Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Top 5 Wide Receivers

Wide receivers are "enigmatic." But then, not really. There's obviously a lot of variety in WR abilities, but it feels like a lot of their ability level derives from their physical attributes. Randy Moss was incredible because he was faster and more athletic than anyone else on the field. But then, you do have guys like Jerry Rice who are perfectly formidable physically, but not exceptional. And then they are the best receiver ever.

I'm in my pre-writing phase as I write this, but I'm anticipating most of my picks are going to rely heavily on size, strength, and athleticism. Let's find out.

5. DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins
This selection is a little shaky, but I decided to give my homer-ism a little voice here. While Jackson isn't tall by any stretch (he's the only guy on my list under 6'2"), he absolutely has physical skills. His open-field evasion is tremendous, and he's got great speed. He can stretch a defense as well as anybody, plus he can be a dominant force in the return game. He's comparable to Julio Jones, but like I said, I'll give Jackson a hometown bump.

4. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos
It's always going to be tough to judge wide receivers independent of their quarterbacks, and vice versa. Was Daunte Culpepper really that good, or was he just the beneficiary of an insane receiving duo in Minnesota? Thomas started looking good while Tim Tebow was still his quarterback though, so I think we can be comfortable saying he's got the goods.

3. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
I was actually pretty surprised when I looked up Bryant's information and saw he was only 6'2". Not that 6'2" isn't still pretty big, he just seems to play so much bigger than anybody else. His ability to get up-field and leap to make catches is hard to match. It's amazing how strong the Cowboys' offense could be, and equally amazing how bad their defense could be.

2. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Sometimes early wide receiver picks are utter busts (Troy Williamson, Darrius Heyward-Bey). But recently, it seems like top 5 WRs have been seriously, seriously good. I was sure Green was going to fall off, but he's been elite since the moment he stepped on the field. He's fast, strong, and agile, and his hands are phenomenal. I mean, he makes Andy freaking Dalton look good.

1. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
Nobody else is close. There are some lovely receivers up there on this list, but the reality is that Calvin Johnson is on another planet. I could spend this space listing his absurd statistics and describing his athleticism, but that'd be a waste. You know all this. So instead, I'll name the wide receivers who were better than Calvin Johnson ever:
  • Jerry Rice
  • Randy Moss
As my favorite local sports journalist likes to say, that's it. That's the list. The next closest guy to me is Terrell Owens, but I have Calvin Johnson just a hair ahead of him.

So as I wrap up this "miniseries" of Top 5s, I have a couple observations.
  • Quarterbacks were way more fun. Running backs was basically a list of the top 5 running backs by last year's performance. I wanted to include DeMarco Murray, but just the thought of having a Cowboy in each list was too much to bear. And really, pushing out Matt Forte or Jamaal Charles for him would've felt wrong. Wide receivers are a little more subjective, but still, I didn't go off the reservation really. I think quarterbacks are better because there's so much besides their physical abilities that comes into play. Mindset, pocket presence, decision-making, ability to improvise. I'm glad I finished the trio, but I should've ended with QBs, to build to the better stuff.
  • Top 5s are fun. They're a neat way to organize thoughts, and to keep me from going too crazy with content.
  • Linking all those player profiles is a chore. No explanation, it's just a chore.

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