Super Bowl 2012: Who Will Be the Next Victor Cruz?
This season, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz was one of the most productive WRs, as he exploited many defensive secondaries in the NFL. Often, it wasn’t a fair fight at all.
Cruz made the Giants roster as an undrafted free agent from Massachusetts, who didn’t catch a single pass in his rookie season.
He began this year as the No. 4 wideout, but injuries allowed Cruz to break into the starting lineup. He didn’t disappoint, Cruz caught 82 passes for 1,582 yards and scored nine touchdowns in 16 games.
Who will be the next Victor Cruz?
Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers love to move the ball downfield via the air, as QB Philip Rivers has plenty of targets (WR Vincent Jackson, WR Malcolm Floyd and TE Antonio Gates) to choose from.
Next season, the offense could be even more about what WR Vincent Brown can offer the Chargers.
The rookie was a nice option for Rivers all year, especially when Floyd was out with a hip injury. Brown’s speed allows him to run deeper cross patterns that head coach Norv Turner loves to call to stretch the defense.
Also, he’s tough enough to run across the middle and make the big catch in heavy traffic.
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Next season, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have a new offensive coordinator, as head coach Mike Tomlin wants to improve on their red-zone offensive execution.
The bigger question for him is whether the Steelers will stray away from their smash-mouth mentality and open up the passing game.
If they throw the ball more, then WR Antonio Brown could become one of the top targets for QB Ben Roethlisberger. To be more productive, he needs to take full advantage of single coverage in the slot.
Last season, Brown struggled to create separation, but still drew attention of oppenets when the ball came his way.
Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders
When healthy, WR Jacoby Ford easily supplanted Darrius Heyward-Bey as QB Carson Palmer’s main target downfield during crunch-time.
You love the way how he can separate himself from a defender, and coaches rave about his speed and the way Ford positions his body to make plays in the open field.
He is very versatile, as Ford can line up in the slot or on the outside. Opposing defenses must account for him because of his size and speed.
His teammates love the fire and attitude that Ford brings to the offense, only his body has betrayed him. He must stay off the injury list and stay on the field for the Oakland Raiders to be successful.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Last season, when the Seattle Seahawks needed a big catch to extend a drive, it seemed WR Doug Baldwin was the main target.
He caught 19 third-down passes, with 17 of them resulting in a Seahawks first down.
Head coach Pete Carroll loves Baldwin’s ability to create separation either through precision route-running or his acceleration after the catch. He has an uncanny way to evade defenders downfield on his way to the end zone.
Baldwin’s football sense is off the chart, as he will often circle his route to get open and help a troubling quarterback.
His teammates love the way Baldwin puts his body on the line and does the dirty work each and every week.
Titus Young, WR, Detroit Lions
Pro football scouts have compared Detroit Lions WR Titus Young to the Philadelphia Eagles' DeSean Jackson, as his hands and speed are considered tops for young, upcoming wide receivers.
He can make all the catches, even in heavy traffic across the middle of the field.
Right now, maturity is the only aspect of his game that is holding Young back from becoming an elite NFL wideout. He’s gaining a bad reputation of being called for untimely penalties (false starts, illegal formation and unnecessary roughness) that stall potential scoring drives.
But, the good news for Lion fans is these are issues that can be addressed for the talented receiver.