- Founder and Editor-in-chief of Footballoutsiders.com
- NFL analyst for ESPN Insider
The golden age of the wide receiver trio is here. Last season, NFL teams used three or more wide receivers on 63% of plays. The typical three-wide set, also known as 11 personnel, was the most popular personnel grouping for all 32 teams.
That third wide receiver position is a starting job in the modern NFL, and teams have responded by building dynamic trios for their offense. The Bills have Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley. Cincinnati has Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Dallas has CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.
And there are two teams where all three of the top receivers currently rank in the top 30 of Football Outsiders’ DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) statistics. Arizona has Christian Kirk (third), DeAndre Hopkins (fourth) and A.J. Green (27th), while the Buccaneers have Chris Godwin (10th), Mike Evans (11th) and Antonio Brown (18th).
This led us to question which wide receiver trio is the greatest of all time? There are a couple of ways to answer that question. We could look at which team had the most career catches or yards for their top three receivers, but that would give us teams with older veteran players. Instead, to look at which teams got the most value out of their top three receivers in a given season, I used DYAR and looked at the top three receivers for every team since 1983.
I ranked teams using the harmonic mean of their top three receivers’ DYAR totals. Using harmonic mean instead of normal arithmetic mean gives us a list of teams where all three receivers had excellent seasons.
Otherwise, taking the mean of the top three receivers could give us teams such as the 2006 Indianapolis Colts, where Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne had awesome seasons but the third receiver was Aaron Moorehead. Using DYAR allows us to normalize for each individual season to correct for the fact that receivers have more yards now than they did in the 1980s and 1990s.
Here are 12 teams with the best wide receiver trios of all time:
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