“I think that you can estimate that there are 10 No. 1 receivers in this league, and 22 others get it done in another way.” — Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones, after the release of Dez Bryant.Is he right? Yes and no.On one hand, Jones’ premise that not all teams rely on a clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver is obviously correct. In some cases, that’s because a team has several very good wide receivers. In others, the team simply doesn’t have an alpha dog at the position. And that got us thinking: Which wide receivers fall into that “No. 1 wide receiver” category? And what is the best way to determine them?The answer? Target share.

Target share is the percentage of the team’s total targets handled by a single player. For example, the Houston Texans registered 508 targets last season and 172 of them were directed at DeAndre Hopkins. That works out to a league-high 33.9 percent share (the NFL’s third-highest mark since 2007).

We decided to split the league’s 32 No. 1 wide receiver situations into four tiers:

Here’s how all 32 teams stack up, with ESPN fantasy insider Mike Clay’s 2018 target-share projections and analysis from each team’s NFL Nation reporter.

Tier 1: Clear No. 1s

DeAndre Hopkins

2018 outlook: After seeing what Hopkins did in quarterback Deshaun Watson‘s six starts last season — 38 catches for 551 yards and six touchdowns — the Texans have high expectations for their No. 1 receiver in 2018. Hopkins said it gives him “chills sometimes just to think what [he and Watson] did in the little time we had together,” adding that he thinks the pair can be the best quarterback-receiver duo in the NFL. The Texans made sure Hopkins will be in Houston for the foreseeable future by signing him to a five-year, $81 million contract last August. — Sarah Barshop, ESPN Texans reporter

Projected target share: 33 percent. Hopkins paced the NFL in target share last season, and his 508 targets over the past three seasons are 367 more than any other Houston player. There’s a large gap between him and No. 2 WR Will Fuller on the depth chart. — Clay

Antonio Brown

2018 outlook: Brown has set a near-unreasonable expectation for his own play. Anything less than 100-plus catches and 1,500-plus yards is considered a disappointment. That’s not about to change for Brown, who turns 30 in July and shows no signs of slowing. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will throw Brown’s way another 175 times or so while the WR faces his usual heavy dose of double-teams. Brown should have at least one more prime year to strengthen his grip on the best-receiver race. — Jeremy Fowler, ESPN Steelers reporter

Projected target share: 29 percent. Brown has enjoyed a target share of at least 26 percent each of the past five years, ranking top five in the league in targets, receptions and receiving yards during all five campaigns. He enters his age-30 season well ahead of JuJu Smith-Schuster as Pittsburgh’s top wideout. — Clay

A.J. Green

2018 outlook: He said his stats were “crummy” last season, which speaks volumes about his value as he registered 1,078 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Green will turn 30 this season and has two more years remaining on his contract. — Katherine Terrell, ESPN Bengals reporter

Projected target share: 29 percent. Green has led the Bengals in targets six of the past seven seasons. He’s one of six wide receivers who have posted a 30-plus percent target share in multiple seasons over the past decade. The likes of Brandon LaFell and 2017 first-round pick John Ross are behind Green on the depth chart. — Clay

Odell Beckham Jr.

2018 outlook: Odell Beckham Jr. remains the Giants’ top playmaker even as he returns from a serious injury and with Saquon Barkley on the roster. Beckham looked like his old self running routes at minicamp, and there is little reason to believe he will fall off much from the 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns he produced each of his first three seasons. Now if only the Giants can lock Beckham up long term to make sure he’s happy and focused. Beckham is scheduled to play on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract for $8.5 million. — Jordan Raanan, ESPN Giants reporter

Projected target share: 28 percent. Healthy during the better part of the 2014-16 seasons, Beckham handled 237 more targets than any other Giants player during the span. He registered a share of at least 27 percent each of those seasons and enters 2018 with Sterling Shepard closest on the depth chart. —

Julio Jones

2018 outlook: Julio Jones is, no question, the Falcons’ top receiver, but there are plenty of questions regarding his current status. He held out from team activities this offseason — including mandatory minicamp — despite having three years and almost $35 million left on a contract he has obviously outplayed. Now the Falcons have to decide if they’re willing to set a precedent and rework or tear up Jones’ contract. Jones is staying in top shape working out with NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Owens, and he’s aiming for a fifth consecutive season with 1,400-plus receiving yards. But Jones needs to improve on last season’s three-touchdown total. The Falcons have some insurance in first-round draft pick Calvin Ridley. — Vaughn McClure, ESPN Falcons reporter

Projected target share: 28 percent. Jones has finished top three in the league in receiving yards each of the past four seasons, averaging a 28 percent target share during the span. His 33.5 percent share in 2015 is the fifth-highest of the past decade. This year’s first-round pick, Calvin Ridley, won’t be a threat to Jones’ No. 1 status anytime soon. — Clay

Source: ESPN
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