Heading into 2018, it’s clear not every NFL team sports an offense that features elite playmakers at both the receiver and running back position.
Some franchises rely on a committee of players to catch and run the ball, and that is okay. The job gets done with many hands on deck.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, other teams have a clear-cut No. 1 wide receiver accompanied by a dynamic back. These duos tend to be the focal point on offense and nightmares for opposing defenses to game plan against.
Kicking this list off with a guy who recorded 242 rushing yards and four touchdowns this past postseason, here are the 12 best receiving and rushing duos entering 2018, ranked for your pleasure.
12. Leonard Fournette and Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars
As a rookie last year, Fournette made a huge splash on a Jaguars offense that needed a serious jump start. He was a lifeline for quarterback Blake Bortles, averaging 80 rushing yards per game. Fournette also racked up 302 yards receiving and scored 10 total times. He’s definitely on course to build on this platform for his sophomore year.
Aside from rushing plays, Bortles has to throw to someone. This year it looks to be Lee taking over as the No. 1 receiver, now that both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are with new teams. Even when sharing the field with both former the Allens over the past two seasons, Lee put up some respectable stats. During 2016-17, Lee was responsible 119 receptions and 1,553 yards.
The expectation would be for both Fournette and Lee to help keep the Jags offense trending upwards.
11. A.J. Green and Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
You might be puzzled to see Mixon’s name here. But in looking past his mediocre rookie year, Mixon should be poised for a huge second season. After all, the Bengals selected Mixon based on his 2016 season at Oklahoma when he recorded 1,812 total yards, 15 touchdowns and rushed for 6.8 yards per carry. Heading into 2018, Mixon has been dropping some weight and the Bengals plan to use him as their “bellcow” back.
His receiving partner in crime will be the ever-so-reliable Green who has averaged 1,173 yards per season at a clip of 14.8 yards per catch. A revamped playbook will hopefully see quarterback Andy Dalton making the best use out his supporting cast.
10. Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
If we were approaching the start of last season, this Cardinals duo would be ranked much higher. But as things stand, quarterback Carson Palmer is no longer with the club. It will either be Sam Bradford or rookie Josh Rosen, or a combination of both, feeding Fitz and Johnson now.
Johnson missed most of last year with a wrist injury after recording a league-high 2,118 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2016. He will be looking to get back on the saddle and has the goal of recording both 1,000 rushing and receiving yards. This is a lofty aspiration in which quarterback play will factor in.
As for Fitzgerald, he is still defying Father Time and has recorded no less than 1,023 yards and 107 receptions in has past three years.
9. Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
This duo did not get much time to work together because Cook tore his ACL in Week 4 as a rookie. But Cook averaged 4.8 yards per carry and 88.5 rushing yards per contest before that injury. That is not shabby at all. Quarterback Kirk Cousins should love having a bell cow back as he gets going with his new team.
In addition, Cousins will work on developing chemistry with Thielen, who had a rock star fourth year. In 2017, Thielen caught 79.8 percent of his 142 targets for 1,276 yards and averaged 14 yards per reception.
Provided both Thielen and Cook gel with Cousins, more excellence from this pair is on the horizon.
8. DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller, Houston Texans
In any given contest, Hopkins can become a one-man show to win a game. He has worked with over a dozen quarterbacks and produces high-end results no matter who is throwing him the pigskin. Entering 2018, the return of quarterback Deshaun Watson is a huge deal for Hopkins, who scored a league-high 13 touchdowns last season. This touchdown count might even be higher once Hopkins and Watson complete an entire season together.
Regarding Miller, he is coming from a down season that saw his yards per carry drop to 3.7. Though at this time, he remains the Texans lead back with D’Onta Foreman’s health (Achilles) reportedly “up in the air” for a Week 1 return. The hope would be that Miller, who is just 27 years old, will prove he is worthy of keeping his starting job.
7. Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
This pair should continue to gain traction in 2018. Allen is coming off a tremendous campaign after recording a career-high 1,393 yards along with six touchdowns. He also played in all 16 games, which was a first. Considering Allen turned only 26 in April, he should only improve as he reaches his prime — provided he stays healthy. Plus, he will pitch in to pick up some of the extra slack with tight end Hunter Henry sidelined.
On the ground, Gordon will keep toting the rock, and will also look to build on his career-best 1,105 rushing yards recorded last season. Additionally, the Chargers offensive coordinator plans to have Gordon play an even bigger role in the team’s passing game.
There is little here to suggest that either of these players take a major step back in 2018.
6. Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
This young duo was simply electric in 2017, producing a total of 3,024 yards and 18 touchdowns together. Wow! But, perhaps the brakes should be pumped just a bit looking into 2018. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes will take over as the starter, which makes it a tad difficult to bank on both Hill and Hunt repeating last season’s jaw-dropping numbers.
Entering 2018, Hunt is on course to take on a bigger role in the team’s passing game, which is a positive. Though, that may mean he shares some carries with Chardandrick West.
Speaking of sharing, Hill will be joined by new fellow receiver Sammy Watkins, who is a dynamic deep threat. However things shake out, this offense will be one of the more exciting to follow this year.
5. Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Cooks landed in Los Angeles after a trade, and now he will pair up with last season’s Offensive Player of the Year. This screams all kinds of goodness for the Rams. First of all, Gurley is a machine. He’s unstoppable at times and found the end zone 19 times in 2017. Those touchdowns were accompanied by 2,093 total yards.
No slouch when it comes to speed, Cooks enters the scene after averaging 16.6 yards per catch during his one-year gig with the New England Patriots. That came along with 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns.
Many thrills await as the Rams hit the field with the most explosive offense in the NFC West.
4. Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons must never discount what Jones brings to the table once. He has averaged a dependable 95.3 yards per game since being selected sixth overall in 2011. Famous for his incredible big plays, even when in double coverage, Jones has also averaged 15.5 yards per catch.
Teaming up with Jones is Freeman, who will continue to dominate in the run game. Since starting for the Falcons in 2015, Freeman has recorded 35 total touchdowns. He has also averaged 1,519 combined yards per season in this stretch.
This tandem should continue putting up yards galore. The icing on the cake would be the two scoring more than the 11 touchdowns they combined for in 2017.
3. Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Maybe it is risky to rank this duo at No. 3, but why not go for it? We know Beckham is a touchdown machine, having recorded 38 of them in his 47 games played. On top of this, OBJ has averaged 94.1 yards per game and he should continue to frustrate his defenders come September. At the youthful age of 25, Beckham is just hitting his prime.
Keeping with the topic of youth, Barkley is the shiny new coin the Giants went all in on to select second in this year’s draft. He automatically becomes an a huge upgrade over any of the Giants running backs that have hit the field in recent seasons.
This Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year for 2016 and 2017, Barkley will look to help keep quarterback Eli Manning out of trouble after piling up 1,903 scrimmage yards and 21 touchdowns last season at Penn State.
2. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
Kamara is poised to take on an even larger role than he received in his rookie year. So, he could easily top his 1,554 total yards and 13 touchdowns produced in 2017. Kamara will receive a ramping head start on his stats with running back Mark Ingram sitting at home until Week 5.
As for Thomas, he is a player who deserves more love than he receives. Entering his third year, Thomas will look to build on the 1,245 yards he recorded last season. The 25-year-old receiver will continue to be heavily targeted by quarterback Drew Brees, who is currently the most accurate in the business.
At this time, nothing but a bright future lies ahead for this talented Saints tandem.
1. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Until further notice or unless the sky falls, there is currently no better receiving/running back duo than AB and Bell. Combined, these rock stars recorded 3,479 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2017. Along the way, Brown averaged a league-high 109.5 yards per game, while Bell piled up a league-best 321 rushing attempts on the season.
There is simply no end in sight for what these two incredible playmakers will accomplish on game day. Even with his contract situation in flux, Bell should hit the field in prime form. He will reunite with Brown, who works out like a freak, when NFL Week 1 kicks off.