AFC East: Banjamin Watson

A preseason ranking of AFC East receivers

May, 21, 2009
5/21/09
4:18
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

No position has generated more offseason buzz in the AFC East than wide receiver.

 
  AP Photo/Kathy Willens
  Randy Moss may be the best wideout in the AFC East, but his Patriots do not have the best receivers in the division.

Whether they signed new receivers or not, all four clubs had significant decisions to make.

With organized team activities in full swing, let's rank the division's receiver corps. This list will factor in the entire band of receivers. We'll factor in pass-catching tight ends, but we're not counting running backs.

And we're not considering quarterbacks, either.

1. Buffalo Bills: If citizens of Patriot Nation haven't immediately scrolled to the bottom of this post to leave a comment, they can read why I put Buffalo atop the list.

The Bills' depth chart is gifted from top to bottom.

The Bills feature one of the most dangerous 1-2 tandems in the NFL. Terrell Owens and Lee Evans combined for 132 catches for 2,069 yards and 13 touchdowns last year.

Those numbers should go up now that they're together. Evans always faced double coverage, and Owens drew just as much attention. The next-busiest Dallas Cowboys receiver had only 39 receptions last year.

But what puts Buffalo ahead of New England is the depth beyond the top two guys. They have two terrific slot receivers in Josh Reed (56 receptions) and Roscoe Parrish (24 receptions).

The Bills have been high on the long-term future of 2008 seventh-round draft choice Steve Johnson since they saw him in training camp. They also have last year's second-round pick, the 6-foot-5 James Hardy, recovering from a knee injury.

Tight end is a question mark for them. They lopped Robert Royal's butterfingers from the roster and drafted Shawn Nelson from Southern Miss. Draft analysts lauded the pick, but draft analysts say a lot of things that never come to pass.

2. New England Patriots: If we were ranking the stats of any two receivers from a given team, then the Patriots would rate higher than the Bills.

Randy Moss and Wes Welker are indisputably sensational. But while the Patriots' offense helps Welker roll up huge reception totals from the slot, their other combined stats are just a smidge better than what Evans and Owens registered separately.

Moss and Welker scored one more touchdown and teamed up for only 6.5 yards more per game than Evans and Owens in double coverage.

Yes, that was with Matt Cassel throwing the ball and not Tom Brady. But I'd like to see what kind of numbers a healthy Brady would post with Owens, Evans and Parrish. Those 2007 records would be threatened.

The Patriots lost Jabar Gaffney to free agency. They signed the injury-plagued Joey Galloway (13 catches in nine games last year) and traded for Greg Lewis (averaging 18.7 catches over the past three years).

At tight end, the Patriots are in flux. They appear on the verge of moving past Benjamin Watson, signing Chris Baker and trading for Alex Smith. This position is a huge X-factor.

If either Galloway or Lewis step up for a big year and a tight end emerges, then maybe their receivers will surpass the Bills'.

3. Miami Dolphins: The most glaring hole on Miami's roster is at receiver. The Dolphins have a solid No. 2 option in Ted Ginn Jr. and have fantastic slot receivers in Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo.

But who is the primary threat? The Dolphins don't own one.

Dolfans have been pining for their team to make a trade with the Arizona Cardinals for Anquan Boldin. That hasn't happened. Dolfans went into the draft hopeful their team would come away with a Hakeem Nicks or a Percy Harvin or a Kenny Britt or a Darrius Heyward-Bey.

Instead, the Dolphins waited until the third round to take Southern California's Patrick Turner and selected Ohio State's Brian Hartline in the fourth round. Neither is expected to be a substantial contributor this year -- certainly not enough to say the Dolphins addressed their need.

The Dolphins do have an effective group of tight ends. Anthony Fasano caught a team-high seven touchdowns last year. He combined with David Martin for 65 receptions, 904 yards and 10 touchdowns.

4. New York Jets: There were concerns about the Jets' receiving corps before Laveranues Coles begged out of his contract and split for the Cincinnati Bengals. The Jets haven't replaced him.

Leading target Jerricho Cotchery is back. He had 70 receptions for 858 yards and five touchdowns last year.

But next on the list at receiver is Chansi Stuckey, who caught 32 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns. Brad Smith had a dozen catches for 64 yards and zero scores. Many anticipate David Clowney emerging, but he has one career NFL reception.

That's an unproven group.

Many figured the Jets would draft a receiver if they held onto their No. 17 pick, but they traded up for former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, a direction you can't argue with. But they made so many dramatic moves on draft weekend, they came away with only three players, none a receiver.

The Jets might have the division's best pass-catching tight end. Dustin Keller, a first-round pick last year, had 48 grabs for 535 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie.

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