After the Big 4, It’s Slim Pickings for WRs in NFC North

Dec 6, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson (12) makes a catch against Detroit Lions strong safety Duron Harmon (26) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

2021 excitement inside the NFC North is contingent on Aaron Rodgers’ resolution with the Green Bay Packers. On draft day, several reports confirmed that the 37-year-old quarterback was fed up with Packers management, resulting in speculation on his future and trade rumors galore.

The situation is at a standstill, and Rodgers remains a member of the Packers.

If he returns, well, a battle should ensue between the Packers and Minnesota Vikings for the NFC North’s crown. Too, if rookie quarterback Justin Fields shines early, the Chicago Bears might be described as sneaky good. And the Lions are largely deficient of talent compared to other NFL rosters, but with a new coach (Dan Campbell) and quarterback (Jared Goff), who knows?

As for wide receivers within the division, a Big Four exists — Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Allen Robinson. This foursome is star-studded, outwardly indicating that the division hosts some of league’s best pass-catchers. Yet, the North is top-heavy for wideouts. It is those talented four WRs — and that’s about it.

Chicago Bears

The best professional quarterbacks that have ever thrown Allen Robinson a football are a mixture of the “prime” version of Blake Bortles (2015), the Super Bowl hangover edition of Nick Foles, and a peak rendering of Mitchell Trubisky. Yuck.

So, it’s not like Chicago passers tossing the football to Robinson have been elite. Perhaps that’s why the team’s WR corps is lackluster. After Robinson, second-year Darnell Mooney hopes to capitalize on a respectable rookie campaign where he hauled in 630 receiving yards. He ain’t nothing.

Then, it’s a trio of wide receivers all in the same caliber of talent — Damiere Byrd, Anthony Miller, and Marquise Goodwin. That’s an impressive allotment of quantity, not quality. Unless one of the men blossoms with Fields.

Detroit Lions

The Lions employ the worst bunch of wide receivers in the division — and maybe the league. It’s not that the men are flunkies, but they are a hodgepodge of WR2 and WR3s.

Tyrell Williams showed tiny glimpses of majesty with the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders, but he didn’t play football in 2020. The level at which he returns in 2021 — in a brand new offense — is undetermined. His running mate, Breshad Perriman, is closer to a WR3, although he exudes WR2 vibes once in a while. Perriman is a youthful journeyman, lacing up cleats for five teams in six seasons by the time 2021 is underway.

Proceeding Williams and Perriman, it’s a groupthink of productivity in Kalif Raymond, Quinton Cephus, and rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown.

Green Bay Packers

If Davante Adams is not the best wide receiver in football, he’s certainly Top 2 or 3. Per Pro Football Focus, though, he is the cream of the crop with a 91.9 grade, besting Justin Jefferson of the Vikings and A.J. Brown of the Tennessee Titans by a whisker.

Should something happen to Adams — or if Rodgers departs for Denver/Las Vegas or sits outs — expect peril. The other wideouts are Allen Lazard (a decent WR2 with Rodgers in charge), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (a hot-and-cold deep threat), and rookie Amari Rodgers.

Adams and his pals in the WR room are akin to LeBron James and the rest of the 2006-2007 Cleveland Cavaliers roster.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are fortunate to harness the production of two phenomenal wideouts in Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. But just like the drop-off with Adams in Green Bay, Minnesota is askance with talent at the top of the WR depth chart. Indeed, the franchise should be grateful to holster a twosome of brilliance as the other NFC North teams do not.

However, it’s Olabisi Johnson, Chad Beebe, and rookie Ihmir Smith-Marsette on the ladder below Jefferson and Thielen. The Vikings notoriously avoid utilizing noteworthy WR3s, so this is ordeal is nothing new for the purple and gold.

Just like the Lions, Minnesota has the cap space to explore a WR3 like Larry Fitzgerald or Dede Westbrook. The Packers and Bears are devoid of free-agent money at this juncture.