10. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski
Ever since the Patriots drafted Gronk in the second round of the 2010 Draft out of the University of Arizona, the combination of Brady to Gronkowski has been a deadly and dominant one.
Gronkowski has given Brady a security blanket for the times that Welker and Branch are tied up in coverage, and it has greatly paid off for New England.
In a record-obliterating 2011 campaign, Gronkowski caught 90 balls for a record 17 touchdowns and 1,327 yards, an extraordinary feat for a second year player.
Gronk surely has many more great years ahead of him, and I'm sure Tom Brady will enjoy having him around to finish out his career.
9. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall
This has been a winning combination since Jay Cutler's days in Denver before being shipped out by Josh McDaniels.
Marshall had his best season when Cutler was throwing him the ball and vice-versa. It's almost as though Cutler is the only quarterback Marshall likes to play with. He had lackluster seasons with guys like Kyle Orton, Chad Henne, and Matt Moore throwing him the ball, but with Cutler he seems to have an extra spring in his step and eye for the ball.
The situation could not have been more perfect, as the Bears were desperate for a solid No. 1 receiver, and Marshall was on the chopping block in Miami. So far this season, Marshall has caught 16 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown, with three plays of 20+ yards.
The numbers aren't exactly eye popping, but keep in mind that Marshall is still adjusting to the new offense. When Marshall finally does settle into the system, it's gonna be a nightmare for opposing defenses.
8. Cam Newton and Steve Smith
Steve Smith played a major role in Cam Newton's success as a rookie in 2011, and it's not hard to see that Cam also helped out Smith tremendously. In a tough 2010 season with Jimmy Clausen at the helm, Smith registered 46 catches for 554 yards and only two touchdowns.
But once the former Heisman trophy winner threw on his Superman cape and flew into town, Smith had new life on the football field.
In 2011, Smith more than doubled his yards and touchdowns, reeling in 79 catches for 1,374 yards and 7 touchdowns. It was the first time since 2008 that Smith had over 1,000 yards receiving. It was a great thing to see for Carolina fans, and although the Panthers have sputtered on offense so far in this young season, the future is bright for these two superstars.
7. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson
It's hard to imagine anyone not being able to perform well with Andre Johnson catching the ball, but Matt Schaub has done a fantastic job since coming to Houston. It is because of players like Johnson and Schaub that the Texans are even relevant in the NFL.
Johnson, arguably the best receiver in the NFL, has had some injuries as of late, but looking back at his last season with Schaub, it is hard to argue that there is a much better combination in the NFL today.
In 2010, Johnson caught 86 passes for 1,218 and 8 touchdowns. Schaub has never been considered an "elite" passer, but I think Johnson is helping him make his case as a top-tier quarterback in the NFL. It's easy to picture these two hoisting a Lombardi trophy one day, whether it be this year or sometime down the road, I wouldn't be surprised.
6. Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson
You'd have to be blind to not see why these two work so well together. Stafford is a gunslinger with a big arm who is never afraid to go deep. Johnson is an absolute freak physically, and at 6'5" 236 pounds, he can go up and get those deep balls from his wily quarterback.
This is essentially a match made in football heaven, as Stafford was the number one overall pick in 2009, and Johnson was the No. 2 overall pick in 2007. Both had great college careers in the tough conferences such as the SEC and ACC respectively.
Their attributes stylistically match up well as they both have that "never say die" attitude and the abilities to win the game for their team. Johnson had his best season to date in 2011, catching 96 passes for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Last year, Johnson and Stafford led the Lions to the playoffs for the first time in decades. They are truly a combination to watch in the future, as the best has yet to come for them both. Keep an eye out for these two.
5. Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace
A couple seasons ago, this would have been Roethlisberger and Hines Ward, but Wallace has since taken the reigns as the top receiver in Pittsburgh. The 6'0", 199-pound Wallace is one of the top receivers in the league, and probably also the fastest. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said it best when he said to Roethlisberger, "Just turn it loose, you can't overthrow him." Very true.
Mike Wallace has the speed and agility to outrun and juke virtually any defender and get down the field quick, often times for touchdowns. Since coming into the league in 2009, Wallace has had 62 plays of 20 yards or more, and 23 plays of 40 yards or more.
This past offseason, when Wallace was holding out for a new contract, I knew Roethlisberger was sweating quite a bit as it got down to the wire. Although Big Ben has other receivers such as Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, neither of them are up to the level that Wallace is.
If Wallace didn't end his holdout, and Roethlisberger had to go through the season without his number one guy, I'm not sure the Steelers would even be in the conversation of probable playoff teams.
4. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green
The first and second round picks in 2011 for the Bengals had a great season last year. They both helped each other in their development as pro football players, and the Bengals are surely patting themselves on the back about it. Green led all rookie receivers with 65 catches, 1,057 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Green accounted for 22 percent of Dalton's total yards, and about a third of his touchdown passes. After the ugly departure of Carson Palmer from Cincy, there were questions raised as to whether Dalton could lead this team in his first season.
Well, those questions were quickly answered as he burst onto the scene with Green by his side. The crimson-haired quarterback and his counterpart played a major role in the Bengals' playoff push last season before ultimately losing to the Texans in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
Dalton, Green, and the Bengals look to make it two years in a row and go to the playoffs again this year, hopefully making it farther this time around.
3. Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson
The Packers' potent pair of players had been a good combination for a few years, before really coming on in the Super Bowl two seasons ago. After only having 45 catches for 582 and two touchdowns during the regular season in 2010, Nelson caught nine balls for 140 yards and a touchdown en route to a Super Bowl victory.
This success continued into 2011 as Nelson more than doubled his yardage and touchdowns. He had 68 catches for 1,263 yards and a whopping 15 touchdowns in 2011, and was the Packers' leading receiver.
With Greg Jennings struggling with injury, and Donald Driver getting up there in age, Nelson has consistently been a prime target for Aaron Rodgers these past couple of years, and there is no doubt that their success will continue in the coming years.
2. Eli Manning and Victor Cruz
Cruz burst onto the NFL scene in a 2010 preseason game between the Giants and Jets at the inaugural game in their shared MetLife Stadium. In that game, he had six catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns, impressive stats for a guy from the practice squad.
He ended up missing the 2010 season with injury, but was back with a vengeance in 2011, and quickly became Eli's favorite target. Cruz was the Giants' leading receiver in 2011, and tallied 82 catches for 1,536 touchdowns and nine touchdowns.
Cruz was a salient piece of the puzzle for the Giants' Super Bowl season last year, and has continued that so far this season. In only three games, Cruz already has 23 catches for 279 yards and a touchdown. Manning to Cruz is a killer combo.
1. Matt Ryan and Roddy White, Julio Jones
Yes, I am sorta cheating by including both White and Jones, but the similarities weren't to be ignore. Both played their college ball in Alabama, both were first round picks by the Falcons, and both can play some damn good football.
Matt Ryan, a former top 10 pick by the Falcons in 2008, has gotten better as each season passes and couldn't be in a better situation. Not only does Ryan have Jones and White to throw to, but also arguably the best tight end of all time in Tony Gonzalez, an All-Pro back in Michael Turner, and a defense that has finally caught up to their high-powered offense.
The best part about the Jones-White combination is that they benefit greatly from each other, giving opposing defenses a pick-your-poison situation, and it certainly isn't an easy decision to make.
If defenses roll coverage to one guy, that leaves man-to-man coverage for the other, giving Matty Ice a great opportunity to make a big play.
Both receivers are home-run hitters, both receivers are game-breakers, and both receivers are simply great, and they have an unbeaten record to show for their efforts. The Falcons could very well be getting a ring at the end of the season if this trio keeps maintains their level of play.
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!
|Best of Yardbarker||NFL News||MLB News||NBA News||NHL News|
Today's Best Stuff