We continue our positional player power rankings at wide receiver, where I'm projecting at the top and bottom and going with some surer things in the middle.
Bryant is entering that all-important third season. His numbers shot up despite being nagged somewhat by injuries in his second year, so I fully expect something similar in next season. There's no guarantee Bryant will stay perfectly healthy, but it looks as though he's improved his conditioning, and he seems to have matured quite a bit. This is his year.
2. Victor Cruz, New York Giants
Prior to Week 3 of the 2011 season, Cruz had two career receptions. The man finished the season as the league's top breakout star, amassing 82 catches, 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns despite starting only seven games. With Mario Manningham gone and Hakeem Nicks less than 100 percent, he'll be the undisputed No. 1 guy from day one this year.
Which Giants receiver is better?
3. Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants
The 24-year-old already has over 3,000 receiving yards in three seasons. If he were healthy, he'd likely be ahead of Cruz on this list. Nicks has a very bright future, but I sometimes wonder about his durability.
4. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
I really thought last year would be a breakout season for Jackson as a receiver, but now I'm wondering if 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns is his plateau. If that's the case, he's still one of the five best receivers in the division, especially considering how much of a home run threat he is.
5. Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys
I'm not giving him a mulligan for last year, but it's clear that Austin just wasn't conditioned well following the lockout. Heck, he's admitted as much. I see little reason why the 24-year-old can't bounce back with 1,000-plus yards in 2012.
6. Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins
Did you see what he did with Curtis Painter throwing him passes last season? Now he becomes a true No. 1 receiver, surrounded by a great group of complementary weapons and the benefactor of Robert Griffin III's arrival. Garcon should go over 1,000 yards this season.
7. Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles
There have been times when I've actually preferred Maclin to Jackson, but last year just wasn't his best season. I'm blaming it on Philly's offensive struggles, combined with shoulder and hamstring injuries. He'll rebound this season, but it's tough to tell where his numbers will be.
Who should be the No. 2 receiver in Washington?
8. Santana Moss, Washington Redskins
The 'Skins are again heavily represented on one of these lists, but the majority of their players are near the bottom. Depth is good, though, so it's a good sign. Moss was being mentioned as a possible camp cut earlier this offseason, but he's had a great spring and summer and could return to glory in 2012.
9. Josh Morgan, Washington Redskins
Morgan has all the tools to be a great receiver, but a lack of opportunities and injuries have interfered with his progress in recent years. The Redskins are paying him big bucks to be a jack-of-all-trades receiver, so I'm expecting this to be his best year yet.
10. Leonard Hankerson, Washington Redskins
I'm projecting and putting him ahead of Jason Avant. Hankerson was a beast in limited opportunities as a rookie. If he can stay healthy this year, he'll become a prominent contributor in D.C.
There are some extremely talented receivers in this division, but it's amazing how many of them are coming off of rough seasons. Almost everyone on this list was affected by injuries in 2011, and some just failed to produce. Only Garcon and Cruz are looking to build on clear-cut career years, so it'll be interesting to see who rises and who keeps falling.