Skip to main content

Ranking the opponents: Here are the 12 best receivers the Falcons will face in 2017

Editor's note: This is the third installment in a six-part series ranking the different position groups of the Falcons' 2017 opponents.

Flowery Branch, Ga. -- In case you missed it, we've ranked the best defensive line units and the elite quarterbacks the Falcons will go up against in 2017.

And now we'll turn our attention toward the players who make the aforementioned quarterbacks look so good – the wide receivers. And while Atlanta has arguably the best receiving corps in the NFL – led by the best one in the game in Julio Jones – the Falcons will face some of the top receivers in the league this season.

When looking at the Falcons' schedule, the list of quality receivers turned out to be a lengthy one. It's been narrowed down to a dozen. So let's take a look at them, beginning with No. 12.

12. Ted Ginn, New Orleans Saints

  • When they play in 2017:Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Atlanta and Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in New Orleans
  • Saints offseason: Scouting report
  • Notable: After trading deep threat Brandin Cooks to the Patriots, the Saints added Ginn during the offseason. And so far, the Saints like what they're seeing in 32-year-old receiver. During Saints minicamp, Drew Brees was reportedly impressed with Ginn, and remarked that "he can fly." Ginn, who still has blazing speed and can get behind defenders (see below), caught 54 passes for 752 yards and four touchdowns last year in Carolina.

11. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers

  • When they play in 2017: Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, in Charlotte and Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Atlanta
  • Panthers offseason: Scouting report
  • Notable: While there was lots of talk about Benjamin's weight and overall physical shape during the early part of the offseason, don’t read too much into it. Benjamin is a big, tall target – he's 6-foot-5, 243 pounds – who can leap and knows how to use his body in traffic. Just watch the play below to see what he's capable of doing.

And here as well.

10. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills

  • When they play in 2017: Sunday, Oct. 1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta
  • Bills offseason: Scouting report
  • Notable: Watkins comes in at No. 10 with the assumption that he'll be healthy and playing come the first week of October when the Falcons host the Bills. From what we've seen trickle out of Upstate New York, the former No. 1 pick (fourth overall) is moving well (see below) following a second surgery on his foot.

Last season was a forgettable one for Watkins, who finished with just 28 catches for 430 yards and two scores in eight games. But when healthy, he's dynamic and tough to stop. Here's a reminder of how silly he can make cornerbacks look.

9. Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings

  • When they play in 2017: Sunday, Dec. 3, in Atlanta
  • Vikings offseason: Scouting report
  • Notable: Entering his third season, the arrow is definitely pointing up for Diggs – who was one of the few bright spots for the Vikings in 2016. With Teddy Bridgewater going down before the season and Adrian Peterson hurt early on, Diggs became the focal points of Minnesota's offense, hauling in 84 catches for 903 yards while developing chemistry with Sam Bradford on the fly (seen below).

8. Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins

  • When they play in 2017: Sunday, Oct. 15, in Atlanta
  • Dolphins offseason: Scouting report
  • Notable: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill blossomed under new coach Adam Gase last season and certainly helped make things easier while averaging more than 12 yards per catch and posting his second 1,000-yard season in his third year. The Dolphins earned a playoff berth last year and the optimism is high in South Florida. Landry, who can make the tough catches in traffic and turn them in chunk plays (see below), is a big reason why.

7. DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • When they play in 2017: Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in Atlanta and Monday, Dec. 18, 2017, in Tampa Bay
  • Buccaneers offseason: Scouting report
  • Notable: The Buccaneers – who signed Jackson and drafted tight end O.J. Howard in the offseason – might not have enough footballs to go around. Jackson, who at age 30 is still sneaky fast, provides quarterback Jameis Winston yet another deep threat to go along with Mike Evans. At 5-foot-8, 178 pounds, Jackson still has amazing body control. He can shift gears, cut on dimes, track balls and, as you can see below, still has that great hand-eye coordination.

6. Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

  • When they play in 2017: Sunday, Sept. 24 at Ford Field in Detroit
  • Lions offseason: Scouting report
  • Notable: Tate is a smaller, explosive receiver like DeSean Jackson, but a tad more physical. The Lions made the playoffs in 2016 and Tate thrived in the offense installed by offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. Tate is one of those players who must be accounted for every time he's on the field. But even when teams know it's coming to him, he's still tough to bring down. Like right here in overtime against the Vikings.

5. Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks

  • When they play in 2017: Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, in Seattle
  • Seahawks offseason: Scouting report
  • Notable: Baldwin emerged as Wilson's favorite deep threat in 2016 – making 94 catches for 1,128 yards and seven touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus, the Seahawks receiver finished with a 1.92 yards per route run average, which was good enough for 25th among receivers. With the addition of running back Eddie Lacy and the offensive lines woes addressed during the offseason, Seattle should be more balanced. And that could make Baldwin even more dangerous.

4. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

  • When they play in 2017: Sunday, Sept. 17 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta
  • Packers offseason: Scouting report
  • Notable: As noted above, the Falcons defense will face some elite quarterbacks in 2017 and Aaron Rodgers might be the best of the bunch. His favorite target is Nelson, who finally found his groove in 2016 after coming back from a season-ending knee surgery. With Martellus Bennett added to the Packers arsenal, Nelson should see more single coverages. And that could spell trouble.

3. Brandin Cooks, New England Patriots

  • When they play in 2017: Sunday, Oct. 22 in Foxborough, Mass.
  • Patriots offseason: Scouting report
  • Notable: People love to use the phrase "the rich get richer" sometimes when referring to certain teams' offseason acquisitions. And, at least on paper, it appears that the Patriots bolstered their already formidable receiving corps when they traded for Cooks. What does he give Tom Brady and Co.? A legitimate deep threat to go with Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski.

So, what will Brady-to-Cooks look like? Here's a glimpse.

2. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys

  • When they play in 2017: Sunday, Nov. 12 in Atlanta
  • Cowboys offseason: Scouting report
  • Notable: No receiver on this list might be as physical as Bryant, who hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2014. The 28-year-old enters 2017 healthy and has had a full offseason working with second-year quarterback Dak Prescott. Bryant might not put up the gaudy stats – Prescott has shown a willingness to spread the ball around and not play favorites – but he does have the most receiving touchdowns in the NFL since 2011 and certainly knows how to win those one-on-one battles when the ball is thrown his way, like below.

1. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • When they play in 2017: Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017, in Atlanta and Monday, Dec. 18, 2017, in Tampa Bay
  • Buccaneers offseason: Scouting report
  • Notable: All Evans has done is string 1,000-yard seasons together since coming into the league three seasons ago – and his numbers only get better. Last season, Evans caught 96 passes for 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns. At 6-foot-5 and 231 pounds, Evans is a physically imposing receiver who's bigger than most defensive backs, too. Now, with DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard added to the mix, teams will have to think twice when contemplating doubling Evans in coverage. If Evans' trajectory continues on its upward path, there's no telling how good this offense will be.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content