In the wake of Victor Cruz signing his contract extension through the 2018 season, pundits have weighed in on where the Giants' wide receiver stacks up around the NFL.
As shown below, Cruz, in the last decade, leads receivers in yards and touchdowns based off the players' second and third seasons in the NFL combined (Cruz played in three games a rookie in 2010 before he was placed on injured reserve). But does that make Cruz an elite wide receiver moving forward?
There's that word again.
Former players and current analysts Shaun O’Hara and Donovan McNabb recently debated the topic on NFL Network's "Total Access."
O'Hara: "He is absolutely elite. Everybody talks about slot receivers having to have 100-catch seasons. To me, it's not about quantity, it's about quality. And when you look at Victor Cruz the last two seasons, he has led the NFL in production on third down. So I look at Victor Cruz as elite because he does a number of things. Yes, we compare him to Wes Welker. He runs great routes. He's very precise getting out and creating separation. [In the 77-yard touchdown that clinched a win against the Redskins in Week 7 of 2012], it was bracket coverage. He was double covered. He ran through it. He has the speed that most slot receivers don't.
"Victor Cruz brings certain abilities that not all slot receivers have. I think back to the Jets game in 2011 – the play that [vaulted] the Giants into their Super Bowl run. He made guys miss, not a lot of slot receivers can do that."
McNabb:"I think it's truly unfair to compare him to guys like Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, all these guys who just really stay outside. I think when you look at just the wide receiver position, it's about game changers and who is a guy you have to double team because you know on third down he's going to get the ball and you just can't seem to stop him. [Cruz] had over 1,000 yards receiving, but he dropped a lot of balls early in the season. Here is a guy who Eli Manning definitely relies on. You have to have that security blanket playing the quarterback position, and he just so happened to be on the outside and now on the inside.
"Yes, he's well-deserving of the money he received, maybe a little bit more. But when you look at what he's been able to do, no, he's not comparable to a guy like Wes Welker. To me, Wes Welker is just a slot receiver. Compare him to [Dolphins receiver Brian] Hartline, that is a slap in the face to a guy like Victor Cruz. I think when you look at the elite receiver-quarterback combinations you have to start with a guy like Eli and also with a guy like Victor Cruz."
Wide Receivers in Years 2 and 3 (Since 2004)
Victor Cruz (Giants) – 2,628 YDS, 19 TD
Brandon Marshall (Broncos) – 2,590 YDS, 13 TD
Mike Wallace (Steelers) – 2,450 YDS, 18 TD
Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) – 2,355 YDS, 16 TD
Calvin Johnson (Lions) – 2,315 YDS, 17 TD