A quarterback’s best friend is a group of pass-catchers he can trust and take chances with. Of course, those aren’t the only two characteristics that make a receiving unit great, but they play a huge role in categorizing one as such. And it’s not just wide receivers that make up a receiving unit. Tight ends have become equally important in today’s pass-heavy NFL. That being said, these are the 10 best receiving corps in the league, tight ends included. -- Just missed: Giants, Seahawks, Bengals
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
In 2015, the Panthers were missing their biggest weapon in the passing game in Kelvin Benjamin. The promising second-year wideout was expected to have a huge season with Cam Newton throwing to him, but his absence forced lesser-known players to step up. Ted Ginn Jr., Corey Brown, Devin Funchess and Jerricho Cotchery all played a role on offense, as did Newton’s favorite weapon, Greg Olsen. All of those receivers are returning with the exception of Cotchery, who will be “replaced” by the superior Benjamin. The Panthers certainly aren’t short on receiving targets.
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY SportsMitch Stringer
On paper, the Broncos are loaded at the top. Demaryius Thomas has the talent of Julio Jones or Dez Bryant, and Emmanuel Sanders is one of the best slot receivers in the league. Beyond that, though, Denver doesn’t have much experience or overwhelming talent. Jordan Norwood and Bennie Fowler figure to battle it out for the No. 3 role, but neither is particularly promising. At tight end, Virgil Green and Jeff Heuerman lack both experience and pass-catching ability, boasting one season of 100-plus receiving yards combined. The Broncos need Sanders and Thomas to stay healthy as they’re the reason Denver is on this list.
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY SportsRaj Mehta
New York Jets
The oldest group on this list, the Jets have one of the league's seven-best receivers in Brandon Marshall at the top of the heap. He’s complemented by Eric Decker, who has made a living scoring touchdowns and going relatively unnoticed as a second option. There’s little doubt the Jets have the worst tight end group in the league -- they produced less than any other team in 2015 -- but the return of Jace Amaro should help. And don’t forget, New York drafted wideout Devin Smith to be a real weapon last season. He should contribute much more as a deep threat now that he’s healthy.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY SportsKevin Jairaj
Dez Bryant is getting fully healthy after missing seven games in 2015. He’s joined by Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and big-play threat Brice Butler. Williams tends to disappear too often, but Beasley has become one of Tony Romo’s favorite targets, particularly on third down. Oh, and the Cowboys still have the ageless Jason Witten running option routes in the middle of the field. If nothing else, Dallas has a reliable group of receivers that quarterback Tony Romo trusts greatly, and if Bryant can return to his 2014 form the Cowboys will put up a ton of yards through the air.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY SportsMatthew Emmons
The Redskins have a nice combination of youth and experience at wide receiver to go along with Jordan Reed at tight end. Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson are joined by Jamison Crowder and rookie Josh Doctson, who’s currently dealing with an injury. The four wideouts form an outstanding group, plus Reed runs routes and catches like a wide receiver. Kirk Cousins has never had a better bevy of weapons at his disposal and should eclipse 4,000 passing yards once again this season. This group of pass catchers is as explosive as they come.
Getty ImagesMitchell Leff
Despite being without the suspended Martavis Bryant for the whole season, the Steelers couldn’t be left off this list with Antonio Brown on the roster. He makes up for every possible deficiency the Steelers have under him on the depth chart as he’s undoubtedly the best receiver in the game. Pittsburgh does have other talent, though. Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates and Darrius Heyward-Bey all have outstanding speed and playmaking ability, but they’ve never been relied on as much as they will be this season. They’re joined by tight end Ladarius Green, who was an offseason acquisition and is loaded with potential as a receiver. The Steelers will be just fine without Bryant.
Getty ImagesDilip Vishwanat
Green Bay Packers
A quick glance at the Packers’ receiving stats from 2015 don't make it immediately clear they have one of the top receiving groups in the league. However, there was an important name missing from that list: Jordy Nelson. Green Bay's top wideout is back after tearing his ACL in last year's preseason and will assume his role atop the depth chart, pushing Randall Cobb back to his rightful No. 2 role. The depth behind those two guys is outstanding. Davante Adams has a ton of potential, and Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis are capable, too. And that doesn’t include rising rookie Trevor Davis or second-year pro Ty Montgomery. Once healthy offseason pickup Jared Cook (foot) could be the key to opening up the middle of the field at tight end. He joins -- and should overtake -- last season's starter, Richard Rodgers.
The Jaguars fly under the radar as an explosive offense. That’s probably because they have two lesser-known receivers in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Both players are incredibly talented, boasting good size and speed on the outside. They each eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards and averaged more than 16 yards per catch last season, hauling in 24 of Blake Bortles’ 35 touchdown passes. Julius Thomas was one of the NFL's best tight ends in Denver, and though he was a disappointment in 2015 he also wasn’t healthy. He should return to form in 2016. Rashad Greene and Marqise Lee will contribute as No. 3 receivers.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY SportsReinhold Matay
New England Patriots
The Patriots were already entering the year with a terrific trio of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski. That apparently wasn’t enough. They added Chris Hogan and a facsimile of Gronkowski in Martellus Bennett, giving New England a wildly dynamic receiving core. While they still lack a true deep threat, the Patriots have a group of pass catchers with unique skill sets. This should make it extremely easy for Jimmy Garoppolo to step in and have success, and everyone already knows how good Tom Brady is with mediocre receivers. Just imagine how great he’ll be with this group after he serves his four-game suspension.
There may not be a team with more big-play receivers than the Cardinals. Larry Fitzgerald obviously isn’t the player he once was athletically, but his teammates make up for that. Michael Floyd can stretch the field with the best of them, as can J.J. Nelson and John Brown. Sure, Arizona could stand to improve at tight end with Daniel Fells and Jermaine Gresham atop the depth chart, but there’s potential there if they can remain healthy and take advantage of one-on-one matchups in the middle of the field. Quarterback Carson Palmer should be in for a huge season yet again.