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Nfl.com Bucky Brooks Top 5 Nfl Recieving Corps


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Surprised Broncos at #3

3) Denver Broncos

The corps: Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker, Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer

It might be easy to call the Broncos' receivers "system players," based on Peyton Manning's role in their success, but that would mean minimizing the individual and collective talent of the group. Consider that last season, four Denver receivers scored at least 10 touchdowns (Demaryius Thomas had 14, Julius Thomas had 12, Eric Decker had 11 and Welker had 10), with Demaryius Thomas finishing behind only the Saints' Jimmy Graham in total touchdown receptions.

The Broncos' receiving corps features a mix of talented playmakers that reminds me of a basketball team on turf. Demaryius Thomas capably fills the role of No. 1 receiver, using his rare combination of size (6-3, 229), speed and strength to overpower defenders on the perimeter. He has improved dramatically as a route-runner since Manning's arrival in 2012, exhibiting better patience, balance and body control at the tops of routes. In addition, Thomas has shown excellent running skills, routinely turning short passes into big gains in space.

Welker, an 11th-year pro, is still a terror in the slot despite having lost some of his trademark quickness and burst at his relatively advanced age (33). Rather than relying on speed, Welker uses savvy, guile and creativity to get open. He simply outfoxes his opponents in the Broncos' system -- he's especially tough to guard when given the freedom to work the middle of the field on option routes. Although Welker is no longer the elite player that tormented defenders for years from the slot with the New England Patriots, he did produce first downs on 67.1 percent of his receptions in 2013, and that says a lot about his impact for the Broncos.

Julius Thomas is a hybrid tight end with the athleticism, speed and quickness to exploit matchups on the perimeter. The former college hoops player uses his size (6-5, 250) and length to outmuscle defensive backs, while his burst and acceleration let him blow past linebackers. The Broncos have deployed Thomas in a variety of spots to take advantage of mismatches; he's become one of Manning's top targets in critical situations, as evidenced by his stellar work in the red zone.

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Latimer gets the call from Elway and Fox

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Decker left for the New York Jets as a free agent this offseason, and Emmanuel Sanders (a free-agent signee himself) and rookie Cody Latimer (a second-round draft pick) will duke it out to replace Decker's production on the outside. Sanders is a jitterbug with tremendous stop-start quickness, while Latimer is an athletic freak in the mold of Cleveland Browns standout Josh Gordon. If either player develops into a consistent contributor, the Broncos' receiving corps could vault to the top of this list by season's end.

4) San Francisco 49ers

The corps: Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Steve Johnson, Vernon Davis and Brandon Lloyd

Though the 49ers do most of their damage on the ground, observers shouldn't overlook a talented receiving corps that features a number of sticky-fingered pass-catchers with exceptional ball skills. San Francisco's big, physical receivers have some of the best hands in the NFL -- and, more importantly, a diverse set of skills that mesh perfectly on the field.

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Boldin is the backbone of the 49ers' passing game, a versatile playmaker capable of dominating from the perimeter or in the slot; he's topped 1,000 yards in six of his 11 seasons. Measuring 6-1 and 220 pounds and possessing a powerful frame, Boldin bullies defenders with his strength on the perimeter. He initiates contact at the tops of routes yet also displays the balance and body control to work away from coverage using his quickness. Boldin's combination of physicality and toughness makes him tough to defend in the slot, particularly near the red zone.

Crabtree has become one of the NFL's top receivers since Colin Kaepernick took over as the 49ers' signal-caller in 2012; in 12 regular-season starts with Kaepernick, Crabtree has 60 total receptions for 879 yards and six scores. More impressively, Crabtree has been a monster in the postseason, posting 35 receptions for 488 yards (a yards-per-catch average of 13.9) with three scores in his past six playoff games. Moving beyond the numbers, the sixth-year pro is a classic No. 1 receiver who has outstanding balance, body control and hands. Not only does he grab up passes thrown within the strike zone, he routinely snatches balls that are seemingly uncatchable on the perimeter. As a result, he has emerged as the 49ers' top option in critical moments.

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2013: Best of Vernon Davis

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Davis, who is firmly established as one of the premier tight ends in the game, cemented his status as a top playmaker in 2013, averaging a ridiculous 16.3 yards per catch (52 receptions for 850 yards) and scoring 13 touchdowns. Those numbers are not only indicative of his big-play ability, but they reflect the challenges opponents face in defending a 6-3, 250-pound pass-catcher with sub-4.4 speed.

Johnson and Lloyd could wage a training-camp battle for the third receiver spot. Johnson spent the past four years acting as the Buffalo Bills' No. 1 receiver, posting three straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2010 to 2012. He is an unorthodox route-runner, but his crafty game makes him tough to guard on the perimeter. Lloyd is likely considered a wild card at the position after sitting out the 2013 season, but he is a polished playmaker with strong hands and extraordinary ball skills.

With young prospects like Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington also in the mix, the 49ers have one of the deepest receiving corps the NFL has seen in some time.

5) Indianapolis Colts

The corps: Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen

The inclusion of the Colts on this list might surprise some, but a closer look at the roster reveals a diverse collection of pass-catchers with tremendous talent and potential.

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Wayne, who is coming off a torn ACL, has been an exceptional No. 1 receiver in Indianapolis throughout his 13-year career. If the veteran playmaker can simply fill a role as a complementary receiver on the back side, he'll enable Nicks and Hilton to thrive on the perimeter in the Colts' three-receiver sets.

Nicks, a sixth-year pro with 311 career receptions, is an underrated No. 1 receiver with strong hands and exceptional ball skills. He quietly averaged 16 yards per catch with the Giants in 2013 on the strength of four receptions of 40-plus yards. Critics frequently point out that he failed to score a single touchdown in 2013, but his ability to deliver so many explosive plays indicates the free-agent signee's value as a top option in the passing game.

Hilton is a big-play specialist with exceptional speed, quickness and acceleration. He blows past defenders on vertical routes, which is why he finished 2013 -- his first 1,000-yard campaign -- with six receptions of 40-plus yards. The dynamic runner excels at taking "catch-and-run" plays to the house. With Hilton capable of stretching the field vertically and horizontally, the Colts will be able to feature a multi-dimensional passing game that creates big gains on the perimeter.

Fleener and Allen are poised to become the NFL's most dangerous 1-2 combination at tight end. Each has the ability to work the vertical portion of the field while also doing the dirty work between the hashes. Fleener in particular has grown into his role as the "move-the-chains" guy in Indy, having produced first downs on 61.5 percent of his receptions in 2013. Although Fleener, who did most of his damage down the middle, is at his best playing as a "slot" receiver, he can also play as a traditional tight end, which creates problems for defenders when the Colts trot their "12" personnel (one back, two tight ends and two receivers) package onto the field.

Allen missed 15 games with a hip injury last year, but he flashed potential as a rookie in 2012, snagging 45 receptions for 521 yards and three touchdowns. He is a hard-nosed physical playmaker with the strength and toughness to dominate as a blocker and receiver on the edge. If he fully recovers from his injury, the Allen-Fleener combination could be a potent one in 2014.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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I dont know about Washington being number 1 but I agree that the falcons shouldnt be on there.

I dont think the saints should be either so no im not being a homer.

I think the bears top 3 are better than everyone elses top 3. They just dont have anything behind them.

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Someone's been playing madden too much lately.

/discussion.

the Niners one makes me laugh.

Lloyd has 1 1000 yard season in his career, and didnt play last year

Stevie Johnson is a "me me me" receiver that isnt all that great, unless chan gailey is the OC and builds the niners playbook like it was in buffalo where Stevie Johnson is the primary target on every single play.

Boldin is good but is not a homerun guy, and is only getting slower.

Crabtree and Davis are the 2 major "threats" at WR there, but as a whole their Corps are not that good, just recognizable by name.

___

As for the Broncos, Decker was a product of system, and the guys they brought in will be product of system. so i dont see any drop off, only different production. They should probably be #1 or #2, with the bears.

I dont even think id put the redskins on the list. Since when is Pierre Garcon a game changing WR? i thought he was just the only thing the Skins had. Desean makes them better but how are they way up on this list.

As for ATL, with healthy Julio, they could probably make the list. but no Tony G, and roddy white being hurt some of last year and without the Julio compliment (lower production) probably dropped them off the list

I think the Lions were snubbed. I foresee that being a deadly team at receiving skill positions.

Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Reggie Bush, Kris Durham, Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria, and Potentially Eric Ebron

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