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Minnesota Vikings preview: Ranking the NFC North’s wide receivers

No. 1 - Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
No. 1 - Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
Jason Miller/Getty Images

The NFC North has some of the best passing offenses in the league. That is reflected in the number of very good receivers in the division. The Chicago Bears have the best one-two punch, but the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers may have the deepest groups. The Detroit Lions have one of the best in the league.

No team gets more out of their receivers than the Packers. They let veterans go sign lucrative contracts elsewhere and just plug the next man up into the lineup without missing a beat.

The Bears, until last season, were a one-man receiving group. Now they are a two-man group trying to supplement Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery with a decent third option.

The Lions are a one-man group that hopes Golden Tate can open things up for Calvin Johnson. Tate can be what the Lions have been looking for since drafting Johnson.

The Vikings have been really thin at receiver with no real No. 1 or 2 guy for several years. Then last season, Greg Jennings signed as a free agent and Cordarrelle Patterson was drafted in the first round. Now the Vikings have two very good receiving options as well as quality depth.

Here is a ranking of the top 10 wide receivers projected to be on the two-deep depth chart of the four NFC North teams.

No. 1 - Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
No. 1 - Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions Jason Miller/Getty Images

No. 1 - Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions

Johnson is arguably the best receiver in the league. If not No. 1, then he is No. 2. He is a huge target with very good speed. With his size and speed, there is little defenders can do to slow him down. They cannot jump with him nor be physical with him at the line of scrimmage.

No. 2 - Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
No. 2 - Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

No. 2 - Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears

Marshall has the size and speed to be one of the best receivers in the league. Mental issues have held him back and caused him to be traded twice during his NFL career. Playing with quarterback Jay Cutler again in Chicago, like he did early in his career with the Denver Broncos, has been good for his career. He and Alshon Jeffery have become the best wide receiver duo in the NFL.

No. 3 - Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
No. 3 - Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

No. 3 - Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears

Jeffery is quickly becoming one of the league’s best. Like, Marshall and Johnson, he has size and speed. He is not as fast as the other two, but can get behind the secondary. He is very close to passing Marshall as the No. 1 guy in Chicago.

No. 4 - Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
No. 4 - Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

No. 4 - Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

Nelson has been Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target for a few years. He is another wide receiver with size and speed. He is not as big as the other three receivers, but might be faster. When healthy, he can stretch the defense and make big plays.

No. 5 - Greg Jennings, Minnesota Vikings
No. 5 - Greg Jennings, Minnesota Vikings Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

No. 5 - Greg Jennings, Minnesota Vikings

Jennings is exactly what the Vikings needed last season - a savvy veteran that would hold the rest of the group accountable. It was a down season for the former Packer, but quarterback play and play calling were major reasons for it. He is not the biggest nor the fastest receiver, but he runs good routes and can turn short passes in big gains.

No. 6 - Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
No. 6 - Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers Jeff Gross/Getty Images

No. 6 - Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers

Cobb is a versatile receiver that can impact a game in a multitude of ways for the Packers. He was on his way to breaking out last season, but a leg injury forced him to miss 10 games. He is an undersized receiver with a lot of speed and athleticism. He is a weapon with the ball in his hands. He could have the breakout season he was expected to have last season, this season.

No. 7 - Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
No. 7 - Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

No. 7 - Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings

Patterson may be the most versatile and gifted receivers in the division. He has as much speed, athleticism and size as any receiver in the division. He burst on the scene as a big play receiver midway through last season. He still needs to learn how to run routes and create separation on medium and deep routes. He is a big play threat every time he touches the ball, whether it is on a kick return, on a handoff or on a wide receiver screen.

No. 8 - Golden Tate, Detroit Lions
No. 8 - Golden Tate, Detroit Lions Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

No. 8 - Golden Tate, Detroit Lions

Tate is the hope for the Lions. They have not been able to find a second receiver behind Johnson. Tate is not a big outside receiver, but he can make plays in all three phases of a game - short, medium and deep routes. After playing for the Seattle Seahawks to begin his NFL career, Tate enters a more passing friendly offensive system.

No. 9 - Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings
No. 9 - Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings Michael Steele/Getty Images

No. 9 - Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings

Simpson is not a No. 1 receiver, but can be serviceable as a No. 2 guy. He is at his best as a No. 3 receiver. He has size and athleticism, but lacks the hands and consistency to be a starter. When he can get the ball in space, he can be special. Off the field issues - both drugs and alcohol - have become a concern in the last three years. Another suspension looms, which could ultimately cost him his career.

No. 10 - Jarrett Boykin, Green Bay Packers
No. 10 - Jarrett Boykin, Green Bay Packers Tom Lynn/Getty Images

No. 10 - Jarrett Boykin, Green Bay Packers

Boykin is the next man up for the Packers following the loss of James Jones. Jones is now in Oakland and Boykin assumes the third receiver spot in Green Bay. Winner: Boykin. The former Virginia Tech star broke onto the scene last season filling in for Cobb. He has good size and athleticism. His reliable hands and good route running could help him become a starter on the outside for the Packers.