Ranking the Top 5 Receiver Duos in the NFL Entering 2020

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMay 25, 2020

Ranking the Top 5 Receiver Duos in the NFL Entering 2020

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    Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, Thelma and Louise, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Harry and Lloyd. We all love a good dynamic duo.

    And the best position in football for duos to emerge is undoubtedly wide receiver. There are a handful of golden pairs at that glamorous spot.

    So let's rank 'em.

    Some caveats and criteria:

    • We didn't include duos containing rookies because too much is unknown about the effectiveness of first-year players who have yet to see the field. Apologies to the Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders and Dallas Cowboys.
    • We based the rankings on a combination of past production, accolades and room for growth. DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald might now be the league's most famous receiver duo, but Fitzgerald doesn't likely have a lot left.
    • The "what have you done for me lately?" factor was considered. So forget about A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd, and Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson.

    With the fine print taken care of, let's meet the winners.

5. Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

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    It appears Tyler Lockett finally has a bona fide partner in crime in a Seattle Seahawks passing game that should explode in 2020.

    That's because Lockett—the NFL leader in yards per target since the start of 2018—is likely to receive less attention from opposing defenses as DK Metcalf rises.

    The rookie Mississippi product found his groove in Seattle's critical regular-season finale as well as the team's two 2019 postseason games, catching 17 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns during that stretch. In a playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, he scored a game-breaking 53-yard touchdown and made two critical catches on 3rd-and-long (one on a scoring drive, the other to essentially ice the win).

    What's scary is he's still only 22, and he entered the league as a raw route-runner who probably slipped into Round 2 because he was expected to need time to develop. Metcalf lacked consistency for much of his rookie season, but if he can pick up where he left off, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will likely feast in 2020.

    And it looks as though the Seahawks already have plans to expand the physically marvelous Metcalf's role.

    Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer told Chuck and Buck in the Morning in April (via Joe Fann of NBC Sports):

    "The No. 1 thing that we know is that we can move him around and do different things with him. He kind of got stuck at the 'X' receiver last year. This year we know we can move him around quite a bit more. I just think the flexibility of moving him around and introducing some different route concepts that we can kind of get him up to speed on will complement the things that he's already put on film."

    Metcalf and the 27-year-old Lockett scored 11 touchdowns in Seattle's last 11 regular-season and playoff games last year and should be even harder to deal with moving forward.

4. Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers

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    I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate Justin Herbert.

    When the first-round rookie quarterback eventually gets his shot under center for the Los Angeles Chargers, he'll be supported by the second-best wide receiver duo in the AFC.

    Keenan Allen is one of just four NFL players who have gone over 1,100 yards in each of the last three seasons, and all three of those Pro Bowl campaigns contained six touchdowns and more than 95 receptions for the 28-year-old star.

    But down the stretch in 2019, Allen was hardly more productive than rising playmaker Mike Williams. In fact, both compiled exactly 582 receiving yards in the second half of last season. But while Allen averaged a human 11.0 yards per catch during that stretch, the 25-year-old Williams somehow averaged 25.3 yards per reception.

    He led the league in that category with a full-season mark of 20.4.

    Allen is a known commodity who shows few signs of slowing down, while Williams' numbers have shot up dramatically in each of his first three pro seasons.

    The two have scored a combined 20 touchdowns in L.A.'s last 25 games, and they've missed a combined one game the last two seasons.

    If they hold up in 2020, Philip Rivers' successor will fare just fine.

3. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons

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    You might have heard Julio Jones is good at football.

    The seven-time Pro Bowler has gone over 1,300 yards in six consecutive seasons for the Atlanta Falcons, which has him on a Hall of Fame track at age 31. But in 2020, Jones and the rest of the Atlanta offense should benefit greatly from the fact that another Falcons receiver has emerged as a stud.

    Said receiver—2018 first-round pick Calvin Ridley—has gone over 800 yards in each of his first two seasons, compiling 17 touchdown receptions along the way. That's despite the fact that he started just five games as a rookie and missed three outings as a sophomore.

    The Alabama product's rate-based averages shot up pretty much across the board as his drop rate plummeted in 2019, and it's a particularly good sign that he finished strong. In his last four games before an abdominal injury prematurely ended his campaign in early December, Ridley caught 27 passes for 395 yards and three touchdowns.

    That placed him in the top five in all three categories during that stretch—a window in which he averaged close to 15 yards per reception and caught 73 percent of the passes thrown his way.

    Oh, and after Ridley went down, Jones reminded us that he's one of the best receivers of this era by catching 30 passes for 378 yards in Atlanta's last three games.

    If both can remain healthy and Ridley can continue to climb in 2020, it'll hardly be fair.

2. Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns

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    Excluding special teamers, 14 wide receivers who are on NFL rosters have three or more Pro Bowl nods. Two of them—Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry—play for the same damn team.

    That didn't help the Cleveland Browns bust out of a long playoff drought in 2019, but it's hard to pin said failure on Beckham and Landry. The two combined to catch 157 passes for 2,209 yards and 10 touchdowns despite poor quarterback play for much of the season.

    The 27-year-old pals from Louisiana (they were born three weeks apart in the same state) have already gone over 900 yards in a combined 10 different seasons. Since the two came into the league in 2014, Beckham ranks fourth among qualified players with 86.8 receiving yards per game, while Landry ranks fourth with 564 receptions.

    Beckham's numbers haven't been as shiny lately as they were earlier in his career, and Landry has never been a home run hitter, but the two remain young and wildly talented. And with a new offense in place following a tumultuous 2019 campaign under Freddie Kitchens, both should benefit from more comfort and familiarity in their second pro year together.

    We'll see if that results in more wins.

1. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Eyebrows raised when Tom Brady—the most decorated quarterback in NFL history—jumped to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. But those unconscious social signals were made because Tampa isn't exactly an NFL hotspot, as the Bucs haven't won a playoff game since 2002.

    A quick look at the first line of the Bucs' wide receiver depth chart made it easier to comprehend Brady's decision.

    Four qualified NFL receivers averaged more than 85 yards per game in 2019. Two of them—Mike Evans and Chris Godwin—played for the Buccaneers. The 26-year-old Evans was just about as dominant as ever in his third Pro Bowl campaign, while the 24-year-old Godwin (he was 23 at the time) broke out magnificently with 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns despite missing two games.

    He was the only qualified player in the league to catch more than 70 percent of the passes thrown his way and average more than 15 yards per reception. Meanwhile, he and Larry Fitzgerald were the only wide receivers with drop rates below 1 percent on a minimum of 75 targets.

    It was a historically good season for the 2017 third-round pick—one that was unfortunately overshadowed by the fact that Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints set a new single-season catch record.

    But it likely wasn't a fluke, because Godwin was pretty damn good in 2018 as well. He went over 800 yards and scored seven touchdowns that year, despite playing just 64 percent of the team's offensive snaps.

    And all of this happened with the erratic Jameis Winston under center.

    Now we can spend the next three-and-a-half months dreaming about what those two can do with Brady tossing the passes.