Yesterday, we profiled Ahmad Bradshaw. Today, we’ll profile Victor Cruz. Cruz, an undrafted free agent, took the league by storm last season, hauling in 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. Entering this season, defense will focus on slowing down the speedy Paterson product. With the Giants gearing towards a more pass-heavy attack, can Victor Cruz repeat his 2011 production?

Overview

Cruz started as the Giants’ slot receiver last season, but will see more looks on the outside this season. Cruz is a speedy, sure handed receiver that created multiple mismatches over the middle of the field. More impressively, Cruz posted 98 yards or more in nine of his 14 starts last season. Eli Manning targeted Cruz a womping 132 times last year and he came down with 83 receptions. Given Hakeem Nicks’ foot injuries and Eli’s obvious trust in him, Cruz may see even more targets this season.

The Positives

Big play ability. In five of his starts, Cruz posted at least one play of 68+ yards. More times than not, these plays would go for touchdowns. Many will remember his 99-yard TD reception against the Jets that essentially started the Giants’ Super Bowl march. Now in his second full-season, Cruz has room for growth and will use his dynamic play making ability to tilt games in the Giants’ favor. Let’s not forget the Eli Manning’s sky rocketing pass attempts. Eli attempted an astounding 598 attempts last season. It’s pretty telling that Cruz was targeted nearly 25% of the time.

Unlike other top receivers, Cruz has the luxury of playing with Hakeem Nicks. Ultimately, defenses will have to pick their poison and Cruz stands to benefit from the extra attention defenses give to Nicks. Remember, the Giants’ play the league’s toughest schedule this season. Expect the pigskin to flying in Cruz’s direction early and often.

The Negatives

Cruz was able to reward his owners with long touchdown scoring plays. While these plays were special, defensive coordinators will no longer sleep on him. Expect teams to bracket him and make Martellus Bennett and Reuben Randle beat them.

The Outlook

According to FFC, Cruz has an average draft position of 3.10 in non-PPR leagues and an ADP of 4.05 in PPR leagues. To me, this presents great value. I prefer Cruz to A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, and Andre Johnson, who are currently being drafted ahead of him. Some may think Cruz’s yardage was a fluke, but given the tendencies of the Giant offense, another 1,200+ yard campaign seems likely. Draft Cruz as your WR1 or WR2 with confidence this season.

2012 Projection: 79 catches, 1,250 yards, 8 TDs