Five breakout wide receiver candidates for the 2010 NFL season

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 14:  Dwayne Bowe #82 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates a touchdown for a 14-0 lead over the San Diego Chargers during the second quarter on December 14, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  The Chiefs lost 22-21.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

I hate writing intros and I don’t think many people read them anyway. There’s a good chance you’re not even reading this write now, so let’s just get on with it.

(Side Note: This list isn’t directed at fantasy football readers. If owners want to apply this information for fantasy purposes, please, be my guest. But I encourage you to check out my TSR partner John Paulsen’s work if you’re looking specifically for fantasy-related content. Just do so after you read this piece………’re not even reading this, are you?)

1. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
I’m going to start off with a somewhat obvious candidate in Bowe based on offseason reports (he’s also already shown that he can be productive). But make a mental note (seriously, write it down) that I’ve been high on the former LSU product ever since his performance in the 2007 Sugar Bowl against Note Dame (even though he was arguably outperformed by Early Doucet). After spending a grueling offseason participating in Larry Fitzgerald’s football camp, Bowe is reportedly down to 210 pounds after showing up to camp last year at 240. After spending most of preseason in Todd Haley’s doghouse last year, Bowe is now running with the Chiefs’ first-team offense this summer. At 6’2 and 210 pounds, the problem with Bowe has never been about size or physical tools. His issues have always lied within his work ethic, or lack thereof. But if he’s focused, he could have a tremendous year in Haley’s offense and could go from a promising player to a Pro Bowler in one season.

2. Johnny Knox, Bears
As John wrote in his breakdown of sleeper fantasy receivers last week, it’s hard to pick out just one Bear receiver that could break out this season. That’s because in Mike Martz’s offense, they all could break out. But I’m going with Knox over returner-turned-receiver Devin Hester, whom some believe will be Chicago’s biggest breakout player. Knox has reportedly been targeted more than any receiver in Bears’ camp so far this offseason and he’s the perfect fit for Martz’s up-temp offense. That’s because he not only has elite speed, but he’s also a sound route-runner and he’s already drawing comparisons to Torry Holt in terms of how his game translates in Martz’s offense. Assuming Jay Cutler targets him in the regular season as much as he has so far in training camp, a 1,000-yard season is well within Knox’s reach.

3. Harry Douglas, Falcons
Had I written this piece last year, Douglas would have made that list, too. But after suffering an ACL injury early in camp, the third-year receiver missed the entire 2009 season after showing flashes of playmaking ability as a rookie. This year, he’s healthy again and has already drawn rave reviews from his coaching staff and quarterback Matt Ryan. While Michael Jenkins’ injury might open the door for more opportunities in the passing game, the Falcons want to keep him in the slot so his speed will be a mismatch for nickelbacks, linebackers and safeties. He’ll still be overshadowed by Roddy White in the offense, but assuming his knee doesn’t give him any more problems Douglas could turn some heads this season.

4. Laurent Robinson, Rams
I’ve been high on Robinson for a couple of seasons now and I even dropped a decent veteran last year (I won’t reveal the name so I can save myself some embarrassment) to pick up the St. Louis wideout off the waiver wire in my fantasy league last year. But just as he proved in 2009, he can’t stay healthy. He has good size at 6’2” and 194 pounds, but the key is whether or not the fibula and ankle injuries that derailed his ’09 season will return. The Rams say he’s healthy now and if he stays that way, he could emerge as St. Louis’ best weapon in the passing game. While his production might stay down due to the Rams’ quarterback situation, it’s worth noting that Robinson did catch 11 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown in his first two games last year with a bad Marc Bulger. Health remains is his biggest concern.

5. Brian Robiskie, Browns
Many people are high on Mohamed Massaquoi – and for good reason. He’s being counted on as the No. 1 receiver in Cleveland’s offense (not that that’s saying much) and is more of a deep threat than his teammate Robiskie. However, the former Ohio State product is arguably more polished at this point in his career because of his excellent route-running. He’s not an elite player by any means and Jake Delhomme could seriously hinder his production in 2010, but Robiskie has been impressive thus far during camp and that could translate into a solid regular season. He certainly has the ability to be underrated if he can put everything together this year.

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