Looking at the top 10 rushing teams in the NFL last year, only the Denver Broncos had a player with over 1000 yards receiving. Sure there were plenty of players hovering around the 1000 yard mark, but only Jevon Walker was able to eclipse that number.
Now to bring the focus back to the AFC West, the departure of Randy Moss from the Raiders makes Jevon Walker the biggest primary receiving threat in the division (By singling out a primary receiving threat, I am eliminating runningbacks for the sake of the argument. You could certainly argue that Larry Johnson and LaDainian Tomlinson catching the ball out of the backfield is certainly dangerous for defenses). Even though Moss had his worst year statistically last season, it was mostly the fault of the anemic Oakland offense unable to move the ball consistently. And up until his recent move to New England, Randy Moss was considered the most dangerous pass catcher in the AFC West.
- Javon Walker DEN 69 1084 15.7 8 83
- Antonio Gates SD 71 924 13.0 9 57
- Tony Gonzalez KC 73 900 12.3 5 57
- Eddie Kennison KC 53 860 16.2 5 51
- Ronald Curry OAK 62 727 11.7 1 39
- Eric Parker SD 48 659 13.7 0 38
The Chargers leading receiver was Tight End Antonio Gates. As dangerous as any Tight End in the game, Gates is expected to have a better season this year as Philip Rivers makes leaps in his development as a second-year starter.
Tony Gonzalez remains a force to be reckoned with in the division, and is still a top 3 tight end in the league. But with a new Quarterback under center in Kansas City, his production and opportunities may be limited somewhat.
It is possible that Ronald Curry remains the primary receiving target in Oakland, but that is still an uncertainty, and there are bound to be growing pains with rookie QB JaMarcus Russell running rookie Head Coach Lane Kiffin's offense.
So as far as the AFC West is concerned, the two biggest playmaking pass-catchers are unarguably Denver's Jevon Walker and San Diego's Antonio Gates. Gates is a guy who is difficult to deny the football, as well as tough to tackle. Walker is a blazer who can beat people deep, and has great hands and leaping ability. By virtue that Walker is on a team where he is the best player on offense, combined with his better speed and propensity to make plays of 20+ yards and 40+ yards gives Walker the slight edge over Antonio Gates as the most dangerous primary receiving threat in the AFC West.
2006 Jevon Walker: 20+ yards 16 times, 40+ yards 4 times, long of 83 yards, 8 TDs
2006 Antonio Gates: 20+ yards 14 times, 40+ yards 1 times, long of 57 yards, 9 TDs
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