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2024 NFL wide receiver outlook: How do AFC pass catchers stack up?

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Teams like the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans will walk into the 2024 regular season boasting some of the deepest, most effective wide receiver groups in the NFL.

Then there are teams like the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Chargers that detonated explosives inside their wide receiver rooms this offseason, throwing proven veterans across the league.

I went down a rabbit hole to examine the state of the wide receiver position for each team heading into the 2024 season. This post covers the AFC. We’ll hit the NFC on Tuesday.

Here’s a glimpse at the advanced metrics (via TruMedia and Sports Info Solutions) I sorted through in this study, using these categories:

• Expected points added (EPA) per target
• EPA per reception
• Catchable-pass percentage
• Overall reception percentage

(Rankings in parenthesis. There were 59 qualified WRs with 75 or more targets and 35 qualified WRs with 40 to 74 targets.)

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AFC East

Buffalo Bills

75-plus targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.07 (51)

0.7 (53)

84.9 (24)

68.1 (18)

40-74 targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.98 (1)

1.3 (6)

95.1 (1)

86.7 (1)

0.04 (22)

1.0 (19)

72.4 (31)

50.0 (31)

The Bills’ transition away from Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis will be one of the more fascinating developments for any offense in the league.

Curtis Samuel comes in as the most decorated option, by far, with near mirror-image numbers from the past two seasons in Washington (combined 126 catches for 1,269 yards and eight TDs). Samuel’s EPA rates might not look so hot, but it didn’t help that he lived the Sam Howell experience in 2023.

How the Bills deploy Khalil Shakir will be interesting, given how prolific he was in a limited sample size — Shakir was the best receiver in several categories among those targeted between 40 and 74 times last season. All the moves seem to signify the Bills believe Shakir can carry this over into next season with more playing time. Josh Allen targeted him 45 times in 2023.

Keon Coleman, the team’s 2024 second-round pick, should play a sizable role. Marquez Valdes-Scantling should have a more specific role as a deep threat, much as he’s been throughout his career.

Miami Dolphins

75-plus targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.52 (4)

1.2 (16)

85.0 (23)

69.2 (14)

0.41 (13)

1.2 (14)

83.7 (33)

69.2 (15)

40-74 targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.30 (10)

1.4 (3)

83.3 (11)

54.7 (25)

The Dolphins’ top receivers — Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle — are among the most potent pass catchers in the NFL. But, like the Dolphins’ 2023 season, the high notes last year came primarily against weaker opponents.

Hill feasted in Dolphins victories (just one of which came over a team with a winning record) with 0.77 EPA per target and 1.5 EPA per reception. He compiled rates of only 0.02 EPA per target and 0.7 EPA per reception in the losses. Waddle amassed 0.35 EPA per target and 1.0 EPA per reception in the losses; those rates increased to 0.39 and 1.6, respectively, in wins.

Where will Odell Beckham Jr. fit in this mix? The veteran was still one of the more effective wideouts among those with 40-74 targets.

New England Patriots

75-plus targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.11 (47)

1.0 (35)

78.7 (51)

64.0 (32)

-0.06 (55)

0.6 (56)

84.5 (29)

62.0 (39)

40-74 targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

-0.17 (31)

0.7 (31)

92.5 (2)

67.3 (5)

-0.31 (33)

0.6 (32)

87.9 (7)

61.7 (13)

The Patriots bear some solid pieces for either veteran quarterback Jacoby Brissett or 2024 No. 3 pick Drake Maye. “Solid” is about as far as you’d extend the praise for that group, though.

None of the three primary holdovers — DeMario Douglas, Kendrick Bourne, JuJu Smith-Schuster — had the benefit of even decent play from their quarterbacks in 2023. The same could be said of K.J. Osborn for at least the half of last season he spent without Kirk Cousins in Minnesota. But Osborn lacked reliability, too, with a league-worst 11.0 percent drop rate.

The Patriots also added 2024 second-rounder Ja’Lynn Polk to their WR collection.

New York Jets

75-plus targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

-0.06 (56)

0.7 (54)

76.0 (56)

56.2 (52)

40-74 targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.10 (19)

1.1 (13)

62.2 (35)

46.9 (34)

There’s no chance Garrett Wilson’s numbers would’ve looked like this had he played with Aaron Rodgers or, at minimum, a top-20 quarterback. The trio of Zach Wilson, Trevor Siemian and Tim Boyle wasn’t that. And can Rodgers bring more out of Allen Lazard? You’d expect as much given they’re essentially tied at the hip.

Of course, the ultimate buzzword (that rhymes with “stealth”) surrounds veteran Mike Williams, as he’ll play his first season outside a Chargers uniform in the NFL. At full health, there’s no denying he can threaten defenses unlike anyone else the Jets possess. He’s carried a 1.3 EPA-per-reception rate the past four seasons. Can he rebound from a torn ACL he sustained in Week 3 last season, though?

The Jets also added Western Kentucky’s Malachi Corley in Round 3 of this year’s draft.


AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

75-plus targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.24 (36)

0.8 (47)

85.6 (17)

71.3 (9)

40-74 targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.01 (25)

0.9 (24)

80.0 (17)

57.1 (24)

0.36 (7)

0.9 (23)

92.1 (3)

77.8 (3)

What’s not to like about the catchable pass and reception percentages for Zay Flowers and Nelson Agholor? Those numbers display what I’ve highlighted throughout Lamar Jackson’s 2023 MVP season: He’s become a more accurate passer than maybe ever before.

Now, would you like those EPA-per-reception rates to be higher, given how well they catch the ball? No question. Part of that comes with tight ends Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely combining for 11 touchdowns. Gus Edwards also tallied 13 rushing TDs to go along with Jackson’s 821 rushing yards and five scores. As for Flowers, can he be molded into a legitimate No. 1 receiver threat despite standing only 5-foot-9?

The Ravens are getting to the point where they’d consider Rashod Bateman a bust, three years after being the team’s first-round pick. Thirty-two catches for 367 yards and one TD in 16 games isn’t what Baltimore signed up for there.

Cincinnati Bengals

75-plus targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.37 (17)

1.0 (39)

86.2 (14)

69.0 (16)

0.36 (18)

1.5 (1)

67.7 (59)

54.5 (55)

40-74 targets

N/A

Last season was the definition of “boom or bust” for Tee Higgins.

The 2020 second-round pick led the league in EPA per reception while placing last in catchable-pass percentage. The lack of catchable passes played a role in his near league-worst reception percentage. Higgins also ranked near the bottom in drop percentage (fourth worst at 8.1 percent). Throw on top of it the five games he missed with various ailments, and it’s hard to know what to expect from Higgins. It’s no wonder the Bengals didn’t extend him on a long-term deal, rather giving him the franchise tag for 2024.

Then there’s the matter of a long-term extension for Ja’Marr Chase. That likely won’t happen until Cincinnati gets out from under Higgins’ 2024 price tag of nearly $22 million. Chase just landed his third Pro Bowl in as many seasons, posting career highs in receptions (100) and targets (145) in 2023.

The Bengals lost one of the better No. 3 wideouts in the league when Tyler Boyd joined the Tennessee Titans. They drafted Alabama’s Jermaine Burton in Round 3 last month.

Cleveland Browns

75-plus targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.16 (43)

0.9 (46)

87.1 (13)

61.4 (41)

0.31 (22)

1.5 (5)

83.7 (34)

56.7 (51)

-0.05 (54)

0.7 (55)

81.9 (40)

57.8 (49)

40-74 targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

-0.61 (35)

0.9 (25)

87.5 (8)

47.7 (33)

Amari Cooper packed quite a punch, averaging 17.4 yards per reception last season, the best rate of his career by 2.5 yards per catch. It might have helped that he caught 15 passes for 374 yards and three TDs from Joe Flacco in his final two regular-season games before missing Weeks 17 and 18 with an injury. Even with the addition of Jerry Jeudy, Cooper should claim the No. 1 wideout spot as Deshaun Watson returns from a right shoulder injury.

Jeudy, the Broncos’ 2020 first-round pick, might not become a superstar after being selected as a top-10 player. Maybe a fresh start will help him. He’s only a season removed from 0.47 EPA per target and 1.2 EPA per reception.

Elijah Moore’s rough EPA-per-target rate displays how the Browns didn’t give him much of a chance for success.

Pittsburgh Steelers

75-plus targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.26 (31)

1.3 (8)

76.8 (54)

58.9 (45)

40-74 targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

-0.36 (34)

0.9 (20)

N/A

46.5 (35)

Here’s another wide receiver room with all kinds of turnover, outside of George Pickens.  The Steelers added veteran pieces like Van Jefferson, Scotty Miller, Quez Watkins, Marquez Callaway and Denzel Mims. Pittsburgh also threw Michigan’s Roman Wilson into the fray, taking him in the third round.

All of this points to Pickens being the team’s No. 1 receiver for the foreseeable future. He compiled a top-flight EPA-per-reception rate in 2023. Will new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith get the ball in Pickens’ hands more by putting him in spots for more catchable passes? Can either Russell Wilson or Justin Fields even make that possible? Or will Wilson run around in circles and heave the ball to Pickens, who led the league last year by averaging 18.1 yards per reception?


AFC South

Houston Texans

75-plus targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.64 (2)

1.3 (10)

90.9 (1)

73.4 (5)

0.19 (40)

0.8 (49)

81.1 (42)

66.5 (28)

0.46 (7)

1.3 (7)

78.3 (53)

62.7 (36)

-0.02 (53)

0.9 (41)

81.6 (41)

53.3 (57)

40-74 targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.44 (4)

1.5 (2)

76.7 (24)

60.0 (16)

You look at these numbers and wonder, “Do the Texans really need Diggs?” For perspective, Diggs yielded 0.49 EPA per target and 1.1 EPA per reception in 2022, meaning he had a steep drop-off last season. He only scored one TD with a -0.03 EPA-per-target rate in Weeks 10-18. That said, Diggs certainly won’t hinder this explosive offense with budding star C.J. Stroud under center.

Diggs’ presence should take some attention off Nico Collins, too. That’s not a statement I thought I’d write after Collins’ blah initial two seasons with Houston. Maybe Diggs will eat into Collins’ production (109 targets, 80 catches, 1,297 yards and eight TDs last season). Still, there’s no denying Stroud’s connection with Collins.

And what if Tank Dell comes back completely healthy after the broken leg he suffered late last season? Some of the numbers the Collins-Dell combo yielded in 2023 were even better than what Hill and Waddle produced in Miami.

Indianapolis Colts

75-plus targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.16 (44)

0.8 (51)

84.5 (27)

69.9 (11)

0.22 (37)

0.8 (50)

85.0 (22)

69.4 (13)

40-74 targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.24 (12)

1.4 (5)

68.1 (34)

48.5 (32)

Hanging on to Michael Pittman Jr. undoubtedly stood as a top priority for the Colts. Finding Pittman some cohesion with Anthony Richardson after a small sample size will be next on the priority list. Pittman has been a No. 1 wideout for Indianapolis since his second season in 2021, and now he’s being paid like one. The hope has to be for his EPA rate to increase, given his volume of touches and targets.

Josh Downs possessed one of the NFL’s best set of hands during his rookie season with only a 2.1 drop rate, third best in the league behind only DJ Moore and Justin Jefferson. The same goes for Downs with EPA rates, as well. It seems like Indy employs a nice 1-2 combo, and now it needs to translate that to more points to keep up with the Texans.

It’s rather wild to see the disparity in catchable pass and reception percentage with Alec Pierce — it’s feast or famine. The Colts also added Texas’ Adonai Mitchell in Round 2 of last month’s draft.

Jacksonville Jaguars

75-plus targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.25 (33)

0.9 (45)

87.7 (10)

67.1 (24)

0.25 (32)

1.5 (4)

83.3 (37)

57.0 (50)

40-74 targets

N/A

Jacksonville brought in Davis with the hopes of adding him to Christian Kirk and Calvin Ridley. Then Ridley decided to sign with the Titans, pushing the Jags to secure LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr. in Round 1. Still, this feels like it could set up well for Trevor Lawrence if the quarterback can shake off his erratic third season.

Kirk felt an EPA-per-reception squeeze in 2023, with Ridley providing more impactful production. Missing five games with injuries also didn’t help Kirk. Meanwhile, Davis comes to Jacksonville as the definition of “all or nothing” — his reception percentage has never been higher than 56 percent and he has a career 16.7 yards per reception average.

Thomas should be a nice fit, with a mixture of size (6-3, 209 pounds) and speed (4.33-second 40-yard dash at the combine). He certainly meshed well with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jayden Daniels the past two seasons.

Tennessee Titans

75-plus targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.22 (38)

1.2 (13)

80.0 (45)

55.5 (53)

0.17 (41)

1.1 (22)

78.9 (50)

54.3 (56)

0.01 (52)

0.6 (57)

84.8 (25)

68.4 (17)

40-74 targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.39 (5)

1.2 (12)

77.8 (22)

62.2 (12)

The Titans have provided QB Will Levis with viable weapons in the receiving corps. Can they all play well enough together?

Tennessee landed one of the biggest offensive free-agent fish, wooing Ridley away from the Jaguars. In terms of production, Ridley and DeAndre Hopkins still served as above-average wideouts in EPA per reception last season. Neither player benefited from overly active passers in 2023, and Levis wasn’t one of the more accurate passers in Year 1.

Then the Titans snared Boyd, who’s seemingly gotten comfortable as a No. 3 guy and should play the same role alongside Ridley and Hopkins. Don’t sleep on Nick Westbrook-Ikhine’s numbers, though. And will Treylon Burks ever produce?


AFC West

Denver Broncos

75-plus targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.28 (28)

1.0 (37)

75.6 (57)

65.6 (29)

40-74 targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.31 (9)

1.2 (11)

83.3 (10)

62.5 (10)

Who knows what to expect in Denver, given that 2024 first-round pick Bo Nix will battle Jarrett Stidham and (maybe) Zach Wilson for the starting quarterback job?

Courtland Sutton stayed put, while the Broncos sent Jeudy packing. You’d think Sutton would be the No. 1 receiver. What he has going for him is that he managed a solid reception percentage with one of the lowest catchable-pass percentage rates last season.

Josh Reynolds thrived with Jared Goff in Detroit and should see a more extensive role in Denver. Can Tim Patrick stay healthy, though? And might we see more Marvin Mims Jr. throughout the offense in his second year? The Broncos also added Oregon’s Troy Franklin in last month’s draft.

Kansas City Chiefs

75-plus targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.33 (21)

0.8 (52)

87.8 (9)

76.7 (2)

-0.07 (57)

0.9 (40)

75.0 (58)

50.5 (59)

40-74 targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.13 (17)

1.8 (1)

73.0 (30)

50.9 (30)

Rashee Rice seemed primed to emerge as a top option for Patrick Mahomes, even if you’d like to see more from his EPA-per-reception rate considering his consistency catching the football. His mounting legal issues could prevent that, though.

So, that brings us to the speed portion of the program with veteran Marquise Brown and 2024 first-round pick Xavier Worthy. Andy Reid should put Brown in a better position to catch the football, using Mahomes’ knack for on-target passes. And you know Worthy will be compared to Hill.

It’s hard to ignore Justin Watson’s No. 1 ranking in EPA per reception among his group of wideouts. Can the Chiefs gain regular consistency from players like Kadarius Toney, Skyy Moore or Justyn Ross?

Las Vegas Raiders

75-plus targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.09 (48)

0.9 (42)

79.8 (47)

58.5 (47)

0.24 (35)

1.0 (30)

84.5 (28)

67.0 (25)

40-74 targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.01 (24)

0.9 (26)

75.6 (26)

59.6 (18)

Are Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers ready for Minshew Madness? I guess Gardner Minshew can’t hurt the production of the Raiders’ top two wideouts, right?

Adams was the second-most targeted receiver in the league last season, but he finished almost bottom 10 in the EPA-per-target rate and on the wrong side of the EPA-per-reception rate rankings. Some panned the Raiders for signing Meyers to a hefty contract last offseason, but he seems to fit well in Las Vegas.

Michael Gallup will play a similar complementary role to Adams and Meyers that he served with the Cowboys. And though this piece isn’t about tight ends, there’s no doubt that 2024 first-rounder Brock Bowers will come into play as a weapon.

Los Angeles Chargers

75-plus targets

None

40-74 targets

player EPA/Tar EPA/rec Catchable% Rec%

0.11 (18)

0.9 (21)

77.6 (23)

57.6 (20)

0.26 (11)

1.3 (8)

74.5 (28)

52.2 (28)

0.13 (15)

0.9 (22)

80.9 (15)

62.3 (11)

The Chargers and Bills shared a similar strategy in cleaning house at wide receiver — Los Angeles watched Keenan Allen and Mike Williams move across the country. That leaves 2023 first-round pick Quentin Johnston on quite the island. Given his numbers within a smaller sample size, there’s no guarantee Johnston can produce as a No. 1 guy.

Maybe Josh Palmer will be asked to play an elevated role. DJ Chark should continue his usage as a potential home-run hitter, too. His EPA per-reception rate with Carolina last season may be one of the most positive stats to come from the Panthers all last season.

Given the lack of potent weapons coming to the Chargers, Georgia’s Ladd McConkey should have plenty of opportunities to thrive in Year 1.

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(Top photos of Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs and George Pickens: Scott Winters / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images; Michael Starghill / Getty Images; Dylan Buell / Getty Images)

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