Jim Mancari, ContributorWith Victor Cruz’s return to Big Blue official, the Giants can easily be placed into the argument of having the best receiving corps in the NFL.
Now, Cruz would have likely been here anyway had he not signed the five-year, $43 million contract extension, but a happy Victor Cruz means a productive, salsa-dancing Victor Cruz.
I wrote earlier this offseason that the Giants need Cruz in the mix for the receiving corps to reach its full potential, and that is now the case.
Before breaking down other teams’ receiving corpss, let’s look at the Giants. Cruz and a healthy Hakeem Nicks will form a dynamic duo on the outside, with Cruz also effective in the slot.
While Nicks’ future with the Giants is uncertain given the magnitude of Cruz’s contract, he at least needs to prove to other teams that he is healthy enough to earn a lucrative multi-year contract. Whether or not that’s with the Giants, he still is poised for a big season.
Rueben Randle has been gaining steam as a potential breakout player in 2013. If he can start off this season like he ended last season, the Giants will have another major threat on the outside.
Throw in Louis Murphy as a deep threat and the steady Brandon Myers – who quietly caught 79 passes last season for a bad Raiders’ team – at tight end, and the makings of balanced receiving corps are there.
But how does this receiving corps stack up against the NFL’s best?
Some NFL teams have one major receiving weapon and then build a quality receiving corps around that one guy. Examples include A.J. Green with the Bengals, Andre Johnson with the Texans, Reggie Wayne with the Colts, Antonio Gates with the Chargers, Brandon Marshall with the Bears, Calvin Johnson with the Lions, Steve Smith with the Panthers and Larry Fitzgerald with the Cardinals.
But for this comparison, we’re talking about a complete receiving core, not just one or even two players.
A few teams are deep with pass catchers. Below is a list of teams that could factor into this argument:
Denver Broncos: Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Joel Dreesen
Dallas Cowboys: Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten
Philadelphia Eagles: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper and Brent Celek
Green Bay Packers: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley
Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez
New Orleans Saints: Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham
San Francisco 49ers: Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham and Vernon Davis
Seattle Seahawks: Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Zach Miller
Of this group, the 49ers probably have the best corps on paper. However, Crabtree will be out until late November at the earliest dealing with a torn Achilles. This brings the 49ers back to the pack.
The Broncos, Eagles, Packers and Seahawks are probably the deepest at the position, but teams like the Cowboys, Falcons and Saints have the more explosive players.
It’s a tough call to pick just one, but the Giants would definitely be in the discussion. It’s important to note that a receiving corps is really only as good as its quarterback.
The majority of these teams have this position covered, but maybe a team like the Eagles may struggle with the erratic Michael Vick or the inexperienced Nick Foles at the helm.
Eli Manning has proven he can make receivers better, and he’ll be expected to continue the trend with Randle, Murphy and Myers. If he can get the most out of these two combined with the expected contributions of Nicks and Cruz, the Giants will be an offensive juggernaut.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what team has the best overall receiving corps on paper, but instead the focus will be on how that receiving corps helps the team win football games.
If everything goes to plan, the Giants’ receiving corps will factor into many of the team’s victories.
Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.