Do the Falcons Have the Best Receivers in the League?

Kevin C. Cox

Charlie Casserly and Adam Rank at NFL.com believe they do. Other NFL.com analysts disagree.

The NFL.com writers are trying just as hard as everyone else these days to generate offseason content, which led them to debate which team in the NFL has the best receiver corps.

It should have been a very brief discussion. Falcons. The end. But, other teams that were suggested as having superior receiving targets compared to the Falcons were the Broncos, the Seahawks, the 49ers, and the Packers.

One of the luxuries of being a blogger, aside from being able to write these missives from the comfort of my mom's basement (just kidding, I have my own basement, and I don't even write in it) is the absence of any requirement to be fully objective. However, if we're talking receivers only, I can certainly set aside my bias and tell you objectively, no other receiving corps in the National Football League holds a candle to Atlanta's receivers.

For the sake of comparison, let's look only at each team's top three receivers, statistically. For the Falcons, that's Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.

Atlanta Falcons
Roddy White 1351 yards 7 TDs 4 dropped passes
Julio Jones 1197 yards 10 TDs 7 dropped passes
Tony Gonzalez 930 yards 8 TDs 4 dropped passes

NFL.com analysts Daniel Jeremiah and Shaun O'Hara both listed the Broncos, considering the addition of Wes Welker, as the best receivers in the league, and O'Hara acknowledged that the Falcons could field the most productive group in 2013.

Denver Broncos
Demaryius Thomas 1434 yards 10 TDs 11 dropped passes
Eric Decker 1064 yards 13 TDs 12 dropped passes
Wes Welker 1354 yards 6 TDs 15 dropped passes

NFL.com's Jason Smith thinks the top three in the league are the Seahawks, Packers and Broncos. No mention of the Falcons.

Seattle Seahawks
Sidney Rice 748 yards 7 TDs 3 dropped passes
Percy Harvin 677 yards 3 TDs 1 dropped pass
Golden Tate 688 yards 7 TDs 2 dropped passes

Green Bay Packers
Randall Cobb 954 yards 8 TDs 11 dropped passes
James Jones 784 yards 7 TDs 8 dropped passes
Jordy Nelson 745 yards 14 TDs 3 dropped passes

Dave Dameshek thinks the 49ers have a better receiving corps than the Falcons.

San Francisco 49ers
Michael Crabtree 1105 yards 9 TDs 7 dropped passes
Anquan Boldin 921 yards 4 TDs 2 dropped passes
Vernon Davis 548 yards 5 TDs 3 dropped passes

One important component of analyzing the effectiveness of a receiving corps is, how much did they contribute to their team's ability to win? The simplest measure of that contribution is seen in receiving touchdowns. By that standard, we'll eliminate San Francisco and Seattle from this discussion. With 17 and 18 receiving touchdowns in the 2012 regular season from their top three receiving threats heading into 2013, they do not belong on this list, much less at the top of it.

The second measurable that makes it easy to compare receiving corps is receiving yards. The top three receiving targets from Denver combined for 3,852 receiving yards last season, placing them at the top of the list in this category. Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez combined for 3,479 receiving yards last year. Green Bay's top three had just 2,483 receiving yards last season, eliminating them from this discussion.

The third measurable to consider, which provides an indication of of how reliable a group of receivers is, would be dropped passes. Denver's top three receivers for 2013 dropped a staggering total of 38 passes in 2012. By comparison, Atlanta's top three receivers dropped a total of 15 passes. That's how many passes Wes Welker dropped by himself.

Denver has the edge on Atlanta in yards and touchdowns, but Atlanta is the clear winner in dropped passes. If I'm being objective, I'd say that these two teams have very evenly matched receiving corps, so the tiebreaker comes down to their respective quarterbacks, who are also very evenly matched.

Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning finished the regular season with identical 68.6% completion rates, although Ryan has the edge for maintaining that completion percentage on more attempts than Manning. Ryan also amassed more passing yards than Manning in the regular season, with 4,719 to Peyton's 4,659. Manning threw for more touchdowns, 37, than Ryan, who had 32, and Ryan had three more interceptions than Manning with 14, compared to Manning's 11.

In the postseason, Ryan finished with the second-best quarterback rating, 105.2, among postseason quarterbacks, behind Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco. Manning's quarterback rating for the postseason was 88.3. Ryan also threw for more yards per game than Manning in the postseason, and had a 1.5 interception per game average compared to Manning's two interceptions. Ryan's postseason completion percentage of 70.1% trumps Manning's 65.1%. While their regular season strengths and weaknesses cancel each other out, Ryan's postseason performance, and his youth, give him and his receivers the edge over Peyton Manning and the Broncos heading into the 2013 season.

No matter how many statistics you factor into this discussion, it's all just projection until the players hit the field in September, and there's always a measure of subjectivity when you're ranking teams and players in this manner. A valid argument can be made for the Broncos as the best receiving corps in the league, but I will agree with NFL.com analysts Charlie Casserly and Adam Rank in declaring the Falcons the best in the league.

Do you think the Falcons have the best receiving corps in the league?

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