Larry Fitzgerald is the elite receiver of the NFC West.
I understand, saying that is about as redundant as saying "Phoenix gets hot in the summer." Nevertheless, it's true. Since joining the league in 2004, Fitzgerald has amassed 693 receptions for 9,615 yards and 73 touchdowns—all NFL highs.
Despite inconsistent quarterback play—Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Max Hall and Kevin Kolb have all lined up under center since the departure of Kurt Warner in 2009—and perpetual double coverage, Fitzgerald puts up gaudy numbers. With his blend of size, speed and strength—not to mention his Krazy Glue hands—he's nearly impossible to guard. And impossible to shut down.
Fitzgerald is, however, not alone. As the division adapts to a modern, pass-happy NFL, more receivers are growing into forces to be reckoned with.
So who else is on the short list of the top wide receivers in the NFC West?
Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals
Let's stay in Arizona for this one. Though a rookie, Floyd already deserves mention—and here's why.
Like Fitzgerald, he is a big-bodied receiver (6'3", 220 pounds) with speed and reliable hands. As defenses focus on his All-Pro teammate, Floyd will capitalize on single coverage. He can go deep, run quick slants and is an ideal jump-ball target inside the red zone.
Danario Alexander, St. Louis Rams
Brandon Lloyd, the team's top receiver in 2011, is gone, but the Rams are deep at the position—with no clear No. 1.
At 6'5" with sprinters speed, Alexander has the tools to be that guy. Inconsistency—from himself and quarterback Sam Bradford—have held him back to this point. Look for 2012 to be the year he finally puts it all together.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks
Harbaugh must be slapping himself for passing on Baldwin—a player of his at Stanford—in last year's draft. Instead, Baldwin went the undrafted route, signed with the Seahawks and quickly emerged as a go-to receiver.
Though small in stature (5'10", 185 pounds), he is quick and knows how to get open. Whoever wins the three-way quarterback battle will have a reliable target in Baldwin.
A season of 1,000 receiving yards—Baldwin had 788 in 2011—is very possible.
The "geezer" of the group is perhaps the fastest. Still. Moss is 35 years old, unretired and, surprisingly, showing no signs of rust since joining his new team.
Teammates, almost star-struck, have marveled at his athleticism and overall knowledge of the game. He has quickly picked up the offense and should provide another vertical and red-zone threat for a team that desperately needs both.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
Finally healthy, Crabtree will blossom in his fourth year as a pro. A full offseason with the team and exposure to the playbook helps, too. And don't discredit his success in 2011—72 receptions for 874 yards and four touchdowns—as a potential launchpad.
Crabtree is no burner, but long, smooth strides make his speed deceptive. He runs crisp routes and—according to coach Jim Harbaugh—has the "best hands [he's] ever seen."
Hmm...According to Jim Harbaugh sounds like a great idea for a sitcom.
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