In years past taking the time to look at the New York Giants depth chart at wide receiver was like looking for the hottie with the hourglass shape at fat camp—an utterly-pointless charade that left one addled and depressed.
But this is 2012 and the Giants, for decades a grind-em-up ball control team, now represent the NFL's version of the Blue Angels more than the Giants of Bill Parcells.
Led by veteran Hakeem Nicks and rising star Victor Cruz the Giants have plenty of depth at wide receiver, even with the departure of Super Bowl XLVI hero Mario Manningham.
So, let's take a snapshot—a quick look at just who could be New York's next big receiving star—and work our way down the depth chart for 2012.
Hakeem Nicks hauled in 76 passes for 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
Indeed, he remains the standard by which other Giant receivers will be judged. But Nicks topped his regular season performance with an even better postseason, pulling down 28 catches for 444 yards and four touchdowns.
He has averaged 1,000-plus yards over three seasons and has yet to start 16 games in a full year.
Nicks' good hands, reliable route-running and clutch play keeps him a solid No. 1 for the G-men. But our next wideout is breathing right down his jersey.
Other than Eli Manning, perhaps no other Giant had the impact in 2011 that Cruz had on his team.
Cruz began the year fourth on the depth chart behind Nicks, Manningham and Domenik Hixon.
He didn't just ascend to the starting lineup in 2011, he also just happened to break the team's all-time single season receiving yards record with 1,536 yards on 82 catches (nine of them going for touchdowns).
Going into 2012 there's no doubt No. 80 is No. 2 on the depth chart. But another year like last year and Cruz may ascend to the top spot.
Domenik Hixon is a young 27, and he missed all but one game the last two seasons after tearing his ACL twice in 2010 and 2011.
But if Hixon is healthy there's no reason to believe he can't finally, grab the No. 3 receiving spot for the Giants. In his Giant career Hixon caught 63 passes for 838 yards and four touchdowns.
But if his success on punt and kick returns are any indication—he's gained over 2,500 yards returning punts and kickoffs since joining the Giants in 2007—he can be a major producer if healthy. He has good hands, he's as elusive as any other wideout beyond Cruz and Hicks, and he certainly has some fight in him.
Look for a healthy Hixon to shine in 2012.
The Giants did well to snag Rueben Randle in the second round of this year’s draft.
Coming out of LSU, Randle offers size, strength and speed. Can you say 4-4-40 on his pro day?
Randle came highly recommended from a former Giant—LSU assistant coach Thomas McGaughey who left New York in 2011 to join LSU's staff.
Some scouts wonder if Randle's 2011, in which he caught 58 passes for nearly 1,000 yards, was the rule or the exception. Anyone who saw the BCS Championship game where Alabama handed LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson his (insert colorful description here), knows better.
On paper Ramses Barden is a beast for a wideout, at 6'6", 224 pounds.
When the Giants picked up Barden out of Cal Poly in 2009, the coaching staff thought they had a receiver in the mold of Keyshawn Johnson: strong, agile, physical.
But Barden has been a big disappointment. In 17 games he's caught just 15 passes for 174 yards and has yet to score a touchdown in his career. But with decent speed, great height and a body that can take a beating, one would think Barden would eventually have to give the Giants some return on their investment. This could be the year.
Like Barden, Jerrel Jernigan is another third-round pick whom the Giants have high hopes for.
Jernigan, a Troy standout selected by the Giants in the 2011 draft, has been described as versatile and hard-working, and as someone who plays much bigger than his 5'9" frame would suggest.
In four seasons at Troy, Jernigan set school records and Sun Belt conference records with 3,128 receiving yards, 262 receptions and 5,971 all-purpose yards.
Don't be surprised if he gets a shot at No. 3 if New York's receiving corps get the injury bug early on.
Brandon Collins is an undrafted free agent out of Southeastern Louisiana and he is hoping to make a splash in camp this year.
Collins caught 61 passes for 746 yards and five touchdowns in his senior year.
He has caught the attention of Giants' offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, who, according to Big Blue View, said Collins looked "really, really impressive (with) good speed, great quickness."
At 5'11', 180 pounds, Collins offers the Giants another quick, versatile receiver with plenty of upside. He could climb the depth chart quickly if he continues to impress.