The NFC North Receivers Stink
The teams of the NFC North had some great receivers in their history. The Vikings had a duo of Randy Moss and Cris Carter and later paired Diggs and Thielen. The Bears, meanwhile, had the two big pass catchers, Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, once at the same time. The Lions had Calvin Johnson, who was probably the best receiver in the game since Randy Moss. In Green Bay, the Packers paired some productive receivers with their elite quarterbacks in recent history. However, Don Hutson changed the game in the 1930s and 1940s. He absolutely dominated his peers, retired with all the records, and almost double the stats of the second-best in his era.
Nowadays, the NFC North is a mess in terms of receiving talent. CBS ranked all eight divisions according to their wide receivers. The NFC North ranks seventh, and the Vikings are the sole reason it’s ranked above the AFC South.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers famously lost Rodgers’ top target, Davante Adams. He wanted to be traded to the Las Vegas Raiders, despite the Packers offering him more money. He plays now with his college quarterback Derek Carr in Josh McDaniels’ offense. His old team couldn’t compensate for the loss of one of the most productive players in this generation. Their approach is to spread the pass-catching responsibilities.
Allen Lazard is a leftover from the previous four seasons. He recorded his career-high 513 yards and eight touchdowns in 2021 as a secondary option behind Adams. His role will increase in 2022, and Rodgers has already talked about him as the top target in the passing game. It’s highly questionable if Lazard is good enough to fill that role in today’s NFL. Most teams try to have three or four excellent players to throw to.
The Packers also lost deep threat Valdes-Scantling. He had some issues with drops in the past, but his elite speed gave all defenses trouble when they tried to double-team Adams. In the second round, the Packers traded up with the Vikings to select North Dakota State receiver Christian Watson. He is a speedster and might take over the role of MVS. He is highly talented but could take some time to get used to the level of competition in the NFL.
Romeo Doubs was another draft pick in the fourth round, and Sammy Watkins a free-agent addition. Watkins is long past his prime, and it’s not a guarantee that he’s even on the roster when the Vikings face the Packers in Week 1. Randall Cobb, the veteran target, is still part of Rodgers´ arsenal of weapons. He had just 375 yards in 2021 but could also see increased targets in 2022.
If anyone can do some damage with this receiving corps, it’s Aaron Rodgers. But it’s a big task to make this offense look dynamic, even for the MVP.
The Bears lost Allen Robinson in free agency to the Rams. He performed his whole career with subpar QB play but had the worst season of his career in 2021. Matt Nagy, the former Bears head coach, didn’t use him perfectly. However, the Bears will certainly miss him in the upcoming season.
Darnell Mooney is Justin Fields’ top receiver. In his second season, in 2021, the wideout topped 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. He has established himself as a number one receiver and is probably the best in the NFC North who doesn´t wear a Vikings jersey.
Behind him, the Bears don’t have a lot of good options for Fields. Byron Pringle played for the Chiefs in his first three career years. In 2021, he recorded 568 receiving yards after barely contributing in the first two campaigns. Equanimeous St. Brown came from the Packers but had just 215 yards and one single touchdown in the previous two seasons combined. Velus Jones Jr was a third-round pick in the last draft. He is already 25 years old, two years older than Justin Jefferson. In the previous season, Jones managed to get 807 yards and eight touchdowns for Tennessee. An incredibly old rookie without crazy numbers in college is an interesting pick.
The Bears also have Dazz Newsome, a 2021 sixth-rounder, Tajae Sharpe, who had a short stint with the Vikings but didn’t record a catch, and Dante Pettis. None of the receivers, besides Mooney, is a big help for Fields’ development. The Bears have one of the worst receiving groups in the NFL.
The Lions receiving corps in 2021 looked similar to the Bears in 2022, but the unit is improving quickly and has some talent. Amon-Ra St. Brown scored five touchdowns and had over 900 yards in his rookie season. He was a steal in the draft and will try to build on his strong first year.
DJ Chark had a lousy season in 2021 after two good years. He cracked the 1000-yard mark in 2020 and added eight touchdowns for the Jaguars. If he can return to his old self, the Lions have two solid receivers.
They also added one in the draft after trading up with the Vikings. Jameson Williams out of Alabama is a dynamic player. However, he tore his ACL in the title game against Georgia and Vikings rookie Lewis Cine. He could become a scary receiver in the future, but that could take some time. Josh Reynolds is another player on the team, and he is a good fourth option for his quarterback, Jared Goff.
The three previously mentioned receiving groups are an absolute disaster. They deserve to be the worst division in terms of receivers in the NFL. The Vikings, however, single-handedly move the four teams to the 7th spot.
Justin Jefferson is arguably the best receiver in the NFL. His 3,016 receiving yards are the most of any player in the last two seasons. Adam Thielen is no longer racking up 100-yard games weekly, but he’s an elite red-zone threat. Osborn is the best WR3 the Vikings had in years, and his 655 yards and seven touchdowns can be labeled as a breakout year.
Behind the trio, the Vikings have some receivers that would be expected to perform at a high level on the Lions, Bears, or Packers. On the Vikings, however, they might not even make the team. Albert Wilson was the latest signing and always had good production in his career as a third or fourth receiver. Ihmir Smith-Marsette had a great outing in Week 18 of his rookie year against the Bears when he topped 100 yards despite just catching three passes. Jalen Nailor was a sixth-round draft pick and is already touted as a steal.
Bisi Johnson comes back after spending a season on injured reserve. He was the WR3 before his injury. Blake Proehl also missed the 2021 season on IR but opened some eyes in the last training camp. The Vikings have some good options with potential even behind a trio that might be the best in the business.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. He chose the Vikings as his favorite team, despite Christian Ponder being the quarterback at the time. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt