NFL Free Agents 2012: Ranking the Best Receivers Still Available
Forget about the NFL draft for a moment. Your favorite team still has the opportunity to add overlooked veterans in NFL free agency.
There are still plenty of viable options available across the board, especially at wide receiver. There is even a Super Bowl champ and a former first-round pick left in the mix.
But the question is the same with all of these receivers. Can they stay healthy? Are they over the hill? Do they still have the ability to produce at the NFL level?
Some teams will take a shot on these players, who are the five best wide receivers left on the market in NFL free agency.
5. Mark Clayton
Former Team: St. Louis Rams
Remember Mark Clayton? In his first game as a St. Louis Ram in 2010, he had 10 catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Clayton was the top target for then-rookie quarterback Sam Bradford before going down with a season-ending injury in Week 5.
Clayton also missed the entire 2011 season, but in his previous five seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, he played in at least 14 games in each year. Clayton may be the perfect low-risk, high-reward player for a team looking to add a veteran presence to its receiving corps.
In his time with Baltimore, Clayton had at least 40 receptions in four out of five seasons. If he can stay healthy and return to that form, he makes a solid No. 3 receiving option.
4. Roy Williams
Former Team: Chicago Bears
Yes, Roy Williams was a major bust in his one-year stint with the Bears. But he still cracks this list as one the top receivers still on the market.
Williams has had four straight seasons with less than 40 catches. With his talent, that may be an underachievement, but the former first-round pick still has enough left in the tank to contribute to a solid offense—just as long as he isn't brought in to be the No. 1 wide receiver like Mike Martz thought he would become in Chicago.
With limited options at wide receiver, don't be surprised if a contending team that strikes out on the draft takes a flier on Williams as a secondary receiver. His asking price might be high, but he might just be able to produce like it's 2006 again.
3. Patrick Crayton
Former Team: San Diego Chargers
Crayton has been a solid, under-the-radar receiving option for most of his career. However, last season was one of the worst statistical years of his NFL career. He had the lowest reception total he's ever had in a season (23) since 2005, and had the lowest receiving yard total (248) since his rookie year in 2004.
Still, Crayton is a guy who could snag 30 passes and produce 400 receiving yards. He isn't going to fix any teams receiving problems, but at this point in free agency, there are few players out there who have done more in their career than Crayton.
Crayton's best days were with the Dallas Cowboys, having over 500 receiving yards per season in a four-year stretch from 2006-09. He spent the last two seasons in San Diego, and he and Philip Rivers never had a great connection. Perhaps a change of scenery will do well for Crayton, and he may be a steal if a team gives him a shot.
2. Mike Sims-Walker
Former Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
Mike Sims-Walker has been beaten down by injuries during his career, but when he has been healthy, he has flashed plenty of talent. His best season came in 2009 for Jacksonville when he led the team with 63 receptions and 869 receiving yards.
Signing Sims-Walker for any team would be a gamble given his injury history. In his five-year career, he has played in double-digit games in a season just twice. But, he has the ability to be one of the better No. 2 receiving options in the NFL.
Sims-Walker played for St. Louis in just four games in 2011 before returning to Jacksonville, where he had just one catch in two games before succumbing to a season-ending injury. If healthy, Sims-Walker is a solid option this late in NFL free agency.
1. Plaxico Burress
Former Team: New York Jets
Despite all his baggage, Plaxico Burress is still the best wide receiver left on the free agent market. Even though he flopped with the Jets in 2011, Plax will still find a home with an NFL team this season, and when he does, he may be the biggest steal in free agency.
In Burress' first season since 2008, he was supposed to add some much-needed talent on the outside for New York's other squad. He tied for the team lead the team with eight touchdown receptions and was third in receiving yards, but for the first time in his career when he played the entire season, he fell short of 50 catches.
But it wasn't all Plaxico's fault. Quarterback Mark Sanchez had his own problems, and a change of scenery would benefit Burress.