18 Sep 2020

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Imagining every NFL receiving corps as a basketball team

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There’s an old football adage that says you should build your receiving corps as if you were assembling a basketball team. A shifty point guard here, a burly power forward there, and a few athletic wings in between make for a versatile group that can attack in multiple ways.

While coming down from the natural high of the NFL draft, I found myself unable to keep my mind off football while watching the new episodes of the Last Dance on Sunday night. With so many new receivers added in this year’s draft (37 to be exact), I started imagining different receiving corps as basketball lineups.

After poring over depth charts and assembling the starting lineups, I gained a stronger understanding of what certain teams seem to value in their receivers, and which teams truly are attempting to emulate a basketball team with their receiving corps. The Buffalo Bills had the smallest lineup of any team, while the Green Bay Packers had the largest. And the New Orleans Saints had the largest height difference in their starting lineup, while the Dallas Cowboys had the slightest.

If you wish to argue who should be in the starting lineup or what position they should play, hit me up on twitter @cyrilpenn4 and we can argue! So without further ado, here is the starting five of every NFL receiving corps:

Arizona Cardinals

PG: Andy Isabella — 5’9″
SG: Christian Kirk — 5’10”
SF: KeeSean Johnson — 6’1″
PF: DeAndre Hopkins — 6’1″
C: Larry Fitzgerald — 6’3″
Sixth Man: Hakeem Butler — 6’5″

The Cardinals sport a dynamic frontcourt featuring Larry Fitzgerald as the starting center and DeAndre Hopkins at power forward. The rest of their starting lineup is rather youth-laden, but offers a few players that complement Hopkins and Fitz with speed (Isabella), quickness (Kirk), and route running (Johnson).

Hakeem Butler missed his entire rookie season on injured reserve and was rumored to be on the wrong end of the roster bubble. If he can improve, he could bulk up the size of the starting five by grabbing the starting center position and bumping Isabella of Johnson to the sixth man role. If Butler is cut, Trent Sherfield, AJ Richardson or Johnnie Dixon could step into the sixth man role.

Atlanta Falcons

PG: Olamide Zaccheaus — 5’8″
SG: Calvin Ridley — 6’0″
SF: Russell Gage — 6’0″
PF: Julio Jones — 6’3″
C: Laquon Treadwell — 6’2″
Sixth Man: TBD (Blake Christian, Devin Gray, Brandon Powell)

The Falcons are led by perhaps the best in the business in all-around power forward Julio Jones. In the spirit of likening receivers to NBA players, Jones might be the LeBron James of this exercise.

He’s buoyed by a top-tier sidekick in shooting guard Calvin Ridley, but outside of those two top options, the rest of the Falcons depth looks a little suspect. Olamide Zaccheaus showed off some electricity last season, but neither he nor Russell Gage should be heavily relied on if Jones or Ridley were hurt. As the most plodding receiver on the roster, Laquon Treadwell had to play center despite being an inch shorter than Jones.

Baltimore Ravens

PG: Marquise Brown — 5’9″
SG: Devin Duvernay — 5’10”
SF: Willie Snead — 5’11”
PF: Chris Moore — 6’1″
C: Miles Boykin — 6’4″
Sixth Man: Jaleel Scott — 6’5″

In grabbing Devin Duvernay, the Ravens rounded out a solid and youthful starting five. He slots in nicely between the jitterbug Marquise Brown and reliable slot receiver Willie Snead.

The Ravens don’t need a ton of production out of their wide receivers, but having home run speed in Brown and Miles Boykin to complement chain movers like Snead and Duvernay make this a well-rounded group despite their lack of experience.

Buffalo Bills

PG: Isaiah McKenzie — 5’7″
SG: Cole Beasley — 5’8″
SF: John Brown — 5’10”
PF: Stefon Diggs — 6’0″
C: Gabe Davis — 6’2″
Sixth Man: Duke Williams/Isaiah Hodgins

The Bills trotted out a tiny starting five in 2019, but they’ve improved their overall size this offseason after trading for Stefon Diggs and drafting big targets Gabe Davis and Isaiah Hodgins.

After relying on John Brown and Cole Beasley as the No. 1 and 2 options last year, they’ll both be better suited after moving one spot down the pecking order. Isaiah McKenzie’s world-class speed should help him stick around, and the competition for the starting center spot between Davis, Hodgins and Duke Williams will be fierce.

Carolina Panthers

PG: Curtis Samuel — 5’11”
SG: Pharoh Cooper — 5’11”
SF: DJ Moore — 6’0″
PF: Seth Roberts — 6’2″
C: Robby Anderson — 6’3″
Sixth Man: TBD (DeAndrew White, Brandon Zylstra, Keith Kirkwood

After nabbing Joe Brady to be the new offensive coordinator, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see sparks fly for this group in 2020. DJ Moore could become a fantasy star, but it’s tough to decipher what the pecking order will be after that.

This group doesn’t have a huge variance in size with only a 4 inch range in their starting five, and they might see an egalitarian share of targets from Teddy Bridgewater.

Chicago Bears

PG: Anthony Miller — 5’11”
SG: Riley Ridley — 6’1″
SF: Cordarrelle Patterson — 6’2″
PF: Allen Robinson — 6’3″
C: Javon Wims — 6’3″
Sixth man: Darnell Mooney — 5’10”

This is a big starting five that has some versatility, but looks to be merely average on paper when matched up with other starting fives. Allen Robinson is certainly a beast, but Anthony Miller was inconsistent last year and relying on Cordarrelle Patterson or Riley Ridley as your No. 3 receiver isn’t ideal.

The Bears moved on from Taylor Gabriel and added Darnell Mooney to the fold, but it’s unclear how much a fifth round pick from Tulane will be able to help right away, especially given the uncertainty surrounding the offseason training regimen.

Cincinatti Bengals

PG: John Ross III — 5’11”
SG: Tyler Boyd — 6’1″
SF: A.J. Green — 6’4″
PF: Tee Higgins — 6’4″
C: Auden Tate — 6’5″
Sixth Man: Alex Erickson — 6’0″

Well the Bengals clearly have a type. This jumbo-sized starting lineup is particularly primed to capitalize on their height advantage over smaller defenders now that Joe Burrow will be throwing them darts, and they have a true field-stretcher in Ross to give them a slight semblance of balance.

Tyler Boyd is truly one of the most under-appreciated receivers in the game, and Auden Tate showed that he’s more than just a red zone threat last season. If Tee Higgins can live up to his draft position and A.J. Green is near full strength, this will be quite the studly starting five.

Cleveland Browns

PG: Taywan Taylor — 5’11”
SG: Odell Beckham Jr. — 5’11”
SF: Jarvis Landry — 5’11”
PF: Donovan Peoples-Jones — 6’2″
C: J’Mon Moore 6’3″
Sixth Man: TBD (Damion Ratley, Khadarel Hodge, JoJo Natson)

I’m not sure why Odell Beckham keeps popping up in trade rumors. The Browns depth at receiver already looks suspect behind Beckham and Jarvis Landry.

Don’t get me wrong, though, the LSU duo is fantastic. And although they slightly disappointed last year, we should expect improvement under Kevan Stefanski. Outside of that duo, Taywan Taylor is crafty in the slot , but having another 5’11” slot receiver as their third banana seems redundant. The Browns seem to be hoping that either DPJ or J’Mon Moore can step up and give them another reliable outside threat, but chances of that seem slim.

Dallas Cowboys

PG: Devin Smith — 6’0″
SG: Amari Cooper — 6’1″
SF: Michael Gallup — 6’1″
PF: CeeDee Lamb — 6’2″
C: Cedrick Wilson 6’2″
Sixth Man: TBD (Ventell Bryant, Noah Brown)

Dallas might have the best “Big 3” at the receiver position of any team in the NFL if CeeDee Lamb can live up to his pre-draft hype. Theoretically, this team has three No. 1 receivers in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Lamb.

The 2 inch range in height is as low as it gets for any team in this excersize. Perhaps the Cowboys are playing positionless basketball with their starting five.

Denver Broncos

PG: KJ Hamler — 5’9″
SG: DaeSean Hamilton — 6’1″
SF: Jerry Jeudy — 6’1″
PF: Courtland Sutton — 6’3″
C: Tim Patrick — 6’5″
Sixth Man: TBD (Diontae Spencer, Fred Brown)

The Broncos made some major improvements to their receiving corps by grabbing Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler in the draft and now look to have a pretty well-rounded group. They’ve got some size, speed, and craftiness that will all help Drew Lock get up to speed.

I’m expecting Lock to be the DJ/cheerleader for this group.

Detroit Lions

PG: Danny Amendola — 5’10”
SG: Marvin Hall — 5’10”
SF: Marvin Jones — 6’2″
PF: Geronimo Allison — 6’3″
C: Kenny Golladay — 6’4″
Sixth Man: Quintez Cephus — 6’1″

The Lions trot out one of the best post-up guys in the league in Kenny Golladay, and you’ve got to love the fact that both wing spots are occupied by guys named Marvin.

Outside of Golladay and Jones, this is a relatively ho-hum group with no major weaknesses. And p.s., get your bets in now for Matt Stafford as comeback player of the year.

Green Bay Packers

PG: Davante Adams 6’1″
SG: Marquez Valdes-Scantling 6’4″
SF: Devin Funchess 6’4″
PF: Jake Kumerow — 6’4″
C: Allen Lazard — 6’5″
Sixth Man: Equanimeous St. Brown — 6’4″

With the biggest point guard of any team, the Packers will trot out a massive lineup. They might win this theoretical pick-up basketball game, but I’m shocked that the Packers didn’t add any diversity to Aaron Rodgers’ arsenal this draft.

Rodgers was already frustrated with this group last season, and I’m not sure that counting on internal growth and adding Devin Funchess will be enough for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

Houston Texans

PG: Brandin Cooks — 5’10”
SG: Randall Cobb — 5’10”
SF: Will Fuller — 6’0″
PF: Kenny Stills – 6’0″
C: Isaiah Coulter — 6’2′
Sixth Man: Keke Coutee — 5’10”

This starting five might not be finalized, as there’s been some light rumblings that the Texans might trade away Kenny Stills. But if they trot this lineup out, Houston should have no problem going 4-wide all day.

Nobody has any clue what Bill O’Brien will do when it comes to player acquisition, but we do know that he has a type at receiver considering that Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller and Kenny Stills are all deep threats with similar skillsets.

Indianapolis Colts

PG: T.Y. Hilton — 5’9″
SG: Parris Campbell — 6’0″
SF: Zach Pascal — 6’2′
PF: Michael Pittman — 6’4″
C: Dezmon Patmon — 6’4″
Sixth Man: TBD (Daurice Fountain, Steve Ishmael, Artavis Scott)

The Colts nabbed their complement for T.Y. Hilton by grabbing Michael Pittman, who is the epitome of a power forward at the receiver position. Phillip Rivers has gotten used to targeting big guys like Keenan Allen and Mike Williams during his time with the Chargers, so getting Pittman and Patmon (sounds funny) on draft day might make him more comfortable.

Parris Campbell didn’t do much last season, but he could thrive in a No. 3 role in his sophomore season.

Jacksonville Jaguars

PG: Dede Westbrook — 6’0″
SG: Keelan Cole — 6’2″
SF: Chris Conley — 6’2″
PF: Laviska Shenault — 6’1″
C: DJ Chark — 6’3″
Sixth Man: Collin Johnson — 6’6″

This team clearly seems to favor bigger receivers considering that all the guys in their lineup stand at above 6-feet tall. And Laviska Shenault may be shorter than Keelan Cole and Chris Conley, but if you look at his massive build, he’s clearly the Jaguars power forward.

DJ Chark broke out last season and could become a true star in the league if he continues to improve. Most of the other Jacksonville receivers are just complementary guys, but that should be enough if Chark doesn’t regress.

Kansas City Chiefs

PG: Tyreek Hill — 5’10”
SG: Mecole Hardman — 5’10”
SF: Demarcus Robinson — 6’1″
PF: Byron Pringle — 6’1″
C: Sammy Watkins — 6’1″
Sixth Man: Gehrig Dieter — 6’2″

The Chiefs starting five clearly emphasizes speed over size, with the backcourt combo of Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman threatening to turn any game into a track meet.

With Sammy Watkins sounding like he’ll retire after this season, it’s a bit surprising that the Chiefs didn’t look for his successor in the draft. On paper this group looks only slightly above average, but with Patrick Mahomes elevating everyone’s play, they all seem like world-beaters at times.

Las Vegas Raiders

PG: Henry Ruggs III — 5’11”
SG: Hunter Renfrow — 5’10”
SF: Lynn Bowden Jr. — 6’1″
PF: Tyrell Williams — 6’4″
C: Bryan Edwards — 6’3″
Sixth Man: TBD (Nelson Agholor/Zay Jones)

Three rookie receivers make their way into the Raiders starting five after the team put an extraordinary emphasis on giving Derek Carr more weapons.

After the cupboard looked quite barren last year, the Raiders have entirely remodeled this lineup with all different types of players. No two players in their starting five have the same skillset, which shows that they really are building an all-around basketball style starting five in the WR room.

Los Angeles Chargers

PG: KJ Hill — 6’0″
SG: Joe Reed — 6’0″
SF: Andre Patton — 6’2″
PF: Keenan Allen — 6’2′
C: Mike Williams — 6’4″
Sixth Man: TBD (Darius Jennings, Jason Moore, Jalen Guyton)

The Chargers sport a dominating frontcourt duo of Allen and Williams, but they might be in trouble if either player deals with injury.

Andre Patton only has six career catches, and though Joe Reed and KJ Hill both could be day three steals, relying on them to produce seems foolish. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Chargers look to add another veteran to help stabilize the back end of the receiver rotation.

Los Angeles Rams

PG: Greg Dortch — 5’7″
SG: Robert Woods — 6’0″
SF: Cooper Kupp — 6’1″
PF: Van Jefferson — 6’1″
C: Josh Reynolds — 6’3′
Sixth Man: Nsimba Webster — 5’10”

The Rams have gone through a lot of changes on offense this offseason, but they’ll still trot out a fearsome trio at receiver after adding Van Jefferson to the pair of Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods.

Josh Reynolds is no slouch either, but the drop off after Reynolds is quite large for the Rams. Perhaps we will get to see a Hard Knocks star carve out a role in the receiving room.

Miami Dolphins

PG: Jakeem Grant — 5’6″
SG: Albert Wilson — 5’9″
SF: Allen Hurns — 6’1″
PF: DeVante Parker — 6’3″
C: Preston Williams — 6’3″
Sixth Man: TBD (Mack Hollins, Gary Jennings, Isaiah Ford)

With a 9-inch difference in height between Jakeem Grant and Miami’s top two receivers, the Dolphins have the second-largest range in height of any starting unit. Parker and Williams will combine to give Tua Tagovailoa some reliable targets on third down, while Grant and Albert Wilson should provide some solid run after catch ability.

Still, it’s pretty wild how big of a downgrade this receiving corps will be compared to what Tua’s played with at Alabama these last few years.

Minnesota Vikings

PG: KJ Osborn — 5’11”
SG: Olabisi Johnson — 6’0″
SF: Justin Jefferson — 6’1″
PF: Tajae Sharpe — 6’2″
C: Adam Thielen — 6’3″
Sixth Man: TBD (Chad Beebe, Dillon Mitchell, Alex Hollins)

It’s strange seeing Thielen line up as a center here. It’s easy to forget that he’s 6-foot-3 since he plays in the slot and has the quick feet of a much smaller player.

Justin Jefferson also does his best work in the slot, however, so it will be interesting to see how the Vikings line up their receivers. The contest between Olabisi Johnson and Tajae Sharpe for the WR3 role feels a little underwhelming, however. And although I liked the selection of Jefferson, I felt the Vikings should’ve done more to address the position on Day Two of the draft.

New England Patriots

PG: Damiere Byrd — 5’9″
SG: Julian Edelman — 5’10”
SF: Mohamed Sanu — 6’1″
PF: Jakobi Meyers — 6’2′
C: N’Keal Harry — 6’2″
Sixth Man: Gunner Olszewski — 6’0″

The Patriots only real addition to the receiver room this offseason was Damiere Byrd (who got a ton of snaps in Arizona but had minimal production), so they’ll be relying on growth from the trio of second-year players on this list.

The wishful thinking of anti-Patriots football fans chanting for imminent doom has miscolored the fact that this unit should be solid in 2020 if healthy.

New Orleans Saints

PG: Deonte Harris — 5’6″
SG: Emmanuel Sanders — 5’11”
SF: Tre’Quon Smith — 6’2″
PF: Michael Thomas — 6’3″
C: Lil’Jordan Humphrey — 6’4″
Sixth Man: Tommylee Lewis — 5’7″

This is the lone team that beat out Miami for the largest different (10 inches) between their biggest and smallest receiver. Deonte Harris is lightning quick and a threat to score any time he touches the ball, while Lil’Jordan Humphrey wins his reps with physicality.

In Emmanuel Sanders, the Saints finally have a veteran No. 2 option who can take pressure of Michael Thomas, and it seems that the Saints have finally assembled the right mix of complementary pieces.

New York Giants

PG: Sterling Shepard — 5’10”
SG: Golden Tate — 5’10”
SF: Corey Coleman — 5’11”
PF: Darius Slayton — 6’1″
C: Cody Core — 6’3′
Sixth Man: David Sills — 6’3″

With Evan Engram not counting in this exercise, the Giants receiver rotation looks relatively weak. The trio of Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton is solid, but Tate and Shepard have both struggled with injuries and the Giants’ backup receivers don’t inspire much confidence.

Color me skeptical, I just do not imagine a second-year Daniel Jones elevating this receiver group enough to truly contend in the NFC East.

New York Jets

PG:  Jamison Crowder — 5’8″
SG: Breshad Perriman — 6’2″
SF: Josh Doctson — 6’2″
PF: Quincy Enunwa — 6’2″
C: Denzel Mims — 6’3″
Sixth Man: Braxton Berrios — 5’9″

Adam Gase added some serious size this offseason, signing Breshad Perriman and Josh Doctson before drafting Denzel Mims in the second round. I’d still expect Jamison Crowder to be the go-to guy, but the Jets now have some solid depth outside.

Sam Darnold’s Jets tenure is clearly trending downwards, but assembling a group of big targets around Jamison Crowder looks like a decent way to turn his stock around.

Philadelphia Eagles

PG: DeSean Jackson — 5’10”
SG: Marquise Goodwin — 5’9″
SF: Jalen Reagor — 5’11”
PF: JJ Arcega-Whiteside — 6’2″
C: Alshon Jeffery — 6’3″
Sixth Man: Greg Ward Jr. — 5’10”

The Eagles were so barren at receiver last year due to injuries that fans were practically screaming at them to take a receiver at every point of the draft. They have a ton of receivers on the depth chart right now, so this starting five may change considerably before the season starts, but as of right now it looks a lot better than last season.

Philly fans may hate that JJ Arcega-Whiteside is in the starting lineup over Greg Ward, but I believe that the Eagles will give Arcega-Whiteside another shot to prove himself before they give up on the recent second round pick.

Pittsburgh Steelers

PG: Ryan Switzer — 5’8″
SG: Diontae Johnson — 5’10”
SF: James Washington — 5’11”
PF: JuJu Smith-Schuster — 6’1″
C: Chase Claypool — 6’4″
Sixth Man: Deon Cain — 6’2″

The Steelers draft a receiver basically every year, and they unearth gems pretty consistently. Diontae Johnson was an absolute beast last year and usurped James Washington as the team’s WR2.

Chase Claypool is the perfect fit as the big, athletic red zone target that this team was missing, but don’t sleep on Deon Cain potentially bursting onto the scene.

San Francisco 49ers

PG: Trent Taylor — 5’8″
SG: Brandon Aiyuk — 6’0″
SF: Deebo Samuel — 5’11”
PF: Kendrick Bourne — 6’2″
C: Jalen Hurd — 6’5″
Sixth Man: TBD (Dante Pettis, Richie James, Jauan Jennings)

After grabbing Brandon Aiyuk in the first round, the 49ers look to have assembled a classic basketball lineup in their receiver room. They’ve even got backups at every spot with Richie James as the backup point guard, Dante Pettis backing up Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel on the wing, and Jauan Jennings as the backup big man.

Aiyuk might not be as good as a rookie as Emmanuel Sanders was last year for San Francisco, but getting back Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd should make this a much improved receiving corps compared to last year.

Seattle Seahawks

PG: John Ursua — 5’10”
SG: Tyler Lockett — 5’10”
SF: Phillip Dorsett — 5’10”
PF: David Moore — 6’0″
C: D.K. Metcalf — 6’3″
Sixth Man: TBD (Freddie Swain, Cody Thompson, Penny Hart)

This is another lineup that is led by dynamic duo. But unlike most duos that are similar in size, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett make for a great big-small combination.

Phillip Dorsett and David Moore are both adequate as tertiary weapons, but they aren’t very inspiring. Despite his first round pedigree, Dorsett has only averaged 327 yards per season over his five-year career. Moore hasn’t been any better, catching just under 50 percent of his career targets.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

PG: Scott Miller — 5’9″
SG: Tyler Johnson — 6’1″
SF: Chris Godwin — 6’1″
PF: Justin Watson — 6’3″
C: Mike Evans — 6’5″
Sixth Man: TBD (Spencer Schnell, Jaydon Mickens, Cyril Grayson)

Tampa Bay is lucky that Tyler Johnson was sitting there in the fifth round, as they’d be sitting with either Justin Watson or Scott Miller as their No. 3 receiver had they not picked Johnson.

Mike Evans remains as one of the league’s most underrated players. He joined Randy Moss last year as the only two players to ever start their career with six straight 1,000 yard receiving seasons. Meanwhile, Chris Godwin would easily be the No. 1 option for a ton of other teams on this list.

Tennessee Titans

PG: Khalif Raymond — 5’9″
SG: Adam Humphries — 5’11”
SF: AJ Brown — 6’0″
PF: Corey Davis — 6’3
C: Cody Hollister — 6’4″
Sixth Man: TBD (Trevion Thompson, Cameron Batson, Rashard Davis)

Corey Davis was another receiver whose name was floated in trade rumors. But in looking at the Titans receiver lineup, that made no sense, especially considering that they didn’t draft a receiver.

Adam Humphries is ideally suited for the No. 3 slot receiver role, and although AJ Brown looks like a budding star, that doesn’t make Davis expendable. Davis will have one last shot to prove to the Titans that he was worthy of his lofty draft status, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s manning the power forward or center role for another squad next year.

Washington Redskins

PG: Steven Sims Jr. — 5’9″
SG: Trey Quinn — 5’11”
SF: Terry McLaurin — 6’0″
PF: Kelvin Harmon — 6’2″
C: Antonio Gandy-Golden — 6’4″
Sixth Man: Cody Latimer — 6’2″

Terry McLaurin might have been the best rookie receiver last year, and his college connection with Dwayne Haskins should only grow stronger this year.

I wasn’t nearly as over the moon for Antonio Gandy-Golden as many others, but I think he will have solid value in Washington as a post-up red zone target. The name to look out for on this list is Steven Sims, who came on strong late in the season with 36 targets across the last four weeks.

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