In his first two years as a professional, Washington wide receiver Terry McLaurin has gone from being just a third-round pick to one of the NFL's best young pass-catchers.
Yet, according to Pro Football Focus, he still has a handful of wideouts to jump before he truly gets into that elite category.
On Wednesday, PFF released its ranking of the top wide receivers entering the 2021 season. Despite all that McLaurin has accomplished -- with some horrific quarterback play -- the rising third-year veteran came in at No. 17 on the list. Yes, 17th.
Here was PFF's reasoning:
With some additions to the receiver unit and a new arm at quarterback, McLaurin will hopefully get back to doing what he does best in 2021: stretching the field. His average depth of target dipped from 14.6 yards as a rookie in 2019 to 9.9 yards in 2020. The percentage of his catches that turned into a 15-plus-yard gain decreased from 40% to 30%, and his yardage total from vertical routes was nearly cut in half from 404 to 207 despite him seeing 37 more targets overall.
While all of these things may be true, hardly any of it was McLaurin's fault. The 25-year-old caught passes in 2020 from four different quarterbacks (Alex Smith, Kyle Allen, Dwayne Haskins and Taylor Heinicke), none of whom were arguably any better than the three passers -- Haskins, Colt McCoy and Case Keenum -- that No. 17 played alongside as a rookie in 2019.
Yet, despite Washington's underwhelming quarterback play, McLaurin still found several ways to be productive in both of his professional seasons. In 2019, he finished with 57 catches for 919 yards and seven scores as a rookie. Then last fall, McLaurin upped that with 87 grabs for 1,118 yards and four touchdowns.
Sure, McLaurin didn't stretch the field as much last fall as he did as a rookie. But, he certainly made up for it by being one of the league's best wideouts after the catch.
For much of the season prior to the pair of ankle injuries he suffered in December, McLaurin led all receivers in YAC, trailing only Saints running back Alvin Kamara in the category overall. Even after playing on two bad ankles to end the year, McLaurin still finished the season 10th overall in YAC. Only four of the players ahead of him were receivers, too.
This all goes without mentioning that Washington had no true No. 2 wide receiver to take the pressure off of McLaurin last season. No. 17 was constantly double- and triple-teamed, yet still found ways to make plays and contribute heavily on a weekly basis.
So, if McLaurin comes in at 17th, who was ranked ahead of him?
Naturally, Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, DeAndre Hopkins, Allen Robinson and Julio Jones were all ranked in the top 10. Each one of those pass-catchers are firmly in the elite category. No one is saying McLaurin should be ranked above any of them.
But, here is a list of the remaining wideouts ranked above McLaurin: Michael Thomas, Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, A.J. Brown, Calvin Ridley, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Amari Cooper, D.K. Metcalf and Keenan Allen.
On that list, only Jefferson, Ridley and Metcalf totaled more receiving yards than McLaurin did last fall. The Washington standout had the most YAC of any of them, too, and his receptions (87) were just a handful fewer than Jefferson, Ridley and Cooper.
Thomas was injured for much of last season and doesn't have Drew Brees throwing to him anymore. Both Evans' and Godwin's numbers dipped from what they were in 2019. There is a case to be made for Jefferson, Allen and Ridley to each be above McLaurin, but the Washington standout should be listed above the rest at the very least.
No, McLaurin shouldn't be ranked among the top seven to eight receivers on this list. He's not there yet and he'll be the first to say it, too.
But for Pro Football Focus to rank him as the 17th best wideout entering 2021? That's just straight-up disrespectful.