Which NFL Team Has The Best Pass Catchers? Round Of 8

Photo: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

This is the third part of a project of mine here at The Draft Network. The ultimate goal is to rank the top group of pass catchers in the NFL.

In order to do so, I created a 32 team bracket while listing the pass catchers for each squad. By “pass catchers” I generally mean each team’s wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. Today will be the round of 8, as the opening and second rounds were recently completed.

There had to be some structure within this tournament, so let me explain how I viewed each unit. Below, I’ve listed the depth chart of each remaining team with their top 4 wide receivers, top 2 tight ends and top 2 running backs. Beneath that, there are the major depth pieces for all three positions.

Things can get hairy when applying strict numbers to a group of players, take the now eliminated Steelers for example. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Ryan Switzer, James Washington, Eli Rogers and Donte Moncrief make up a deep group of wide receivers. Cutting them down to just four players was a difficult task. It’s possible that you won’t agree with some players relegated to the “depth” section, but those borderline players impact the group a bit less anyway.

Something that should be noted is that these aren’t necessarily listed by standing on the team’s actual depth chart. While the Eagles are likely to give Jordan Howard a strong portion of the playing time, I’d expect them to feature Miles Sanders and Corey Clement more in the passing game. Since the passing game is what we’re looking at, that puts Howard into the depth category.

Additionally, these lists needed to be cut down to not include every player on the 90-man rosters. So while I like your favorite team’s late round picks and undrafted free agents too, they didn’t necessarily make the cut here. The players listed are those that I expect to have an opportunity to make an impact this season.

Lastly, some players are facing suspension or coming back from injury. Those players have mostly been relegated to the “Depth / Unknown” section, as their future usage is up in the air. These players are valued when comparing overall units to other teams, but it’s difficult to gauge just how effective they will be moving forward.

To structure the tournament, each team started by competing against their own divisions first, so the final 8 teams are the division champions. Today, the East division champs will face off against the West division champs, the North will face the South. Be sure to keep your eyes out for the subsequent rounds that will be posted within the coming days.

Let’s get into the depth chart of each remaining team in the AFC.

New York Jets

WR Robby Anderson

WR Quincy Enunwa

WR Jamison Crowder

WR Deontay Burnett

TE Chris Herndon IV

TE Trevon Wesco

RB Le’veon Bell

RB Elijah McGuire

Depth / Unknown

WR Josh Bellamy

TE Eric Tomlinson

Los Angeles Chargers

WR Keenan Allen

WR Mike Williams

WR Travis Benjamin

WR Dylan Cantrell

TE Hunter Henry

TE Virgil Green

RB Melvin Gordon

RB Austin Ekeler

Depth / Unknown

RB Justin Jackson

Cleveland Browns

WR Odell Beckham Jr.

WR Rashard Higgins

WR Jarvis Landry

WR Antonio Callaway

TE David Njoku

TE Seth Devalve

RB Nick Chubb

RB Duke Johnson

Depth / Unknown

WR Damion Ratley

*RB Kareem Hunt

Indianapolis Colts

WR T.Y. Hilton

WR Parris Campbell

WR Devin Funchess

WR Chester Rogers

TE Eric Ebron

TE Jack Doyle

RB Marlon Mack

RB Nyheim Hines

Depth / Unknown

WR Zach Pascal

TE Mo Alie-Cox

RB Jordan Wilkins

*Denotes player that is a surefire talent, but have an unsure outlook on their availability

Los Angeles Chargers def. New York Jets

While the Jets have an intriguing group of young pass catchers, their unit isn’t quite as complete as the Chargers. Keenan Allen is the strongest receiver of either group, and the trajectory of Mike Williams career could put him on that level next season.

While the Jets addition Le’veon Bell is exceptionally strong, Los Angeles has multiple running backs who get after it in the passing game. Add in Hunter Henry’s complete skillset as a pass catching tight end, and there are minimal holes in the Chargers overall unit. The progression of second-year wideout Dylan Cantrell could be the piece that puts Los Angeles over the top, not just in this tournament but on the field as well.

Indianapolis Colts def. Cleveland Browns

This was a tight one, as any round of 8 matchup will be. Cleveland’s addition of Odell Beckham Jr. has seemingly moved the needle for the Browns offseason, but don’t underestimate the moves that the Colts have made. While Odell is the alpha among both groups, T.Y. Hilton really isn’t too far off from him. The Colts 2-4 options at wide receiver are just about even with Cleveland’s, as Funchess is an underrated addition and Parris Campbell is a natural fit in their offense.

Where Indianapolis separates themselves is at tight end and running back, as Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle have both had more success than David Njoku to this point. Running back Nyheim Hines is equally as effective catching passes from the backfield as he is from the slot, and is a more dynamic athlete than Cleveland’s Duke Johnson.

Indianapolis’ overall unit edges out the Browns by a hair.

Now let's take a look at the depth charts from the NFC:

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Alshon Jeffery

WR Nelson Agholor

WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

WR Desean Jackson

TE Zach Ertz

TE Dallas Goedert

RB Miles Sanders

RB Corey Clement

Depth / Unknown

RB Jordan Howard

RB Wendell Smallwood

RB Donnel Pumphrey

Los Angeles Rams

WR Brandin Cooks

WR Robert Woods

WR Cooper Kupp

WR Josh Reynolds

TE Gerald Everett

TE Tyler Higbee

RB Todd Gurley

RB Darrell Henderson

Depth / Unknown

RB John Kelly

RB Malcolm Brown

Chicago Bears

WR Allen Robinson

WR Taylor Gabriel

WR Anthony Miller

WR Riley Ridley

TE Trey Burton

TE Adam Shaheen

RB Tarik Cohen

RB David Montgomery

Depth / Unknown

WR Cordarrelle Patterson

WR Javon Wims

RB Mike Davis

Atlanta Falcons

WR Julio Jones

WR Calvin Ridley

WR Mohamed Sanu

WR Justin Hardy

TE Austin Hooper

TE Luke Stocker

RB Devonta Freeman

RB Ito Smith

Depth / Unknown

WR Russell Gage

TE Eric Saubert

Philadelphia Eagles def. Los Angeles Rams

This one was a slugfest. Comparing these two units is difficult, because they’re two of the most complete groups in the entire league. However, Philadelphia’s feels like the more versatile group with talent and depth at each position.

Los Angeles has the stronger trio of top wide receivers in Cooks, Woods and Kupp. But Philadelphia’s trio of Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Desean Jackson really isn’t far off. On top of that, JJ Arcega-Whiteside is the more intriguing talent than Josh Reynolds.

While the Rams tight ends have had flashes, Philadelphia’s Ertz and Goedert might be the best tight end duo in the entire NFL. They have a ridiculous amount of pass catching talent in the backfield with Sanders, Clement, Smallwood and potentially even Donnel Pumphrey. That depth and versatility outweighs Todd Gurley’s pass catching, especially with his potentially uneasy health moving forward.

This matchup feels like one that happened one round too early, as both units are exceptional.

Atlanta Falcons def. Chicago Bears

Chicago has built up a deep group of talented pass catchers over the past two offseasons, but they simply don’t match up with Atlanta’s just yet. Julio Jones is one of the best wide receivers in the game, and Calvin Ridley had the best season among all rookie receivers last year. Mohamed Sanu has been a consistent and productive WR2 for years in the NFL, peaking at 838 receiving yards in 2018.

Add in tight end Austin Hooper and two running backs with receiving ability in Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith, and Chicago’s young weapons don’t quite compare.