In these reviews I will be going over how each position group did individually then compare them against the rest of the NFC North teams to see how the upcoming season might go for the group. This time I’ll be covering the receiver corps in the NFC North.
Looking at the numbers the Bears didn’t have a good year as a receiving unit. They only managed to get 2351 yards on 331 targets. Significantly lower than the other NFC North teams. That’s not to say those stats paint the entire picture. They received significantly less targets because of the strength of their run game and them bleeding Trubisky into the game. This contributes to their numbers being lower whereas the ratios, such as yards per reception, aren’t too far off the mark when compared to the rest of the division. Saying this though they still weren’t a great group through the air. Their number one receiver was Kendall Wright who got a respectable but not prolific 614 yard and behind him there was nothing spectacular to talk of. Zach Millers injury was the only other talking point on the receiving side of things and he was on for a pretty good season before it ended abruptly.
They have made significant additions in these areas. Bringing in Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in free agency are two very substantial additions. As well as drafting Anthony Miller in the second round expect this unit to have a significant change of fortunes in the coming year.
If you know anything about the Lions you would expect the Lions receivers to perform. Having the worst run game in the NFL means if they wanted to make it anywhere they had to. Luckily they did. Marvin Jones is quietly making a case toward being an elite number 1 receiver with a career high 1101 yards on the season, his best return of his career. Golden Tate was consistent as expected, picking up over 1000 yards and retaining the title of causing the most missed tackles throughout the league. Kenny Golladay also flashed moments of brilliance. The hype train was real for Golladay after his two touchdowns against the Cardinals in week one of the season. Injuries derailed his season somewhat but he has the physical attributes to be a nightmare for opposing defenses. I can see a very similar season coming out of the receivers. Their numbers might drop slightly with the emphasis on the run game coming through and the “Bend Don’t Break” style defense potentially giving them less time on the field.
With the tight ends Ebron did alright, fans had a love / hate relationship with him and as such he decided to leave for the Colts this offseason. There hasn’t been much upgrade in this department with nearly a whole new unit coming in. Consisting of Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo, both of which won’t be an upgrade on Ebron statistically.
Since the Packers lost Rodgers half way through the season their numbers have suffered. Hundley isn’t anywhere near the same calibre of player and can’t make the throws that Rodgers can. However the Adams Cobb combo still did fairly well, getting 14 touchdowns between them is a good return. Adams did make the NFL top 100 and there is a lot of hype about him which I have to admit after watching some of his games and seeing the stats is deserved. They have brought in J’Mon Moore to replace the departed Jordy Nelson but with Rodgers back next season their numbers should all increase.
With the tight ends they weren’t fantastic. Martellus Bennett often gave up on plays and didn’t put up eye popping numbers. The acquisition of Jimmy Graham in free agency proves that they were looking for an upgrade at the position and he might be the man to provide it. He’ll be a deadly red zone target for Rodgers to utilise.
Adam Theilen’s emergence has been ideal for the Vikings as they have been able to spend their draft capital on other areas which is one of the factors that has led to their success. Combined with Stefon Diggs they make a great partnership, which is shown by having the most combined yards of any duo in the NFC North. Even if they only beat the Lions duo by 20 yards! Behind them however there isn’t much depth behind them so if either of them gets injured then the group as a whole will have a problem replacing their production.
Kyle Rudolph is a great tight end, which was recognised with a pro bowl selection. While it doesn’t look like he performed much better than his counterparts in the North his overall play was of a much higher quality and he was much more reliable when the ball was thrown his way.
They didn’t make any huge investments on improving either receiver or tight end except picking up Tyler Conklin in the 5th round. This could open them up to more 2 tight end sets making the lack of depth below Theilen and Diggs less of a problem.
Bears – 4th
Last year they were last by quite a margin. In the upcoming year they could surprise people. They have some big names coming in which makes them unpredictable when combined with the second year Trubisky. They could move up the list next season.
Packers – 3rd
They had the most targets as a group out of the NFC North but only came in third in yards and second in receptions. Production wise they weren’t bad as a unit and were probably the most diverse unit, having the most receivers hit the field.
Vikings – 2nd
550 yards behind the Lions is too much to overlook and not put them second. Although it is very close. Thielen individually had the best season of any receiver in the North and Rudolph is the best tight end. The depth was the issue as outside of their main 3 guys they didn’t bring much to the table. Diggs + Theilen are very close in talent to Golden Tate and Marvin Jones while Ebron wasn’t as good as Rudolph. However Laquon Treadwell and Jarius Wright can’t compete with Golladay and TJ Jones.
Lions – 1st
Here by quality of depth. If Golladay and TJ Jones didn’t perform as well as they did for their respective weight within the team then it would have been second. But as a Unit coming first in yards and highest number of big plays (plays over 20 yards) in my eyes they performed the best. This was helped by the lack of a run game in some ways as they were given more opportunities to make the plays, as they simply had to. But conversely when teams can lean on the fact that a pass is more than likely coming it makes the receivers job harder.
Thanks for checking out the article everyone. Go Lions! Let me know what you think on Twitter @Alex_Watt_Lions and be sure to join the community on the Detroit Lions subreddit.