Winning championships is already hard in the NFL, but franchises need strong quarterback and wide receiver duos to even have an opportunity to compete for one. Look at what Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill were able to accomplish with the Kansas City Chiefs, and Tom Brady and Mike Evans reached with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in recent years.
Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp carried the Los Angeles Rams to Super Bowl glory, while Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown were pivotal toward getting the Philadelphia Eagles to the championship game. Having that top quarterback/wide receiver duo is paramount toward competing for championships.
Quite a few teams have created new quarterback/wide receiver duos in the hopes of becoming one of the top teams in the NFL. Which ones are set up to succeed right away? Which ones may take longer than most to jell? Which won't be that effective in 2023?
These are 12 new quarterback/wide receiver combinations worth monitoring in 2023, judged by their previous play on the field and ability to succeed together (still waiting for DeAndre Hopkins to potentially join this list).
1. Aaron Rodgers and Garrett Wilson (New York Jets)
No matter where Rodgers was going this offseason, he was going to make an impact on his new team's wide receivers. Since Rodgers is on the Jets, Wilson is going to be the biggest benefactor. Wilson still managed to put up 1,103 receiving yards in his rookie season despite having Zach Wilson and Mike White as his quarterbacks.
Wilson will get to catch passes from Rodgers in 2023, making him an even more explosive target than he was last year (had 83 catches and averaged 13.3 yards per catch).
2. Dak Prescott and Brandin Cooks (Dallas Cowboys)
Cooks isn't going to be the No. 1 wide receiver for the Cowboys, but there's a case to be made he can be one of the best No. 2 wideouts in all of football. Cooks has six 1,000-yard seasons in his career, four of which have come with different teams. He'll be facing No. 2 cornerbacks in 2023, so the production and efficiency should go up.
Prescott is the best quarterback Cooks has played with since Jared Goff -- and CeeDee Lamb won't be getting 30% of the Cowboys' receptions like last season (which was the highest rate in the NFL). Win-win for Dallas.
3. Trevor Lawrence and Calvin Ridley (Jacksonville Jaguars)
This all comes down to how Ridley responds from a year-long suspension for gambling, especially since he hasn't played an NFL game since October of 2021. Ridley has also been a No. 1 wideout before, so this isn't uncharted territory with the Jaguars.
Ridley was the Atlanta Falcons' No. 1 receiver when Julio Jones was out with injuries in 2020, averaging 11.3 targets per game and 109.3 receiving yards per game -- a season in which he finished with 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging a career-high 15.3 yards per catch. He also finished fourth in the league in receiving yards per game (91.6).
With Lawrence continuing to develop into one of the game's best quarterbacks, Ridley could be the wideout who gets him into becoming one of the top five quarterbacks in the game.
4. Justin Fields and D.J. Moore (Chicago Bears)
Fields has never had a wide receiver as talented as Moore, who should immensely improve his passing numbers regardless of what the offense runs. Moore is eighth in the NFL in receiving yards (4,413) and 14th in receptions (309) since 2019 -- only trailing Justin Jefferson in yards per catch (14.3) among players that have over 300 receptions.
Moore gives Fields a reliable pass-catching target who will rack up the yards (his 6,303 total air yards targeted was fourth in NFL). The Bears should have a vertical passing game the franchise hasn't seen in years.
5. Lamar Jackson and Odell Beckham Jr. (Baltimore Ravens)
Todd Monken's offense is expected to have Jackson throw the ball more, with Beckham being his No. 1 wide receiver in a revamped receiving room. Beckham didn't play a game in 2022 due to recovering from a torn ACL in Super Bowl LVI, but will be 100% come September.
This duo is certainly a wild card given the new offensive system and how Beckham recovers from his ACL. The last version of Beckham with a good quarterback in Matthew Stafford produced results. Beckham had 21 catches for 288 yards and two touchdowns in four postseason games, and recorded two catches for 52 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl LVI before going down with the knee injury that cost him his 2022 season.
With a higher target share in Baltimore, Beckham has an opportunity to return to the production he saw in his early days with the Cleveland Browns -- at the very least. He can also change the narrative surrounding Jackson as well.
6. Derek Carr and Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints)
If Thomas can stay healthy, this duo could be one of the best in the NFL. Thanks to numerous injuries, Thomas can't get on the field nor is considered one of the best wideouts in the game -- even though it's easy to forget how good he was.
In Thomas' first four seasons, he had 470 catches for 5,512 yards and 32 touchdowns -- setting the single-season receptions record with 149 in 2019. Thomas has played just 10 games since, having 56 catches for 609 yards and three touchdowns in that span.
Perhaps Carr can salvage Thomas' career, if Thomas can stay healthy. Carr has a knack for finding good receivers; just ask Davante Adams and Amari Cooper.
7. Jordan Love and Christian Watson (Green Bay Packers)
Another duo that has the potential to make a tremendous impact, but this will come down to how Love plays after succeeding Aaron Rodgers. Love has just 83 pass attempts since he was drafted in 2020 with just one start, one of five quarterbacks drafted in the first round to make one start or fewer in the common draft era.
Who knows how good Love can be? Watson can make life easier for his starting quarterback, as he finished with 611 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in his rookie year (14.9 yards per catch). If Watson has a breakout Year 2, Love will play a huge role in that.
8. Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Mayfield is going to get an opportunity to produce in Tampa Bay with the best wide receiver group he's ever thrown to in the NFL. Evans and Chris Godwin are considered amongst the best wide receiver duos in the league, but Evans is on the fast track to the Hall of Fame.
Evans is the only player in NFL history with 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first nine seasons and his 10,425 receiving yards in ninth in league history after a player's first nine seasons. He's a go-to target for any quarterback the Buccaneers have employed since he entered the league in 2014.
No matter who throws to Evans, he produces.
9. Jimmy Garoppolo and Jakobi Meyers (Las Vegas Raiders)
There's a reason to go with Davante Adams here, but this is one of the quarterback-wide receiver duos where there's a new quarterback and wide receiver -- an interesting combination in Las Vegas. The touchdown numbers haven't been great for Meyers in his career, but he does have 1,670 receiving yards and eight touchdowns over his last two seasons.
Meyers is lethal in the slot, which should help Garoppolo adjust to his new team. He's the No. 2 wideout in Las Vegas, yet should thrive playing with Adams.
Garoppolo went 7-3 in his 10 starts for the 49ers, completing 67.2% of his passes for 2,437 yards with 16 touchdowns to four interceptions for a 103.0 passer rating last season. He does have a 40-17 record as a starting quarterback with a 99.0 passer rating, showcasing the ability to produce and win football games.
This duo isn't the typical QB1/WR1, but it will go a long way toward how good the Raiders can be in 2023.
10. Bryce Young and Adam Thielen (Carolina Panthers)
Another one of the quarterback/wide receiver duos where both positions are new in 2023, Thielen will be the go-to reciever for Young in his rookie season. The Panthers ranked last in pass touchdowns (63) over the last four seasons while having the most interceptions (71), which is why they traded up to select Young as the franchise quarterback.
Thielen has 36 receiving touchdowns over the last four seasons, which is fifth in the NFL over that span. He's a reliable veteran target who should help Young acclimate toward life in the NFL.
11. Mac Jones and JuJu Smith-Schuster (New England Patriots)
With Jakobi Meyers exiting in free agency, Smith-Schuster will compete with DeVante Parker for the No. 1 spot in New England. Smith-Schuster should get a high target share in the slot, having that luxury of succeeding with Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City last season.
Smith-Schuster had 933 receiving yards and three touchdowns last season -- and still is one of the best receivers after the catch in the league. He's the most reliable wideout in the Patriots offense.
The first step for the Patriots is to fix Jones, which is up to Bill O'Brien. Smith-Schuster can certainly help speed up that process.
12. Anthony Richardson and Michael Pittman (Indianapolis Colts)
Richardson doesn't have much to work with in Year 1 in Indianapolis (assuming he's the starting quarterback Week 1), yet Pittman has an opportunity to become a productive wideout again, thanks to having a franchise quarterback.
The yards per catch should improve for Pittman with Richardson throwing him the ball (187 catches for 2,007 yards over the last two seasons). That 10.7 average should go up, making Pittman more productive.
Again, this also comes down to how Richardson fares as a rookie.