There are several up-and-coming wide receivers in the AFC South. Everyone knows about Andre Johnson (whom I feel is the best wideout in all of football) and Reggie Wayne (whom I think is beginning to decline).
But let’s talk about a few others of note. Also, if you’re interested in my thoughts of the tight ends in the division, please check out my Scouts Eye column.
One thing to note here is that Houston is short in this department and I don't see a wideout on its roster who can be classified as up and coming. There could still be an argument made for Jacoby Jones, but he is wildly inconsistent and his production has not approached his ability.
The Texans were very wise to lock up tight end Owen Daniels, who could end up being an outstanding complement to Johnson. But the wideouts on this roster outside of Johnson are disturbing. The Texans are dripping with defensive needs, and using a premium resource on an offensive player might not be feasible right now.
Britt arrived last season, but he still qualifies as an up-and-comer at wide receiver. He is just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what he can accomplish. The quarterback situation in Tennessee will obviously have a lot to do with whether or not he reaches that vast potential, but I really like what I see from Britt. He does need to show more consistency overall, and he will body catch more than what is ideal, but his natural abilities are among the best in the league.
Britt is big and very physical with his approach to the position and should become one of the better over-the-middle and red zone options at his position. But Britt isn’t just a possession guy; his downfield skills are superb. It will be very interesting to see Britt’s deep-ball skills with a better deep passer.
Britt was injured at the very beginning of the San Diego game (Week 8) and missed the next four contests. He also was a nonfactor in the opener. But in the other 10 games, Britt caught 42 passes and nine touchdowns. He actually started only seven games last season. If the quarterback situation is adequate, I expect Britt to approach 100 catches and a dozen touchdowns in 2011.
In a way, like Britt, Collie has already arrived. He has made his mark in this league and is obviously a favorite of Peyton Manning. Injuries have been a huge issue with this young player, however, and his future might be somewhat in doubt considering his concussion history. But I have him listed here because I think that, if he can stay on the field, the best is yet to come with Collie.
I actually think what he brings to the field is somewhat underrated. Collie can be great. He is already an incredible route runner. He consistently is where he needs to be -- and the guy catches everything. Collie can provide the consistency that Pierre Garcon cannot.
Also, we should not discount Anthony Gonzalez, especially if injuries prevent Collie from contributing. Gonzalez also can’t stay healthy and it is easy to overlook him at this point, but I saw a very promising future not too long ago for this former first-round pick. He could surprise going forward. Even though Wayne might not be what he once was, it looks as though the Colts are simply loaded with receiving options for Manning.
Like Collie, Thomas catches everything and could be ideally suited to thrive out of the slot. But I also think Thomas has the strength and overall physicality to be an every-down player and make a living outside the numbers. He is crisp and explosive with his movements and excellent after the catch, acting like a smaller running back with the ball in his hands. Although most of his targets come close to the line of scrimmage, I see Thomas as a very solid No. 2 wideout.
It went under the radar to some degree, but Jacksonville recently re-signed Hill before he could hit the open market in free agency. To me, that implies that the Jaguars were very happy with what they saw from Hill, and most likely, will allow Mike Sims-Walker to test the free-agent market.
Hill has the ability to stretch the field on the perimeter and has the size to complement Thomas quite well. Look for him to catch far more passes than the 11 he did last season. And, it should be noted that 10 of those grabs came in the last four games of the season, with those 10 receptions going for a whopping 233 yards. It could be a sign of good things to come for Hill.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.