Dec 31, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin (89) catches a touchdown pass during the second half against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Every NFL quarterback wants a receiver they can count on in crunch time. Someone who will make contested catches in traffic, someone who will tiptoe their feet in bounds with the game on the line, someone who performs when his team needs it, which is often in the fourth quarter and overtime.
A few players on this list of clutch wide receivers were beneficiaries of “garbage time” numbers when the game is put away, however, each has shown they can make plays in all moments of the game regardless of how big or small the situation is. It’s difficult to quantify “clutchness,” for a wide receiver, but their production in the waning moments of a game is a good place to start. To quantify that, we’ve classified the waning moments as the fourth quarter and overtime.
Here were the leaders in WR rating (passer rating when targeted) in the fourth quarter during the 2017 regular season:
The Seahawks’ No. 1 wide receiver tops the list of highest passer rating when targeted in the fourth quarter and OT – and for good reason. The Seahawks entered the fourth quarter in Week 10 against the Arizona Cardinals, leading 15-10. On a 2nd & 21 early in the quarter, Russell Wilson scrambled left, worked his magic and found Baldwin on the sideline. Baldwin stretched to make the catch before darting toward the endzone for a 54-yard completion inside the five-yard line. The Seahawks would eventually punch it in and with a final score of 22-16, the play proved vital to their victory. Baldwin finished the year with 18 catches on 25 targets for 257 yards, four touchdowns and not one interception thrown his way in the fourth quarter or OT. There was no better wideout in crunch time last season than Baldwin.
A reliable member of the Vikings’ dynamic receiving duo, Thielen is sometimes overshadowed by Stefon Diggs‘ speed and flashy plays. Two of Thielen’s four touchdowns on the year came in the final quarter as one of his most memorable catches of the year came late in the fourth of the Vikings’ divisional round playoff game against the Saints. Ultimately that was overshadowed by Diggs’ miracle play to send the New Orleans Saints packing, but Thielen’s influence was there. All season long in crunch time, it was Thielen who made people miss when his team needed it, finishing with the second-most yards after the catch per reception in the fourth quarter and OT (8.2).
Richardson is one of the sleepers on this list, but after digging deep into his crunch-time production, he’s certainly earned his spot. He led the league in contested catches in 4Q/OT with nine. Even more impressive, Richardson had only 11 contested targets in this time period – so he made big plays at a high rate. But even that doesn’t tell the full story of his clutch ability. Richardson only had 12 contested catches on the entire season, meaning 75 percent of them came in the fourth quarter. He finished the year with a perfect passer rating on contested targets in the fourth quarter alone. Let me…