2012 AFC North: Ranking the Division's Top 5 Wide Receivers

Dan Snyder@@dsnyder34Correspondent IJune 11, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23:  Wide receiver Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates with teammates after scoring on a 95 touchdown reception against the Arizona Cardinals during the second quarter of the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Steelers defeated the Cardinals 32-20.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Despite their hard-nosed pasts, the AFC North teams have actually had some pretty good receivers in their respective histories. 

The Steelers had Hall of Famers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann in the 70s and future Hall of Famer Hines Ward until his retirement this past offseason. Cincinnati boasted Carl Pickens and Cleveland landed Paul Warfield. 

But with the passing explosion in the NFL, more receivers are becoming household names, especially in the AFC North. 

So who are the division's Top 5 receivers? Let's get to it. 

5. Greg Little, Cleveland Browns

This could have easily been the Ravens Torrey Smith, but to me, Smith is a little too one dimensional at this point in his career. 

As a rookie last season, Little led the Browns with 61 receptions and 709 yards on a team that really struggled throwing the ball. The former second round pick in 2011 has been reportedly working overtime to get acquainted with 2012 first round pick Brandon Weeden and looks poised to be a major player for the Browns this year.

I'm not sure if Little is a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL, but I do think that he has the potential to be. If Weeden can prove he's worth the pick the Browns spent on him, Little could be in line for a big 2012 season.

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 08: Greg Little #15 of the Cleveland Browns reaches out for a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game on December 8, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

4. Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens

In 2010, the Ravens landed their first true "star" receiver in Boldin, but Boldin's underachieved a little since coming to Baltimore.

This has something to do with the fact that the Ravens throw a lot less than the Cardinals did, but still Boldin has never even topped 900 yards in his two years with the Ravens.

With that said, Boldin is still one of the most dangerous receivers in the division.

In 14 games last season, Boldin hauled in 57 catches for 887 yards and three touchdowns. Outside of Ray Rice, Boldin is still the clear No. 1 option for quarterback Joe Flacco.

It's pretty obvious that Boldin's best days are behind him and he could soon be passed on the depth chart by Torrey Smith if Smith can learn to run proper routes. But Boldin is still one of the toughest and grittiest receivers in the league and is one of the best over the middle of the field.

In my mind, the 31-year-old still has a lot of football in front of him.

3. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

In just his second season with the Steelers and after only three starts (according to pro-football-reference.com), Brown, a former sixth round pick, topped the 1000-yard mark.

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 01:  Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers catches a pass in front of defensive back Mike Adams #20 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on January 1, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sul
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

He finished his 2011 campaign with 69 catches for 1108 yards and two touchdowns and is quickly becoming one of Ben Roethlisberger's favorite targets. 

Brown does a lot of things well for the Steelers, but most of all, he embodies that Pittsburgh mentality. He's a great compliment to Mike Wallace and works very well over the middle. Brown has drawn a lot of comparisons Anquan Boldin. 

Brown may have recorded only three starts last season, but he was clearly the Steelers No. 2 option, and in some cases, he became the go-to-guy. 

With Hines Ward retired, the sky's the limit for Brown and the Steelers passing offense. 

2. Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers

Over the past two seasons, there has been no more consistent wide receiver in the AFC North than the Steelers' Mike Wallace. 

Wallace came off a 1,257 yard season in 2010 to post 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011. The fourth-year receiver also added 12 receptions to his 2010 total, compiling 72 in 2010. 

Despite a lingering contract situation, Wallace is still the Steelers main threat in the passing game. Not only does his vertical ability open up plays underneath for Pittsburgh, but it creates some big ones too. 

I highly doubt the contract situation will work its way onto the field and with starting running back Rashard Mendenhall expected to miss significant time, I fully expect Wallace to be the main weapon on the Steelers offense. 

1. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

With the last two seasons that Mike Wallace put up, it's kind of hard to go against him. But seeing what A.J. Green did last year and what he's capable of doing in the future is downright scary. 

In 15 games last season, Green hauled in 65 passes for 1,057 yards and seven touchdowns all while leading the Bengals back to the Playoffs and making the Pro Bowl as a rookie. 

Green has elite size, speed and hands and the only real knock on him is that he's a little too thin. 

I've been a big fan of Green since his time at Georgia and I think he'll benefit from the addition of rookies Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, as defenses won't be able to key on him as much.

All you really need to know about Green can be seen in this video clip as he goes up and scores a touchdown over Steelers safeties Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark, neither of which are slouches. 

Bengals fans should look for Green to be an elite receiver in this league for the next decade plus and may always keep Cincinnati in contention.