Face it - undrafted rookies out of Massachusetts aren't supposed to post the type of numbers Victor Cruz did for the New York Giants last season. No matter how keen the pro scouts are in identifying talent, it would be pressing to find anyone who predicted an 82-1,536-9 (Rec-Yds-TDs) breakout season for the Giants wide receiver.
So exactly where is the ceiling for Cruz?
In recapping his 2011 campaign, the 82 passes Cruz caught ranked fifth in the NFL among wide receivers. His 1,536 yards receiving ranked third while the nine touchdown passes he caught tied him for fourth in the league. Putting this in perspective, only Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions clearly had a better year at the position as he posted 96-1,681-16 numbers on the year. In one respect or another, the case can be made that Cruz's year was superior to that of Jordy Nelson, Dez Bryant, Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker, or Larry Fitzgerald.
That's awfully good company. It's a testament to how good he was in 2011.
Last year Hakeem Nicks started the season as the Giants' clear number one wide receiver. In one less game that Cruz (Nicks played 15 games) he managed a 76-1,192-7 campaign. Not shabby numbers by any means. But considering Cruz entered camp attempting to win a job for his first NFL season and Hicks was the incumbent coming into his third season, the imagination goes wild wondering what Cruz can accomplish as he becomes more seasoned.
Consider the rookie season of Randy Moss - he went 69-1,313-17 in his first year of action with the Minnesota Vikings. He followed that up in 1999 by going 80-1,413-11. While it is debatable, his best year was statistically was 2007 with the New England Patriots when he finished 98-1,493-23. It was his tenth year as a pro.
Hines Ward wasn't selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers until the third round of the 1998 draft. He didn't make a single start that season and managed only 15 catches. His breakout season occurred in 2001 when he went 94-1,003-4. The following year was statistically his best year at 112-1,329-12 as a 26 year old.
It may be unfair to compare Victor Cruz to two of the best wide receivers of the last twenty year. All three (Cruz, Moss, and Hines) have experienced vastly different offensive programs and head coaches. Nonetheless, it is difficult not to believe Cruz can repeat or exceed his 2011 year entering this season at the age of 25.
It's a safe bet that the Giants will need to keep one eye on their record books because new team receiving standards are certain to be set by Cruz. Hopefully the same can be said of Super Bowl victories.
Sources: Yahoo! Sports
Robert Watkins is former investment professional and partner. A native New Yorker until 9/11, he considers Pa. his adoptive home. A passionate Giants fan, fantasy football fanatic, and Pennsylvania sports enthusiast, Robert is a frequent contributor to Yahoo! Sports and News
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