AFC North Top 5: Wide receivers

May, 21, 2012
5/21/12
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The AFC North blog will take a look at the top five division players at a position each day this week. This is a projection for the 2012 season, so predicted progress and decline has been factored into the rankings. First up are the wide receivers.

1. A.J. Green, Bengals: You only had to watch one Bengals game this year and see Green's potential. He averaged 16.3 yards per catch and scored seven touchdowns as a rookie, and he's been working out with Larry Fitzgerald this offseason. What could hold Green back is the Bengals' lack of a proven No. 2 wide receiver, which allows defenses to focus their energy on the Pro Bowl receiver.

2. Mike Wallace, Steelers: He finished first among division wide receivers with 72 catches and 1,193 yards receiving, which shows he has outplayed his rookie contract. Still, in his last seven games, he averaged 46.4 yards and scored two touchdowns. Ben Roethlisberger's injuries likely factored into Wallace's slump, but it will be up to Wallace to prove that.

3. Antonio Brown, Steelers: Remember when there was a debate whether Brown or Emmanuel Sanders should start for Hines Ward last November? Not anymore. He's fast, elusive and fearless in making catches over the middle. Brown is the No. 2 receiver for the Steelers but he could be the top one on many other teams.

4. Torrey Smith, Ravens: The second-round pick from a year ago finished only behind Green and Julio Jones in receiving yards by a rookie last season. Smith has a chance to become the Ravens' top wide receiver this season. He clicked with Joe Flacco downfield, covering at least 25 yards on five of his seven touchdowns.

5. Anquan Boldin, Ravens: Boldin hasn't put up the numbers the Ravens envisioned when they traded for him. (His 57 receptions were his lowest in seven seasons.) Still, he remains the toughest receiver in the division and steps up in the big games (led Ravens in the playoffs with 10 catches for 174 yards). Some will argue that Cleveland's Greg Little should be on the list, but he has to show more consistent hands after averaging one drop for every five passes thrown his way.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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