By Jerome Manson
While many of the big names can be expected to dominate in the 2012 season again, there are plenty more teams hoping to capitalize in the air. Below are some of the quarterback-receiver combinations that I expect to put up big numbers in the upcoming season.
Drew Brees - Jimmy Graham: As a tight end, Graham put up huge receiving numbers last season with 1,310. His frame reflects his numbers as he stands 6'7" and has a 37" vertical. With his wingspan factored in, his hands can reach roughly 12+'. Not that he ever has to with Drew Brees throwing at him. Brees is coming out with a record breaking season behind him with 5,476 yards for 2011 and a completion rating of 71%.
It's unlikely this duo will be able to match the stats they put up last year, especially with the setbacks the Saints have faced in light of the bounty scandal, but Brees and Graham should still be putting up very impressive numbers this season.
Tom Brady - Wes Welker: This was a tough one for me. Not Tom Brady, love him or probably hate him, he is one of the greats. What I couldn't decide between was Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski broke his own share of records by posting up 18 touchdowns and averaged almost 15 yards per touch. Welker didn't score as much but put up more yardage with 1,569 total yards, and helped Gronkowski to score by getting the offense into the red zone.
I chose Welker due to the fact that Gronkowski had ankle surgery between this season and last, and defenders will certainly be watching him like a hawk in the end zone. Welker also has a much more consistent record while he's been thrown to from one of the best quarterbacks of his era. It's hard to fail when you're surrounded by talent, and Brady is definitely looking to succeed again after throwing 5,235 yards last season.
Aaron Rodgers - Greg Jennings: Jennings was robbed of a career high season in 2011 after he missed the last three games with a knee injury. Jordy Nelson had a huge season last year and that will draw some of the defensive attention away from Jennings return, who is Rodger's favorite target. Speaking of Rodgers… He continues to dominate and everyone will be shocked if he doesn't keep up the trend. The Rodgers-Gennings hookup is going to be going full swing this season.
Now those are my big three, and there are certainly other duos that will put up big numbers, but I'm going to turn to some teams looking to prove themselves.
Alex Smith - Randy Moss: Smith has had somewhat of a lackluster career with the 49ers until last season when he led them to a 13-3 season and the NFC Championship game. The 49ers are finally favorites in their division and Smith will have to rise to the challenge. So far, it's looking good with Smith looking relaxed and strong throughout the offseason and he's got a bigger weapon to throw to this year in Randy Moss. Since leaving the Patriots, Randy Moss hasn't been too impressive, but he's still a receiver to be respected and Smith will certainly enjoy throwing to him.
Phillip Rivers - Robert Meachem: Chargers fans know that to love Rivers is to hate Rivers. While he had a pro-bowl performance last season, he still threw 20 interceptions to his 27 touchdowns. Rivers will need to improve that ratio drastically if the Chargers want any late season success. The Chargers also lost their star wide receiver from 2011, Vincent Jackson, but they've picked up free agent Robert Meachem. Meachem posted decent numbers with the Saints but never got a ton of throws his way because of the depth he was against. With Rivers throwing to him, Meachem will have plenty of touches and chances to rack up big numbers.
Jerome Manson is a sports enthusiast who enjoys both watching games and writing about them. When he is not cheering on his team from the stands, Jerome is blogging about the NFL for selectaticket.com.