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Davante Adams among five WR1s who need most help from 2024 NFL Draft

Being a team's only reliable receiver can lead to a ton of targets, but that workload doesn't always allow for great efficiency. Typically, the best way an NFL team can help its star player reach his utmost potential is by surrounding him with other talented players. Consider the following example from 2023:

Player A: 105 targets, 71.4 percent catch rate, 75 receptions, 17.9 yards/reception, 1,342 yards

Player B: 160 targets, 66.9 percent catch rate, 107 receptions, 9.4 yards/reception, 1,183 yards

Player A is Brandon Aiyuk and Player B is Stefon Diggs. Both played with great quarterbacks and on good offenses (Aiyuk with Brock Purdy in San Francisco and Diggs with Josh Allen in Buffalo), but Aiyuk was much more productive despite having fewer opportunities. A likely cause was that opposing defenses were able to hyper-focus on covering Diggs, given that he outpaced all other Bills receivers by 62 catches, while Aiyuk had the luxury of playing alongside All-Pros Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey -- each of whom commanded just as much attention from opposing defenses, opening the field for one another.

Some veteran receivers were gifted helpful new teammates earlier this offseason via free agency signings and trades (such as the one that, ironically, sent Diggs from Buffalo to Houston earlier this month). But some could still use an extra hand. Luckily for them, the 2024 NFL Draft will present a chance for their teams to infuse more offensive talent.

Here are five WR1s who would most benefit from their teams adding a talented skill position player early in the 2024 NFL Draft, which kicks off with Round 1 on April 25 in Detroit:

George Pickens
Pittsburgh Steelers

It appears Pickens will be given a chance to prove he is capable of being an alpha WR1 in his third NFL season. This offseason, the Steelers made a major change at quarterback, trading away Kenny Pickett and acquiring Russell Wilson and Justin Fields. They also shipped Diontae Johnson to the Panthers, with only less costly depth pieces being added. Pickens hit new career highs in targets (106), receptions (63), receiving yards (1,140) and receiving TDs (five) in 2023. However, he has yet to post a season with 70-plus receptions in college or the NFL as a full-time WR1.  

Pickens is a strong, big-bodied receiver who is incredible at the catch point and playing through contact. His highlight reel certainly isn’t lacking wow plays. However, Pickens has struggled to consistently create separation on his own. Per Next Gen Stats, he averaged just 2.3 yards of separation per target in 2023, which ranked third-lowest among wide receivers with 75-plus targets. It would highly benefit Pickens if the Steelers added a technically sound wideout to play on the opposite side of him.

Best fit: Roman Wilson, Michigan (Draft projection: Round 2)

Wilson would be a fantastic fit for the Steelers' offense; he is exactly the type of receiver that would allow Pickens to have more space to work with along the perimeter. Wilson isn’t the flashiest wideout in this draft class, but he is a smooth route runner with reliable hands who does all the little things well. 

Zay Flowers
Baltimore Ravens

In his 2023 rookie season, Flowers showed off his quickness and elite separation skills, averaging 3.7 yards of separation per target (third among WRs with 100-plus targets, per NGS). However, given his small stature (5-foot-9 and 182 pounds), he has predictably struggled to make contested catches in the NFL. Per PFF, Flowers caught just five contested targets all last season. He had notable trouble against press coverage, coming down with just three receptions vs. press coverage in 2023, which was by far the fewest among wide receivers with at least 100 targets. With Rashod Bateman and Nelson Agholor on the roster, the Ravens need to add a big-bodied wideout who can make contested catches on the outside to take some of the pressure off Flowers and allow him to run more routes in the middle of the field, where he can excel with his skill set. 

Best fit: Xavier Legette, South Carolina (Draft projection: Rounds 2-3)  

Legette has the rare skill set of being both big and fast. He had one of the more impressive performances at the NFL Scouting Combine, clocking a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and a 40-inch vertical jump while measuring 6-1 and 221 pounds. Legette is an excellent contested catch playmaker with a big catch radius -- he'd be a perfect complement to the speed and finesse of Flowers. 

Garrett Wilson
New York Jets

Despite seeing the fourth-most targets in the NFL last season, Wilson finished with just 1,042 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Putting aside the bad quarterback play he dealt with; the Jets also made Wilson’s life difficult by having very few reliable weapons around him. Wilson was the only Jets receiver to have 400-plus receiving yards or multiple receiving touchdowns last season. In fact, Wilson was double-teamed on 162 receiving snaps in 2023, the most in the league, per PFF.

The addition of Mike Williams in free agency was a good start when it comes to helping Wilson reach his potential, but Williams is still recovering from tearing his ACL last September and has had trouble staying healthy throughout his career. The Jets need to add more offensive playmakers to open up their offense and allow Wilson to be the superstar he’s capable of being. 

Best fit: Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia (Draft projection: Round 1)

Despite being listed as a tight end, Bowers has been just as productive as most of the top wide receivers in this draft class. He recorded the fifth-most receiving yards (2,538) and tied for the second-most receiving touchdowns (26) among all Power Five players over the last three college seasons. He is plenty athletic enough to run routes out of the slot and could even line up out wide on occasion. His presence in the middle of the field would make it much easier for Wilson to regularly get open on the outside.

Davante Adams
Las Vegas Raiders

No player accounted for a higher percentage of his team’s targets last season than Davante Adams, who garnered 33 percent of the Raiders’ targets. The three-time All-Pro had the second-most targets (175) in the NFL in 2023, yet he only recorded 1,144 receiving yards. That output marked his fewest receiving yards per game (67.3) since 2017 and fewest yards per reception (11.1) since 2015. No doubt the Raiders’ quarterback play contributed to his lack of efficiency, but it seems the limited weapons surrounding him also played a large part. Per PFF, Adams was double-teamed on 148 receiving snaps (third-most in the NFL) and was targeted a league-high 35 times in tight coverage in 2023. 

The Raiders lack speed on offense, which showed up in the way that they finished with the fifth-fewest deep receiving yards last year, per Next Gen Stats. They need to add speed to help stretch the field, which in turn should give Adams a lot more space to be increase his efficiency over the back end of his career. 

Best fit: Troy Franklin, WR, Oregon (Draft projection: Round 2)

Franklin provides the Raiders the best of both worlds when it comes to speed (4.41 40 time) and length (6-2). One of the best deep receivers in this draft class, Franklin logged 15 receptions of 30-plus yards (tied for second-most in the FBS) and was one of two players in the FBS to record 1,300-plus receiving yards and 14-plus TDs in 2023. Joining him was LSU’s Malik Nabers, a consensus top-two receiver in this very deep draft class. 

Michael Pittman
Indianapolis Colts

Pittman reached some career marks during his 2023 contract season. Despite having 109 receptions (fourth in the NFL), he ranked just 14th league-wide with 1,152 receiving yards, giving him a very underwhelming 10.6 yards per reception. In addition, Pittman came down with just four receiving touchdowns in a season when the Colts relied on both Anthony Richardson and Gardner Minshew II under center. 

The Colts have 2023 third-rounder Josh Downs alongside Pittman, whom they just signed to a three-year, $70 million extension. But they still need to add more talent to the offense to get the most out of their WR1. Pittman could be more efficient with his large target share if the Colts added a speedster in this draft who could stretch the offense and put more stress on opposing defenses.

Best fit: Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas (Draft projection: Rounds 1-2)

Worthy showed off his elite speed when breaking the combine’s 40-yard dash record with a time of 4.21 seconds. At just 5-11 and 165 pounds, Worthy won’t likely serve as a reliable contested-catch guy in the NFL, but he can be an elite separator due to his speed and route running. Worthy has the goods to immediately become a top deep threat in the league who can open up any offense, especially one that already has a very reliable WR1. 

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