Three wide receivers will be selected to represent the NFC West. Feel free to share your opinion, and don’t forget to vote!
Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald could very well be the best wide receiver in the National Football League. His combination of size, speed, and ball skills compare with the best pass-catchers of all time. Since Fitzgerald was drafted third overall in 2004, he has averaged 87 catches, 1,178 yards, and 10 touchdowns per season (including his rather pedestrian rookie campaign).
Arizona Cardinals: Steve Breaston
Breaston has developed into a quality receiver at the professional level after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL Draft. With Anquan Boldin out of Arizona, he’ll finally have an opportunity to start full-time with the Cardinals. Though Breaston’s opportunities have been minimal, he has started 15 games in three seasons. In 2008, Breaston’s best season so far, he started nine games and caught 77 balls for 1,006 yards and 3 touchdowns.
San Francisco 49ers: Michael Crabtree
Crabtree is best known for a prima-donna attitude entering the 2009 NFL Draft and a lengthy hold out that cut his rookie season short. But in 11 games last year, Crabtree proved he is a talented prospect and can easily develop into one of the league’s better receivers. In an abbreviated rookie season, Crabtree caught 48 passes for 625 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Seattle Seahawks: T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Houshmandzadeh came to Seattle following an impressive eight-year run with the Cincinnati Bengals; although his statistics were respectable in his first year with the Seahawks, they could have been much better. With the Seahawks, Houshmandzadeh caught only 79 passes for 911 yards and 3 touchdowns. And at 32 years old, Houshmandzadeh would probably perform best in a limited role as the second or third option. Despite his imperfections, however, Housh still is an excellent possession receiver capable of running precise routes and producing with the best of them.
Seattle Seahawks: Deion Branch
Though he has disappointed in Seattle, Branch remains a candidate for this list because of his body of work. He may not be a Pro Bowl receiver, but he is very capable and can produce when healthy. Despite his potential, however, Branch has only played an entire sixteen-game schedule once, has never had a 1,000-yard season, or caught more than 100 passes. His average size – 5-foot-9, 192 pounds – doesn’t allow him to beat larger, more physical defensive backs or press coverage. At least his Pete Rozelle trophy keeps him warm at night.
St. Louis Rams: Donnie Avery
Avery was the first receiver taken in the 2008 NFL Draft and has developed into one of the only offensive threats on a poor St. Louis Rams roster. Despite inconsistent quarterback play and a lack of playmakers around him, Avery has proven his worth at the professional level. Around a more talented group, Avery would no doubt have better production and statistics to support his talent.
Shaun Dolence’s take:
Larry Fitzgerald is a no-brainer here. He is one of the best receivers in the NFL and belongs on any team of All-Star athletes.
Steve Breaston and Donnie Avery are intriguing options, but I’m not sure I’ve been impressed enough yet. Breaston is close, but he is still playing in the shadow of Fitzgerald in Arizona.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh may not be a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver anymore, but given the list of candidates, I think he deserves a spot on a three-deep roster of wide receivers. I’m usually biased towards Seahawks players, but I sure don’t think Deion Branch deserves a nod. Maybe Deon Butler will develop into an All-NFC West receiver in a year or two.
Michael Crabtree probably gets the last spot on my roster, only because he looked very good for a rookie receiver in a short season last year. His size and ball skills are impressive, and he looks like a star in the making. His resume isn’t bad, either – the guy can really produce when given the right opportunity.
Andrew Augers take:
Much like the blatant obviousness of the top two running backs in the NFC West, the top two wide receivers should be similarly easy to figure out.
Larry Fitzgerald not only is the clear cut No. 1 pass catcher in the West, but is in the elite stratosphere where Andre Johnson resides as arguably the top receiver in the game.
An average of 1,177 yard per season, 59 total touchdowns, four double digit touchdown seasons, three consecutive double digit touchdown seasons, and only four missed games in six seasons will do the trick.
Sitting behind Fitzgerald the second best receiver in the division has to go to TJ Houshmandzadeh based on his clear cut No. 1 status in the Seahawks offense and his recent production.
Over the past six seasons Houshmandzadeh has averaged 87 catches, and 996 yards per game to go along with 39 scores.
His “disappointing” inaugural season in Seattle resulted in a team high 79 grabs, and a team high 911 yards; his yardage totals and YPC average were both higher then they were in 2008.
Keep in mind last season could be considered disappointing for many Seahawks.
Michael Crabtree also gets the nod from me rounding out the top three based on his status as the No. 1 receiver in San Francisco as opposed to Steve Breaston being the No. 2 option in Arizona.
Despite playing in four less games, Crabtree was less than 100 yards away from eclipsing Steve Breastons receiving yardage from last season.
We can’t be entirely sure if Breaston was simply the product of outstanding quarterback play with Kurt Warner at the helm; Crabtree has proven he can produce with a mediocre guy at the helm.
Next up, tight ends!
Topics: Arizona Cardinals, Deion Branch, Deon Butler, Donnie Avery, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Crabtree, National Football League, NFC West, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Steve Breaston, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Wide Receiver