Skip to main content

Steelers top NFL's best receiver duos IF Josh Gordon's absent

There's been so much excitement surrounding Cleveland all offseason. With the addition of Jarvis Landry, I've been high on the Browns' receiving corps for a while now, which is why I -- like most football fans -- was bummed when I heard Josh Gordon wouldn't be at the start of training camp.

Gordon, who is on the non-football illness reserve list until "he's ready to return," and Landry could be a scary-good tandem with Tyrod Taylor or Baker Mayfield under center. This wide receiver duo could shatter the league, but I'm hesitant to put the Browns in my WR tandem ranking with Gordon's uncertain status.

If Gordon is able to play a full season, though, lock them in at No. 1.

You read that right. Gordon is a big-bodied receiver -- reminiscent of Calvin Johnson at times -- who can be one of the toughest receivers in the league if he can stay on the field. I don't see any cornerback right now who can cover Gordon man to man when the 6-foot-3 wideout is at his best. I don't care if you're the best cornerback out there -- he's going to be a tough matchup. Meanwhile, Landry eclipsed 90 receptions in each of the last three seasons in Miami and does most of his damage in the slot. He'll have favorable matchups weekly because there aren't many nickel corners who can contain him, especially if Gordon attracts attention on the outside.

I hope these two are on the field together come September. But until then, here are my top five wide receiver duos heading into 2018:

5) Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons

Jones in 2017: 88 receptions for 1,444 yards and three touchdowns.
Sanu in 2017: 67 receptions for 703 yards and five touchdowns (15 games).

Jones is arguably the best receiver in the league, putting up four straight seasons of 1,400-plus receiving yards. This tandem might not be as balanced as others, but it's hard to deny the Falcons a spot. Sanu is a Swiss Army Knife who can play out wide and inside, run the ball and throw. This pair is great, but there are a ton of mouths to feed on Steve Sarkisian's offense -- Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Austin Hooper and rookie Calvin Ridley -- which is why this duo sits at No. 5.

4) Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions

Tate in 2017: 92 receptions for 1,003 yards and five touchdowns.
Jones in 2017: 61 receptions for 1,101 yards and nine touchdowns.

Tate and Jones always seem to go under the radar, but they are a great combination. Tate ranked first among all receivers in yards after the catch (639) in 2017. Jones makes the contested catch nine out of 10 times on the outside, and making the tough catches is what being a wide receiver in this league is all about. Their versatility is what makes it hard for defenses to guard the Lions.

Tate and Jones each put up 1,000 receiving yards last year -- and that's despite the fact that Detroit hasn't had a solid run game since 2013, when the Lions featured my colleague Reggie Bush in the backfield. With a loaded running back room that includes LeGarrette Blount, Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and rookie Kerryon Johnson, the Lions should benefit from play-action passes that play off the renovated ground game. Lastly, Matthew Stafford is a great quarterback who will give Tate and Jones plenty of chances to make plays. No. 9 doesn't get enough credit.

3) Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams, Los Angeles Chargers

Allen in 2017: 102 receptions for 1,393 yards and six touchdowns.
Williams in 2017: 43 receptions for 728 yards and four touchdowns.

Williams is one of the most underrated receivers in the NFL. He gets overshadowed by Allen, who showed just how good he is when healthy for an entire season in 2017. Williams is 6-4, has above-average speed and makes huge plays. He's a problem down the field, while Allen is a threat no matter where he lines up.

It helps that Philip Rivers has been with this duo for three seasons, and we saw how well they worked together in 2017. If they (and I'm specifically looking at you, Keenan) stay healthy, their numbers should improve. Rivers should have more time in the pocket with an upgraded offensive line. The Bolts signed center Mike Pouncey this offseason, while guard Forrest Lamp is due to return after missing his entire rookie season with a torn ACL.

2) Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings

Diggs in 2017: 64 receptions for 849 yards and eight touchdowns (14 games).
Thielen in 2017: 91 receptions for 1,276 yards and four touchdowns.

After Dalvin Cook went down early in the 2017 campaign, Diggs and Thielen showed how they can elevate the offense, finishing as the third-best WR duo in the NFL in terms of total yards (2,125 combined). Both players can line up outside or in the slot, make the tough catches and run every route in the route tree. Their explosiveness makes this pair nearly impossible to defend because teams must have two CB1s to slow them down. And now, with a hand-picked quarterback (Kirk Cousins) and a healthy Cook, the Vikings' offense should make a splash right out of the gate.

1) Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers

Brown in 2017: 101 receptions for 1,533 yards and nine touchdowns (14 games).
Smith-Schuster in 2017: 58 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns (14 games).

AB and JuJu were the league's top receiving tandem in 2017 by more than 300 yards. In his rookie campaign, JuJu racked up nearly 1,000 receiving yards despite playing 14 games (with just seven starts). He's going to get a lot of 1-on-1 opportunities with Brown attracting most of the attention. If JuJu makes the first defender miss, he has the gas to get down the field and produce a big play. His ability to play on the outside or in the slot will also take some pressure off the 2017 NFL receiving yards leader, and we all know what that means. More opportunities for Brown could equal the mythical 2,000-yard receiving season.

I like how these two feed off each other. Not to mention, defenders must account for Le'Veon Bell in the backfield. Brown and JuJu will see the coverages they want with Bell threatening to make a big play on every down.

Follow James Jones on Twitter @89JonesNTAF.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content