While I was on vacation last week, Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. ranked receiver groups in the division.
Now, the AFC East blog will take it a step further. Here are the top individual receivers in the division:
Skinny: Welker does most of his damage in the slot, but he is as tough to cover as anyone. More quick than fast, Welker has a sudden burst and executes precise routes that make it hard for cornerbacks to keep up over the middle. Welker had a career year in 2011, where he caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns. He's not the prototype, but Welker gets the most out of what he has.
Skinny: Holmes had a trying year in 2011. But I have a more complete view, because I covered Holmes during the early part of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. When focused, Holmes is a big-play receiver who shows up in big games. It's rarely mentioned anymore that Holmes is a former Super Bowl MVP, probably because of his recent troubles. But Holmes is a very good receiver. In my opinion, his struggles and frustration stem from inconsistent quarterback play more than anything else.
Skinny: Like Holmes, Johnson is a good receiver but not elite. Johnson is coming off his second consecutive 1,000-yard season in 2011. He doesn't have the top-end speed to get deep but his game is solid otherwise. Johnson is fearless and competes against anyone. He gave Jets Pro Bowl corner Darrelle Revis one of his toughest games last year. Johnson can show immaturity at times with his touchdown celebrations, but he is not an issue in the locker room. He just needs to grow up a little and think team first in these instances.
No. 4: Brandon Lloyd, Patriots
Skinny: Lloyd is entering his first year with the Patriots after following his former head coach and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Lloyd is a dynamic receiver with big-play ability. He led the AFC in receiving yards in 2010. Don't expect Lloyd to put up huge numbers in New England, because he will be sharing the ball with Welker and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. But there will be plenty of opportunities for big plays for Lloyd in New England's offense.