Most of the NFL kicks off their training camps sometime in the next two weeks, which means in order to reacclimate to football's return, it's time to look at the top 10 offensive supporting casts in the league by which franchises have the best trios. These trios are categorized by many modern NFL offenses' top weapons: their starting running back and top two wide receivers. No, tight ends will not appear in these rankings. Outside of tight ends like Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews, the rest of the position isn't factoring into their offenses as pass-catchers at nearly the same rate as many receivers do.
The closer this lists gets to the top, the decision-making for which team's band of three musketeers often came down to pitting the weakest link of each trio against each other to find separation. Without further ado, here are the top 11 offensive trios, comprised of one running back and two wide receivers, in the NFL entering the 2023 season.
For each of Mike Evans' nine NFL seasons, he shows up and collects over 1,000 receiving yards like he's passing go and collecting $200 in Monopoly. It's automatic no matter who his quarterback is. He's totaled over 1,000 yards each year while catching passes from the G.O.A.T Tom Brady, Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Blaine Gabbert, and Josh McCown. All of those quarterbacks have started at least 10 games for the Buccaneers during Evans' career, since 2014. An eclectic group of passers to say the least.
Evans is the only player in NFL history with over 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first nine seasons. The wide receiver G.O.A.T Jerry Rice and one of the members of the "Greatest Show on Turf" early 2000's Rams offenses Torry Holt are tied for the second-most 1,000-yard seasons in the first nine years with eight such campaigns. While the 6-foot-5 Evans dominates on the outside, Pro Bowl wideout Chris Godwin continually produces while lining up all over the field. Having second-year, unproven running back Rachaad White filling out this trio is acting as the anchor holding the Buccaneers group from being listed higher in these rankings. White is entering his first year as a full-time starter in 2023 after making the most of the scraps left by Leonard Fournette as a rookie.
T-9. Tennessee Titans
There have only been seven occurrences of a player accumulating 1,500 or more rushing yards and 10 or more rushing touchdowns in a season in the last four years, since 2019. Three of them belong to Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry, including his 2022 "down year" of 1,538 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. These numbers coming in a year in which the Titans had to use three different quarterbacks because of injuries -- Ryan Tannehill (12 starts), Malik Willis (three starts), and Joshua Dobbs (two starts) -- only add to the legend of King Henry.
Even though his rushing yards per carry average of 4.4 last year marked the third-lowest of his career, Henry plowed ahead for those 1,538 yards, which ranked as the second-most in the NFL. Still standing as the NFL's scariest battering ram, Henry remains one of the NFL's best entering his age-29 season, a contract year, in 2023.
The Titans have acquired superstar wide receivers before like Julio Jones, Randy Moss, and Andre Johnson, but all of those incredible playmakers arrived in Nashville past their careers' respective expiration dates. However, agreeing to add 31-year-old DeAndre Hopkins, the five-time Pro Bowler and three-time First-Team All-Pro, appears to be different. When he returned from his six-game suspension, stemming from violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy, to begin the 2022 season, Hopkins once again profiled as one of the NFL's top wideouts.
DeAndre Hopkins' 2022 season (9 games played)
Fantasy Points/Game (PPR)
* Ranks among WR to play 9+ games
Hopkins, whose 11,298 receiving yards are the eighth-most through 10 seasons in league history and whose 853 receptions are the fourth-most through 10 seasons in NFL history, provides the Titans with their only active player with more than 10 career receiving touchdowns (71). His addition was paramount to the Titans keeping pace with the Jacksonville Jaguars in the race for the AFC South crown in 2023. Hopkins will immediately slot in as quarterback Ryan Tannehill's top target and will also create much lighter boxes for running back Derrick Henry in 2023. Their young receivers, like 2022 first-round pick Treylon Burks, could stand to learn from him. Burks is the reason this trio isn't higher as he battled through a toe injury and quarterback inconsistency (also because of injuries), which resulted in 33 catches for 444 receiving yards and only one receiving touchdown as a rookie last season. Should Hopkins remain healthy, he could extend the Tannehill-Henry era for another couple of seasons.
T-9. Cleveland Browns
Nick Chubb is arguably the most tenacious runner in the entire NFL: his 3.94 yards after contact per carry are the most in the league among the 129 players with 100 or more carries since he entered the league in 2018. In 2022, Chubb maintained his standard of excellent play, ranking top-five in numerous rushing categories including second in the entire league in tackles avoided rate (27.5%), not bad for the five-year vet.
Nick Chubb NFL Ranks 2022 Season
Tackles Avoided Rate
* Ranks among 42 RBs with 100+ carries last season
The 27-year-old also started every game in 2022 for the first time since the 2019 season, a strong showing for a position that puts wear and tear on the body like no other. Chubb's career yards per carry average of 5.2 ranks as the second-highest among running backs in the Super Bowl Era, since 1966, trailing only retired Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles on that leaderboard. With Kareem Hunt no longer sharing the Browns running back room with him, Chubb could set a career-high in rushing yards for the second season in a row in 2023.
Four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper thrived in 2022, despite the uneven Browns quarterback rotation of Jacoby Brissett and Deshaun Watson, totaling a career-high nine receiving touchdowns and the second-most receiving yards of his career (1,160). The 29-year-old proved he still a capable WR1 no matter who his quarterback or fellow wide receivers are. That's the problem with this trio: the number two wide receiver. As of now, that distinction is between Donovan Peoples-Jones and offseason trade acquisition Elijah Moore. Peoples-Jones was the pick here since he's actually played a game for the Browns and because his 839 receiving yards last season are only 145 fewer than Moore's career total through two seasons, 984. The 2022 season was far and away Peoples-Jones' best year to date, but it's not close to good enough to propel the Browns any higher than ninth.
Cleveland even being in this spot is a strong declaration of the respect Chubb and Cooper deserve.
This Seattle Seahawks trio is one of the more well-rounded groups in these rankings as all three members --- running back Kenneth Walker III, wide receiver DK Metcalf, and wide receiver Tyler Lockett -- totaled at least 1,000 rushing or receiving yards in 2022. This group also gets bonus points for helping Geno Smith transform from a career backup to top 10 NFL quarterback. While Walker III was the best rookie running back last season, he doesn't have enough production to elevate this group further than eighth. Both Metcalf and Lockett were solid but neither rose to a Pro Bowl level in 2022.
A breakout by either the soon-to-be 23-year-old Walker III or the 25-year-old Metcalf in Year 2 of working alongside Smith could be enough to vault this trio much higher entering 2024.
Tyreek Hill is unstoppable on the football field: seven Pro Bowls in seven seasons, including the fourth First-Team All-Pro nod of his career, thanks to career-highs in catches (119) and receiving yards (1,710) in his first season since leaving MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Both of those were the second-most in their respective categories in the entire leage last season behind only 2022 Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson.
Hill's 1,710 yards also now stand as the most by any player in their first season with a new team in NFL history. He moved to Miami and immediately became their offensive hub as his 119 receptions ranked as the highest percentage (32%) of their team's catches in the entire league last season.
Second-year, top 10 pick wideout Jaylen Waddle benefitted greatly from from Hill's arrival. He set the NFL rookie receptions record in 2021 with 104, which generated 1,015 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Waddle's catches dipped by 29, down to 75, but still set career-highs in receiving yards (1,356, the seventh-most in the NFL in 2022) and receiving touchdowns (8) despite this dip. How was that possible? The Alabama speedster being able to run wild as his team's number two option alongside Hill provided plenty of space, which he maximized by leading the NFL with an average of 18.1 yards per catch. Hill and Waddle are one of the best receiver duos in the entire league.
Yet, the Dolphins only check in at seven because the running back in this equation is Raheem Mostert, a 31-year-old committee running back whose career-high 891 rushing yards last season were good for 21st in the NFL. He's a solid player, but his significantly lower ceiling keeps Miami at seven. Should the Dolphins sign Dalvin Cook, Miami would be among the top three teams in these rankings.
Even though the franchise-tagged Josh Jacobs is in the midst of a contract dispute with the Las Vegas Raiders, he's still on their official roster page for now. That's a great thing because Jacobs broke out and was was the 2022 First-Team All-Pro running back after leading the NFL in rushing yards (1,653), rushing first downs (93), and tackles avoided (103). He was also Pro Football Focus' highest-graded rusher among running backs last season (91.9).
However, Jacobs has never averaged five yards a carry in a season during his four-year NFL career as his 4.9 yards per carry last season stands as his best. To be fair, he was still one of the most elusive rushers in the league last season, averaging a tackles avoided rate of 26.5%, the third-highest in the league among those with 100 or more carries.
Receiver Davante Adams joins Jacobs as a 2022 First-Team All-Pro as well as combining with him to become only the fifth teammate duo with over 1,500 or more rushing or receiving yards in the same season. His 1,516 receiving yards were the third-most in the NFL behind only Jefferson's 1,809 and Hill's 1,710. Adams also led the league in receiving touchdowns with 14 in 2022, .
Two of the NFL's top playmakers are held outside of the top five entering 2023 for a few reasons. One being that Jacobs' presence in Las Vegas isn't guaranteed at the moment, and that Adams' production could noticeably dip with Jimmy Garoppolo replacing Adams' BFF Derek Carr as the Raiders starting quarterback. Adams caught seven touchdowns thrown 30 or more yards downfield, the most since Hall of Famer Randy Moss' seven such scores he caught in the New England Patriots perfect 16-0 regular season in 2008. On the flip side, Garoppolo has completed just eight of his 47 career passes (17%) thrown 30 or more yards downfield. The pairing is a significant, stylistic clash.
Additionally, the third member of this group's future is much more uncertain than Adams' with Garoppolo replacing Carr. Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow posted his first 1,000-yard season, which resulted in a Pro Bowl nod, in the 2021 season. With Josh McDaniels calling plays in 2022, he caught a career-low 36 passes for a career-low 330 receiving yards, and a career-low two receiving touchdowns while missing seven games with multiple injuries. Renfrow and Carr had such a great telepathic connection when Renfrow had the freedom to run option routes and Carr would just know where Renfrow would be before he released it.
In McDaniels' offense, the route progressions are more defined, hampering one of Renfrow's best skills, his improvisation. The offensive uncertainty that abounds in Las Vegas is why Jacobs and Adams are sitting at six.
A.J. Brown's arrival in Philadelphia after being acquired in a trade with the Tennessee Titans vaulted Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense to new heights. Hurts became the 2022 NFL MVP runner-up as Brown broke the team's single-season receiving yards record with 1,496 while Philly soared to a Super Bowl LVIII appearance as the 2022 NFC champions. His eight receiving touchdowns of at least 25 yards downfield, including playoffs, tied Davante Adams' eight for the most such receiving scores in a season since Pro Football Focus began grading and recording this type of tracking in 2006.
Brown (1,496, fourth-most in the NFL last season) and DeVonta Smith (1,196, ninth-most in the NFL last season) joined Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle as the only other teammate duo to rank inside the NFL's top 10 for receiving yards in 2022. Joining them this season is former Detroit Lion and Georgia Bulldog running back D'Andre Swift, one of five players in the entire league with over 1,500 rushing yards (1,680) and 150 receptions (156) in each of the last seasons.
Swift has elite company in that club as he's joined by NFL two-time defending scrimmage touchdowns leader and Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, Packers Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones, Saints Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara, and Super Bowl LV champion Leonard Fournette. Swift's 5.5 yards per touch over the course of his career, the last three seasons, is tied for the fifth-most in the league with Ekeler. Swift, Brown, and Smith comprise one of the NFL's top offensive trios entering 2023, and they could climb these rankings in a hurry with breakout campaigns from Swift and Smith.
Tony Pollard is finally the Dallas Cowboys new "lead back" in the words of head coach and new team offensive play-caller Mike McCarthy. The 26-year-old, who is playing out 2023 on the franchise tag, earned the first Pro Bowl selection of his career for his efforts during the 2022 season with bests in rushing yards (1,007), rushing touchdowns (nine), carries (193), receptions (39), receiving yards (371), and receiving touchdowns (three). It was a new workload for Ezekiel Elliott's former backup, as he became a co-starter in 2022 while readying to be the guy in the Cowboys backfield in 2023 with Elliott being released.
Pollard's 5.9 yards per touch led the NFL among players with at least 200 touches in 2022, and his 5.8 yards/touch figure spanning the last three seasons is the most in the entire NFL in that span among players with at least 500 touches. Nick Chubb, Christian McCaffrey, and Aaron Jones are all tied for second behind Pollard since 2020, all averaging 5.6 yards/touch in that time.
Pro Bowler and 2022 Second-Team All-Pro wide receiver CeeDee Lamb set career-highs across the board with 107 catches (tied for the fifth-most in the NFL), 1,359 receiving yards (sixth-most in the NFL), and nine receiving touchdowns (tied for the sixth-most in the NFL). His 867 receiving yards out of the slot led the entire league in 2022. Lamb did all this despite having the combo of Michael Gallup coming off a torn ACL and now-departed tight end Dalton Schultz functioning as the Cowboys' number two receiving option. That resulted in him accounting for 30% of the Cowboys team catches, the second-highest rate in the league behind only Tyreek Hill's 32% figure.
Now, Lamb is partnered with Brandin Cooks after Dallas acquired him from the Houston Texans this offseason in exchange for a couple mid-round picks. That's music to the Lamb's and the Cowboys' collective ears as they add one of only seven players in the entire league since 2014, when Cooks entered the NFL, with over 8,500 receiving yards (8,616) and over 45 receiving touchdowns (49). Alongside Cooks in that exclusive club is Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans, free agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and Antonio Brown.
Cooks' six career seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards are tied for the third-most in the NFL since 2014, trailing only Evans (nine seasons) and Kelce (seven seasons) in that statistic. He has achieved the feat with each of his four previous teams: the New Orleans Saints (2015-2016), the New England Patriots (2017), the Los Angeles Rams (2018), and the Houston Texans (2020-2021). Doing so in 2021 with Houston is especially noteworthy given he was catching passes from 32-year-old Tyrod Taylor and rookie Davis Mills.
"It's not that hard," Cooks said when asked about his productivity with all four of the teams he has been a part of, per DallasCowboys.com. "I just pick up the playbook, learn it and keep it pushing."
Cooks' presence should open up the middle of the field even more for Lamb to terrorize opposing secondaries out of the slot while Cooks takes the top off defenses on the outside. Their stylistic contrast provides quarterback Dak Prescott one of the top receiver duos in the league plus the most explosive running back in the NFL on a per-touch basis. A breakout by Pollard in his first year as a full-time starter could have the Cowboys pushing for the top spot entering 2024.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins could each be the top receiver on their own, separate teams. Instead, they partner together to give quarterback Joe Burrow one of the most electric pass-catching duos in the entire league. Two seasons into his young career, Chase's 86.2 receiving yards per game rank as the third-most in NFL history, minimum five games played, trailing only former LSU teammate and reigning NFL Player of the Year Justin Jefferson (96.5) and future Hall of Famer Julio Jones (87.9).
Higgins is one of only 15 players in the entire league with over 200 catches and 3,000 receiving yards since entering the NFL in 2020, a player many teams would install as their clear-cut WR1. According to PFF, passes that targeted Higgins last season registered a 121.0 passer rating for Joe Burrow, the fifth-highest among wide receivers.
Pro Bowl running back Joe Mixon's 25 scrimmage touchdowns across the last two season rank as tied for the third-most in the league with Davante Adams, trailing only Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (38) and Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner (26). This trio is one the NFL's best and has the potential to reach number one as soon as next season.
2. Los Angeles Chargers
Running back Austin Ekeler has led the league in touchdowns scored in each of the last two seasons, making him one of only seven running backs to do so since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger, and he also became only the second player in NFL history to have multiple seasons with 10 or more rushing scores and five or more receiving scores along with Pro Football Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk (2000-2001).
He also showcased historic versatility as his 107 catches led all running backs in 2022 and rank as tied for the second-most ever in a single season by a running back in NFL history. Only Christian McCaffrey hauled in more passes as a running back when he totaled 116 receptions in 2019, his season with over 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards while on the Carolina Panthers. Ekeler served as the heartbeat of the Chargers offense under now-fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, and with the hiring of Kellen Moore, the Dallas Cowboys offensive play-caller from 2019-2022, as the new Los Angeles OC, his game could soar to new heights in a critical, contract year in 2023.
Ekeler, one of the NFL's Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Allen saw his five-year Pro Bowl streak end in 2022 after missing seven of the first nine games of the 2022 season, putting a dent in his overall numbers. However, he finished the year by playing in every game from Week 11-18 and he did so in dominant fashion: Allen led the league with 60 catches while ranking fifth in receiving yards (675) and tied for fifth in receiving touchdowns (four) in that span. According to PFF, Allen had 66 catches without a drop in 2022, the most without a dropped pass in the entire NFL last season., is surrounded by two awesome wide receivers in
He still has plenty left in the tank as one of the NFL's smoothest route-runners, and he should have even more space to roam alongside Mike Williams, a physical specimen who caught 57.7% of his contested target (tied for 16th among 90 qualified wide receivers per PFF) while recording 1.5 percent drop rate (tied for the 10th-lowest among wide receiver in 2022 per PFF). Ekeler's historic production and Allen's consistent greatness paired with the oozing potential of Williams has the Chargers on the cusp of the top spot for the best offensive supporting cast in the NFL.
The San Francisco 49ers offense didn't skip a beat going from Jimmy Garoppolo, a nine-year NFL veteran and Super Bowl starting quarterback, to Brock Purdy, the last player selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, last season in large part because of Christian McCaffrey. His presence as both a rusher and receiver in the starting lineup beginning in Week 8 following a midseason trade from the Carolina Panthers helped power San Francisco to a perfect 10-0 record to finish the regular season. It doesn't get much better than that.
McCaffrey serving as both Garoppolo's and Purdy's starting backfield mate also elevated the 49ers offense to the second-highest scoring attack in the entire league (30.5 points per game) as well as the most efficient passing game in the NFL (114.1 passer rating).
49ers offense before and after McCaffrey joined starting lineup
|SAN FRANCISCO||WEEKS 1-7||WEEKS 8-18*|
3rd Down Pct
|Yards/Pass Attempt||7.6 (10th)||8.1 (2nd)|
|Passer Rating ||87.2 (19th)||114.1 (1st)|
* Since McCaffrey joined the 49ers' starting lineup
No running back totaled more receiving yards in the final 11 weeks of the 2022 regular season than McCaffrey's 440, astounding considering the rusher behind right behind him in that category, Austin Ekeler, had 75 fewer receiving yards (375) despite four more catches in that span than CMC (54 to 50). Only Tony Pollard averaged more yards per touch in that span, 5.8 to McCaffrey's 5.7. However, McCaffrey maintained that near-league-leading figure despite 47 more touches, 201 to 154, than Pollard from Week 8 to the end of the regular season. CMC's 201 touches in that run were the third-most in the NFL while Pollard's workload ranked tied for 20th.
McCaffrey during 49ers' 10-game win streak to end regular season
|MCCAFFREY||WEEKS 8-18||RB RANK|
1st Downs/TD Per Play Pct
* Among 38 players with 100+ touches from Week 8-18
McCaffrey catapulting the 49ers offense to a top-five level in nearly every critical metric while San Francisco was in the process of shuffling starting quarterbacks is the sign of the ultimate, most valuable game-changer at the running back position today.
He's joined by wide receiver Deebo Samuel, a 27-year-old All-Pro who led the NFL in yards/reception (18.2) in 2021 while becoming the only player in NFL history with over 1,400 receiving yards (1,405) and over 300 rushing yards (365) in a single season. His production took a step back in 2022, a year which Samuel himself described as " " as he missed parts of the 49ers offseason program while holding out for a long-term contract, which he eventually received.
"Just going through the tape, it was, 'Look how sluggish and, like, how bad you look on tape,'" Samuelof himself, per The Athletic. "Like I said, what happened last offseason kind of played a big role in that. I'll never put nothing on tape like that again."
Brandon Aiyuk, the 49ers 25-year-old former first-round pick, broke out for a career-year in 2022 with bests in catches (78), receiving yards (1,015), and receiving touchdowns (eight). According to PFF, passes that targeted Aiyuk last season registered a 118.0 passer rating for his quarterbacks, the eighth-highest among wide receivers.
Between a likely Samuel bounce back and continued to development for the 25-year-old Aiyuk, they along with the NFL's best running back in McCaffrey enter 2023 as the league's best offensive trio made up of a running back and two receivers.