Entering this offseason, one of the many needs facing this team was their wide receiver position. With both Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson gone, remaking the wide receiving group by adding young, promising talent was clearly priority number one for this front office.
Due to cap limitations, Howie Roseman wasn’t able to make any splash moves in free agency, but he more than made up for it in the NFL Draft. Trading up two spots and leap frogging the Giants to snag the reigning Heisman Trophy winner was the highlight of the offseason. DeVonta Smith is going to be a problem for opposing defenses from day one in Philly. His value alone improves the outlook for this position group drastically.
But when it comes to wide receiving corps around the NFC East, it’s hard to say the Eagles rank above any of them in terms of playmakers on the outside. Sure, the potential is there, and maybe they’ll realize that potential by season’s end, but it’s far from a sure thing.
Let’s be real, banking on potential alone almost never bares satisfaction. More often than not, it brings more pain and pessimism. Something us Philly fans are all far too familiar with (I’m still in a deep depression from the Sixers Game 7 loss, forgive me for the negativity).
Let’s take a look at each wide receiving group in the NFC East and rank them from best to worst.
1. Dallas Cowboys
Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, Simi Fehoko, Noah Brown
In terms of top-end talent at the wide receiver position, nobody in the NFC East comes close to the Dallas Cowboys. Amari Cooper is solidified as a No. 1 wideout, CeeDee is a future No. 1 wideout in the making, and Michael Gallup is the perfect slot receiver to place alongside the aforementioned receivers.
The depth behind the top-three is a little shaky. Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown combined for just 31 receptions last season. Simi Fehoko is a rookie fifth round pick out of Stanford, so it’s hard to project what kind of impact, if any, he’ll have in 2021.
Nevertheless, the strength of this Cowboys offense is their wide receiver position. With Dak Prescott back to full health, it should be bombs away for this Dallas offense this season.
2. New York Giants
Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney, John Ross, Austin Mack
If the Giants would have ended up selecting DeVonta Smith like they intended to this year, they’d have a strong argument for having the best wide receiving group in the NFC East.
Signing Kenny Golladay was probably New York’s best acquisition of the offseason. He’s two years removed from a Pro Bowl season in which he went over 1,000 yards receiving and posted 11 receiving touchdowns. He struggled with injuries last season, but he figures to bounce back in a new system this year.
Darius Slayton is primed to have a true break out year now that he won’t be forced into being the team’s No. 1 wideout. He has real breakaway speed with the potential to take the top off a defense on any given play. Although Sterling Shepard hasn’t recaptured the production he put forth during his rookie campaign throughout his career, he’s been a consistent slot threat over the years, catching between 57 to 67 passes each season.
Then you have rookie Kadarius Toney, the consolation prize for missing on Smith, so to speak. Toney has a very intriguing skill set and one that could translate in a number of different ways in the NFL. He may end up working out of the slot in his rookie season, but he certainly has the ability to play on the outside as well.
Even John Ross is a nice depth piece and someone who’s worth taking a flier on. As far as depth goes, the Giants have the best assortment of talent at the wide receiver position of any team in the division, even the Cowboys. They just lack that bonified All-Pro talent that Dallas has in Cooper, along with a guy in Lamb who’s probably just as good as Golladay already, while being paid a fraction of the salary.
3. Washington Football Team
Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries, Dyami Brown, Cam Sims, Steven Sims Jr.
Adding Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries to this bunch this offseason really solidified Washington’s wide receiver group. Terry McLaurin is a proven wideout with big play potential. He lagged behind a bit in the touchdowns department last season, but 87 receptions for 1,118 yards is no joke. He’s a No. 1 wideout in this league without a doubt.
Samuel is a great receiver to pair with any No. 1 guy. He can play from the slot or on the outside and he’s routinely made plays at each position throughout his career. 77 receptions for 851 yards and three touchdowns are about as much as you can ask for out of your second-best receiver.
Humphries was a nice addition, too. He began to sink down the Titans depth chart over the past two seasons with A.J. Brown and Corey Davis coming into their own, but he still provides a reliable set of hands and route running ability to any receiving corps.
I also really like what Dyami Brown brings to the table as a receiver prospect. He was one of the most dynamic players entering this year’s draft and Washington will have the luxury of developing him behind veterans like McLaurin and Samuel. He’s the type of X-factor player that Antonio Gibson is in their backfield — someone who can lineup anywhere and still make plays.
If Ryan Fitzpatrick show up this season, this Washington offense could surprise a lot of people in 2021.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, Travis Fulgham, John Hightower, Quez Watkins
Yeah, our receivers really don’t compare to what the rest of the NFC East brings to the table. For as good as Smith projects to be, he can’t do it all by himself. Like I said, this group has potential heading into the year, but I can’t sit here with a straight face and say Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, Travis Fulgham, John Hightower, and Quez Watkins are all going to have bounce back years.
If we’re lucky, one of them will have a solid 2021 campaign. I’ll take one if I can get it, but the chances of two or more of these guys having great seasons feels like a pipe dream. I hope I’m proved wrong and at the end of the season I’m singing a different tune, but this is where we’re at currently.
Nick Sirianni has a track record of developing wideouts and he’ll have his work cut out for him this year. Maybe the greatness of Smith will wear off on everyone else. His placement as the No. 1 guy should benefit Reagor and Ward — but to what degree that impacts their games is yet to be seen.
The potential is there, we’re just going have to wait and see if that potential is realized.