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Receiving power ranks: Who are the NFL's best wideouts?
Receiving power ranks: Who are the NFL's best wideouts?
By Nate Davis, USA TODAY
Who has the NFL's best wide receiving corps? USA TODAY ranks the wideout units as they line up for the 2010 season:
1. Indianapolis Colts: WR Reggie Wayne and TE Dallas Clark both caught 100 balls in 2009, but the Colts' depth really illustrates their potency. Former first-round WR Anthony Gonzalez will be hard-pressed to rise above No. 4 on a depth chart that includes Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie. RB Joseph Addai has averaged nearly 40 catches over his four-year career, and understudy Donald Brown promises to be just as good.
2. Green Bay Packers: WRs Greg Jennings and Donald Driver will both try to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards for a third consecutive season. James Jones and Jordy Nelson are more than capable but largely overshadowed by the Packers' starting duo. TE Jermichael Finley is expected to have an even greater impact coming off a 55-catch effort in 2009.
POWER RANKINGS: Packers, Saints on top of the field after Week 1
3. New England Patriots: Randy Moss might be the best combination deep threat/red-zone target in the league ... ever. After eight grabs (and two TDs) in Week 1, Wes Welker seems sufficiently recovered from his reconstructive knee surgery and primed for his fourth consecutive 100-plus catch campaign. Few are better at coming out of the backfield than Kevin Faulk.
4. Dallas Cowboys: WR Miles Austin had 76 grabs, 1,239 yards and 10 scores in 2009 — over the last 12 games. He could really post mind-boggling numbers over a full season, especially since the presence of perennial Pro Bowl TE Jason Witten, dynamic rookie WR Dez Bryant and, yes, Roy Williams makes it hard to double-team anyone.
5. New Orleans Saints: Individually, they don't seem particularly foreboding. But collectively, they're terrifying. The Saints became the second team to sport seven players with at least 35 receptions in 2009. That array of options is largely responsible for the team's No. 1 offensive ranking three times in the past four years.
6. Cincinnati Bengals: Yes, Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are both beyond 30 and past their prime. But they can still see the top of the hill, and rookie WR Jordan Shipley and TE Jermaine Gresham promise to help.
7. Philadelphia Eagles: Quick-strike WR DeSean Jackson might be the NFL's premier deep threat, and 2009 first-rounder Jeremy Maclin looks to build on a solid rookie season. Despite 76 catches for 971 yards and eight scores in 2009, Brent Celek is rarely mentioned among the game's top tight ends, and no one talks about underrated slot man Jason Avant. RB LeSean McCoy could really diversify the offense if he builds off his 40-catch rookie year.
8. Arizona Cardinals: His numbers might suffer without QB Kurt Warner, but Larry Fitzgerald remains an elite wideout. Steve Breaston will look to add another 1,000-yard effort to his resume, and Early Doucet looks as if he could be an Anquan Boldin clone. Tim Hightower's 63 catches in 2009 trailed only Ray Rice among running backs.
9. Houston Texans: Though he has often toiled in anonymity, Andre Johnson has a strong claim to be regarded as the NFL's top wideout as he tries to become the first ever with three consecutive 1,500-yard receiving seasons. That could be easier if TE Owen Daniels returns to his Pro Bowl form after knee surgery. Neither Kevin Walter nor Jacoby Jones has blossomed opposite Johnson, though Jones might be on the cusp.
10. Atlanta Falcons: Despite playing with a hodgepodge of quarterbacks in 2007 and rookie Matt Ryan in 2008, Roddy White has quietly posted back-to-back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons. He's supported by Tony Gonzalez, arguably the best tight end of all time. Jerious Norwood could be a wild card out of the backfield.
11. New York Giants: Steve Smith emerged to lead the NFC with 107 catches in 2009. And Hakeem Nicks is off to a flying start in Year 2 after hauling in three touchdown grabs Sunday. Mario Manningham also promises to get better. TE Kevin Boss is improving, but the Giants don't get much from their backs.
12. Minnesota Vikings: They'll certainly be more potent once/if they get Pro Bowl WR Sidney Rice back. But current starters Percy Harvin and Bernard Berrian should prove more effective once Greg Camarillo settles into the slot job. TE Visanthe Shiancoe turned into a touchdown machine once teamed with QB Brett Favre. RB Adrian Peterson could catch 50 balls with Chester Taylor gone.
13. Baltimore Ravens: WRs Boldin, Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh give QB Joe Flacco a lot of intermediate targets along with TE Todd Heap and Rice. Deep threat Donte Stallworth could open everything up if his foot heals.
14. San Diego Chargers: Move them up the list if WR Vincent Jackson and his 17.2 yards a catch return. But for now, the Chargers have Antonio Gates, one of the best tight ends around, and big-bodied WRs Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee, who have given coach Norv Turner plenty of restful nights despite Jackson's holdout.
15. New York Jets: Will the potential match the production? Once WR Santonio Holmes' suspension ends, Jerricho Cotchery becomes one of the league's best slot men. Braylon Edwards seemed to be steadily recapturing his Pro Bowl form after his midseason acquisition last year. TE Dustin Keller continued his emergence in the playoffs; third-down back could be LaDainian Tomlinson's primary job now.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers: Holmes' departure hurts. But Hines Ward, 34, keeps chugging along, and Mike Wallace could flourish in the No. 2 role after leading the league in yards per catch (19.4) as a rookie. TE Heath Miller broke through for his first Pro Bowl season in 2009 and could be an even more vital safety valve during QB Ben Roethlisberger's suspension.
17. Miami Dolphins: Brandon Marshall's arrival means this is a bona fide group. Davone Bess is a first-down machine, and Brian Hartline has shown enough for the team to discard Camarillo.
18. Detroit Lions: WR Calvin Johnson could and should be awesome. But he'll need help from journeymen Nate Burleson and Bryant Johnson and the young tight ends.
19. San Francisco *****: Vernon Davis put it all together last season — his fourth — with 13 touchdowns, tying a record for a tight end. The Niners hope sophomore WR Michael Crabtree develops even more quickly. RB Frank Gore has averaged better than 52 catches since 2006.
20. Chicago Bears: Devin Hester has the most recognizable name, but Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu should also flourish in Mike Martz's offense. RB Matt Forte already has after a smashing Week 1. TE Greg Olsen hopes to find a niche.
21. Washington Redskins: WR Santana Moss leads a largely unproven group, though Joey Galloway, 38, might have proven too much. TE Chris Cooley seems to have chemistry with QB Donovan McNabb.
22. Carolina Panthers: Fiery Steve Smith is truly great, always producing despite years of uneven quarterback play and the team's inability to develop his wingman.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Dwayne Bowe's on-field ability has been overshadowed by his ability to irk head coach Todd Haley and his vexing inability to hang onto the ball. Chris Chambers was surprisingly productive after arriving in November. The tight ends have been invisible since Gonzalez was dealt.
24. Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson is not only a 2,000-yard rusher but also the team's top receiving threat, which isn't all good news. WRs Nate Washington and Justin Gage won't scare many defenses; Kenny Britt could, but he has been held back by injuries and maturity issues.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Mike Sims-Walker showed he could be a factor in 2009 ... assuming he's healthy. But he and RB Maurice Jones-Drew need more help.
26. Denver Broncos: Jabar Gaffney, Eddie Royal and Brandon Lloyd will try to hold down the fort until rookies Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are ready to take over, which could be awhile. RB Knowshon Moreno could play a bigger part, but the tight ends probably won't.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It was the Kellen Winslow II show in 2009. But promising rookies Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn should eventually assume co-starring roles, though Williams has the look of being the leading man one day.
28. Oakland Raiders: TE Zach Miller gets better every year and deserves far more recognition. But the Raiders really need WR Darrius Heyward-Bey to justify his first-round status and WR Chaz Schilens and RB Darren McFadden to stay healthy if the offense is ever to get into gear.
29. Seattle Seahawks: They have a solid tight end (John Carlson), an oft-injured ex-Super Bowl MVP (WR Deion Branch), a fixer-upper (WR Mike Williams) and two projects (WRs Deon Butler and Golden Tate). That projects to lots of questions.
30. Buffalo Bills: WR Lee Evans is talented but forever underused. The best options after him appear to be RBs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
31. St. Louis Rams: An unheralded, unproven group was further muddled by the preseason loss of Donnie Avery to a knee injury. Veteran Mark Clayton brought hope in Week 1, but RB Steven Jackson could again lead them in receptions.
32. Cleveland Browns: No one caught more than 34 balls in 2009, yet TE Ben Watson was the only major addition. The Browns are hoping that youngsters Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie will improve while hoping Josh Cribbs' return skills can cross over.
Re: Receiving power ranks: Who are the NFL's best wideouts?
I'll take our receivers group over:
Tennessee's and Chicago's everyday of the week.
As the season moves on SAM BRADFORD will make our receivers look alot better than people are currently giving them credit for.
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