NFL free agency has produced quite a shuffle at the offensive skill positions, including receiver. With that in mind, NFL Network analyst and former 1,000-yard WR Nate Burleson evaluates the recent relocations of 11 wideouts, answering one question for each: Will the player post greater, similar or lesser production with his new team in 2021 than he did with his previous club in 2020?
Old team: Tennessee Titans
Davis didn’t live up to his draft pedigree in Tennessee, and with A.J. Brown hitting the scene the way he did in his first two seasons, it makes sense why the former will play out his second pro contract elsewhere. To his credit, Davis is coming off his best statistical season (65 catches, 984 yards, five TDs) and possesses the size and skill set to be the Jets’ No. 1 receiver in Mike LaFleur’s offense, regardless of who’s throwing the ball. Having yet to eclipse 65 catches in a pro season, the Jets’ new featured wideout will have ample opportunity to rack up the numbers in 2021.
2021 projection: 75 receptions, 1,000-plus yards, eight TDs
Old team: Detroit Lions
The Giants have a talented group of offensive skill players in Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Evan Engram. Inserting a bona fide No. 1 wide receiver into this offense will propel not only third-year quarterback Daniel Jones (in what feels like a make-or-break year) but this offense as a whole — something Big Blue desperately needs after ranking 31st in scoring and total offense in 2020. Golladay’s physical game and ability to make contested catches against any defender allows him to produce no matter the circumstances around him, and joining a hungry Giants team looking to make the leap should benefit him in return.
2021 projection: 90 receptions, 1,200 yards, 11 TDs
Old team: Cincinnati Bengals
The current pecking order in Arizona: DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald (if he returns for an 18th season) and A.J. Green. But just because Green isn’t the featured No. 1 receiver he’s been for a majority of his career doesn’t mean he won’t get his looks. A healthy Green in Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense has great potential to rack up solid numbers, especially when you consider Hopkins will often be double-teamed and other defenders will be ready to key on Kyler Murray‘s electric running ability. You can’t forget about this talented veteran, though I bet some DCs will.
2021 projection: 65 receptions, 850 yards, nine TDs
Old team: Philadelphia Eagles
We know how excited Jackson is about playing with Matthew Stafford and his out-of-this-world arm. In Jackson’s few appearances with the Eagles last season, he showed he still has lightning speed and the ability to make big-time plays WHEN healthy. In his new role as a true No. 3 receiver in Sean McVay’s offense, Jackson is going to benefit from having a great, experienced quarterback along with other explosive playmakers around him.
2021 projection: 40 receptions, 700 yards, seven TDs
Old team: Kansas City Chiefs
Watkins played an instrumental role in the Chiefs’ explosive offense over the last three seasons, though the former first-round pick never surpassed 700 yards in any season. He now steps into a larger role for a Ravens offense looking to improve a passing attack that ranked last in yards in 2020. Watkins struggled as a No. 1 receiver early in his career, but with the experience and confidence gained in Kansas City, he should thrive in his return to that role.
2021 projection: 60 receptions, 800 yards, seven TDs.
Old team: Las Vegas Raiders
If Agholor proved anything during his one-year stint in Las Vegas, it’s that he can be a reliable No. 2 receiver. There’s still hesitation around him being a No. 1, but he doesn’t need to be in New England. That’s why I love this fit. I don’t believe any pass catcher signed by the Pats this offseason will be expected to lead the league in any statistical category, especially given Cam Newton‘s inconsistency. Agholor will benefit from being part of a balanced group of pass catchers, even though there are a lot of other mouths to feed (including Kendrick Bourne, Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith).
2021 projection: 50 receptions, 700 yards, eight TDs
Old team: San Francisco 49ers
Bourne is coming off his best statistical season, but I still think there’s a lot of untapped potential in his game. Along with excelling as a catch-and-run threat, the fifth-year pro could have plenty of splash plays if Newton can accurately and consistently push the ball downfield. Regardless of how Bourne ends up being used in Josh McDaniels’ offense, the first-year Patriot should cement himself as a mainstay in the passing attack throughout the 2021 campaign.
2021 projection: 45 receptions, 550 yards, five TDs
Old team: Carolina Panthers
It bodes well for Samuel that he’ll play with Ryan Fitzpatrick. The bearded magician loves playmakers and gives his supporting cast plenty of opportunities to succeed. That’s all Samuel needs. He thrived in all facets of Carolina’s offense last season, as a ball carrier out of the backfield, receiver on short passes near the line of scrimmage and on deep shots downfield. Look for offensive coordinator Scott Turner to feature the versatile playmaker in similar ways in an effort to move the chains.
2021 projection: 100 touches (80 receptions), 1,300 scrimmage yards, 11 total TDs
Old team: New Orleans Saints
Sanders has been the ultimate X-factor who helps teams win, and he’s going to be a great complement to Stefon Diggs. As much as the Bills’ offense is centered around Diggs, the league’s receiving yards leader in 2020, Sanders is going to see a majority of targets that were spread down the depth chart last season. I also believe that Josh Allen will rely more on his arm and less on his running ability in an effort to take fewer hits — kinda like Vince Carter when he transitioned from constantly driving the lane to taking more jumpers later in his NBA career. The Bills’ passing attack is about to go to another level.
2021 projection: 65 receptions, 800 yards, six TDs
Old team: Houston Texans
Last season, we saw how effective Fuller can be when he’s on the field and on the same page as his quarterback. Deshaun Watson‘s ability to make any throw, notably deep passes that could hit Fuller in stride, helped the wideout to a career year in 2020 — despite Fuller missing the final five games due to a suspension. Now in Miami, Fuller might suffer from a quarterback switch. We know the speedster can get behind any defender, but can Tua Tagovailoa push the ball downfield enough to connect with him? I’m not so sure.
2021 projection: 45 receptions, 750 yards, six TDs
Old team: Detroit Lions
Jones had nearly 1,000 receiving yards in 2020 as Matthew Stafford‘s primary receiving target, with Kenny Golladay sidelined for a majority of the season. However, something’s gotta give when joining an offense with a more balanced receiving corps and superior rushing attack. That’s why I expect Jones’ production to drop slightly as the No. 2 receiver and complement to D.J. Chark, with enticing second-year pro Laviska Shenault Jr. in the slot. Wouldn’t it be great, though, if these WRs were to string together a scary-good campaign with Trevor Lawrence, whom Urban Meyer’s eyeing at No. 1 overall, slinging it around the yard? I’m here for it.
2021 projection: 65 receptions, 850 yards, six TDs
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