The search for next year's gem in fantasy football never gets old. In fact, it never ends.
One more venue in trying to find an untapped stud is to take a look at the classic "third year wide receiver" rule. It's not an exact science, but it's a well discussed idea - that wide receivers tend to break out or start playing their best ball by their third season.
The truth is, a lot of wide receivers never do anything, while others are studs in year one or two. However, it still happens and it forces fantasy owners to look at guys entering "make or break" seasons where they'll either shine, or start falling apart.
Here are the top 10 guys from the 2010 NFL Draft that could have a solid shot at busting out in 2012:
We get started with Bryant because he's an easy choice to break out, although he is entering his third season. Bryant was held back as a rookie due to the presence of Roy Williams, and dealt with injuries in 2011. In 2012, he'll once again be the number two guy across from Miles Austin, with the sky being the limit.
Bryant has yet to crack 1,000 yards or 10 touchdowns, but with Tony Romo leading an explosive attack, year three should see Bryant raise his game to a whole new level.
Williams is right there with Bryant, as he has actually already kind of "arrived". However, I get the feeling a lot of people will be down on him after a very disappointing sophomore season, where he scored just three touchdowns and posted 65 receptions for 771 yards. He actually hauled in 65 catches as a rookie the year before, too, but he made better use of them, to the tune of 964 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Williams's struggles in 2011 had a lot to do with him being the only legit receiver on the team, and Josh Freeman having a down year. With Vincent Jackson brought in and Doug Martin drafted, Williams could explode with less of the opposition's focus on stopping just him.
Here's the first guy that hasn't done a ton, but could be in store for a huge year. Decker can line-up outside or in the slot, and he can go after jump balls with his solid size and ball skills. He's the number two option to Demaryius Thomas to be sure, but with Peyton Manning taking over the offense, it may not matter.
Just go back and look at how Manning utilized guys like Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon, and Brandon Stokley over the years. Decker already proved his worth in 2011 with eight touchdowns and over 600 receiving yards - and a lot of that was with an inaccurate Tim Tebow.
Toss Manning behind center, and Decker could blow up.
Hue Jackson once compared Ford's size and explosiveness to Steve Smith. I can't knock that, but I can point out that Ford is much more raw and plays with an inconsistent quarterback. With that said, I think something will click in Ford in his third season.
He's shown his potential with a couple of big outings in his first two seasons, and has displayed the ability to do a lot with a few amount of touches. He has a lot of competition in Oakland, but with so many injuries and spotty hands around, he still has a shot to earn a big role. If he does, he could be a guy to watch.
LaFell is currently penciled in as Carolina's number two receiver, opposite of Steve Smith. David Gettis is returning from a terrible knee injury, and is probably slated to be the third guy. After him, there really is no competition.
Needless to say, it's make or break time for LaFell, and there's a good chance he makes the best of it.
LaFell looked lost at times as a rookie in 2010, but started to come into his own last season, as he racked up over 600 yards and three touchdowns, while averaging 17 yards per catch. LaFell has good size and ball skills, and has a great chance to develop into a reliable number two for Cam Newton. Bank on WR3 fantasy numbers, with the potential for much more.
Thomas missed a lot of time in his first two seasons due to injury, but he still displayed his potential in both. It wasn't until last year, though, that he really made a name for himself.
Thomas would have already been a receiver on the rise in 2012, even if Peyton Manning wasn't taking over the offense. After all, he did haul in 25 receptions over the final five regular season games, along with 400+ receiving yards and three touchdowns.
But the best part is that he didn't stop there. His momentum carried into the post-season, where he dropped 204 yards and a game-winner on the Steelers (off of just four catches, mind you), and even tacked on six catches and 93 yards the next week against the Patriots.
As Manning's new number one target, the sky is truly the limit for the ascending Thomas.
Hines Ward is retired and Brown is already the Steelers' number two wide receiver, so you'd have to think there's nowhere but up for the speedy wideout. Brown has already established himself as a threat in fantasy football, but there is reason to believe he has even greener pastures ahead of him.
Brown piled on 1,108 yards off of just 69 receptions in 2011, as he posted an impressive 16.1 yards per catch average. With another year in the system and Ward out of the picture, he should only improve upon those numbers.
Shipley lasted just two games in 2011, as he caught four passes for 14 yards before succumbing to a torn ACL. However, he impressed as a rookie in the slot in 2010, when he caught 52 balls for 600 yards and three touchdowns.
He'll be facing added competition in rookies Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in 2012, but Shipley has already been cleared to play and is easily the best fit for the slot in Cincy. He still has an edge over his younger competition since he knows the offense, and if he keeps his spot in the slot, he could surprise some people with a solid comeback year.
Williams benefited immensely from Kenny Britt going down early in 2011, and showed in spurts over the course of the season that he was worth the investment of a third-round pick.
In the end, he racked up 592 yards and five touchdowns off of 45 receptions, despite starting the year with just three catches through the first four weeks.
Britt is back and the Titans drafted Kendall Wright, but Williams has displayed play-making ability and nice potential. Look out for him if he carves out a solid role like he did in 2011.
It's kind of funny that everyone was hyping up Sanders as the next great Steelers receiver, and Antonio Brown was the guy that semi-broke out in 2011.
It could be time for Sanders to raise his game, as well.
He's been below average in terms of stats in his first two years, but that has had everything to do with playing time and injuries. However, Hines Ward is gone, so all Sanders has to do is stay healthy and beat out Jerricho Cotchery to make a fantasy impact in 2012. Todd Haley is calling Pittsburgh's offense these days, and with such explosive weapons in the passing game, the Steelers could be an offense to keep an eye on. Sanders is just one reason why.
Alexander had a huge 122-yard game with a touchdown in week two last year, and everyone thought he was finally going to stay healthy and realize his potential. That didn't happen.
Instead, Alexander wasted a huge opportunity to come up big for Sam Bradford and the Rams, and struggled with injuries (six missed games on the year) and inconsistency.
He did make progress, however, and exhibited his coveted size and play-making ability. The big question remains, though, if he can stay healthy and become that impact guy who can get it done consistently.
At the very worst, newly drafted rookies Brian Quick and Chris Givens will push him in 2012. Either he'll fold under the pressure (or get hurt again), or he'll rise to the challenge and become the player the Rams thought he had the potential of being when they signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2010.
Benefit of Third Year Wide Receivers
The beauty of these guys is that every single guy (save for Shipley, due to injury, and Mike Williams), made at least some progress in 2011. They have more time in the offense, more chemistry with their quarterback, and have been able to work on their craft.
If you're digging for that third-year gem that could break out and be a star in 2012, there's a good chance he's on the list above.
Think we missed a third-year receiver who will bust out this year? Tell us below!