The Miami Dolphins have been one of the NFL's most active teams this offseason, and one position that's received special attention is wide receiver. In addition to re-signing their leading wideout from last season (Brian Hartline), the Dolphins inked Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson. This led Hartline to declare that Miami "absolutely" has the best receivers in the AFC East.
Let's broaden this out to the entire league: Which team boasts the best receiving corps in the NFL?
By adding Welker, Broncos raised the barThe Denver Broncos have the NFL's most talented collection of wide receivers, comprised of two ultra-skilled outside weapons (Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker) and the league's premier slot receiver (Wes Welker). Thomas and Decker are both capable of producing explosive plays, and having their size and physicality in the red zone is a luxury. However, it was the addition of Welker via free agency that put this crew at the top of the list. He won't provide the same chunk-yardage plays as Thomas and Decker, but he will be Peyton Manning's go-to guy on third down.
Multiple teams boast an outstanding receiving corps, but the Broncos are the new standard.
Broncos and Falcons stand out above the rest in the pass-catching departmentThe first group that comes to mind is the three-headed monster now in Denver. Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and recent addition Wes Welker give the Broncos three different receivers who racked up 1,000 yards last season. Couple that production with Peyton Manning coming off one of his best statistical seasons, and defensive coordinators will be spending many sleepless nights trying to figure out ways to slow down this offense.
Atlanta will give the Broncos a run for their money, though, as Roddy White/Julio Jones has become the most explosive one-two punch in the NFL. Also, Tony Gonzalez is coming back for one last hurrah. Bottom line: The Falcons certainly could end up fielding the most productive group in 2013.
Broncos are good, but Falcons are betterI am going with the Atlanta Falcons' group over the Denver Broncos' receiving corps.
I think Julio Jones is better than any wideout Denver has; as a route runner, Jones is a more complete receiver than Demaryius Thomas. I believe Roddy White, meanwhile, is ahead of Eric Decker as a No. 2 receiver. Wes Welker is a very good slot man, but tight end Tony Gonzalez is a different type of inside receiver who relies more on his size to get open. His edge over Welker comes in the red zone.
Seahawks primed to set league ablazeSaying you have the best receivers in the AFC East is like claiming to have the nicest car at a demolition derby, but I digress.
There are really three teams that have a corps worth envying. The obvious first choice is the Denver Broncos. Not only are Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker elite-level wideouts, but they each bring a different skill set to the party. Thomas is the most dangerous and the best deep threat, and Welker is the possession guy, while Decker -- the Broncos' top red-zone option -- is an amalgam of both of them. Try to beat that. The Green Bay Packers' group, meanwhile, is sort of Denver-lite, with Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jordy Nelson.
The team I'm most excited about, though, is the Seattle Seahawks. They'll come at you this season with four guys who all have game-breaking ability of varying degrees: Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate. Harvin already is one of the best in the game, while Rice and Tate both averaged 15 yards per catch last season. Baldwin, who had a terrific 2011, got caught up in adjusting to Russell Wilson and his penchant for spreading the football around. He also missed two games. Still, make no mistake: Baldwin is a talented guy.
Finally, Rice is the oldest of the four at 26, meaning they're all entering their prime years. Good luck trying to match up with the Seahawks in 2013; hope you have four good cornerbacks.
Niners' big addition makes them the bestConsidering the generally underwhelming alternatives, maybe Brian Hartline is right about where the Miami Dolphins' pass catchers rank in the AFC East. (Then again, if Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola can stay healthy, I'll take the New England Patriots.)
As for the NFL at large, here are my top five groups, in reverse order:
5) Tennessee Titans: Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker, Justin Hunter.
4) Denver Broncos: Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Jacob Tamme, Wes Welker.
3) Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert, Andrew Hawkins.
2) Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Harry Douglas.
1) San Francisco 49ers: Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, Mario Manningham.
Yes, the Falcons have two bona fide No. 1 receivers, but their tight end looked like he was heading for retirement until recently. The Niners, conversely, upgraded their corps with Boldin, who could (and should?) have been the Super Bowl MVP.
Gonzalez puts Falcons over the topThis really is between the Falcons and the Broncos. I'd call Julio Jones and Roddy White vs. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker a wash, so this basically comes down to Tony Gonzalez vs. Wes Welker.
This isn't to knock Welker, who is great, but Gonzalez does more things well. And the Falcons tight end makes the clutch catches when they need to be made.