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Top 10 QB-pass catcher combos entering Week 8 of 2023 NFL season: Tua Tagovailoa-Tyreek Hill reigns

Each week of the 2023 NFL season, the Next Gen Stats analytics team will present a different Position Power Ranking, meant to spotlight the top performers among a specific group of players. Today, we've assembled a list of the top 10 quarterback-pass catcher duos entering Week 8.

This week's ranking is slightly different from previous editions. Instead of a composite score that combines a series of NGS metrics, the top 10 you see below is a ranking of the most prolific quarterback-pass catcher connections as measured by total expected points added from each duo's collaboration. In other words, which tandems have created the most points for their respective teams?

NOTE: Expected points added (EPA) is a measure of the value of a specific play in terms of points. It represents the difference in expected points (EP) value from before the play to after the play. EPA provides an understanding of how much a given play contributes to the scoreboard. The higher the EPA, the more successful a play was in increasing the team's expected points. Quarterback-pass catcher duos are ranked by their total expected points added through the first seven weeks of the 2023 campaign.

Rank
1
Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins · QB
Tyreek Hill
Miami Dolphins · WR

EXPECTED POINTS ADDED: +52.5


Tagovailoa and Hill are lapping the competition this season. The duo has generated +52.5 total expected points added in 2023, which is by far the most of any quarterback-pass catcher duo in the league and the second-most through Week 7 in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016). More than half of their total EPA generated this season has come on deep passes of 20-plus air yards (+29.0).


The NGS era record for total EPA generated by a QB-pass catcher duo was set by Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp in 2021 (+115.0). Should they continue at their current pace, Tagovailoa and Hill would break that record with an extra game to spare.

Rank
2
Justin Fields
Chicago Bears · QB
DJ Moore
Chicago Bears · WR

EXPECTED POINTS ADDED: +38.9


On a per-dropback basis, Chicago’s duo actually leads all QB-pass catcher duos (with at least 20 pass attempts) at +1.08 EPA per dropback -- they're the only tandem in the league currently eclipsing +1.00 in that category.


Through only Week 7 and even with missed time, Fields and Moore have already set the NGS era record for total EPA generated over the course of a season by a Bears QB-pass catcher duo. (The previous team record, +27.1, was set by Mitchell Trubisky and Taylor Gabriel in 2018.)

Rank
3
Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs · QB
Travis Kelce
Kansas City Chiefs · TE

EXPECTED POINTS ADDED: +34.7


Mahomes may not be Kelce's most famous mate these days, but this on-field pair has generated the most EPA over the course of the NGS era (+336.3) despite Mahomes not becoming a full-time starting quarterback until 2018. That trend has continued into Kelce’s age-34 season, as he and Mahomes have generated +34.7 EPA so far this year. (The next-closest QB-TE duo is Brock Purdy and George Kittle at 16th overall with +21.5 EPA.)


The most EPA generated by Mahomes and Kelce in the NGS era was +67.5 in 2020. They’re currently on pace for +84.3 this season. Their 12-of-13, 179-yard outing against the Chargers this past Sunday, which included the 28th consecutive targeted completion between the duo dating back to Week 5, certainly helped. The odds of the duo completing that many consecutive targets? One in 3,000.

Rank
4
Matthew Stafford
Los Angeles Rams · QB
Puka Nacua
Los Angeles Rams · WR

EXPECTED POINTS ADDED: +34.3


Nacua, the only rookie pass catcher on this list, has seen his output dip a bit since Cooper Kupp came off injured reserve after Week 4. Of the +34.3 total EPA generated by the Stafford-Nacua connection this season, +28.9 of it occurred in the first four weeks of the season. The combos of Stafford and Kupp (+10.1), as well as Stafford and Tutu Atwell (+6.2), have actually generated more EPA than Stafford and Nacua (+5.4) since then.


Where Nacua had a 26-yard output in Week 6 against the Cardinals, Kupp had a 29-yard output this past week against the Steelers. These low-production weeks will pop up here and there, but both receivers should be able to coexist over the course of the season in an offense that once effectively fed Kupp, Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks throughout the 2018 and '19 campaigns.

Rank
5
C.J. Stroud
Houston Texans · QB
Nico Collins
Houston Texans · WR

EXPECTED POINTS ADDED: +33.8


Stroud, the only rookie QB on this list, entered this season not knowing who would turn into his No. 1 target. Collins quickly claimed that mantle, as the third-year receiver out of Michigan has already eclipsed his previous career highs in receiving yards (547), receiving touchdowns (three) and receiving yards over expected (+177) through just six games.


The Stroud-Collins connection has added an average of +0.81 EPA per dropback so far this season, which ranks third of any duo in the NFL with at least 20 attempts, behind the Justin Fields-DJ Moore and Joshua Dobbs-Michael Wilson (+0.83) pairings.

Rank
6
Jalen Hurts
Philadelphia Eagles · QB
A.J. Brown
Philadelphia Eagles · WR

EXPECTED POINTS ADDED: +32.5


Hurts and Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni helped bring Brown’s game to the next level upon his arrival in Philadelphia last season. Brown’s utilization on vertical routes allowed him to set a career high in receiving yards (1,496) in 2022. Only two QB-pass catcher tandems have generated more EPA on vertical routes than Hurts and Brown (+45.9) since the beginning of last season: Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill (+80.3) and ... Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle (+47.6).


Brown’s best season by total EPA actually came during his Titans days, as his 11-touchdown campaign in 2020 propelled him to +61.6 total EPA. The two-time Pro Bowler is on pace to beat that total this year -- he's already accumulated +32.5 total EPA as Philly's top receiver ahead of the halfway mark .

Rank
7
Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Chargers · QB
Keenan Allen
Los Angeles Chargers · WR

EXPECTED POINTS ADDED: +30.8


Herbert and Allen actually led all QB-pass catcher duos in total EPA through four weeks this season. But Mike WilliamsACL tear in Week 3 has negatively impacted Allen’s value as a pass catcher. Herbert-Allen targets have generated just +3.4 EPA since Week 4, which ranks 80th among QB-pass catcher duos and is 28 spots behind Herbert and Los Angeles' No. 2 wide receiver, Joshua Palmer (+5.8), during this span.


The pairing doesn’t pass the “per dropback” test, either. Herbert and Allen have generated just +0.14 EPA per dropback since Williams’ injury, which is slightly higher, at 68th among duos with at least 10 targets since Week 4, but still lower than Herbert and Palmer (+0.26) -- and even lagging behind Herbert and tight end Gerald Everett (+0.15).


Rank
8
Brock Purdy
San Francisco 49ers · QB
Brandon Aiyuk
San Francisco 49ers · WR

EXPECTED POINTS ADDED: +29.1


The Purdy-to-Aiyuk pairing ranked fourth in the league among QB-receiver duos with +30.9 total EPA generated prior to Purdy’s slump the past two games -- meaning Purdy has actually generated less points than expected when targeting Aiyuk since Week 6 (-1.8). Deebo Samuel missed all but one play between those two contests with a shoulder injury.


Samuel, as well left tackle Trent Williams, will be healthy sooner rather than later. Once those two return, the expectation is that Purdy and Aiyuk will revert to their old selves. Their relationship has generated the third-most EPA on intermediate targets this season (+21.9), behind just Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce (+29.4) and Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs (+26.1).

Rank
9
Joe Burrow
Cincinnati Bengals · QB
Ja'Marr Chase
Cincinnati Bengals · WR

EXPECTED POINTS ADDED: +29.0


Burrow and Chase still crack the top 10 on this list despite Cincinnati’s slow start the first two weeks of the season. Since Week 3, their rank jumps to fifth-most total EPA among QB-pass catcher duos in the league (+26.6), even with a Week 7 bye.


The duo out of LSU’s bread and butter has always been quick passes; they trail only Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill with +19.5 EPA on quick passes this season after finishing third in the same category last year.

Rank
10
Dak Prescott
Dallas Cowboys · QB
CeeDee Lamb
Dallas Cowboys · WR

EXPECTED POINTS ADDED: +27.9


Prescott and Lamb just sneak onto this list at No. 10, ahead of the likes of Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs, among others. 


Lamb is enjoying a productive season amid the ceaseless noise that surrounds the Dallas Cowboys, eating up a team-leading 22.1 percent of targets and catching 11.5 percent more targets than expected (fifth in the NFL, min. 30 targets). He and Prescott are making their mark felt most on vertical routes, generating the third-highest EPA (+16.3) among all QB-pass catcher pairings in the league this season.

HONORABLE MENTION:

-- Mike Band, Keegan Abdoo and John Andersen contributed to this story.

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