News & Analysis

Triple-threat wide receivers from the 2018 NFL season

By Mark Chichester
Jul 4, 2019

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We all know the kind of difference that a top-tier wide receiver can make to an offense, whether he’s the kind that seemingly never drops a pass (DeAndre Hopkins), the type that has the potential to break through tackles (Golden Tate) or the type that just always seems to be open (Davante Adams). If teams are lucky though, they’ll find themselves with a player who does all three at a high level over the course of a season — a wide receiving triple threat — a player who can come down with the tough contested catches, separate from defensive backs and rack up the yards after the catch.

Below, I’ve listed the seven wide receivers who stood out in all three aspects a season ago. Bear in mind, this is not a ranking; nor is it a list of players who we feel are the most well-rounded in the NFL. These are simply the players who recorded above-average marks in separation percentage, contested-catch percentage and yards after the catch per reception in 2018.

Anthony MillerChicago Bears

Chicago’s second-year slot man caught 33 of his 54 targets a season ago, recording 423 yards, seven touchdowns and 12 first downs in the process. The shifty Memphis product created separation on 60.0% of his targets — surpassing the average of 54.6% — and he recorded 5.24 yards after the catch per reception and a contested-catch rate of 62.5% to better the league averages of 4.40 and 45.1%, respectively.

Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys

As turnaround stories go, Cooper’s midseason resurgence with the Dallas Cowboys was a good one, and it showcased just how impactful he can be as a route-runner, as a pass-catcher and as a YAC threat. Armed with one of the best releases in the NFL, Cooper created separation on 62.9% of his targets on the year, but he also came down with seven of his 10 targets (70.0%) that were contested at the catch point. Capping off a season that has put him back in the conversation for one of the most talented pass-catchers in the NFL, Cooper also averaged 5.53 yards after the catch per reception — a top-15 figure among the 79 wide receivers who saw at least 50 targets in 2018.

Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City speedster put forth a career year a season ago, recording career highs in overall grade (89.6), receiving grade (90.3), receiving yards (1,479) and yards after the catch (524). With such blazing straight-line speed, it’s no surprise to see that Hill created separation on 63.1% of his targets, but it may surprise you to hear that the 5-foot-10 pass-catcher was especially dominant in contested-catch situations, where he hauled in 13-of-20 such targets. Hill also ended the year averaging 6.02 yards after the catch per reception, the third straight year in which he’d averaged 4.25 yards after the catch per reception or more.

Only four wide receivers in the NFL have seen at least 75 targets and recorded at least 4.40 yards after the catch per reception in each of the last three years. Three of them are on this list in Adam Humphries (7.15, 4.92, 5.70), Amari Cooper (5.40, 6.25, 5.53) and Tyreek Hill (4.56, 5.96, 6.02).

Adam Humphries, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Adam Humphries earned a career-high 75.2 overall grade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018. The now 26-year-old Clemson product saw separation on 65.5% of his targets a season, the 10th-best mark among the 79 qualifying wide receivers, while his 5.70 yards after the catch and his 46.2% contested-catch rate ranked 13th and 35th, respectively.

Willie Snead IV, Baltimore Ravens

Snead’s first year in Baltimore didn’t quite go to plan, but there’s a reason for optimism heading into the 2019 season. Snead caught 69-of-91 targets a season ago for 651 yards and a touchdown, en route to an overall grade of 67.7 that ranked first among Baltimore’s wideouts. He averaged 4.52 yards after the catch per reception, he created separation on 54.7% of his targets, and he came down with 6-of-10 contested targets, as well.

Chris Hogan, New England Patriots

Once affectionately nicknamed 7-11 due to his proclivity for “always being open,” Hogan lived up to the nickname in 2018. The eighth-year receiver found at least a step of separation on 66.0% of his targets on the year — the eighth-best mark among 79 qualifying wideouts — recording 5.51 yards after the catch per reception and a contested-catch rate of 50.0% to boot.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos/Houston Texans

Now with the New England Patriots, Thomas may not be the force after the catch that he once was, but his 2018 season proved that he’s still got gas left in the tank. Thomas averaged 4.73 yards after the catch per reception — his best single-season mark since 2015 — while his separation rate of 63.5% was good for 15th among qualifying wide receivers. Capping off an all-around decent year, Thomas came down with seven of his 14 contested targets in his 15 games with both the Broncos and the Texans.

Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers

Cobb remained dominant after the catch throughout his final season in Green Bay. All told, he caught 38 of his 57 targets for just 383 yards and two scores, but 240 of those yards were thanks to his work after the catch. Cobb’s average of 6.32 yards after the catch per reception ranked fourth among qualifying wide receivers in 2018, and it was the third straight year in which he’d surpassed the six-yard mark. Cobb capped off his final year as a Packer with a separation rate of 55.8% and a contested-catch rate of 50.0%, 37th and tied for 22nd, respectively, among 79 qualifying pass-catchers.

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