NFL depth charts, especially for wide receivers, can be a tricky thing. They aren’t always accurate, and teams don’t always play or target receivers according to their order on the depth chart. In many cases, teams at least have an obvious number one receiver and then usually a guy who fills the second option role, but things can get very murky after that. Every team in the NFL today runs three wide receiver sets more often than every other offensive formation, but if a receiver doesn’t establish himself as one of those three guys on the field, he’s going to find it very tough to be relevant.
Here are a few guys who seem buried on the depth chart right now, but could emerge (or change teams) at some point between now and next season:
Coleman looks like the odd man out in Cleveland right now. Josh Gordon is back and will once again be the big play, “X” receiver for the Browns. Jarvis Landry is the slot specialist and target monster. He’ll be the possession receiver that Tyrod Taylor (or Baker Mayfield) can use as a safety net. Coleman is battling for the third receiver role with incoming rookie Antonio Calloway. The early word out of the Cleveland is that they really like Calloway. They got him in the 4th round but he could have gone in the first if it weren’t for his off the field issues. So what happens with Coleman? Coleman was a first round pick in 2016. He’s an extremely talented receiver and he should get another chance somewhere else. There are many wide receiver needy teams at the moment (Cowboys, Seahawks, Cardinals, Colts) and I think we may see a trade before the season gets started.
Coutee enters a very crowded Texans receiving corps: Deandre Hopkins, a top five receiver in the NFL, Will Fuller, the man who scored a touchdown on 25 percent of his catches last year, Bruce Ellington who received a new one-year deal from the Texans in March, and Braxton Miller, a return specialist who hasn’t amounted to much more than that in two years. Despite Miller’s one year deal, I think Coutee will be pushing for slot snaps from the beginning of the season. He’s a Tyreek Hill-esque player who can create separation with ease and burn defenders deep from the slot. Will Fuller’s insane touchdown ratio is not going to hold up much longer, so we may see Coutee as the number two option behind Hopkins before too long.
Not only do the Buccaneers have three other receivers (Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Adam Humphries) vying for targets, they also have two prime time tight ends in Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. How many times is Jameis Winston going to throw the ball? You may have to wait it out a bit with Godwin, but Humphries is on another one year deal and DeSean Jackson is turning 32 this season. Godwin was targeted least out of the four as a rookie, but he flashed brilliance when he caught the ball, turning his 34 catches into 525 yards for an average of 15.4 yards per catch. I think he’ll see an increase in volume in his sophomore season at the expense of Jackson and Humphries.
Pettis is another guy to hold onto this season. The 49ers have come out and said that they don’t see Pettis taking over a starting role this season, but Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, and a 32-year-old Pierre Garcon are not exactly the tallest mountain to climb to earn work. Pettis boasts a fully polished route tree which usually gets receivers on the field early. He’s also got smooth hands and is known for his devoted work ethic. I think he can ultimately take over as the possession receiver and eventually replace Garcon.
In all likelihood, the Broncos have one more year with the Demaryius Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders duo. Over the past two years they drafted three receivers in the 3rd and 4th rounds in preparation for their departure, starting with Henderson in 2017. Henderson didn’t get to play last year due to a thumb injury, but he’ll have a chance to show the Broncos what he’s got this year, and if he can outperform 2018’s additions of Courtland Sutton and Daesean Hamilton, he’ll have a ready-made starting role in 2019.