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2020 AFC North Positional Rankings: Wide Receiver

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

As the dog days of the NFL offseason continue to settle in, each team’s roster is pretty much set with free agency and the draft in the rear view mirror. Therefore, it’s an opportune time to detox with our annual positional rankings for the AFC North.

After completing both the quarterback and running back rankings last week, we’ll stick with the skill position theme and examine the division’s wide receiver corps. Compared to last season, there’s a good amount of continuity at the position.

A.J. Green is set to return from injury for the Bengals, who added Tee Higgins early in the draft. The Steelers and Ravens are hoping their young cores will make a leap in 2020 while the Browns returning wideout duo is one of the best in the NFL.

You can find last year’s rankings by clicking the link here.

Check out the ranking below, vote on the corresponding poll and join in on the conversation!


1) Cleveland Browns

Starters: Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins

Depth Chart: Damion Ratley, Donovan Peoples-Jones

The Browns dynamic receiver duo of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry is more than enough to give them the top spot here. The pair each recorded over 1,000 receiving yards in 2019 and accounted for the majority of the team’s passing production.

Landry saw 138 targets come his way and Beckham was targeted 133 times. The latter was expected to usurp the former as Baker Mayfield’s No. 1 receiver upon being traded to Cleveland but it was Landry who led the team in receptions, yardage and touchdowns.

The dynamic slot receiver caught 83 passes for a career-high 1,174 receiving yards and six touchdowns. His average YPC of 14.1 was also a statistical best for his career.

In what was considered a “down” campaign by his lofty standards, Beckham still managed to catch 74 balls for 1,035 receiving yards himself. He did so while reportedly dealing with a nagging injury throughout the season.

After these two guys, Damion Ratley, Rashard Higgins and Antonio Callaway rounded out the receiving core in 2019. With the latter no longer in the picture, the Browns drafted WR Donovan Peoples-Jones in the sixth round, a high-upside wideout out of Michigan.

Poll

Where would you rank the Browns in the WR ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    First
    (308 votes)
  • 17%
    Second
    (70 votes)
  • 3%
    Third
    (13 votes)
  • 4%
    Fourth
    (17 votes)
408 votes total Vote Now

2) Cincinnati Bengals

Starters: A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins

Depth Chart: John Ross III, Auden Tate, Alex Erickson

For the Bengals, there’s a potential case to be made that they could be higher than the Browns but also lower than the Steelers. Slotting them at No. 2 seems appropriate.

Much of the team’s receiving success in 2020 will hinge on the return of veteran A.J. Green, who missed the entirety of last season with a leg injury. Green will 32 years old at the start of next season and has struggled to consistently stay on the field in recent years. When healthy, though, he’s proven himself as one of the top-tier wideouts in the NFL.

Behind Green on the depth chart is Tyler Boyd, whose operated as the team’s de-facto No. 1 receiver over the past two seasons. In 2019, Boyd exceeded 1,000 receiving yards for the second consecutive year while catching 90 receptions and scoring five times.

The Bengals also added a big-name receiver in the draft in Clemson’s Tee Higgins. Higgins is an athletic marvel at 6-foot-4 and should step in as a starter on the outside. Speedster John Ross III appeared to be on his way to a breakout campaign last season before succumbing to injuries yet again.

Rounding out the group are Alex Erickson and Auden Tate, who provide solid depth.

Poll

Where would you rank the Bengals in the WR ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    First
    (67 votes)
  • 53%
    Second
    (184 votes)
  • 20%
    Third
    (72 votes)
  • 6%
    Fourth
    (22 votes)
345 votes total Vote Now

3) Pittsburgh Steelers

Starters: JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson

Depth Chart: Chase Claypool, Ryan Switzer, Deon Cain

The Steelers’ receiving core is an interesting one. They weren’t wildly productive as a group last season but that comes with a bit of an asterisk, as JuJu Smith-Schuster was in-and-out of the lineup and Pittsburgh’s passing attack suffered without Ben Roethlisberger.

Smith-Schuster suited up in 12 games and caught 42 of 70 targets for 552 receiving yards and five touchdowns. It was far from the encore campaign most expected after his terrific season in 2018, but the arrow still appears to be pointing up for the USC product.

Pittsburgh was hoping James Washington would step into the No. 2 role behind Smith-Schuster in 2019 and while it took a little while for him to emerge, Washington wound up leading the team in receiving yardage (735) and YPC (16.7).

Dionate Johnson had a solid rookie campaign but the Steelers still opted to address the position in early in this year’s draft, selecting Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool in the second round.

Between this bunch, the Steelers have a pretty solid and versatile core top-to-bottom. The lack of a bonafide No. 1 receiver, though, is the justification for placing them slightly below the Bengals.

Poll

Where would you rank the Steelers in the WR ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    First
    (12 votes)
  • 13%
    Second
    (47 votes)
  • 37%
    Third
    (127 votes)
  • 45%
    Fourth
    (154 votes)
340 votes total Vote Now

4) Baltimore Ravens

Starters: Marquise Brown, Willie Snead IV, Miles Boykin

Depth Chart: Devin Duvernay, James Proche, TBD

Out of all their skill positions on offense, wide receiver is the only one where the aforementioned AFC North teams have a clear advantage over the Ravens.

Baltimore returns their three starting wideouts from last season, headlined by rising sophomores Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin. The Ravens opted not to draft a receiver in the first or second round nor did they sign one in free agency, which speaks to the confidence they have in this young duo to take a step forward in Year 2.

Brown showcased star potential at times in 2019. He finished his rookie campaign with 46 receptions on 71 targets for 584 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. “Hollywood” began and ended the season on particularly high notes, posting 147 receiving yard and two scores in Week 1 and snagging seven receptions for 123 yards in the divisional playoff game.

Boykin didn’t establish himself much as a pass-catcher but proved to be a valuable downfield blocker. He has the athletic tools and profile to become more of an impact receiver and the Ravens are betting on him doing so in 2020.

In the slot, veteran Willie Snead IV is back for his third season in Baltimore. Snead’s production declined in 2019 but he still finished third on the team in targets and caught five touchdown receptions. He’ll face stiffer competition from rookies Devin Duvernay and James Proche, two players who thrived as slot receivers in college.

Not mentioned are Chris Moore, Jaleel Scott and De’Anthony Thomas, who are on the roster bubble heading into training camp.

Poll

Where would you rank the Ravens in the WR ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    First
    (51 votes)
  • 7%
    Second
    (35 votes)
  • 37%
    Third
    (173 votes)
  • 44%
    Fourth
    (204 votes)
463 votes total Vote Now