The biggest story surrounding Super Bowl LV has been an obvious one: Which quarterback will reign supreme? The ageless champion in Tom Brady, who's going for a record seventh championship in his Buccaneers debut? Or Patrick Mahomes, the phenom who's trying to become the youngest quarterback to ever win multiple Lombardi Trophies with the Chiefs? Lost in all the hype around these two generational signal-callers, however, is the sheer volume of talent among the quarterbacks' pass targets. It's not a stretch to suggest that Super Bowl LV will feature one of the most talented crops of wide receivers the Big Game has ever seen.
You could argue there isn't a bona fide Hall of Fame superstar like Jerry Rice, whose Super Bowl resume alone may have garnered him Canton consideration. (Though you could certainly make the case that Tyreek Hill, Kansas City's top deep threat, isn't far off in terms of game-breaking ability.) But if the Super Bowl LV crew lacks more than a single "monster" out wide, it sure makes up for it in quantity of No. 1-caliber threats. That's clear not just from the collective accolades of the Buccaneers and Chiefs receivers, who own a combined 16 Pro Bowl appearances and 10 All-Pro honors, but from their potential for clutch roles in Sunday's title game.
Here's an overview of the top eight receivers set to take the field in Tampa -- five from the Buccaneers, who spread the ball all over the field under Brady's direction; and three from the Chiefs, who rely on dominant tight end Travis Kelce to make up for a more top-heavy WR depth chart:
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One look at Evans' career, and you realize right away that he's quietly been one of the most steadily dominant No. 1s in the league. Drops have plagued him here and there, and maybe because of his size, we all just expect jaw-dropping production from him. But man, you don't post seven straight 1,000-yard seasons by accident. This year, his chemistry with Tom Brady wasn't always apparent, and he's definitely had a handful of disappearing acts, partly due to injuries. He's never not a legitimate red-zone threat, however, and when he's on, he's on -- and more than capable of a 150-yard, multi-touchdown day, even in an offense with many mouths to feed.
Like Evans, Godwin's catch rate could stand to jump a few ticks, but he's just as -- if not more -- effective as a deep threat, six times in 2020 posting an average yards-per-target mark of more than 10 yards and averaging more than 13 yards per reception in eight games. Brady has found almost every one of his wideouts for big plays, but Godwin averaged more yards per game (70) than anyone else on Tampa Bay's depth chart. He's not exactly Tyreek Hill in terms of pure electricity, but he gets the job done.
There might not be a more intriguing X-factor in Super Bowl LV than Brown, who even a year and a half ago remained the consensus top wideout in the game. A masterful route-runner with steady hands, the longtime Steelers No. 1 has taken a rocky road to this point, with a litany of off-field issues wiping away the first half of his 2020 season. But football-wise, he's got plenty of gas in the tank. A knee injury may limit his role, and most of his success with Brady has come as a short-yardage safety valve, but the resume is there.
If we said Brown may be the most intriguing X-factor, scratch that. That title could just as easily belong to Miller, who's probably not getting nearly as much love as he should. An overlooked second-year reserve coming into 2020, he's now averaged more than 15 yards per catch in his first two NFL seasons, flashing as one of Brady's best deep-ball targets this year with 581 yards, including the postseason. He may finish a game with just one or two receptions, but they almost always count, stretching out the defense.
With just 12 catches (14 including the playoffs) this year, Johnson isn't necessarily going to be keeping the Chiefs up at night, but he's had a knack for timely receptions, hence his inclusion. Brady has gone to him on several key downs, including during Tampa Bay's postseason run, so the rookie Minnesota product is worth a watch.
If anyone's going to upend the Super Bowl on a single play, it's going to be Hill. They call this guy the "Cheetah" for good reason: He's averaged more than 14.5 yards per catch in four straight seasons -- and topped 20 yards per catch in four games this year -- because his speed is unmatched. He's also physical at the catch point, refusing to be bullied on jump balls. In other words, if Patrick Mahomes needs to chuck it up with the game on the line, he'll likely be the go-to outlet. Hill, it should be noted, went bonkers with deep shots the last time these two teams played, hauling in 13 passes for a career-high 269 yards and three scores in Week 12.
The Chiefs' closest thing to a replica of Hill, Hardman is coming off an AFC Championship Game in which he nearly cost Kansas City with a fumbled punt return. But that mistake shouldn't overshadow the second-year man's versatility and breakaway ability. Like Hill, he's a yards-per-catch machine, albeit in a more limited role, using just a couple catches to post big numbers. Hardman can be more of a hit-or-miss target for Mahomes, but the boom-bust potential is aided by his presence on special teams and as a trick rusher.
Working his way back from a calf injury that's kept him out of the postseason, Watkins has never been a consistent No. 1 threat on the outside, and it's fair to wonder how much he'll be able to contribute even if he does suit up. But this isn't someone to overlook, either. With generally reliable hands, underrated speed and a big performance under his belt from the Chiefs' last Super Bowl appearance, in which he helped spark Kansas City's comeback with five catches for 98 yards, he's got the tools to step up.