An Updated Look at AFC North Receivers After the Steelers Trade Santonio Holmes

In case you missed it, the Pittsburgh Steelers traded WR Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets. In exchange, all they received was a fifth-round draft pick. Based on Holmes' production the past couple of years, there was no reason talent-wise to trade Holmes.

This is a player who is just entering the prime of his career, coming off a career-best 1,248 yards receiving and 5 touchdowns. In my mind, he had the same productivity level as Hines Ward did, especially against the Browns. Here is the damage Holmes did to the Browns compared to Ward the past several years...

2009

Santonio Holmes: 11 catches, 197 yards
Hines Ward: 12 catches, 180 yards, 1 TD

2008

Santonio Holmes: 8 catches, 125 yards
Hines Ward: 11 catches, 129 yards, 1 TD

2007

Santonio Holmes: 6 catches, 108 yards, 1 TD
Hines Ward: 10 catches, 131 yards, 2 TD

2006

Santonio Holmes: 9 catches, 156 yards, 1 TD
Hines Ward: 7 catches, 81 yards (* did not play in both games)

As you can see, their production levels against the Browns over the past four years had been pretty consistent. Losing one of those players and keeping a guy that is nearing the later stages of his career can only benefit the Browns.

Holmes was entering the last year of his contract, and since he's facing a four-game suspension this year, the Jets are only getting him for 12 games. That's why the Steelers were only able to get a fifth rounder for him, but the Jets unquestionably got a bargain at the same time because Holmes has proven to be a much more consistent threat than Braylon Edwards. It's good to see the Steelers take action toward one troublesome player, but the timing of the move almost makes you scratch your head in regards to the non-punishment coming to QB Ben Roethlisberger.

Now that the Jets have made a knack for taking away troubled receivers from the AFC North, let's take an updated look at each team's status at the position before the draft...

Baltimore Ravens

Returning Threats: Mark Clayton, Derrick Mason

New Threats: Anquan Boldin, Donte Stallworth

Comment: I still question the competence of quarterback Joe Flacco, but I'd rate the Ravens' group of receivers as the best in the AFC North, a far cry from what I would've rated them the past few seasons. Mason is still a very good possession receiver, and Boldin brings that same dynamic but at a higher level. Stallworth has a chance to rejuvenate his career and always did well as a deep threat -- we all know Flacco loves launching the ball at times too.

Cincinnati Bengals

Returning Threats: Chad Ochocinco, Andre Caldwell

New Threats: Antonio Bryant

Comment: The Bengals did not retain Laveranues Coles in the offseason, but that shouldn't be too big of a loss for them. The Bengals added Bryant, who seems to be the "rent-a-receiver and I'll do okay" receiver in the NFL. I really look for the Bengals to add another receiver in either the first (Dez Bryant?) or second rounds, because so far the selection of Jerome Simpson a couple of years ago hasn't paid off.

Cleveland Browns

Returning Threats Players: Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie, Chansi Stuckey

New Threats: No one, literally

Comment: The receiver situation for the Browns looks ugly. For simplicity, I did not list Joshua Cribbs -- we know the threat he offers, but we can't classify him as a pure wide receiver. It seems to make sense that the Browns should address the receiver position in the draft, especially after Mike Holmgren announced that the team does not plan to pursue any veteran free agent receivers.

After spending two second-round picks on Massaquoi and Robiskie last year though, I think you still have to wait another season out to see how each of the players perform with Jake Delhomme. Also, if we were to invest another high pick in a receiver, I'd rather have our quarterback of the future already starting to sort of allow the duo to build a relationship from the get go. Sadly, our receiver situation again looks to be the worst in the division.

(Note: It wouldn't surprise me to see a receiver selected in round three)

Pittsburgh Steelers

Returning Threats: Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Limas Sweed

New Threats: Antwaan Randle El, Arnaz Battle

Comment: The Steelers can immediately bump Wallace up to the No. 2 position. Wallace had an outstanding season for a rookie third rounder last year, catching 39 passes for 756 yards and 6 touchdowns. He averaged nearly 20 yards per catch. Sweed has been stashed away for two years, so it's hard to tell if he'll be given a chance to contribute.

Battle has the ability to be your typical No. 4 or No. 5 veteran receiver, while Randle El's return brings a flash from the past. Pittsburgh will certainly miss Holmes, because right now I don't see them with a viable threat at No. 3. With the Steelers' needs on the offensive line and at cornerback though, I don't anticipate them using a high draft pick on a receiver.

In Summary...

In terms of quality, I'd rate the AFC North receiving groups in the following order: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Cleveland. Would you rank them any differently?

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