The NFL's Top 50 Wide Receivers
1. Calvin Johnson – Lions - 'Megatron' is the only 1st rounder drafted by former Lions General Manager Matt Millen, who's been worth the selection. Johnson's not only been the only positive of Millen's 1st round selections, he's become arguably the best receiver in the NFL.
2. Andre Johnson – Texans - After Johnson's Week 4 injury, I've been careful when talking about who's the best receiver in the League, because for years AJ has been it. Recently I've thought to Andre might be showing signs of being injury prone. I've actually thought he might be on the decline due to the multiple injuries he's suffered over the years. The best player in Texans history has missed at least three games in three of his previous six seasons. And this season he's already missed six games (his career high is 7). A man named Johnson is still the world's greatest receiver, he's just not named Andre anymore.
3.Dwayne Bowe – Chiefs - I'm guessing Bowe will be a surprising selection as the third best receiver in the NFL. But think about this: he's played with a bad quarterback the since 2009 (Bowe missed 5 games in '09). He played in all 16 in 2010 and scored 15 touchdowns and went over 1,100 yards. I can only image what this guy could do with a legit quarterback throwing the ball.
4. Wes Welker – Pats - Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis called Welker the best slot receiver in all of football. That has been the general consensus across the NFL for a while now. People are now starting to refer to Welker as one of the best receivers in the NFL. Welker already had two 1,000 yard seasons to his credit, going into this season. He already has 1,000 plus through nine games this season and has a real shot to break Jerry Rice's single season record of 1,848 receiving yards.
5. Brandon Marshall – Dolphins – Marshall is one of two players on this list's top five who's suffered from suspect quarterback play in recent years. And in spite of that, barring injury, 'Baby TO' will go over 1,000 yards for the fourth straight year.
6. Vincent Jackson – Chargers – After the Chargers divisional Playoff loss to the Jets during the 2009 season, I've considered V-Jack to be an elite receiver. So, Nolan, what was so special about young Vincent in that game? Jackson went over 100 yards and scored a touchdown against Darrelle Revis.
7. Steve Smith – Panthers – 'The original Steve Smith' should be on his way to the Hall Of Fame. Thanks to former Panthers Head Coach John Fox's failure to get rid of the far from effective Jake Delhomme and find an adaquate replacement, Smith might have trouble getting into Canton. Before Delhomme's skills evaporated in arguably the worst performance by a starter at any position in NFL Playoff history, Smith was able to prove he was one of the NFL's best. The Playoff game I'm referring, was the Panthers shocking home Playoff loss to the Cardinals in January of 2009. Smith went over 1,000 yards five of his previous six seasons (Smith only played in 1 game in '04 due to injury) and was one of the NFL's best. Thankfully for Smith, his Hall Of Fame bid might be saved by a young stud from Auburn University- Cam Newton.
8. Greg Jennings – Packers – Jennings does have the NFL's best quarterback and arguably its best player throwing him the football. But Jennings ultra-clutch 2011 postseason performances proved that Jennings is truly something special.
9. DeSean Jackson – Eagles – As the Eagles 2011 season has gotten worse many people have been questioning some of the Eagles best players and their talent level. 'Fraction Jackson' is one of those Eagles. Jackson, more than any other consistently scrutinized Eagles, should get an exemption. Jackson is so talented that week after week the opposing defenses have put their safeties into abnormally deep coverage. How deep? Jackson's starting quarterback Michael Vick can answer that question. "Did you see how deep the safeties were playing? [They were] 500 yards back. Can't throw a bomb against that," Vick said after the Eagles beat the Cowboys in Week 8. That hasn't been Jackson's only stumbling block this season, this season he's had to deal with the fact he's drastically underpaid. Especially when his salary is compared to other elite players at his position. Jackson is also in the last year of his rookie contract. And due Philly's shaky pass protection this season, it has been difficult for Vick to consistently have a chance to find Jackson or any of the other Eagle wide outs down the field.
10. Roddy White – Falcons – I was as shocked as anyone when the Falcons mortgaged their 2011 Draft to select wide receiver Julio Jones. Jones has the look of a future star. He has already shown flashes of such this season. My question is, will White pull an Anquan Boldin and eventually want out of Atlanta?
11. Dez Bryant – Cowboys - When Michael Crabtree surprisingly fell to my beloved 49ers in the 2009 Draft I was on Cloud 9. During the time Bryant was still playing in college for Oklahoma St., I made the statement, that at the time Bryant was already better than Crabtree. Fast forward to the 2010 Draft when Bryant fell to the 49ers' long time rival Cowboys, in he second half of 1st round. all the to Cowboys, who are long time rivals of 49ers. When I saw Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones' reaction to getting Bryant, I felt like... wait, what's the opposite of Cloud 9?
12. Mike Wallace – Steelers - There are a lot of receivers with “road runner speed” who can do one thing only. Run as fast he can in a straight line down the field and try to beat the defense on a deep ball. Last season Wallace showed without a shadow of a doubt, he is not a one trick pony. And this season he's third in the NFL, in yards receiving. Not bad for a 3rd round pick. Not bad at all.
13. Miles Austin – Cowboys – For the last couple years I've been firm in my belief that Austin was not an elite receiver. After he dominated my Niners in Week 2 of this season for three touchdowns and led Dallas to a comeback win in San Francisco, I was forced to change my mind.
14. Reggie Wayne – Colts – Very few Pro Bowl receivers in NFL history can put up Pro Bowl numbers with a bad quarterback under center. This season has revealed that Wayne is not among those few.
15. Santonio Holmes – Jets – We are at #14 on this list and we have our third receiver who is currently without a legit NFL starting quarterback. I wonder if Holmes misses 'Big Ben' Roethlisberger.
16. Hakeem Nicks – Giants – Nicks went over a 1,000 yards and scored an impressive 11 touchdowns in his second NFL season. The only thing that has been able to keep Nicks Giant career from flourishing is the injury bug. He missed five games in his first two seasons and has already missed one this season. Often, when he's able to play, he's played hurt. I'm sure Giants nation would love to see what Nicks could do in a healthy 16 game season.
The Very Good
17. Marques Colston – Saints – I drafted Colston in fantasy football this season. And coming into the season, there were people in my ear, saying that I should be very worried about two things regarding Colston: 1. The possibility of #12 picking up an injury and 2. The Saints abundance of talented recievers (not to mention TE Jimmy Graham) that quarterback Drew Brees has to throw to, that surround Colston. Colston broke his collarbone in the season opener but was 100% earlier than after missing only two games. Since then he's scored three touchdowns and gone over 100 yards twice. It's safe to say I'm not worried about those two things or anything else concerning Mr. Colston.
18. AJ Green – Bengals - Whenever and wherever (Draft wise) a receiver gets drafted I'm always careful in terms of what to expect from that player's rookie season. There's only receiver that burned his rookie campaign in to my brain and made me forever remember him having a great rookie year. That rookie wide-out was Randy Moss during his first season with the Vikings. Even football's greatest all-time receiver, Jerry Rice, failed to record a great first season in the NFL. AJ Green and Julio Jones were drafted in the top six this past April. And even though I watched the two play in college and dominate elite SEC competition, I felt virtually positive both receivers would fail to shine week in and week out. Jones (minus a nagging hamstring injury) has had a normal rookie season, for a receiver with his potential. He's shown flashes here and there but he hasn't been able to play consistent big time football so far this year. AJ Green, on the other hand has broken the mold and been the exception to my rookie receiver rule in the process. He is the greatest AFC rookie receiver I have ever seen.
19. Michael Crabtree – I know I'm going to take a lot of flack for this selection. Especially for those who consider my NFL team of choice. But I'll state my case anyway. When he played at Texas Tech, Crabtree showed he has what it takes to be an elite receiver in the NFL. During the few opportunities he's had to make a play in the NFL he's flashed the exact kind of elite skills he did as a Red Raider. Crabtree's first three seasons have been plagued with multiple obstacles. One of those obstacles has been a chronic foot injury, which he seems to be over at this early stage of his career. He's also had had a dilemma that has been caused by his own doing. His diva mentality, that he adamantly denied having during his Draft saga, has shown through on a few occasion since San Francisco drafted him. For whatever reason Crabtree has a real problem with the pre-season at large. He staged arguably the most controversial contract holdout in NFL history. It lasted so long he missed the entire Niners off-season, pre-season and their first six regular season games. He didn't have a contract issue to complain about last off-season but thanks to his unwillingness to take part in his team's off-season activities he ended up missing every pre-season game. This season he only played in two pre-season games but failed to record a catch. His only excuse for his continuing lack of off-season and pre-season activity, has been the issue with his foot. Which many people (including myself) think Crabtree has used as a cop out not to participate with his team before the regular season begins. Crabtree has only missed one game since his rookie year. And for the most part he's produced about as well has he could, considering the best quarterback he's ever had with the Niners is Shaun Hill (who is now Matthew Stafford's back-up in Mo-Town). Crabtree is a Pro Bowl level talent who is ready to break out and enter the class of the elite receivers in the NFL. The only thing thing keeping him from doing that now, is Niner quarterback Alex Smith.
20. Sidney Rice – Seahawks – Rice is in a class with other current NFL players such as Niners right tackle Anthony Davis and Bears defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. The three were all drafted when they were very, very young men. Like Davis and Okoye, Rice had the look and the potential of a future NFL star, during his short time in college. Rice was only 20-years-old when the Vikings drafted him out of South Carolina (Okoye was 19 and Davis was 20). Rice left college after his red-shirt sophomore season. A lot of people outside the Vikings organization quickly forgot just how young Rice was when he entered the NFL. In his first two seasons he combined for less than 600 receiving yards and many wrote, the then 22-year-old off too quickly. Not only did Rice deal with youth in his first two years, he also had to deal with sporadic quarterback play in Minnesota. Brett Favre joined the Farve in Rice's third season. And the third year receiver put up over 1,300 yards and scored 8 touchdowns to earn his first Pro Bowl berth. Rice wasn't a kid anymore going into his fourth season but since then he's had a new problem to deal with. Including this season, Rice has missed 12 games since 2010, due to injury. Talent was never the question with this guy. The real question might be can Rice prove he's not injury prone? Time will tell.
21. Julio Jones – Falcons – Jones' just had the look of an athletic speedster after his first two seasons Alabama. Jones ran away from that notion as fast as he runs away from defenses after his All-American junior year under Head Coach Nick Saban. Jones has every skill a team could want from a receiver. Now Jones just has to get over his current (hopefully not chronic) hamstring injury and put it all together.
22. Steve Johnson – Bills – Johnson came out of no where after being drafted by the Bills in the 7th round in 2008. After two seasons of warming the Bills bench, he started 13 games in 2010 (which is more games he played in during either of his first two seasons) and caught 82 passes for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns. If Johnson can get over a nagging groin injury he should go for 1,000 plus for the second straight season.
23. Santana Moss – Washington – Moss isn't going to make the Hall Of Fame after it's all said and done. But after 10 plus seasons, it has to be said Moss has had a pretty good NFL career. He's gone over the 1,000 yard mark four times, he's had five seasons of six or more touchdowns. In 2003 he scored a career high 10 touchdowns as a member of the Jets. Moss is still a good receiver at 32 years of age (he went over 1,100 yards and scored 6TDs last season). I just wonder if he can avoid father time for another year or two and get past the broken hand injury he suffered during the season's fourth week.
24. Victor Cruz – Giants – During my young life I've seen a lot of pre-season wonders in the NFL. And most of them fizzle out like a bottle of Sprite that's been out of the fridge for too long. That's one reason why the former pre-season darling of the blue half of New York impresses me so much. Not to mention, Cruz battled back from a hamstring injury that forced him to miss the entire 2010 season. Believe it or not, after nine games in 2011, Cruz is 10th in the NFL in receiving yards. My figurative hat goes off to Mr. Cruz.
25. Anquan Boldin – Ravens – The Ravens acquired Boldin from Arizona for a 3rd round pick during the 2010 off-season. That trade looked like a steal at the time. Ever since Baltimore's 2010 season ended in Pittsburgh, the trade has looked like a pretty even deal for both teams. Coming out of a headline grabbing transaction General Manager Ozzie Newsome is used to appearing savvy and looking as sly as a fox. This time around he swung for the fences expecting to hit a home run over the center-field wall. Newsome ended up blooping one right over second base for a single.
26. Jeremy Maclin – Eagles – Like Boldin's move to Baltimore, the Eagles late 1st round selection of former Missouri stand-out Jeremy Maclin looked like a move that would pay off big time. But to Philadelphia's surprise, Maclin hasn't been the standout receiver they hoped he would be. Maclin hasn't been horrible and has actually been a nice piece to the puzzle for his current team. But Maclin and Boldin have not been game changers or Pro Bowl players for their east coast employers. Ironically 2009 2nd round Draft pick DeSean Jackson has ended up being the #1 receiver for the Eagles. Jackson is also an elite player and a Pro Bowler to boot.
27. Mike Williams – Buccaneers – I think it's funny and pretty ironic that the NFL's other receiver named Mike Williams is nicknamed 'big Mike Williams'. Granted Seattle's version of Mike Williams is bigger (6'5/235) than Tampa's version but this Mike Williams is still 6'2 and 212 pounds. That's sounds pretty 'big' to me.
28. Mario Manningham – Giants – An injury history, a slow time in the 40-yard dash (4.59 seconds) and being untruthful about his past marijuanaa use, all prevented Manningham from being a 2008 1st round pick (Manningham ended up falling all the way to the 3rd round). If teams had judged only his football ability alone, Manningham probably would have been a 1st rounder. Manningham had an injury riddled rookie season and was a complete non-factor in year one. He's been pretty healthy and productive during his previous two seasons. He's gotten better every year posting 26 yards/0 touchdowns, 822/5 and 944/9 in respective seasons. His problem now is the Giants luxury. Since Manningham was drafted out of Michigan, 'the G-Men' have taken Hakeem Nicks in the 1st round out of North Carolina in '09. And they have patiently awaited for Victor Cruz to break out (which Cruz has this season) after signing him as an undrafted free agent out of Massachusetts in 2010. Manningham will probably have to sign elsewhere, if he wants a real shot at breaking out into the spotlight himself. He might have a chance to do that very soon. Manningham's rookie deal expires after the 2011 season.
29. Denarius Moore – Raiders – After his Week 4 breakout game in Buffalo, Moore had an average NFL fan going, who in the world is that guy?! And where did he come from!? After he dominated the Chargers secondary in the Raiders Week 10 upset of San Diego; the question went from who and where, to how and why? Such as: How did he fall all the way to the 4th round. And why did 31 other teams pass on him?
30. Robert Meachem – Saints – with #25 and #26 on this list Meachem's NFL story is pretty similar to, the NFL's 28th best wide receiver, Mario Manningham. And ironically Meachem and Manningham are in the exact same Draft class. Both players proved they were talented enough, in college, to merit a 1st round selection. But unlike Manningham, Meachem recorded an adequate 40-yard dash at '08's NFL Combine. And the former Tennessee Volunteer didn't have a drug problem during his collegiate years either. Meachem was drafted late in the 1st round by New Orleans. But he too had an injury plagued inaugural season as a pro. Meachem has had to deal with some pretty skilled NFL teammates at receiver as well. But Meachem has had even less of an opportunity to showcase his talents than Manningham has. This season it got even harder to jockey for snaps in New Orleans after the emergence of soon to be Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham (who is 5th in the NFL in receiving yards!). Meachem has impressed when he's gotten his chance. He has five games of at least 98 yards receiving in his four NFL seasons. During the Saints 2009 Super Bowl run Meachem was temporarily assigned a bigger role due to injuries in the Saints receiving core. Colston scored a touchdown in five straight games from Weeks 9 to 13. Meachem's rookie contract will also expire after this season. If and when Manningham and Meachem end up leaving their first NFL homes, it will be very interesting to see where they'll end up. Not to mention which player will sign the bigger contract.
31. Jonathan Baldwin – Chiefs – Baldwin's NFL career did not get out to a good start. He got into a locker room fist fight with teammate and veteran running back Thomas Jones. Baldwin broke his hand in the fight and missed the first five games of the season as a result. Baldwin is in a long line of talented NFL receivers, that had a serious image problem coming out of college. It's probable that a good number of the 25 teams that passed on Baldwin, saw an incident like the fist fight fiasco (say that five times fast) coming. Hopefully for the Chiefs and Baldwin's sake the fight with Jones is that last we hear of Baldwin being a negative presence. If that turns out to be the case, the city of Kansas City will see a lot more of Baldwin's highlight making ability on display. In two of his first four games, Baldwin has already showcased that ability twice on a national level. In his second NFL game he made a beautiful touchdown catch during his team's upset win of the Chargers (does everybody upset the Chargers?!) on Monday Night Football. And during Week 10's loss to the Broncos, he made a catch down field, that was so impressive it became a part of American pop culture for a few days. Sadly the play was actually disallowed because of a Chiefs penalty.
32. Antonio Brown – Steelers – Pittsburgh's most hated rivals (Baltimore) became the first team (outside of his own) to find out Antonio Brown is for real. During the two teams divisional Playoff game last season the team were tied with little over two minutes to go and the Steelers had the ball on their own 38 with 3rd and 18 to go. Brown caught a pass down the right sideline that went for 58 yards. The catch was more than enough to convert the first down and it set up game winning touchdown for the Steelers. Brown had a pedestrian rookie season in 2010. He only played in nine games, during the regular season. He didn't reach go for 60 yards in a game until the Playoff tilt vs. the Ravens. Brown has since been a real threat for defenses to deal with, week after week. Brown hasn't missed a game this season. He also has five games with at five catches and he's recorded his first two 100 yard games. But his most impressive stat through the Steelers first 10 games this season is: Brown is ahead of former Steelers 1st round pick Santonio Holmes, in terms of receiving yards per game by nearly 16. The Steelers traded Holmes to the Jets for a 5th round pick and many Steelers fans were outraged because of that trade. Pittsburgh drafted Antonio Brown in the 6th round, less than two week later.
33. Jordy Nelson - Packers
34. Brandon Lloyd - Rams
35. Malcolm Floyd - Chargers
36. Eric Decker – Broncos
37. Pierre Garcon - Colts
38. Mike Thomas - Jaguars
39. Braylon Edwards - 49ers
40. Lance Moore - Saints
41. Steve Breaston - Chiefs
42. Percy Harvin – Vikings
43. Jerricho Cotchery - Steelers
44. Early Doucet - Cardinals
45. Johnny Knox – Bears
46. James Jones - Packers
47. Laurent Robinson - Cowboys
48. Jason Avant - Eagles
49. Jacoby Ford – Raiders
50. Deion Branch - Patriots