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Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Revisiting the NFC South WR rankings


Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Reader Lloyd in Baton Rouge, La., sent along a very good question to the mailbag:

"Within the past couple of months you made a ranking of WR duos for the NFC South teams. Would you change the duos and team rankings now?"

It took me a little while to find the post, but I got it. It ran back on Aug. 26, before the season even started. And, yes, I definitely would change my rankings because a lot of variables have been in play in the meantime. I ranked Tampa Bay's Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard as the division's best combination of starting receivers at the time and that, obviously, hasn't played out. Galloway missed a huge chunk of the season because of injury and hasn't been a factor since he's been back.

Since Lloyd's tossing me a "mulligan," I'll take it and re-rank the NFC South's starting receiver duos, based on what they've done to this point in the season. Here goes:

WhiteJenkins

1. Atlanta's Roddy White and Michael Jenkins. This is a close call, but I'm going with the Atlanta guys over everybody else because White has the best numbers of any receiver in the division, by far, and he's helped by the fact Carolina's Steve Smith missed the first two games due to a suspension and the Panthers haven't been able to throw the ball in the last two weeks. Jenkins is showing he can be a strong complementary receiver. A lot has been made about how White and Jenkins are helping rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, but I think it might be the other way around. White and Jenkins looked like they were on their way to being busts when Michael Vick was the quarterback.

2. Carolina's Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad. Merely because of Smith's ability to explode at any time, I'm giving Carolina the No. 2 spot. Like I said, his numbers are down for a couple of different reasons. Smith still is the division's best receiver. If I had to take a receiver -- heck, if I had to take any player -- in this division to make a play to win a game, it would be Smith. Muhammad's been a very solid No. 2 receiver, but it would be nice if the Panthers could get something out of Dwayne Jarrett or D.J. Hackett.

3. Tampa Bay's Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton. Bryant was out of football and has become Tampa Bay's No. 1 receiver. He's made Galloway irrelevant. One other thing, think about where the Bucs would be if they didn't have Bryant? Oh, and, he's getting better each week as he gets more comfortable in the system. Clayton has played well enough to get himself out of coach Jon Gruden's doghouse and probably will earn himself a nice contract somewhere else next season. One other subtle thing Clayton has going for him is that he's a strong blocker in the running game. Hilliard gives the Bucs dependable depth, something most of the division's other receiving corps lack.

4. New Orleans' Lance Moore and Devery Henderson. That's the tandem I have to work with because they are New Orleans' two top receivers. This is a little bit awkward because Marques Colston is the team's most talented receiver and may be as good as anybody in the division. But Colston was hurt early on and hasn't made it back to full form. Moore, especially, has done a nice job in his absence, coming up with 52 catches in a pass-happy system. Henderson also deserves recognition for having a nice season. He's had way too many drops in the past, but has eliminated that problem this year and become a nice big-play threat. If Colston can get back to form down the stretch, the ranking of the Saints' receivers could jump.