Victor Cruz and the Most Dependable WRs in the NFL
The NFL is in the midst of a makeover into an ultra-fast, pass-happy league, putting heavy emphasis on teams loading up on wide receivers that are not only talented, but dependable.
With the league centered on the quarterback, guys like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli and Peyton Manning receive all the accolades. But where would they all be without their stable of targets to throw the ball to?
Without guys that can stay healthy and catch literally anything thrown their way, we wouldn't witness these quarterbacks registering 5,000-yard seasons or six-touchdown games.
We sometimes take for granted that the quarterback is the face of the NFL and their particular franchise. But we must realize that there are 52 other players on the roster, namely the players that make the guy under center look so good.
Here the five most dependable wide receivers in the NFL.
Victor Cruz, New York Giants
As evidenced by the throw and catch that put the Giants up for good on the Washington Redskins in Sunday's 27-23 victory, Cruz obviously has Manning's unequivocal trust.
After seven weeks, Cruz is third in the NFL in receptions (50), fourth in receiving yards (627) and tied for first in targets (81) and touchdowns (7). The third-year wideout has not fumbled this season, and 32 of his catches have resulted in first downs.
Wes Welker, New England Patriots
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
Before tight end Rob Gronkowski burst onto the scene in 2011, it seemed that wide receiver Wes Welker was Tom Brady's only reliable target.
Since 2007, Welker has finished in the top 21 in the league in targets in every season. He has also finished in the top six in each of those seasons in receptions and is on pace for 123 catches in 2012.
Though his touchdown totals do not rival that of Calvin Johnson, Welker has been the extension of the Patriots' rushing attack over the years.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
It is pretty safe to say that hardly anyone outside of the state of Wisconsin and Manhattan, KS knew who Jordy Nelson was before last season. But a 68-catch, 1,263-yard, 15-touchdown performance put his name in the forefront of the minds of defensive coordinators and fans across the league.
The 6'3", 217-pound wideout was the major beneficiary of Aaron Rodgers' MVP season in 2011. And so far in 2012, Nelson is proving that he is not a one-year wonder.
Through seven games, Nelson has caught 40 passes for 532 yards and five touchdowns. Though he is slightly off last year's pace in yards and scores, the injury to Greg Jennings has vaulted Nelson atop the Green Bay Packers' depth chart.
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Reggie Wayne is one of just a few of the bigger names left over from the Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis. Instead of bolting for a more secure situation, the veteran wideout decided to stick it out and usher in rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.
Wayne has played in and started all 150 games since the 2003 season. He has tallied three seasons of at least 100 receptions and also has three seasons of double-digit touchdowns on his resume.
It is obvious that Luck is leaning on Wayne as he gets acclimated to the NFL. The wide receiver is tied for first in targets (81), fourth in receptions (47) and second in yards (666).
While Luck entered the league with high expectations, no one knew how his 2012 season would play out. With Wayne in the fold, it looks like the rookie will be just fine.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
It is amazing to look at the kind of numbers that Larry Fitzgerald has put up over the years when you consider the guys he has had throwing him the ball.
Aside from Kurt Warner—off and on from 2005 to 2009—Fitzgerald has caught passes from Josh McCown, Shaun King, John Navarre, Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Max Hall and Kevin Kolb.
Fitzgerald has played in and started 130 out of a possible 135 games since his rookie season in 2004. The six-time Pro Bowler has tallied five seasons of at least 90 receptions and four seasons of double-digit touchdowns.
It's just a shame Fitzy hasn't had the luxury of benefiting from a more consistent quarterback situation.