NFL Network analyst and former NFL wideout Nate Burleson can relate to the wide receivers who changed teams this offseason, as he played for three different organizations (Minnesota, Seattle and Detroit) in his 11-year career. After taking stock of the offseason's various signings and trades, he's identified the five receivers who will have the most success with their new teams in 2017.
The converted QB is the ultimate X-factor. Pryor topped 1,000 yards in his first season as a full-fledged wide receiver despite dealing with inconsistent quarterback play in Cleveland. Pryor's ceiling as a receiver is still unknown, but it stands to reason that Washington QB Kirk Cousins will only elevate Pryor's production. This was a huge signing for the Redskins after losing Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson in free agency. In accepting a one-year, $8 million deal, Pryor is betting on himself to have a great season. I think he'll outproduce everyone on this list and notch 1,300 receiving yards.
I love this move for both the Giants and Marshall. New York is adding a guy with eight 1,000-yard seasons on his résumé, someone who also has been the most productive receiver in football over the last decade in terms of both catches (921) and receiving yards (11,752), per NFL Research. And Marshall gets a chance to finally make his first career playoff appearance in his 12th NFL campaign. His experience, ability and leadership -- which could greatly help young receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard -- will help Big Blue get back to the postseason. And then there's the height factor. Last year, the Giants' tallest receiver was Victor Cruz, who measures 6-foot. The 6-4 Marshall will immediately impact the passing game, especially in the red zone.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Marshall reach 1,000 yards yet again in his first year with the Giants. I'm not saying he'll lead the team in receptions or yards this season, but I suspect he will become Eli Manning's favorite target at times. Marshall only has been a part of three winning seasons over the years, and his teams have had a combined record of 83-93. Given the relative discount he signed for (two years, $12 million), Marshall is clearly motivated to break through that postseason wall.
Jeffery has been a 50-catch, 800-yard receiver for the last two seasons. He can double those numbers, given good health. We all know he has the ability to be that guy -- Jeffery had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2013 and '14 -- and it could certainly come together again with Carson Wentz in Philly. Jeffery will be the No. 1 target the Eagles have been looking for over the last few years. The fact that Jeffery apparently turned down a multi-year deal for a one-year contract tells me a lot. He showed me that he's hungry and ready to produce right now after an occasionally tumultuous Chicago tenure that included multiple injuries and a four-game suspension in 2016. A successful performance in his first season in Philly -- providing consistent play and around 1,250 receiving yards -- would set him up to be one of the highest-paid receivers next offseason.
Jackson is known for his explosive plays, and last year was no different. He notched his fifth 1,000-yard receiving campaign and had a league-leading per-catch mark of 17.9 yards with Washington. Jackson, who is entering his 10th NFL season, will be a great complement to Mike Evans in Tampa. With Evans controlling the middle of the field, Jackson will be a threat in post, go and dig routes. Teams must double-team Evans because we know what he is capable of, leaving defenders to pick their poison.
Jackson is worth every dime of his three-year, $33.5 million contract. Some might disagree, but Jackson was underused and underappreciated in Washington and still had over 1,000 receiving yards in 2016. He's going to be even more valuable in the Bucs' passing game.
Cooks topped 1,100 receiving yards in each of his past two seasons in New Orleans. Now in New England via trade, he's going to add some flare to Tom Brady's arsenal, lining up alongside Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Brady also has Dwayne Allen, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, James White and Dion Lewis at his disposal. How are opponents going to defend this offense? They aren't. In a perfect world, Cooks, Edelman and Gronk would all be double-teamed. But there can't be 20 defenders on the field, so Cooks is going to keep cooking.
Still, there have been just three 1,000-yard seasons by wide receivers in the past five years in New England (Wes Welker in 2012 and Edelman in 2013 and 2016), and players rarely put up crazy numbers after joining the Patriots. That's why Cooks is No. 5 on this list. Cooks will be productive, but he's not likely to stand out statistically, just because there are so many other weapons on this team.