By Scott Engel, The Game Day
There has been a lot of speculation and conjecture on why the price tags of wide receivers are rising so high. One reason many of us have not considered is that there is a less than ideal outlook at quarterback overall in the NFL. More than half of the league’s teams do not have a star or ideal starting quarterback in place.
The 2022 NFL Draft class didn’t help matters much. We saw how aggressive teams can become when a franchise QB becomes available on the open market. When a comfortable starter at QB simply isn’t an available option, bulking up the playmaking corps around the position becomes a viable road to take.
If WRs Are Becoming Too Expensive, Blame the Quarterbacks
High-Quality Quarterbacking Is Hard To Find
By our count, nine NFL teams can now feel mostly assured about who they have at quarterback; Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Buffalo, Green Bay, both Los Angeles teams, Denver, Dallas, and Cincinnati. Add in Cleveland once Deshaun Watson gets past any possible suspension. That’s not to say that every other team has a terrible situation, but you can be sure that many fans of the Vikings and Raiders have wanted an upgrade for a while. Several other ballclubs are waiting to see how their young quarterbacks develop.
Since only about one-third of the NFL’s teams brass can confidently and honestly say they don’t have to truly worry about the quarterback position, alternative routes to success have to be considered for many other franchises. Derek Carr has suffered from a lack of consistent quality playmaking talents around him. Tua Tagovailoa can’t be expected to reach his potential when he doesn’t have significant playmaking threats to work with. Jaylen Waddle was great as a rookie, but the Dolphins needed more than that to field a quality passing game.
How teams cover for inconsistent quarterback play
Carr and Tagovailoa became two prime examples of the newest offensive player movement trend in the league. Those who don’t have standout or elite QBs will focus on bringing in top-notch pass-catchers. Carr is considered to be one of the league’s better passers, in the top half of the league. Giving him Davante Adams can elevate his play to new levels. We have already seen that Carr is not going to carry an offense on his back. But give him arguably the best wide receiver in the game, and the Las Vegas passing game looks like a lock to improve.
Miami wants to find out now if Tagovailoa is worthy of the fifth overall pick it spent on him in 2020. Acquiring Tyreek Hill greatly boosts the outlook of the Dolphins passing game while staying with the same quarterback for now. If a team can’t find a better possible option at QB, landing elite receivers is the next best path to better potential results in the air game.
In Philadelphia, Jalen Hurts is a very promising talent, but now that he will have A.J. Brown along with DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert, his chances of taking the Eagles to greater heights appear to be greater. If he doesn’t achieve more success with such an impressive pass-catching crew, Hurts may not ultimately be the answer for the Eagles.
Kyler Murray has often been thrilling and dazzling, but he has also been inconsistent. Once DeAndre Hopkins returns from a suspension, a deep pass-catching crew that includes Hopkins, Marquise Brown, Rondale Moore, A.J. Green, and Zach Ertz leaves him with no room for excuses anymore.
Building A Winner Around The Quarterback
Teams with young quarterbacks other than Miami are also taking the approach to constructing promising supporting casts around their passers. The Jets aggressively pursued top veteran options in the offseason, but when they struck out, New York drafted Garrett Wilson and running back Breece Hall, a versatile performer who can ease pressure on the QB. The Jaguars may have overpaid for Christian Kirk, but they wanted to get another notable wideout for Trevor Lawrence.
The Steelers don’t have apparent ideal options with Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky, but the receiving crew is deep with Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, rookie George Pickens, Pat Freiermuth and running back Najee Harris. The Seahawks may have the shakiest QB outlook in the NFC other than the Panthers to some, but they drafted bookend offensive tackles, a very promising RB in Kenneth Walker, and already have DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett along with Noah Fant. Drew Lock is in a good position to show he can re-start his career in Seattle. If he fails, the Seahawks can rest at the position in 2023.
Wide receiver was a featured position in the 2022 NFL Draft. Drake London will combine with Kyle Pitts as top targets for Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder. Treylon Burks and new veteran Robert Woods will be the prime WRs for Ryan Tannehill. Chris Olave will join Michael Thomas in New Orleans as a prime option for Jameis Winston. Jameson Williams will have a lot of upside once he is in full form, and gives Jared Goff another weapon in Detroit to team up with Amon-Ra St. Brown.
It is by apparent design that teams who lack a top or fully proven starter at QB are opting to stack up at wide receiver instead. Quarterback is still the most important position in the league. Yet the sparse amount of standout options at QB have led to wide receivers becoming more highly coveted. The new trend in the NFL is to stock the supporting cast and let the QB show he can raise his game or at least be a quality caretaker. Those who fail in such scenarios likely won’t succeed at all.