NFL listing candidates to break 7 hallowed single-season records. I will look at some and start today with who might break the receiving yardage record in the upcoming season in order of likelihood.
The mark for most receiving yards in a season was set by Detroit's Calvin Johnson with 1,964 in 2012. The previous record was 1,848 yards by Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in 1995 with San Francisco. "Megatron" broke Rice's mark in Week 16 of the 2012 season, hauling in a Matthew Stafford 26-yard pass in the fourth quarter against Atlanta to give Johnson 1,871 yards. He would take 1,892 yards into the season finale against Chicago, and Johnson made no secret about wanting 2,000. Alas, the Bears wanted no part of that and Johnson was held to five catches for 72 yards. Johnson finished that season with 11 100-yard games, tying Michael Irvin's record, as well as a record eight straight 100-yard games. Johnson had two games with at least 200 yards.
Here are my five favorites for 2015, and I do think this record can be broken.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver
Thomas was slapped with the franchise tag by the Broncos this offseason and isn't happy about it. Thus he's going to skip the team's offseason program as well as skip QB Peyton Manning's annual Duke University passing academy. I guess it's rough being guaranteed nearly $13 million for one season. Thomas was second in the NFL in receiving yards in 2014 with 1,619 despite dealing with nagging injuries. He also caught a career-high 111 passes. With Denver losing star tight end Julius Thomas, I don't see why Manning wouldn't target Thomas even more in 2015. If Thomas is going to break this record it better happen this year because I expect it to be Manning's last.
Odell Beckham Jr., NY Giants
This was the choice of the NFL writer and I can see why. Beckham was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year despite not playing the first four games due to injury. In his first nine games as a full-time starter after Victor Cruz was lost for the season, Beckham averaged nine receptions, 133 yards and one touchdown per game. No receiver has ever sustained those numbers in a full season, and over 16 games that would total 2,128 yards. Beckham joined Irvin as the only players ever to record at least 90 yards in nine consecutive games, and Beckham's 606 yards in December were the most by any rookie in one calendar month. He finished with 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 TDs, but remember he wasn't a full-time starter at first.
Julio Jones, Atlanta
Jones has the advantage of playing at least eight games a year in the climate-controlled Georgia Dome and has a fine quarterback in Matt Ryan. The worry with Jones is his health as the former Alabama star has played all 16 games just once, in 2012. Last year he played in 15 for a pretty bad Falcons team but had a career-high 1,593 yards and a career-best 104 catches. I'm not high on the Falcons running backs so they might be throwing a lot in 2015.
Dez Bryant, Dallas
Bryant also was slapped with the franchise tag this offseason and also isn't happy about it. There's talk Bryant will skip the Cowboys' offseason program. Dallas says it wants to sign Bryant to a long-term deal but you hear rumors of a troubling video out there somewhere that shows Bryant doing something not good at all on it. The question is whether the loss of star running back DeMarco Murray will affect Bryant or cowboys overall NFL odds this season. I would think so as teams don't have to worry as much about bringing a safety up to stop the run. Bryant caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and 16 scores last year.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh
I can't leave the 2014 NFL receiving leader off here. Brown followed up his 1,499 yards in 2013 with 1,698 in 2014 as the Steelers morphed into an offensive powerhouse. Amazing that Bryant was only a sixth-round pick in 2010 out of Central Michigan. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says his team "has the goods" to be the league's No. 1 offense in 2015, and he might be right. The one worry is all those late-season wintry outdoor home and AFC North games that can limit an offense.