The beginning of training camp for the 2012 NFL season is right around the corner–which means it’s that time of year to look at which players that could be in for a big season. Here’s a look at 10 potential breakout wide receivers for the 2012 season.
10. Titus Young–Detroit Lions
One of the benefits of playing alongside the best wide receivers in the NFL is defenders may be more focused on other players–leaving players like Titus Young more open for passes. Young certainly benefited from defenders focusing on Calvin Johnson as a rookie in 2011 after catching 48 passes for 607 yards and six touchdowns, but the main question heading into next season will be whether or not he’ll be able to get along with his teammates considering the former Boise State star was recently banned from organized team activities for punching Louis Delmas.
9. Jordan Shipley–Cincinnati Bengals
There were high expectations for Jordan Shipley during his sophomore season after the former Texas star impressed as a rookie in 2010 by hauling in 52 passes for 600 yards and three touchdowns, but an ACL tear in Week 1 prevented him from missing the entire 2011 season. With Jerome Simpson out of the picture, Shipley has the potential to be used more in the Bengals’ offense this season and could be an effective target for Andy Dalton in the slot–assuming he’s 100 percent healthy by the start of the regular season.
8. Jerome Simpson–Minnesota Vikings
Speaking of the Bengals, Jerome Simpson will be looking for a fresh start with a new team considering his four-year stint in Cincinnati was anything but impressive–even though last year’s numbers (50 catches for 725 yards and four touchdowns) were some-what decent. Simpson will always be labeled as the second-round bust from the 2008 NFL Draft that was mistakenly selected ahead of DeSean Jackson and time is running out to prove he has what it takes to be an effective wideout in the NFL.
7. Vincent Brown–San Diego Chargers
On a roster consisting of Malcolm Floyd along with the additions of Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem, Vincent Brown may have quite the work cut out for him when it comes to fighting for playing time during his sophomore season–but the potential is there. Philip Rivers will be looking for plenty of help in the Chargers’ passing unit now that Vincent Jackson is a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Brown showed potential at times during his rookie season–so it should be interesting to see what happens in 2012.
6. Jon Baldwin–Kansas City Chiefs
Now that he’s got one year under his belt, the Chiefs will be looking to use Jon Baldwin more in the Chiefs’ passing game in 2012 and the former first-round pick could benefit from playing alongside Dwayne Bowe. Baldwin’s rookie year may not have gotten off to the start he was hoping for after a wrist injury suffered from a fight with Thomas Jones kept him sidelined for the first five games of the 2011 season, but the former Pittsburgh star seems like he’s poised for a breakout sophomore season with a healthy Matt Cassel returning to the lineup.
5. David Nelson–Buffalo Bills
If the first two years of his career are any indication of what to expect, David Nelson could follow the path of many successful NFL wideouts in their third year and be in for a big 2012 season. Nelson has improved each year from a statistical standpoint and could play a big role in the Bills’ passing game by providing Ryan Fitzpatrick with another reliable target along with Steve Johnson.
4. Emmanuel Sanders–Pittsburgh Steelers
The retirement of Hines Ward means there’s a void to be filled in the Steelers’ passing game–which could be the perfect opportunity for Emmanuel Sanders to receive some decent playing time in 2012. His numbers have been decent over his first two seasons in the NFL, but Sanders has a chance to be the team’s No. 3 wideout if he manages to beat out Jerricho Cotchery.
3. Torrey Smith–Baltimore Ravens
Torrey Smith emerged as one of the biggest surprises from a rookie standpoint during the 2011 season as the former second-round pick caught 50 passes for 841 yards and seven touchdowns. Smith’s blazing speed makes him a dangerous deep threat for just about any opponent on the field and there’s a good chance he could emerge as Joe Flacco’s favorite target in 2012–assuming there’s no setbacks from his offseason hernia surgeries.
2. Darrius Heyward-Bey–Oakland Raiders
After two mediocre seasons from 2009-10, Darrius Heyward-Bey finally showed more potential in 2011 after catching 64 passes for 975 yards and four touchdowns. There’s no reason why Heywad-Bay shouldn’t be considered the Raiders top target in the passing game and with Carson Palmer entering the season in better shape–the sky could be the limit for the former first-round pick.
1. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker–Denver Broncos
After combining for 76 catches for 1,164 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011, both Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker have the potential to record similar numbers individually now that Peyton Manning is officially calling the shots under center. Manning has made numerous players better throughout his career and assuming there are no complications from the neck injury that kept him out all of last season–Thomas and Decker’s stock could certainly be on the rise in 2012.
Dan Parzych is the Director of Content for RantSports.com
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