We often discuss the evolution of the NFL as a fast-paced pass-heavy game with an emphasis on quarterbacks and their weapons.
Last offseason, the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills made aggressive moves to acquire lead wide receivers. In each case, the acquisition paid off for a young signal-caller who needed a go-to target. Looking ahead, those tandems will want to strengthen their connections while racking up more yards and points.
Which quarterback-wideout duets are set to post eye-popping numbers in 2021? How much impact could these playmaking combinations have on their teams offenses?
Using recent passing and receiving numbers along with trends, we ranked the top five pairs in the league. Players with multiple years of continuity without a sign of decline had an advantage over teammates with less experience playing together.
5. Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
In 2020, their first season together, quarterback Kyler Murray and wideout DeAndre Hopkins formed a strong rapport almost immediately.
In their first nine games, Hopkins recorded at least 100 receiving yards or a touchdown six times. He finished with the third-most yards (1,407) and a 71.9 percent catch rate.
Murray and Hopkins also won the Bridgestone Clutch Performance Play of the Year for their "Hail Murray."
In Week 10, Murray heaved a 43-yard pass to Hopkins for the game-winning touchdown over the Buffalo Bills. The sequence underlined the trust between the youngster and his go-to target.
While Murray and Hopkins made highlights, they only moderately moved the needle in terms of passing yards. The Arizona aerial attack improved from 24th in 2019 to 17th.
Nevertheless, if Murray can avoid injuries, this tandem can only go up.
Between Murray's ability to extend plays with his legs and Hopkins' ability to rip the ball out of the air with multiple defenders around him, they're a pair to watch if the Cardinals make the playoffs.
4. Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
Just like the Cardinals' playmakers, Bills quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs didn't take long to put defenses on notice.
Diggs recorded 100 receiving yards or a touchdown in five of his first six outings with Buffalo. More importantly, he contributed to Allen's third-year leap.
Allen went into the 2020 campaign with a 56.3 percent completion rate and fewer than 3,100 yards in each of his first two campaigns. The 24-year-old threw for 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns with 10 interceptions last season.
He did that despite having to adjust to a new lead receiver without a full offseason. Allen put the ball in the right spots, connecting with Diggs on short, intermediate and deep passes.
Allen's impressive accuracy benefitted Diggs, who led the league in catches (127) and yards (1,535). Their rapport significantly elevated the Bills aerial attack, which ranked 26th in 2019 and finished third in 2020.
Despite the productivity of Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, the Cardinals still fielded a bottom-half passing attack. The impact of the Bills' quarterback-wideout duo propelled Allen and Diggs to the No. 4 slot.