IRVING, Texas – Nobody needs a reminder of what happened when the Cowboys faced the best receiver in the NFL last year. Calvin Johnson went full "Megatron" in Detroit's win against Dallas last October, reeling in 14 catches for 329 yards and a score – the second-best single-game yardage total ever by an NFL receiver.
Megatron isn't on the schedule this go-around, but the Cowboys' didn't dodge any bullets with the 2014 slate of wideouts they have to face. Even without Johnson, the list of receivers Dallas must deal with this season includes no less than four All-Pros and even more Pro Bowlers.
That makes for a tough top 10 to put together, but the staff of DallasCowboys.com – Nick Eatman, Rowan Kavner, David Helman and Bryan Broaddus – took a crack at it. This was a tough list to put together, and, scarily enough for the Cowboys, several big names like Marques Colston, Percy Harvin and Michael Crabtree didn't even make the cut.
Honorable Mention: T.Y. Hilton –One of a few young players on this list, Hilton showed what he's capable of when the Colts lost Reggie Wayne to an injury last year. He put up 82 catches for 1,083 yards in just his second season, and his 13-catch, 224-yard, two-touchdown explosion against the Chiefs in the playoffs put the league on notice.
10. Kendall Wright –Wright also enjoyed a sterling second season despite an underwhelming quarterback situation in Tennessee. His 94 receptions almost doubled the next-best total for the Titans, and he managed 17 catches of 20 or more yards to finish with 1,079. He might have climbed higher on the list, but he caught just two touchdowns for the Titans' woeful offense.
The Cowboys don't have to deal with Megatron in 2014, but that's hardly comforting when you consider the 10 best receivers on the schedule this coming season.
9. Pierre Garcon –Having hung around the league for a few years, Garcon finally put up a truly fantastic season and was one of the bright spots on a bad Washington team last year. In a league with so many fantastic receiver, it says a lot that Garcon's 113 catches led the NFL. He also finished eighth in yards with 1,346. Even scarier: he'll now be partnering with DeSean Jackson, who should take the focus off him in the Redskins' offense.
8. Reggie Wayne –If this list was about career accomplishments, this three-time All-Pro would be much closer to the top. Wayne was working toward another 1,000-yard season in 2013 before he tore his ACL in October. It'll be interesting to see how well the 35-year-old bounces back, but the presence of Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton should make it manageable.
7. DeSean Jackson –Already considered one of the league's most dangerous playmakers, Jackson put up his best-ever season during his final year in Philadelphia and earned his third Pro Bowl selection. During his six seasons with the Eagles, he didn't enjoy much success against the Cowboys, but he'll have two chances to reverse that trend as the newest member of the rival Redskins.
6. Anquan Boldin –You'd never confuse Boldin for a deep threat, which makes him easy to forget about sometimes – and that's a mistake. The longtime veteran has proven himself reliable as well as talented during his decade in the league, as he's only gone for fewer than 837 yards once in his 11 seasons. In his first season with San Francisco, he was Colin Kaepernick's go-to option with 85 catches for 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns.
5. Victor Cruz –Considering the stats he put up in his first two seasons, 2013 was a down year for Cruz. The fact that 73 receptions for 998 yards is considered a down year speaks to his abilities, though. Despite Cruz's, as well as the entire New York offense's, struggles, he still torched Dallas for 118 yards and three touchdowns in the 2013 season opener.
4. Alshon Jeffrey –Maybe we're biased, because we saw firsthand what Jeffrey could do in that Monday night beatdown in Chicago, but this third-year player looks poised to become one of the best young receivers in the game. Jeffrey has shown amazing hands and big-play ability, and the fact that opposing defenses have to worry about Brandon Marshall means he probably won't drop off any time soon.
3. Andre Johnson –It almost seems unfair to have Johnson this low, given his seven seasons with 1,100 or more yards. It seemed like age might be catching up with him when injuries limited him to just seven games and 492 yards in 2011, but he responded to that setback with a 1,598-yard effort in 2012 and 1,407 yards last year. The big question for the veteran now is who is going to get him the ball?
2. Brandon Marshall –Choose any season, team or quarterback you want and it won't matter. Dating back to 2007, in which he spent time with Denver, Miami and now Chicago, Marshall hasn't gone for fewer than 81 receptions or 1,014 yards. He has only caught fewer than six touchdowns twice in his eight year career. During his past two seasons with the Bears, his stats stand up to anyone in the league, Megatron included.
1. Larry Fitzgerald –The Arizona All-Pro has dropped off slightly by his lofty standards, but his pedigree is more than enough to claim the top spot. Fitzgerald has only missed four games in his 10-year career, and he has only finished with fewer than 946 yards twice, despite not always having good quarterback play. The arrival of Carson Palmer in Phoenix last year helped Fitzgerald regain his mojo, as he went for 954 yards and 10 touchdowns. If they can maintain that connection, the Cardinals have a decent shot at the postseason in 2014.