Peyton Manning: Lack of Top Receiving Threat Hurting Future Hall of Famer

Chris StephensCorrespondent IISeptember 25, 2012

Peyton Manning needs more than Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas if he is going to succeed in Denver.
Peyton Manning needs more than Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas if he is going to succeed in Denver.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The lack of a top receiving threat is hurting Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

While some may argue Manning has the most complete receiving corps in the NFL, others want to see the evidence.

Nothing against Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Brandon Stokley and the other Denver receivers, but none are No. 1 wide receivers in the NFL.

On the Broncos, Thomas and Decker might be considered wide receiver 1A and wide receiver 1B, but both would be a No. 2 at best on any other team.

Thomas came from a Georgia Tech program that ran the triple-option offense. Over the course of his college career, Thomas caught 74 passes for 1,185 yards. Not bad, but not good either.

Going back a little further (high school), Thomas had 56 catches for 756 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior, following 32 receptions for 330 yards and three scores as a junior.

While his speed will never be the question, his receiving ability is in question.

Sure, he had a great 80-yard touchdown in the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers last year and 204 total receiving yards. However, what else has he done?

This year, he's caught 16 of 29 targets from one of the best quarterbacks ever.

Last year, he struggled during the regular season with only two games of 100-plus receiving yards.

In his rookie season, Thomas had three or less receptions in the nine of the 10 games he played.

So, where are the No. 1 receiver stats?

Whether it's Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow or Manning, Thomas has consistently shown he is not a No. 1 receiving threat. Don't get me wrong, his speed is great. But, so is Devin Hester's, and he's not a No. 1 receiver either.

Then there's Decker, who has caught 17 of 26 targets for 243 yards. He had his best game of the year in a loss to the Houston Texans Sunday with eight catches for 138 yards.

While Decker looks like he's getting better, he's still only had one other NFL game in which he had more than 100 receiving yards. By the time a No. 1 receiver gets into their third year, you would expect more than two 100-yard receiving games.

In college (Minnesota), Decker had good sophomore and junior years with a combined 151 catches for 1,983 yards and 16 touchdowns. His senior season hit next, which was going along well until a sprained foot in the Ohio State game sidelined him for the rest of the year.

Since then, Decker hasn't been the same.

Decker is not a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, although the book isn't closing on him yet.

Finally, there's any combination of Stokley, tight end Jacob Tamme or anyone else on the roster.

If you think Stokley at 36 can be a No. 1 receiver, you're sadly mistaken. He's nothing more than a possession receiver.

While Tamme could develop into a decent NFL tight end, to think he is a No. 1 receiver is also another mistake. Plus, if your tight end (not named Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski) is your top receiver, then there are a lot of deeper issues on the team.

Manning thrives on having sure-handed receivers with speed and route-running ability. Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Pierre Garcon gave him that with the Indianapolis Colts.

While Thomas and Decker have the speed, their route-running leaves a lot to be desired. Stokley is a great route-runner, but he's never been a speedy guy.

What the Broncos need is a true No. 1 receiver. Not just a threat or someone that might have a good game. Manning has to have a true threat at receiver.

Maybe the Broncos can go after a player like Dwayne Bowe or Victor Cruz, who are both free agents after this year.

Once he has that, he'll be unstoppable in most aspects of the game.

Until then, the current receiving corps is hurting Manning and his ability to lead the Broncos to victory.