In our new series Best in the NFC North we’ll spotlight the division’s top five players at each position. Some of these lists are sure to be controversial, others not so much. Let’s start out with one of the more talent-loaded positions in the division, wide receiver. The pick for #1 won’t be controversial at all unless you’re a true Lions hater…
1. Calvin Johnson – Lions
Johnson defines elite at the receiver position. With his one-of-a-kind combination of size, speed, strength and agility, he is basically unstoppable. It’s not often a wide receiver deserves legitimate mention as an MVP candidate, but Johnson did last year. And if the Lions go on another playoff run in 2012, Johnson will be in the MVP discussion again. What would Matthew Stafford be without him?
2. Brandon Marshall – Bears
Marshall had a nice season in 2011 playing for a Dolphins team that didn’t exactly light it up in the passing game. This year Marshall will have Jay Cutler throwing him the ball, as he did in Denver during his most productive years. Should be a big year for Marshall and a big year for the Bears.
3. Percy Harvin – Vikings
Bill Musgrave had all last year to figure out Percy Harvin. Toward season’s end the offensive coordinator finally got a feel for what his talented receiver can do, and Harvin had some of his biggest games. Harvin’s numbers should go up even more if Christian Ponder gets some pass protection and Jerome Simpson provides a deep threat to complement Harvin’s slot receiver talents. A 100-catch, 1200-yard season is not out of the question for Percy, if he can stay clear of the injury bug.
4. Greg Jennings – Packers
A bad knee slowed Jennings down some in 2011, but he still had a solid season. He may be just another interchangeable cog in the Packers’ system but that doesn’t diminish his accomplishments. Much.
5. Jordy Nelson – Packers
With Jennings taking a dip, Jordy Nelson became the stat monster for the Packers, ringing up over 1200 yards and 15 TDs in 2011. I seriously doubt he’ll ever have another season like that again, but you never know. Maybe it wasn’t a semi-fluke. It’s probably not fair to say he’d turn into Greg Camarillo without Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. He’s definitely better than Camarillo.
Other Guys to watch: Titus Young – Lions; Jerome Simpson – Vikings; Alshon Jeffery – Bears