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The Cowboys Wide Receiving Trio Is Among The Best In The League

The Cowboys may have established themselves as a strong running team, but the wide receiving trio of Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley have made their own mark on this offense.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It's a passing league. It just is. Pay no attention to the fact that Dallas just had their best season since 2007 by running the ball 508 times. But despite the Cowboys commitment to the running game, many NFL teams are finding more and more success through the air and as a result, the demand for playmaking receivers is on the rise. In the last two drafts there has been an increase in wide receivers taken in the first round. In 2014, there were five receivers selected. In 2015, there were six. Teams are starting to become more active in strengthening their receiving corps.

As teams stack up on receivers, some of them have assembled an impressive trio of pass catchers. Looking at the best groups in the league, it is interesting to see where the Cowboys fit in with these elites. Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley are marvelous receivers, each of them taking on their own special role on the team. Williams is the team's deep threat, Beasley is the chain moving "hands" receiver, and Dez Bryant is the do-just-about-anything receiver. It's a great unit.

Here is a look at some of the elite gangs of receivers in the league.

Green Bay Packers: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams

All three of the Packers receivers were drafted by Green Bay in the second round. Jordy Nelson is the Packers deep threat, while the shifty Randall Cobb runs the slot. Both made the Pro Bowl in 2014. Adams will be entering his sophomore year and will be looking to expand his role as the Packers number three guy.

Denver Broncos: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Cody Latimer

Give the Broncos credit. They keep churning away at the receiver position to replace guys they lost. In 2013, they had a lineup of Thomas, Wes Welker, and Eric Decker. Together they combined for 3,506 yards and 35 TDs. Last season they lost Decker to the New York Jets, but brought in free agent Emmanuel Sanders from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sanders filled in nicely with 1,409 yards and 9 TDs. With the departure of Welker, the Broncos will rely on second-year man, Cody Latimer, to fill in as the number three.

Detroit Lions: Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, and Corey Fuller

A couple years ago, you could put any two names alongside Megatron and you'd have a formidable receiving squad. But after two straight seasons in which his receptions and yards have both declined, he's no longer running away with the "best WR in football" title. Golden Tate was a great addition to Detroit's offense as he had 99 catches for 1,331 yards in 2014, surpassing Johnson as the Lions leader.

Indianapolis Colts: T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, and Donte Moncrief

Indianapolis has done a good job of putting receivers around Andrew Luck. Besides having a couple of young tight ends (Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen both had eight TDs last season), the Colts have invested some draft resources at the WR position. Hilton has flourished into a great #1 and rookie WR Moncrief started getting more looks as the season progressed. The Colts also added free agent veteran Andre Johnson to the mix. Johnson is a two time All-Pro, but he's now 34 years old. He may have lost a step, but he still should be able to be productive in the Colts offense. And with Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks no longer in the picture, the Colts relied again on the draft this year by selecting Philip Dorsett in the first round.

New York Giants: Odell Beckham Jr, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle

The Giants look like geniuses for selecting Beckham Jr with the 11th overall pick in the 2014 draft. He missed the first part of the season with a hamstring injury, but once he got out there - he was outstanding. He took home Rookie of the Year honors, despite missing the first four games. Then you have the return of the salsa, Victor Cruz, and the Giants have two big play making receivers. Cruz only played six games in 2014 before tearing his ACL. It should be interesting to see Cruz and OBJ on the field together for a full season. Randle is a very solid #3 who should benefit from taking on the weaker corners from the opposing defenses.

Dallas Cowboys: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley

Dez Bryant is the reigning All-Pro wide out. It almost seems like a dream that he's on the Cowboys. But he's real and he's spectacular. Williams has had two solid seasons as the Cowboys #2 guy. He's starting to compile a nice collection of great catches in his own right. Beasley catches everything that is thrown at him. Over the last two season, Beasley has had 77 catchable passes thrown his way, and he's caught 76 of them. Beasley has proven to be a potent third-down receiver and a great contributor in the Cowboys passing game.

How Do They Stack Up?

Just looking at raw totals from last season doesn't accurately depict how good these receivers are. Some players will benefit from a higher volume of opportunities. Those who were limited due to injury or having a smaller role would then not grade so well. Some players will be negatively impacted by having Eli Manning throwing to them. They shouldn't be penalized for such. For those reasons, performance will be evaluated in the following manner:

Who's Got The Hands?

Catch Percentage - instead of total receptions or completion percentage, the ratio of catchable passes will be measured.

Player Team Rec Catchable Catch %
Cole Beasley DAL 37 37 100.0%
Cody Latimer DEN 2 2 100.0%
Emmanuel Sanders DEN 101 103 98.1%
Odell Beckham Jr. NYG 91 93 97.8%
Terrance Williams DAL 37 39 94.9%
Rueban Randle NYG 71 75 94.7%
Dez Bryant DAL 88 93 94.6%
Golden Tate DET 99 105 94.3%
T.Y. Hilton IND 82 87 94.3%
Donte Moncrief IND 32 34 94.1%
Corey Fuller DET 14 15 93.3%
DeMaryius Thomas DEN 111 120 92.5%
Jordy Nelson GB 98 106 92.5%
Randall Cobb GB 91 99 91.9%
Calvin Johnson DET 71 78 91.0%
Davante Adams GB 38 42 90.5%
Andre Johnson IND 85 94 90.4%
Victor Cruz NYG 23 29 79.3%

How Far Do They Go?

Yards Per Reception - instead of total yards, the ratio of yards per catch will be measured.

Player Team Rec Yards YPC
Terrance Williams DAL 37 621 16.8
T.Y. Hilton IND 82 1,346 16.4
Jordy Nelson GB 98 1,519 15.5
Calvin Johnson DET 71 1,077 15.2
Dez Bryant DAL 88 1,320 15.0
Victor Cruz NYG 23 337 14.7
DeMaryius Thomas DEN 111 1,619 14.6
Corey Fuller DET 14 202 14.4
Odell Beckham Jr. NYG 91 1,305 14.3
Randall Cobb GB 91 1,287 14.1
Emmanuel Sanders DEN 101 1,409 14.0
Donte Moncrief IND 32 444 13.9
Golden Tate DET 99 1,331 13.4
Rueban Randle NYG 71 938 13.2
Davante Adams GB 38 446 11.7
Cody Latimer DEN 2 23 11.5
Cole Beasley DAL 37 420 11.4
Andre Johnson IND 85 936 11.0

Can They Find Pay Dirt?

Touchdowns Percentage - instead of total touchdowns, the ratio of touchdowns per catch will be measured.

Player Team Rec TD TD %
Terrance Williams DAL 37 8 21.6%
Dez Bryant DAL 88 16 18.2%
Jordy Nelson GB 98 13 13.3%
Randall Cobb GB 91 12 13.2%
Odell Beckham Jr. NYG 91 12 13.2%
Calvin Johnson DET 71 8 11.3%
Cole Beasley DAL 37 4 10.8%
DeMaryius Thomas DEN 111 11 9.9%
Donte Moncrief IND 32 3 9.4%
Emmanuel Sanders DEN 101 9 8.9%
T.Y. Hilton IND 82 7 8.5%
Davante Adams GB 38 3 7.9%
Corey Fuller DET 14 1 7.1%
Victor Cruz NYG 23 1 4.3%
Rueban Randle NYG 71 3 4.2%
Golden Tate DET 99 4 4.0%
Andre Johnson IND 85 3 3.5%
Cody Latimer DEN 2 0 0.0%

Adding It All Up

Player Catch % Rank YPC Rank TD % Rank Overall Rank
Dallas Cowboys 95.9% 1 14.57 1 17.3% 1 1.0
Green Bay Packers 95.1% 2 14.26 2 9.3% 2 2.0
Denver Broncos 91.9% 6 14.33 3 12.3% 3 4.0
New York Giants 92.9% 3 14.18 5 7.1% 4 4.0
Detroit Lions 92.6% 4 13.70 4 6.5% 5 4.3
Indianapolis Colts 93.9% 5 13.95 6 8.6% 6 5.7

The Cowboys come out at the top of every category. Dallas does not throw the ball as much as these other teams so if you were to measure on pure volume, the Cowboys rankings would fall off some. These other teams have explosive trios and this data isn't suggesting that Dallas has the best group, but they were the most efficient last year. They definitely belong in the conversation when talking about the top receiving groups in the league.

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