Why Victor Cruz Is the Best Wide Receiver in the NFL

Anthony Fusilli@@AnthonyFusilliContributor IIIOctober 26, 2012

Oct 21, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) does his salsa dance in the end zone after his game-winning touchdown late in the second half against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Mills/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE
The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

I know you're probably saying, Is he out of his mind?   

Maybe a little bit, but that's beyond the point.

When I did a little research, many people have lists of who they think are the top wide receivers in the league. Most were conducted before the season. On every preseason list Calvin Johnson was No.1

Victor Cruz? He wasn't even mentioned. In one list, he didn't even make honorable mention!

Calvin Johnson is widely regarded as the best receiver in the NFL—and with just cause. How can you not marvel at his abilities? He's 6'5", can jump over any cornerback in the league and catches almost anything you throw at him. It helps that he has a young stud in Matthew Stafford throwing him the ball. He is without a doubt, a top three receiver in the league, and coming into this season, Johnson was probably No.1 in my eyes.

Things have changed.

Ever since his terrible outing in Week 1, where he dropped three passes, Cruz has turned it on to another level.

Victor Cruz has been on an absolute tear. He has had his way with opposing cornerbacks and has salsaed his way to the top of my list. I may be a bit biased, being that I am a diehard New York Giants fan. But, any fan should appreciate what he and Eli Manning are doing together.

Just a look at what Cruz is doing this season,

  1. Tied for first in targets (81)
  2. Third in catches (50)
  3. Fifth in receiving yards (627)
  4. Tied for first in receiving TDs (7)
  5. Tied for fifth in first downs (32)

In his last four games he has scored six touchdowns and seems to really be clicking with Manning. Whenever a big play is needed he seems to find Cruz, perfect example was his 77-yard touchdown pass to help win the game against the Washington Redskins.

Any Giant fan knows that Cruz's season last year wasn't a fluke. Dating back to his three-touchdown game against the New York Jets during the 2010 preseason. An injury unfortunately shelved him for that whole season, so it took longer for the league to get a taste of Cruz' salsa.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering, where's Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White or budding superstar A.J Green?

All of them deserve consideration. Fitzgerald not being No.1 is the subject of his terrible quarterback situation. Ever since the departure of Kurt Warner, Fitzgerald's numbers have fluctuated. His yards have gone up since 2009, but his catches have dropped every year and his touchdown's have flip-flopped.

  • 2009—13 touchdowns
  • 2010—6 touchdowns
  • 2011—8 touchdowns
  • 2012—(so far) 3 touchdowns

In my opinion, Fitzgerald has probably the best hands in the league and can go up with anybody to make the catch. But, I just feel with him being double-teamed almost every down and with a less-than solid quarterback throwing him the ball, he can't be No.1.

Other guys that have made names for themselves and that should be considered are Andre Johnson, Greg Jennings, Percy Harvin and Wes Welker.

Guys like Welker and Harvin are almost clones of Cruz. Problem is, Welker has to deal with Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd taking his touchdowns and catches. Welker leads the NFL in receiving yards but only has two touchdowns. He is a tremendous route runner, with great hands, but isn't the biggest impact player on his own team.

Harvin might be the best overall offensive player in the league, with his return abilities and running abilities. But his past injury problems worry me. He can get hurt on any kick/punt return and has a very small frame. 

Ever since Week 1, when Cruz was so publicly criticized for his sloppy play and many drops. He has played like a man possessed. He has been catching everything thrown his way, and Eli has been firing bullets at him. Look at this catch against the San Francisco 49ers. Just ridiculous.

He runs precise and quick-cutting routes, as evidenced by his three-touchdown game against the Cleveland Browns. He ran two routes in the red zone for touchdowns, that left the defender just stuck in place. He may be a small target, but once in the red zone, he's almost unguardable. It is so difficult to stay with him because of his shiftiness.

Last season Cruz set a New York Giants record for receiving yards in a season with 1,536. He had nine touchdowns last season and is on pace to shatter his career high this season. In seven games he has seven touchdowns.

With the return of Hakeem Nicks being near 100 percent, it may cut into his numbers—or it will help pad them. With Nicks being hobbled this season, Cruz has had to deal with most of the attention in the form of double-teams. Now that Nicks is back to full speed, Cruz will see fewer double-teams in the slot and exploit the middle of the field against safeties, nickel backs and linebackers.

If you play him tight—BOOM! There he goes for the deep play.

Calvin Johnson has one touchdown this season, ONE. Now, the Lions have been terrible this season. But, I still think Johnson should have better numbers than that. In his first five seasons, he's had three season's of double-digit touchdowns.

Could his down season be due to the Madden cover jinx? Who knows, but he is having a very un-Megatron-like season.

The NFL has the luxury right now of having so many talented young receivers age 27 and under, as well as veteran receivers like White, Johnson, Fitzgerald and Jennings.

Many will say Cruz's body of work isn't enough to put him on that pedestal. I say forget that notion. Cruz is an amazing talent and the Giants struck gold on when they took a chance on him. He will continue to put up solid numbers the rest of the way, and after this season, maybe even sooner, people will agree with me and start including him on their best-receiver lists.



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