Welcome back to the newest edition of Who’s Got the Edge! If you missed our QB edition, check it out here, and click here for the running back edition. Let’s jump right into evaluating some wide receiver talent.
ADAM THIELEN vs. DOUG BALDWIN
Thielen and Baldwin are consistently hanging around the 10th-15th overall wide receiver rankings. Adam Thielen had a breakout year last year for the Minnesota Vikings, finishing 5th overall in receiving yards while adding four touchdowns. While he does share a target load with rising star Stefon Diggs, Thielen still managed to rake in 135 targets and eclipse the 1,000 yards receiving milestone with 1,276 total yards. He even gets what some would classify as an upgrade with Kirk Cousins coming over to captain the Vikings in the offseason. One of the biggest draws to Thielen is his big-play ability, who finished the year with one of the highest deep ball completion rates, as he was able to reel in 45.5% of balls thrown more than 20 yards. Thielen edges Baldwin out with 14 yards per reception to Baldwin’s 13.2 yards, and also had a great rate of 2.33 yards per route run (YRR) to Baldwin’s 1.83 YRR, which really illustrates his efficiency in route running.
Doug Baldwin has been the picture of dependability the last few years as Russell Wilson’s go-to receiver. Baldwin had zero fumbles and only one drop in all of 2017, while also hauling in 8 touchdown receptions. Playing out of the slot is one of Baldwin’s biggest assets, finishing with a 68.2% slot reception rate. Baldwin also won out on average depth of target with 13.4 yards, while Thielen was barely behind at 11.1 yards. The Seahawks have a lot of targets freed-up with the departures of Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson in the offseason, so expect Baldwin to eat, as long as his vague knee injury isn’t a hindrance.
Give the edge to Baldwin, strictly for his dependability and penchant for reaching the end zone.
JARVIS LANDRY vs. BRANDIN COOKS
The Browns receiver group is intriguing this year, as there are a lot of mouths to feed here. Landry will be competing for targets in a way he never had to in Miami, but don’t fret. Although Landry was gifted 156 targets last year, he can still excel with fewer looks. In 2017, Landry had a reception rate of 71.8%, leaving most other receivers in the dust. He also boasts a rate of 4.7 yards after the catch and avoided an astounding 15 tackles last year. Landry ranked ninth overall in slot reception rate (min. 100 snaps) with 78.2%. The hope here is that Landry and Josh Gordon, his receiving counterpart, is able to feed off of each other and create a one-two punch, rather than steal targets and plays from each other. If they’re able to accomplish this, it shouldn’t matter whether their starting QB is Tyrod Taylor or Baker Mayfield, and they’ll dominate the league.
Brandin Cooks was able to cross the 1,000 yards receiving mark last year, coming in with 1,082 yards. He had a massive 16.6 yards per reception and averaged 15.9 yards of depth per target. This guy is a deep threat for sure, hauling-in 44.4% of his targets that were over 20 yards. Cooks found the end zone seven times and finished with zero fumbles. Bear in mind, though, Cooks won’t be catching passes from Tom Brady anymore. He’s shipped out to the Los Angeles Rams, who will most certainly be riding the Todd Gurley wave. Don’t forget that Cooks also has to compete with Robert Woods and one of Goff’s favorite red-zone targets, Cooper Kupp. Anyone who says they’re worried about Jarvis’s targets and doesn’t mention Cooks in the same breath needs to reevaluate.
Jarvis Landry has the edge here. Bless ‘Em.
ALLEN ROBINSON vs. CHRIS HOGAN
Both of these guys missed time last year, with Hogan participating in nine games and Robinson only seeing the field once before tearing his ACL. Robinson had a good year in 2016, catching 73 balls for 883 yards and six touchdowns. Although Robinson averaged 12.1 yards per reception, he only averaged 2.7 yards after the catch, and only was able to haul in 4 of his 31 deep targets (20 yards or more). Robinson is better suited for the mid-range check downs, which his new QB in Chicago excels at. Expect the Trubisky-Robinson connection to be in full swing, especially because of the number of available targets. With Kendall Wright now in Minnesota, Dontrelle Inman leaving as a free agent, and Zach Miller missing 2018 while recuperating from his gruesome leg injury, 155 targets are freed up for Robinson. Don’t forget that the Bears also added tight end, Trey Burton, this offseason, who will steal some of those targets from Robinson.
Chris Hogan has a similar situation, as his target share should see a drastic increase, at least for the first four games while Julian Edelman serves his PED suspension. Add in the fact that the departure of Brandin Cooks frees up 109 more targets, and you’ve got the recipe for a WR1. That’s right, Chris Hogan will be one of the leading wide receivers in the first four weeks of action. Hogan only played nine games last year, but still managed to find the end zone five times. Hogan had an average depth of 13.6 yards per target and 4.9 yards after contact. While the Patriots are pretty deep at receiver, we’ve already seen the rapport between Hogan and Brady in the preseason, as Hogan finished last week’s game with five catches for 25 yards and one touchdown. Don’t forget that the Patriots are the number one graded passing team according to Pro Football Focus.
Give the edge here to Chris Hogan, but not by much. His advantage comes from having battle-tested Brady throwing to him, while Trubisky (who is making strides) is still rather unproven.
There you have it! Check back next week for our final edition of Who’s Got the Edge where we evaluate the tight end position!