Last year was a very big one in terms of breakout receivers. Players like Dez Bryant, Demariyus Thomas and Julio Jones backed up their enormous hype and Michael Crabtree lived up to his top ten selection in 2009. Others like Randall Cobb, Brian Hartline, and Cecil Shorts also broke out but to a lesser extent. This year there are also a good amount of young receivers that could really emerge. With the emphasis of the passing game, the opportunities will be there. It’s up to these players to take advantage of it.
Pierre Garcon, Redskins: Before tearing ligaments in his foot early in week one, Garcon looked like he was destined for a huge year. The injury forced him to miss six games and then get back up to speed before really turning it on in December. We haven’t seen any of Robert Griffin III this preseason, but it is safe to assume he probably won’t be running nearly as much as he did last season. Look for him to team up with Garcon early and often this season as Garcon emerges as one of the league’s premier deep threats.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts: Speaking of players with speed to burn, Hilton is one of them and he’s on Garcon’s old team. Hilton had a very nice season in his rookie year but in year two, look for him to become a more consistent players on a week to week basis. Hilton’s route tree has improved this offseason and while the Colts won’t be throwing it deep as often this year, a 1,000 yard campaign isn’t out of the question.
Rueben Randle, Giants: I was a big fan of Randle’s ability coming out of LSU and he showed flashes of his potential in his rookie season. At 6’2 208 pounds, he is a physical wideout who can beat press coverage, is willing to block and will go up and grab almost any jump ball. Right now Randle is the third receiver behind Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz but considering that could change at any moment he’s a breakout candidate.
Despite being one of the better young receivers in the game, Nicks has been very injury prone. It wouldn’t be surprising if one of those knee, groin or hamstring injuries that have come up put Randle in the starting lineup. Regardless of his role, Randle should still be in for a very nice year but the potential is there for much more than that.
Alshon Jeffery, Bears: At 6’3 210 with average timed speed, many felt Jeffery was going to be a possession receiver in the NFL. However he surprised right away as he had four catches over 30 yards while missing six games. The Bears are in desperate need of another receiver to emerge opposite Brandon Marshall. At times, Marshall was drawing triple teams at certain points last year. Jeffery has the talent to do it but one of the main questions could end up being if Jay Cutler wants to bother looking his way.
Chris Givens, Rams: Givens was yet another member of the 2012 draft class who had a productive rookie year. At this point, becoming more consistent is key. Granted, it’s hard to maintain as a deep threat but in games where he earned significant playing time, Givens had three games with under 30 yards. He and Sam Bradford have been connecting early and often in the preseason. as the additions of other weapons such as Tavon Austin and Jared Cook are already paying off. At 6’0 198 with explosive straight line speed, Givens reminds me a little of a younger Mike Wallace and it wouldn’t be surprising if he like Wallace also makes a leap in year two.
Kendall Wright, Titans: Before a major knee scare, Wright was a trendy breakout pick for this upcoming season. The Titans didn’t really fully utilize Wright in his rookie year as he was mainly being used in the short passing game. This is a player who in his last season at Baylor was one of the most dynamic receivers in the country. The big play ability is still there and the erratic play of Jake Locker won’t be any help. If the Titans improved offensive line shows right away, things will be made easier on the passing game where it would be time for Wright to show what he is really capable of.