Who is the best wide receiver of this generation? Well, of all people, Antonio Brown decided to ask. So, let’s try to answer his question.
The best wide receiver of all time is undoubtedly Jerry Rice. However, who is the best receiver of the 21st century?
Antonio Brown had enough courage to ask the question on his Twitter account, so let’s do our best to answer the question for him.
Here’s how I’d rank the top five wide receivers in this generation, starting from the 2000 NFL Draft:
1. Calvin Johnson
2. Steve Smith, Sr.
3. Antonio Brown
4. Julio Jones
5. Larry Fitzgerald
There’s the answer to your question Mr. Brown. I’d rank you third in this generation.
Brown has put up some spectacular numbers, but wide receiver is a position dependent on many things other than individual talent. He’s had the benefit of having an all-time great quarterback at his disposal, which definitely helps. He can move up the list, eventually, but he’s third on this list partially due to the other players putting up numbers without having the benefit of an all-time great quarterback.
Let’s take Smith first. He has two seasons that stick out. In 2005, he was the first player since Art Monk to be the NFL’s leading receiver on a team that ran more than it passed. That season he also led the league in yards and touchdowns. In 2008, he became the NFL’s first player — and still the only one — to lead the league in receptions despite the team being last in the NFL in pass attempts. He’s also one of only 13 players all-time with 1,000 or more catches.
When it comes to Calvin Johnson, it’s probably not really a fair comparison, because Johnson was so big. He could catch anything thrown to him, even if he was double-teamed, and sometimes even triple-teamed. Despite having fewer receptions in his career than Brown does in his career to this point, he still slightly outdoes Brown in yards (by 1,759), and far outpaces him in touchdowns (a difference of 24).
His ability as a return man puts him slightly ahead of Jones and Fitzgerald in my book. Brown will have to do a lot to surpass Smith and Johnson, but with time, he might be able to. It may be a tall order, but regardless of where you decide to rank Brown in this generation, there’s one thing that’s undeniable. If he keeps this up, he will join John Stallworth and Lynn Swann as Steelers receivers enshrined in Canton.