Ranking the Top 5 Wide Receiver Duos in the NFL Entering 2022June 1, 2022
Ranking the Top 5 Wide Receiver Duos in the NFL Entering 2022
Some of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL can take over a game.
It's no coincidence that both Super Bowl teams boasted a talented one-two punch at the position. Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins combined for nine catches, 189 yards and two touchdowns in the big game, while the Rams counted on Cooper Kupp and Odell Beckham Jr. for 10 catches, 144 yards and three touchdowns.
The 2022 season will feature an interesting blend of established running mates and newly formed receiver duos.
So as we head into the next season, now is a good time to put together the hierarchy of wide receiver pairings. Criteria for the ranking include previous production and projection based on age, health and injury history.
Since we are ranking them as duos, pairs with more evenly distributed production were favored. For example, Cooper Kupp is the best receiver in the game right now, but Allen Robinson II is coming off a weak 2021 campaign, which brings down their combined score.
Essentially, which duo will give opposing defensive coordinators the most headaches in the 2022 season?
As evidenced by some of the moves this offseason, building an elite wide receiver duo has become a top priority for a lot of teams. As such, it's pretty difficult to narrow down the list to the top five. Some potent receiving pairs didn't make the list but can still dominate games.
Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson II immediately spring to mind. Kupp is coming off a season where he single-handedly produced like two receivers. Robert Woods and Odell Beckham Jr. both found success playing alongside Kupp.
The Los Angeles Rams brought in Robinson, hoping that playing beside Kupp and Matthew Stafford would rejuvenate his career. For now, they barely miss the cut because A-Rob is coming off a season in which he had just 410 yards and one touchdown.
The newly formed pair of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith were also considered. Jalen Hurts is going to love having the young duo to throw to, but their production didn't quite stack up to the names on the list. The same goes for Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, who have complementary skill sets but barely missed the cut.
DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett were also strong contenders. However, Metcalf's numbers took a dip in Year 3, and the pair is entering a new age of uncertainty without Russell Wilson.
5. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen
Justin Jefferson showed his rookie season was no fluke in 2021. After catching 88 passes for 1,400 yards and eight touchdowns in 2020, Jefferson upped his game by recording 1,616 yards and 10 touchdowns on 108 receptions.
If it weren't for an all-time great season from Cooper Kupp, he'd be making a pretty impressive argument for being the best receiver in the game.
Here, he edges out Kupp on account of having a better Robin to his Batman. Adam Thielen doesn't look like the receiver that was an All-Pro in 2017 and Pro Bowler in 2018, but he's still pretty dangerous, especially when it comes to the red zone.
He has 24 touchdowns over the last two seasons, including seven in the red zone last season.
Jefferson has undoubtedly allowed Thielen to find favorable matchups. He recorded the most receving yards outside of Kupp in 2021 and even outperformed him when it came to moving the chains on third downs, per Stats Perform.
The soon-to-be 23-year-old is the rare receiver who manages to put up big volume numbers while also performing as a legitimate deep threat. He's the only receiver in the top 25 for receptions who has more than 10 air yards per reception.
Jefferson has a chance to be the best receiver in football this season. Thielen is just good enough as a sidekick to make the list.
4. Las Vegas Raiders: Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow
From a sheer volume perspective, it's hard to top the Las Vegas Raiders' new-formed team of Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow.
They combined 226 receptions for 2,591 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Renfrow was a steady target for Derek Carr sporting the second-best catch rate in the league, snagging 80.5 percent of his targets, per Next Gen Stats. Meanwhile, Davante Adams was an absolute target hog for Aaron Rodgers, drawing 169 looks from the MVP.
It's yet to be seen how the two will jell on the field. Both receivers rely on a ton of targets to get their numbers. They are both great route-runners who tend to find the soft spots in coverage, but neither is a traditional burner.
A lack of explosive plays is what keeps the Raiders duo out of the top three. Adams had 19 receptions that went for 20 yards or more last season, but Renfrow had just 10 such plays, and less than 50 percent of his catches went for first downs.
Adams and Renfrow will both put up numbers this season, but only one of them is truly an every-down threat to make a big play at any time.
3. Miami Dolphins: Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle
To channel Talladega Nights misquoting Eleanor Roosevelt, football is about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.
The Miami Dolphins have plenty of it in 2022. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle might not be the best overall receiving duo, but they are the fastest.
Hill's speed is already renowned throughout the league. He ran a 4.29 40-yard dash as a draft prospect, and he's had plenty of examples of utilizing that speed on the field to create big plays. He took on a more volume-based role this season but had the second-most receptions of 40 yards or more in 2020.
Waddle didn't do any pre-draft testing due to injury, but he's already proven to be fast. He hit 21.8 mph—the second-fastest speed for a wide receiver as a ball-carrier in 2021—on a 57-yard reception against the Panthers in Week 12, per Next Gen Stats.
While there might be questions about Tua Tagovailoa's ability to push the ball downfield, there should be no doubt these two will be productive. Hill was 69th in average depth of target (10.4), while Waddle (7.1) was even lower at 133rd.
Both still recorded over 100 catches for 1,000 yards. Their explosiveness sets them apart from the previous pairings on the list, but Waddle's lack of a track record after just one season keeps them from leapfrogging the top two.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans and Chris Godwin
There were likely a lot of reasons Tom Brady chose to continue his career in Tampa Bay, but Mike Evans and Chris Godwin had to have been at the top of the list.
The decision has served him well in the past. The pair went off for over 1,000 yards apiece last season and have done it in two of the last three seasons.
Evans and Godwin bring a great combination of big-play ability, red-zone proficiency and reliable chain-moving. Evans was second in the league in touchdowns with 14 on the season, while Godwin was a consistent weapon with the fourth-highest catch rate among qualifying wide receivers, per Next Gen Stats.
Evans finished seventh in receptions of 20-plus yards with 20, while Godwin wasn't far behind with 15 on the year. They were 12th and 14th respectively in first downs.
The only thing that keeps the pair from the No. 1 spot is injury concerns for Godwin. He suffered a torn ACL in Week 15. It's his first major injury, but he missed four games in 2020 with multiple injuries, so that dings him in these rankings.
Ultimately, Godwin is 26, and Evans is only 28. The two are probably a big reason why Brady was willing to suit up again in 2022.
1. Cincinnati Bengals: Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins
The Bengals might have the only receiver duo with both players at the beginning of their prime who could be WR1 on several NFL rosters.
Tee Higgins is the second receiver in this offense, but after posting 1,091 yards and six touchdowns on 74 catches in his second season, plenty of teams would gladly make him their No. 1 wide receiver for the next five years.
Chase has just one season under his belt but everything about that season points to him being a generational talent. He amassed the most yards of a rookie receiver in the Super Bowl era with 1,455 yards. While he did have one extra game to beat the record held by Justin Jefferson he nearly doubled his scoring output with 13 touchdowns.
Joe Burrow gets plenty of credit for igniting the Bengals' offense, but there's no denying his top two pass-catchers deserve praise as well.
Chase and Higgins are the only receivers on the same team to both rank in the top 10 for wide receivers in catches of more than 20 yards. Their ability to create explosive plays makes the Bengals' offense go.
Chase and Higgins combined for 163.5 yards per game, the highest of any pair on this list. They combined for nine games of 100 yards or more in the regular season, and each had two such games in the playoffs. Chase also set the single-game rookie receiving record with 266 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Both are capable of taking over a game, and both still have room to make strides in 2022 as they are under 24 years old. That's a dangerous duo.
Chase still has to prove he can be elite every year, but there's no reason to believe he won't.