The title of the show is, The Top 100 Players of 2011. It appears that how people interpret that are vastly different. Some seem to be basing it off of what a player did during the entirety of his career. Others, whether subconscious or not, apparently are factoring in character issues. Then you have the group that can’t see past the stats.
My feelings are, that a show with this title, should only factor in on-the-field talent. If you want to know the top 100 players, I’ll tell you who the best are without factoring in who plays around them, character issues, stats, or fan support. What brings us to this discussion is the wide receiver position on the list.
Out of 100 players, 18 receivers were listed, that’s almost 20% of the list. I don’t believe that 20% of the top players are playmakers. It’s a glamour position and even the players who voted for the list, get caught up on the big play guys. The amount of receivers isn’t my biggest problem with the show though, it’s the order that the peers of these receivers have listed them in. I’ve always been a firm believer that people that played the sport / position are the best talent evaluator of their co-workers. That theory is currently being pushed to its limit.
The players that were polled, listed Dolphins wide receiver, Brandon Marshall as the 12th best receiver in the NFL. If this is the first you are hearing of this, let me assure you, that wasn’t a typo. They have 11 other wideouts listed above Marshall, who has set the record for receptions in a single game, had 3 consecutive 100 reception seasons, and also has 4 straight seasons with over a 1,000 yards receiving, coming from 3 different quarterbacks (Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton, Chad Henne). Cutler was considered a top tier quarterback when he played with Marshall and now he’s being questioned as a leader of a franchise. Orton couldn’t hold on to a starting job until he had his best season ever with Marshall, then Marshall was traded and Orton lost his starting role. Henne is Chad Henne, enough said.
To right this wrong, I’ve decided to list the NFL’s top 18 receivers based on talent alone, at this stage of their career. I’ll treat every receiver as if they played in the same offense with the same players surrounding them. I won’t factor in their character concerns, stats, or what they’ve done in their career up to this point. Now that know the basis of composing the list, let’s begin. Let’s be clear, this isn’t the consensus mass media or public’s perception of a list of top receivers. This is solely my opinion and I’m not afraid to differ…and be correct!
1) Andre Johnson – When talking about the NFL’s best, current wide receiver, it begins and ends with Andre Johnson. It’s the same as talking about the best receiver of all time. The answer is easy, Jerry Rice. Moving on…
2) Calvin Johnson - After Andre the next four or five players are close but I still believe there’s a distinct order. The man known as Megatron is an amazing athlete. The casual fan still hasn’t come around on Calvin, but anyone who’s watched just one game, realizes how special he is. If Matt Stafford was able to stay healthy, Calvin would be a household name. Given the same quarterback and situation as anyone else on this list, Megatron will transform into the clear cut 2nd best receiver in the NFL.
3) Brandon Marshall - I didn’t believe that this was up for much of a discussion until I saw the Top 100 list with him as the 12th best wide receiver. The information that I included in the opening shows my feelings on the type of athlete that I believe Marshall is. Brandon can take a two yard pass and break 6 tackles to take it to the house. He’s also made a habit of catching the ball on one side of the field and then changing direction to the complete opposite side. He’ll catch the back shoulder pass, the lob, the slant, or pretty much whatever needs to be done. Marshall does the dirty work. He’s a linebacker that catches the ball and punishes the defense.
4) Larry Fitzgerald - I know a lot of people have Fitz as the first or second best receiver. This isn’t a knock on him. I believe that Calvin Johnson is a faster model of Fitz and that Marshall has more aspects to his game. Fitzgerald gets more credit than my number two and three receiver because of the spectacular play with Kurt Warner that led to the Super Bowl run. But, all things being equal, I would take him fourth on my team.
5) Roddy White - White has the benefit of playing with Matt Ryan, but don’t get that confused with Ryan making White a top 5 receiver. Roddy would succeed in any offense and he belongs in the top 5, just barely edging out my sixth best receiver.
6) Greg Jennings - The Jennings / White debate is a tough one for me. If I was on the clock to draft one for my franchise, I would struggle to make the decision. No matter which one I chose I would feel like I left a top 5 receiver out there. Aaron Rodgers helped make Jennings a household name and some have gone overboard with the Fitzgerald syndrome. I’ve heard people talking about Jennings as one of the top two receivers in the league…pump the brakes. He’s top 5 but don’t give him his platinum card yet.
7) DeSean Jackson - It’s hard to keep DeSean out of the top 5 and maybe there’s some size bias factoring in here. He’s a dynamic, game-changing receiver, but if a team can take away his speed, he doesn’t have the other attributes to fall back on.
8) Reggie Wayne - The hardest receivers to gauge, are the ones that play with Peyton Manning. Manning could help Peter Warrick and Charles Rogers make comeback bids. I’ve seen enough film on Wayne though, to realize that he’s the real deal. He’s getting long in the tooth and as good as he’s been, he’s no longer on the same level as the prior seven.
9) Mike Williams - I can hear the clicking of keyboards as the start firing up emails to tell me how ridiculous this is. Even though he’s only had one year in the NFL, Tampa Bay’s Williams would be more successful than any of the other receivers left in the league after the previous eight names were mentioned. Williams makes the whole team better. He blocks like Hines Ward, he unselfish, and he’s a receiving threat all over the field.
10) Sidney Rice - Another player that has been lost in the mention of the ten best receivers in the NFL. The injury concerns and lack of a franchise quarterback, have given Rice the “what have you done for me lately” treatment. It’s funny how people will list Randy Moss still in their top 10 but fail to realize that Rice is a clone of what Moss did well in his prime, not the shell of what Moss is now. Here’s the play in the Vikings huddle…. “Throw it up and let Rice go get it, on two ready, break!”.
11) Dez Bryant - When you mention Dez as a premier receiver, people are like, “NO, he keeps getting into trouble and makes stupid decisions.” Reminder, this list is about the most talented receivers on the field for the 2011 season. Dez is a dynamic playmaker that can do anything. 11 is probably too low for him, honestly. The people who list Miles Austin here, need to realize that he’s not even the most talented receiver on the Cowboys.
12) Santonio Holmes - Holmes is a hard player to evaluate. If it’s clutch time, his name goes up a lot higher on this list. On any given Sunday however, his name may slide further down. So, I guess you split the difference. If you weigh his skill sets with his low moments, this is where I’m comfortable with him being. It would be interesting to see how high he would go on this list, if he was in a high power passing attack, a la New Orleans, Houston, San Diego, etc.
13) Vincent Jackson - Philip Rivers has been blessed with receivers in San Diego. None more stellar than V-Jack. All of the drama that kept Vincent sidelined last season, kept him off a lot of people’s radar. There’s no question that he’s a great receiver. He falls just shy of the top 10 and lands behind Holmes due to Santonio’s value in key moments.
14) Dwayne Bowe - Bowe has the physical stature and tools to be included in talks with Jennings and White. He doesn’t have the hands to play in the same league with those two though. His inconsistency also makes me shy away from making him my go-to guy to start a franchise. I need my number one receiver to lead the team by example. He needs to have more drive and will than anyone else on the team…see Jerry Rice / Andre Johnson for examples.
15) Wes Welker - Once again, before Patriots fans get irate, remember that this list is for value in 2011. Welker was a catching machine, but his skills will continue to diminish with each year that passes. His own coach keeps drafting receivers to slowly phase Welker out. Julian Edelman is getting on the job training from Welker. It has to be odd, to help a guy improve, so it’ll make it easier for a team to let you go.
16) Hakeem Nicks - The Giants keep treating their young receivers all the same. The quicker that Eli Manning learns that Nicks is the only extremely special one on the team, the sooner the Giants contend again. Nicks will go all out for any ball in his vicinity and it’s difficult to break his will. Hakeem will be ready in 2011 for Coughlin to open up the passing attack. If / when they start airing it out, Nicks will impress all and put up video game stats.
17) Mike Wallace - Extremely difficult to list Wallace this far down. Wallace could become DeSean Jackson if he continues to develop. He’s great on the go route but I need to see him factor in more on the “everyday” plays. Not much separates him and DeSean, except for the few plays where Jackson goes over the middle (and gets murdered by Dunta Robinson).
18) Randy Moss - Is this really going to cause me a lot of backlash? Can people not see that Moss in 2011 will be the equal of Jerry Rice as a Denver Bronco? Quick, tell me what number Rice wore in Denver? Ok, Moss may have a little bit more left in the tank but is nothing higher than the 18th receiver in the league. The only reason he gets ranked here, is because he’ll bring value to a team that is built to win and give him the ball. If the Patriots, Eagles, Colts, Saints, etc bring him back, then he’ll have value as the 18th best receiver in 2011.
Okay, there’s my list. Let me try and cut you off at the pass and speak on a few key players that didn’t make my Top 18. Miles Austin isn’t a top 20 receiver to me. He had great stats in a high-powered offense that made him the focal point for one season. Josh Cribbs is a dynamic player and one of my favorite to watch but he’s not an every-down threat. Chad Johnson is what people don’t want Cam Newton to become. I’m still only basing his placement on this list on his talent but his “adventures” have caused a direct decline in his talent. Terrell Owens is one of the best receivers of all-time but his time is up. Brandon Lloyd, Marques Colston, Percy Harvin, Jacoby Ford, Michael Crabtree, Kenny Britt, and Anquan Boldin are all right on the verge, in no particular order.
That’s what I believe the list should look like, if you’re dedicated to judging on talent alone, with no bias.
Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You may email Jayson directly @ firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock