crowder. Like Cole Beasley and Jarvis Landry, what Crowder lacks in athleticism, he makes up for with crisp route running and quarterback-receiver cohesiveness. With Jordan Reed unable to stay healthy, its safe to say that Crowder will receive a lot of the underneath and 3rd down looks from Kirk Cousins. He’s also a sneaky threat in the redzone. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Crowder led the team in targets, receiving yards, and touchdowns this season.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
The Miami Dolphins don’t seem to be in a hurry to sign Jarvis Landry to a contract extension, and it may be because they want to see how DeVante Parker progresses in 2017. With a 6’3 frame and 4.4 speed, DeVante Parker may only need to simply stay healthy in order to prove himself as a true number one receiver in the NFL. He’s had chronic back issues in his early career, but hopefully a full offseason did him well. It seems that it has, because HC Adam Gase and OC Clyde Christensen are already raving about him in camp. In his rookie campaign, Parker averaged an impressive 19.0 yards per reception, and last season, he proved that he can be efficient underneath with over 64% of his targets being completed. If he and Tannehill can stay healthy, we should all expect big things out of DeVante Parker in 2017.
Honorable Mention: Donte Moncrief, Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley