This is the third in our series of position-by-position rankings. It is a little different this season because we’re ranking the players before free agency starts and before rosters are set. We will adjust accordingly as we go along. Onto a mostly unproven group of receivers:
1. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City: Bowe had a stellar season in 2010. He took over games at times and showed he’s a top-notch receiver.
2. Vincent Jackson, San Diego: Yes, 2010 was nearly a wasted season for this talented player, but he made his presence known in a limited role. Expect him to come back strong.
3. Brandon Lloyd, Denver: Lloyd came out of nowhere and had a special, Pro Bowl-season in 2010. Can he do it again?
4. Malcom Floyd, San Diego: Floyd dealt with a lot of injuries in 2010, but he can make spectacular catches look routine. The team has to hope he’s not an unrestricted free agent.
5. Jacoby Ford, Oakland: This might be a bit of a projection, but I’m a believer in Ford and think he can become one of the best of the young receivers in this division.
6. Louis Murphy, Oakland: I like Murphy, but he has to show he can take the next step and become a reliable player who can catch 60-70 passes.
7. Jon Baldwin, Kansas City: We’re putting the rookie here, but none of the players listed below will surely be starters. The Chiefs’ No. 1 pick is going to get the chance and help right away.
8. Jabar Gaffney, Denver: He had a solid season in 2010. He is a journeyman, but he’s crafty and he is capable of producing some big games.
9. Eddie Royal, Denver: Royal bounced back some in his third season, but he has to show his rookie season in 2008 wasn’t a fluke.
10. Chaz Schilens, Oakland: Schilens has a chance to get much higher on this list, but will he ever stay healthy? Oakland has wanted him to be its No. 1 receiver. Yet, Schilens has played in just in 13 games in the past two seasons and has just 49 career catches.
11. Patrick Crayton, San Diego: Crayton might not have much of a role, but he could end up being the No. 3 receiver depending on free agency. He’s crafty. He made a solid impact before getting injured last season. He’s a pro.
12. Darrius Heyward-Bey: Oakland: We haven’t given up on DHB … yet. But the fact that he has just 35 catches and two touchdowns in 26 games is worrisome. It’s not like he hasn’t had a chance.
13. Dexter McCluster, Kansas City: If he stays healthy, I expect McCluster to rocket up this list in 2012 if he doesn't end up playing some more running back this season.
14. Eric Decker, Denver: The Broncos have high hopes for this youngster, who could end up being a possession receiver this season.
15. Vincent Brown, San Diego: If the Chargers’ 2010 receiver issues continue, this third-round pick will be counted on to contribute right away.
Footnote: This task was difficult because there are some unusual situations. San Diego’s Legedu Naanee and Buster Davis could have made the list, but they aren’t expected to be back. Denver 2010 first-round pick Demaryius Thomas is talented, but he is expected to miss at least half the season with a torn Achilles.