Let's get real for a minute. It would certainly be easy for me to sit here in the shadowy confines of my home and tell you that the Panthers 2013 receiving corp will be the best unit in the NFC South without having to physically face any of you man to wo(man). I could also wax poetic for days about how much I believe the scintillating signings of Domenik Hixon & Ted Ginn Jr are just what this team needs to catapult an already dynamic group into the upper echelon of the most storied offenses of all time, like the legendary 2000 Ravens offense. But for the sake of time(and reality), I'll give you the condensed version instead.
**Newly signed free agent**
#1 Atlanta Falcons
Roddy White - Julio Jones - Harry Douglas
Although it pains me to rate the Falcons(perhaps our biggest rival) number one at anything, it must be done for the sake of my own reputation. The facts don't lie, and neither shall I. Who can deny that Roddy White and Julio Jones are the most dynamic duo in the NFC South? Come to think of it, there isn't a wide receiving tandem in the entire NFL who can boast more than the combined numbers that they produced in 2012. Unfortunately for the Panthers, White and Jones, who are 31 and 24 respectively, will likely be performing together at a high level for at least another three years.
#2 New Orleans Saints
Marques Colston - Lance Moore - Joe Morgan
Marques Colston and Lance Moore, much like the aforementioned dynamic duo in Atlanta, formed one of the more deadly receiving threats in 2012. As a matter of fact, they finished the season with the fourth most combined receiving yards in all of the NFL, and 2012 marked the fourth straight thousand yard season for Colston, who is well on his way to becoming one of the best seventh round picks of all time. While Moore isn't going to be compared to Steve Smith(except for their size) anytime soon, he has managed to put together a solid career, and he figures to be a key component in that passing attack as long as Drew Brees remains in New Orleans.
#3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vincent Jackson - Mike Williams - **Kevin Ogletree**
Vincent Jackson only had his most productive season ever in his first season with our long time NFC South rival. So much so that he finished with the fifth most receiving yards and the highest average per reception in all of the NFL. His prolific output in 2012 surely irked many of the Panthers' fans who coveted him in free agency last offseason, but Carolina most certainly didn't have the cap room to take on the massive contract he was seeking. Perhaps his counterpart, Mike Williams, benefited as much as their quarterback did from Jackson's presence, as he also concluded 2012 with the most receiving yards of his career. Don't look now, but Tampa's passing attack may be even better in 2013 because they added a free agent veteran(Ogletree) who put up career numbers last season as well.
#4 Carolina Panthers
Steve Smith - Brandon Lafell - **Domenik Hixon**
Placing Carolina's cadre of receivers last was both easy and disheartening. It also pains me to say that this group has the least upside for the future in the NFC South. As we all know, Smitty isn't getting any younger(34), and I'm convinced that his replacement will have to be found somewhere other than this current roster. Don't get me wrong. Brandon Lafell has made significant strides in his first three seasons with the Panthers. In fact, he is not only Cam's most trusted third down security blanket, but he is also one of the best blocking receivers in the entire NFL(something that never gets enough credit). With that being said, I don't believe Lafell has what it takes to be THE guy(If you are reading this Brandon, I'd love for these words to be a catalyst to prove me otherwise). Domenik Hixon and Ted Ginn Jr, our newly acquired free agents, botyh have a chance to excel in our offense, but I don't expect their efforts to catapult this group from the bottom of this present ranking. In the meantime, we(along with Smitty and Cam) will wait patiently for an answer in the 2014 receiver heavy draft or free agency(Hakeem Nicks).
Just for fun, I decided to dive some more into the numbers to see what Cam and his our receivers numbers(and Cam's) had our might have looked like had they benefited from the same amount of pass attempts/reception opportunities as their positional opponents in the NFC South.
To ensure no one is confused about these two charts, let me explain them in a more specific way. For example, the last column in chart 2 will give you the correlating assumptive statistics of the Panthers receivers and Cam himself(based on his 8.0 yards per attempt) had he thrown the football as many times as Drew Brees(670 Attempts-Chart 1) in 2012.
|Actual Yards||TB Ext Yards||ATL Ext Yards||NO Ext Yards|
|Cam's Total Pass Yards||3,869||4,453||4,909||5,349|