As the first wave of NFL free agency passes by, wide receiver DJ Chark remains on the open market. With a number of teams pursuing the 6-foot-4 wide receiver, it’s time to examine the best landing spots for Chark in the NFL.
Chark entered the league as the 61st overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He received sparse opportunities in his rookie season, drawing just 32 targets for 14 receptions and 174 receiving yards in 17 games. However, he erupted in 2019 for a 1,000-yard season and earned a Pro Bowl selection as a 23-year-old with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Unfortunately, injuries derailed Chark in the next two seasons. He played 17 combined games from 2020-’21, pulling in 60 receptions for 860 receiving yards and 14.3 yards per catch. After hitting NFL free agency in 2022, he signed with the Detroit Lions.
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After a relatively successful season as a role player for Detroit last year, Chark is hoping to cash in with a bigger role on a new team in 2023. Let’s evaluate the three best fits for DJ Chark.
Kansas City Chiefs
Every wide receiver wants to play with Patrick Mahomes and who could blame them. While Odell Beckham Jr. is the more popular choice to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s reasonable to think Chark could offer something else Andy Reid and Mahomes want in 2023.
The Chiefs didn’t take a ton of deep shots in 2022. According to Pro Football Focus, Mahomes’ rate of pass attempts 20-plus yards downfield sat at 9.4% last year, ranking 29th in the NFL. Despite the low volume, the two-time NFL MVP posted the eighth-best completion rate (44.3%) and fourth-best PFF grade (94.5) on deep passes last season.
Chark could thrive in the Chiefs’ offense with Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney eating up yards underneath. He’s worlds better than Mecole Hardman and Chark’s Pro Bowl season demonstrates that his ceiling might even be high enough to be the No. 2 pass-catching option for Mahomes.
The Carolina Panthers are truly paper-thin at wide receiver. For a franchise that intends to spend the first pick on a quarterback and paid a premium for that right, head coach Frank Reich needs to find playmakers to put around his rookie quarterback.
- DJ Chark stats (2022): 30 receptions, 502 receiving yards, 24 first downs
It wouldn’t even matter whether Carolina drafts Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. Young was outstanding on deep throws at Alabama, completing 41.9% of his attempts with a 118.1 NFL quarterback rating and a 94.0 PFF grade. As for Stroud, he posted a 116.9 passer rating with a 92.6 PFF grade and a 46.3% completion rate on deep throws.
While there would be some risk for Chark in signing with a team that starts a rookie quarterback, Carolina is an appealing landing spot. Shawn Jefferson is one of the best wide receivers coaches in the NFL and he brings expertise any young wideout can learn from. Even more important, Chark could be the No. 1 receiver in the Panthers’ offense.
After parting ways with Adam Thielen, the Minnesota Vikings have an opening at wide receiver. While Justin Jefferson makes a lot of the big plays in this offense, Chark might be the ideal complementary weapon to stretch the field with Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson wreaking havoc everywhere else.
- DK Chark advanced stats (Player Profiler): 15 deep targets, 15.4 yards aDOT, 9.7 yards per target, 16.7 yards per reception
Minnesota offers a relatively favorable quarterback situation, too. Kirk Cousins had the 12th-highest rate of deep throws (12.7%) and he was excellent. The Pro Bowl quarterback completed 46.5% of his deep throws, the fifth-highest completion rate in the NFL, and he posted the fourth-highest PFF grade when throwing vertically.
Chark gets to stay in the NFC North with the added benefit of playing on a field where Jefferson attracts double coverage. It’s an advantageous situation to be in for a player with Chark’s speed and skill set. With the cap space created by Minnesota, this is a move it can afford to do and a multi-year contract may even be possible.