Unit by unit: Rating the wide receivers

We pick up our series in which ESPN.com’s resident scout, Matt Williamson, ranks the AFC South position-by-position.

Today, we examine wide receivers.

Williamson’s AFC South wide receiver rankings:

1) Texans (Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, DeVier Posey, Keshawn Martin, Lestar Jean, Alan Bonner)

2) Colts (Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, LaVon Brazill, Griff Whalen)

3) Titans (Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright, Kevin Walter, Justin Hunter, Damian Williams)

4) Jaguars (Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts, Mohamed Massaquoi, Ace Sanders, Jordan Shipley, Mike Brown)

I go in a different order here, but let’s talk about that after we discuss Williamson’s rationale with him.

My questions for Williamson based off of his list:

What was your overall thinking with your rankings?

“Like running backs, this position was hard to rank, probably the hardest of any position in the AFC South, as the distance from one to four is very small. One year from now I could see myself turning the rankings totally upside down.”

Considering the lack of experience the Texans have beyond Johnson, I'm presuming you're giving him a ton of weight?

“To me, Andre Johnson is still clearly the best wide receiver in this division. He remains studly, but Houston is very light on other options at the position. However, Hopkins most likely will be my rookie of the year prediction.”

Can you rank the depth team by team?

“The Texans’ depth is the worst -- well, tied for the worst with Jacksonville. The other two have excellent depth, some of the best in the NFL. I would give Tennessee and Indianapolis an A grade for depth and Houston and Jacksonville a D grade for depth.

Who’s best off in the slot?

“While I see the Titans having great depth, I don't see a true slot receiver on the roster -- although I am sure Britt/Wright/whomever can do it. Therefore, I would say Indy is the best off at slot receiver with Hilton.”

What -- or who -- is the biggest variable here?

“Biggest variable? It has to be with the Titans. Namely Britt. He could challenge to be the best receiver in this division if Andre Johnson and/or Wayne tail off a little and Britt steps up huge in a contract year. I am not taking into account the quarterback play, which obviously favors Houston and Indy, but Britt, and to a lesser degree Hunter, are wild cards with a ton of ability. I also think Shorts is a vastly underrated football player overall.”

As for me ...

Clearly having an established No. 1 is very important, and Houston and Indianapolis are one-two there. While I like Hopkins, rookie receivers can be rolls of the dice in their first years. I fear too many Colts faithful are counting on big things from Heyward-Bey. He should better with Andrew Luck throwing to him, but his hands and reliability are not solved by a change of address.

Britt is hardly a sure thing, but even if the Titans only have him for 10 games, their group is the deepest. (Even if they get little from Hunter, who is less of a known quantity than Hopkins as a rail-thin rookie.) As surprised as I am to be writing this, I think I’d put the Titans first. Tennessee will always have guys on the field who can make plays. For me, the Colts are second and the largely unproven Texans third. I’m with Williamson on the Jaguars being last, though. Once Blackmon returns from a four-game suspension, he and Shorts should be a solid one-two punch.

Posey is coming off a torn Achilles tendon suffered in the Texans' playoff loss in New England. He has to be considered gravy this year, when he's unlikely to emerge before the halfway point. That hurts Houston here for me right now as well.

I didn’t take quarterbacks into account here either, and the Colts' and Texans' receivers are far better off from that standpoint.