There’s no secret the NFL – Bucs included – have gone to using three wide sets more and more.
Still, the starters are considered the top two wide receivers on the depth chart, so we’ll use the same barometer here.
Which two starting wide receivers is above the rest in the NFC South?
4. Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess, Carolina Panthers
If you’re paying attention to the off-season then you know Kelvin Benjamin came in a bit overweight. Buccaneers beat writer for The Pewter Report, Trevor Sikkema, summed it up nicely here:
Now, Kelvin is a pro, so I’m sure he’s working to get into full playing shape.
That being said, he and Funchess have a lot to prove if the Panthers are going to climb back to the top of the division.
The duo combined for 86 catches, 1,332 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2016. If just one of them had that stat line, they’d have been a top five receiver in the league.
Those weren’t one person’s numbers though, and this means they each have some room to improve.
3. Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr., New Orleans Saints
Bucs defensive backs will be happy not to see Brandin Cooks wearing a Saints uniform, but the team found speed elsewhere.
I don’t know if Ted Ginn Jr. meets the same level of Cooks in the playmaking department. He sure does have wheels though. Just ask Carolina.
Last year as a Panther, Ginn brought in 54 catches for 752 yards and four touchdowns. What drew the Saints’ attention though was likely the four plays he had for over 40 yards.
Cooks had six of those, but he also had Drew Brees throwing to him.
Replacing speed for speed and getting a first round pick out of a player who didn’t like his touches being taken by a rookie isn’t a bad deal in the end.
Speaking of the rookie, Michael Thomas is no longer one, and he’s looking for an even better sophomore season.
92 catches, 1,137 yards and 9 TDs is going to be hard to beat, but a year of experience and all camp to click again means he’s a prime candidate to do even better.
2. Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs fans aren’t going to like this, but I have to speak the truth.
Truth is, Tampa has one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL, but not THE best in the NFC South just yet.
Mainly it’s because we don’t know how these two are going to click, and how Winston is going to work the ball to both.
If it goes down the way we all envision it, then the two will certainly finish as the NFC South’s top receiving duo.
Big questions are: Has Evans put his drops behind him, and can Jackson stay healthy?
If the answer to both is yes, prepare for fireworks and cannon fire.
1. Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons
They get the edge over the Bucs new tandem because we know it can work.
These two brought in 142 catches for 2,062 yards in their first year together, and this is despite the fact they missed three games between them.
We know about the Super Bowl run and we know the Falcons offense carried the team all season long.
It’ll be interesting to see how these two produce under new offensive leadership as Kyle Shanahan took his talents to San Francisco.
Either way, these two get top billing right now, mostly because of Jones but also because they’ve shown it works.
By a hair the Falcons starters beat out the Bucs new starting duo. Jackson and Evans win in the hype department though, so here’s hoping hype turns into results for Tampa.