Andre Johnson is one of if not the most dominant receivers in the NFL this year and through the course of his career but is he the best? There are several things to take into consideration when you try to find the best receiver in the NFL. There are the obvious stats of receptions, yards, and touchdowns; but there is also the less defined but equally important factors of blocking, play making ability, and locker room character.
The discussion about the best receiver essentially comes down to taking your pick out of the top three; Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Calvin Johnson. While there are several other very good receivers those three have differentiated themselves over the course of their careers as the top three receivers in the game today. In terms of yards over the last three years (a sample size that gives an accurate appraisal of the player currently while not being limited to the variations of a single season) Johnson leads the way with an astounding 4,360 as compared to Fitzgerald’s 3,660 or Calvin Johnson’s 3,435. Both Fitzgerald and C.J. have had quarterback issues during that time frame that merit consideration in this ranking.
In the same three year spread Andre has 25 touchdowns as the Texan’s offense has not been geared towards getting him the ball in the red zone. However, Fitzgerald who is generally considered a much better red zone target only has 31 touchdowns in the same period. To be fair it is worth noting that he had 25 in two years and only six last year when the Cardinals were searching for a quarterback. Calvin Johnson had only 23 touchdowns in that time span.
Receptions are rarely given as much credit as they are due when people rank wide receivers. A player that can consistently help a team move the ball down the field is more valuable than a player who can only come up with the big plays in the passing game. With that in mind Andre Johnson is averaging over 100 receptions per year, with a total of 302. Fitzgerald has a lower variation than Johnson but comes in at 283. However, that is much better than Calvin Johnson’s 222 over the same time period.
When it comes to the intangibles it is hard to make any one of the players a decisive winner because they are all good at blocking, play making, and being a great locker room presence. It would seem like Andre Johnson is the best blocker of the three simply due to his physicality. At 6’3 and 235 pounds Johnson is a physical marvel and is stronger than either of the other two receivers.
To determine who is the biggest play maker some people would look at yards per reception (Calvin Johnson wins if that is the case) but that is simply an inverse product of how many receptions C.J. has. The emphasis should be put on how many game changing plays a player makes and to a lesser extent how many drops the player has. This is a very subjective category but I give a slight nod to Fitzgerald, followed by Andre and then Calvin.
Finally, locker room presence. All three are great in the community and are stand up individuals according to every report. I can only speak on personal experience about Andre Johnson but he is absolutely a class act in every interaction he has with the fans or media. Perhaps it is personal bias but it seems like Andre is as much of a leader as Fitzgerald is and I give Andre the slightest of advantages because it seems like the Texans as a team have assumed more of his personality than the Cardinals have of Fitzgeralds. But like I said that could easily be a personal bias.
In the end, I rank them as 1) Andre Johnson 2) Larry Fitzgerald 3) Calvin Johnson. To be fair to Calvin he is the youngest and still has the most upside, especially since it looks like he is developing great chemistry with Mathew Stafford but it is not his time yet.