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DMN: Ranking the Cowboys: Receivers


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Albert Breer

We all know how good Terrell Owens is. Hall-of-Fame good.

But when I was trying to figure out where the Cowboys receiving corps ranks among its NFL brethren, I couldn't shake this -- Dallas scored a touchdown on the play after T.O. got hurt in Carolina in December, then didn't reach the end zone again in the regular season. He was hobbled in the playoff game, and the once explosive, irrepressible offense continued to sag.

Point is, all the hope surrounding the young guys here doesn't change the fact that the receiving corps was exposed to a degree after Owens went down. So I figured putting the Cowboys' crew 11th in the NFL was fair.

Two caveats here. One, this is assuming Terry Glenn's not here, since it seems to be a 50-50 shot (at best) right now). And this doesn't include tight ends, which would obviously bump a team like the Cowboys way up the chart. Here's my Top 10 ...

1) Arizona - The Cardinals are the only team in the league that has two players who could legitimately be No. 1 receivers for elite offenses. Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald complement each other perfectly, and Early Doucet may have been a bargain in the third round of the draft, plus Steve Breaston could develop to add a game-breaking element to the group.

2) New England - Randy Moss remains the best in the game, and Wes Welker is a first-down machine in the same way Moss gets to the end zone. Jabar Gaffney, believe it or not, is who Tom Brady turned to in a lot of tight spots last year. If the team can get something out of former second-round pick Chad Jackson, this group could be the league's best.

3) Cincinnati - There's a big "If" here, and that is "if" Chad Johnson isn't in the fold, this ranking won't hold. But assuming that what Ocho Cinco is there, he and T.J. Houshmandzadeh give Carson Palmer a top-notch pair. Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell were taken in the first three rounds of the draft, and will be counted on to replace some of Chris Henry's production.

4) Green Bay - Tons of depth here. Greg Jennings is on the verge on stardom, Donald Driver is a steady, veteran presence, and James Jones and Ruvell Martin flashed potential last year, plus the team drafted Jordy Nelson. The reason why the team can run its "Big 5" package is because there are a bunch of guys here who can play.

5) Cleveland - Braylon Edwards moved into the high-rent district last year at this position, and Donte' Stallworth gives him a big-play threat who's excellent after the catch on the other side. Joe Jurevicius, even at 33, is a heck of a No. 3.

6) Indianapolis - This is on the assumption that Marvin Harrison won't be the Marvin Harrison of old (if he is, Indy's right at the top). Even without him, the Colts have Reggie Wayne, one of the best in the game, and promising Anthony Gonzalez, which is good enough to keep Indy from slipping too far down the list.

7) Detroit - I seriously considered putting them higher. If they play to their potential, Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson could be as good as any pair in the NFL, and speedy Shaun McDonald and resourceful Mike Furrey are more-than-solid options around them.

8) Pittsburgh - Santonio Holmes is another young receiver on the verge of stardom, and old reliable Hines Ward is opposite him. Depth is a little spotty beyond those two - Nate Washington and Cedrick Wilson are just OK.

9) Carolina - Muhsin Muhammad's return gives this group a boost. Team him with Steve Smith, and get something, anything, out of Dwayne Jarrett, and the Panthers might be able to revive their offense.

10) Giants - Plaxico Burress (vertically) and Amani Toomer (underneath) play off each other well, and Steve Smith emerged late last season and should produce. Maybe you get something from David Tyree. Maybe you don't. If Mario Manningham can get his head on straight, he could add another dimension to this group.

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