Throwing to one dangerous receiver is good; throwing to two is better.
With marquee pass-catchers dominating a busy offseason of player movement, I thought I'd take a look at the best receiver duos in the NFL today. Below is my ranking of the top 11. Note that I'm considering receivers ONLY; thus, you won't find any pass-catching tight ends included.
1) Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns: In 2018, no Browns player topped 1,000 receiving yards, while quarterback Baker Mayfield only appeared in 14 games, and still, Cleveland ranked 14th in passing yards. General manager John Dorsey set out to give Mayfield more to work with -- and he couldn't have done much better than making a blockbuster trade for Beckham. Last season, Landry was the focal point of the Browns' passing attack, given a team-high 149 targets (tied for ninth-most in the NFL), but he only managed 12 yards per catch. He's got great hands and the quickness to get loose on, say, a crucial third-and-5 slant, but he's not really a big-play guy. It didn't help that defenders could roll their coverage toward him. Between the reunion of these former LSU teammates (in their final season together as Tigers, Beckham and Landry combined for 136 catches, 2,345 receiving yards and 18 TD catches) and the emergence of second-year pro Antonio Callaway as a deep threat, Landry should be able to do much more damage in the slot.
2) Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings: For the first time since Randy Moss and Cris Carter in 2000, two Vikings receivers recorded 1,000-plus receiving yards in the same season. Thielen got off to a quick start with new QB Kirk Cousins, becoming the first player in NFL history to begin a season with eight straight games of 100-plus receiving yards. He finished with a team-record nine such games. Diggs, meanwhile, tied a franchise mark of his own, matching Carter (1994) by recording eight games with eight-plus receptions. Thielen and Diggs both cooled off, along with the rest of the offense, as 2018 wore on; the lack of a convincing third receiving threat did not help. Coach Mike Zimmer's desire to run more could lead to a decrease in this duo's numbers, but Thielen and Diggs will remain one of the more potent pass-catching pairs in the NFL.
3) Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs: Already a steady source of scrimmage yards entering 2018, Hill put together his best NFL season yet, posting the fourth-most receiving yards in the NFL (1,479) and picking up 17.0 yards per catch. Watkins was averaging 4.3 catches and 57.2 yards per game before suffering a foot injury that essentially knocked him out for the second half of the season. But he really stepped up in the AFC title game; when the Patriots erased Hill, Watkins grabbed four catches for 114 yards, his best single-game total since registering 154 yards with the Bills in Week 16 of the 2016 season. Injuries have been an issue throughout his career, but don't forget that Watkins was picked fourth overall in 2014. If Watkins can stay healthy in 2019, he and Hill can generate some outrageous numbers, especially in an offense that also includes Travis Kelce and is driven by Patrick Mahomes. Note that Hill's availability might be dependent on the outcome of an ongoing law enforcement investigation into alleged battery of a juvenile in which Hill may be involved.
4) Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams: Traded to L.A. last offseason, Cooks needed no time to fit into the Rams' scheme, becoming the first player in NFL history to notch three straight 1,000-yard seasons with three different teams in that span (the Rams, Patriots and Saints). Woods was consistently productive in his first five pro seasons, but he upped his game to another level in 2018, setting career highs in targets (130), catches (86), receiving yards (1,219) and touchdown catches (six). The return of Cooper Kupp from a torn ACL will only make this offense more dangerous in 2019.
5) Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, Oakland Raiders: This is the only pair on this list in which both players are new to the team. A sprinter at Western Oregon, Williams featured in a role with the Chargers that took advantage of his speed on deep routes, starting 37 games and compiling 15.9 yards per catch over the past three seasons. Brown, meanwhile, is arguably the most precise route-runner in the league, and he showed no signs of slowing down at age 30, as demonstrated by his final game with the Steelers last season, a monstrous 14-catch, 185-yard, two-touchdown effort against the Saints in Week 15. The only issue is if he repeats any of the antics that accompanied his exit from Pittsburgh.
6) Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons: I'm not forgetting veteran receiver Mohamed Sanu, who finished with slightly more receiving yards (838) than Ridley (821). But Ridley is likely to have a stronger role in the passing game in 2019, coming off a rookie season in which he scored 10 times. Jones, of course, is one of the best in the game, having collected 10,731 career receiving yards, more than anyone but Antonio Brown (11,040) in the eight-season span since he entered the NFL. After negotiating a revised contract last offseason, Jones put himself in line for a pay raise with a league-high 1,677 yards in 2018. He also reached the Pro Bowl for the sixth time in his career.
7) DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, Houston Texans: Hopkins finished with the most prolific season of his prodigious career to date, recording personal bests in catches (115) and yards (1,572). Over the past five seasons, only Antonio Brown and Julio Jones have been targeted more than Hopkins (807) -- but he probably wouldn't mind sharing the wealth with Fuller in 2019, who coach Bill O'Brien said this week is "on a good track" as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered last season. Without Fuller, Houston generated 60 fewer passing yards per game. The former first-round pick has missed 17 games over his three NFL seasons, but assuming he can return to health, the speedy deep threat will complement Hopkins -- who catches everything and has speed of his own -- nicely.
8) A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals: Through eight weeks in 2018, Green was on pace for 90 catches, 1,374 yards and 12 touchdowns. But a toe injury ruined the second half of Green's season, and the impact of his absence on the offense was compounded by a thumb injury that kept QB Andy Dalton on the sidelines for the final five games. Despite those setbacks, Boyd took a huge step forward in Year 3 of his career, becoming the first Bengals player not named A.J. Green to record 1,000-plus receiving yards in a season since Chad Johnson did it in 2009. Even better numbers could be in store in new coach Zac Taylor's offense.
9) Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles: The ball distribution in Doug Pederson's offense is such that Jeffery might never post standout numbers in Philadelphia, and it's worth noting that no Eagles receiver came close to matching tight end Zach Ertz in targets (156), catches (116) or receiving yards (1,163). But Jeffery is a reliable target. Put aside, for a second, the drop that led to a momentum-sapping pick in the playoffs against the Saints; in 2018, Jeffery caught 70.7 percent of the balls thrown his way, the ninth-best mark among receivers with 80-plus targets, per Pro Football Reference. The return of Jackson -- who reached the Pro Bowl three times in six previous seasons with the Eagles -- after five seasons away gives this team a potent deep threat. While things never seemed to click for him in Tampa, Jackson did lead the NFL in yards per catch (18.9) in 2018.
10) Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers: One of the better route-runners in the NFL, Allen has put together a pair of strong campaigns, catching 199 passes for 2,589 yards and 12 touchdowns over the past two seasons. After dealing with back injury as a rookie, Mike Williams snagged 10 TD passes in 2018 while generating 15.4 yards per catch on 66 targets; with Tyrell Williams (65 targets) now in Oakland, Mike Williams should take on an expanded role in the passing game. The seventh overall pick in 2017 was more of a leaper than a route-runner at Clemson, but when I visited Chargers practice, I noticed Philip Rivers taking extra time to work with Mike Williams, which is a good sign that Rivers has faith in him.
11) Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks: Baldwin's numbers dipped while he dealt with injuries in 2018, and there are still concerns about his health going forward, given that he's addinga sports hernia operation to a list of offseason procedures that already included knee and shoulder surgeries. But he's long been one of the more underrated receivers in the NFL, and could again recover the form that helped him average 1,063 yards from 2015 to '17. Lockett is capable of picking up the slack, should he be so required, after recording 57 catches for 965 yards and 16.9 yards per catch in 2018, all career highs. While he's well-known for his ability to return kicks, Lockett is still kind of a hidden gem in terms of his receiving ability.